Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts

Monday, February 14

Getting Attention: Is Online Popularity A Great Big Lie?

popularMore than anything else, exposure remains the number one measure for Internet success. Facebook page managers want more fans. Twitter account holders want more followers. YouTube producers want videos to go viral. Bloggers want more traffic. More, more, more.

But more is not always better.

If exposure is the measure, then the biggest losers are all winners. There are thousands of examples. Here are a few.

Nestle learned that fan pages could become a billboard of outrage on behalf of critics. Kenneth Cole exhibited no empathy for Egypt on Twitter. With 1.4 million views, Microsoft wins with this video gem. And Kathy Sierra would have never quit blogging.

Great marketers know that they don't have to convince everyone to love the Ford Taurus. They know that they only have to find people who like the features that the Ford Taurus offers. Likewise, Christina Aguilera wants to be known for her singing. Right now, people are more likely to know she blew the National Anthem at the Super Bowl and tripped at her Grammy performance.

More only works for vanilla.

VanillaWhen you give coffee-flavored ice cream to kids, they make funny faces (so do I). But that doesn't mean we always have to serve vanilla, the most popular ice cream flavor. We also don't always have to eat pepperoni and cheese pizzas, which account for 25 percent of all pizza sales. And we don't all drive white cars, which is the color 21 percent of car buyers prefer.

It seems only social media gives more value to popularity than personal choice or quality content. People watch videos that are watched, like Facebook pages that are liked, follow Twitter streams with followers, and leave comments on blogs where they "think" more people will see their comments.

Ironically, most of those leaders tend to offer exactly what you might expect. Vanilla, pepperoni, and white. In tracking about 250 blogs, daily, for almost a year, we found popularity to be the biggest lie of all in democratizing the Internet.

Of all the communication blogs we covered, those at the top of the Advertising Age 150 underperformed with three in the top ten failing to produce a single post that could be called a best fresh pick of the day (note: not all Ad Age participants were tracked). That doesn't mean they are necessarily bad blogs, but it does mean that they serve up more than their fair share of vanilla, pepperoni, and white. The placement of the top ten fresh picks show how far off that list can be.

Of those those that we picked with regularity, Valeria Maltoni is ranked 25th; Geoff Livingston is not ranked; Ike Pigott is ranked 607th; Lee Odden participates on Top Rank, which is ranked 10th; Jason Falls is ranked 15th; Adam Singer is 83rd; Ian Lurie is not ranked; Danny Brown is 23rd; Maria Reyes McDavis is not ranked; and Bob Conrad is not ranked.

pepperoniAdvertising Age isn't alone. The few communication-related blogs that make it into the Technorati top 100 rank underperformed too. PostRank, which relies on activity, didn't prove to be any better of a measure. And neither did SEO, which is one of several reasons Google is trying to fix its algorithm.

Specifically, SEO proves a site can lead people to it, but no indication that people will find something useful when they land. And, that other popular consideration — bounce rates — tends to mislead. People only look at one or two posts on blogs; those that pertain to their topic of interest, which is usually aligned with the topic du jour. Few people go back and read the same ones again.

There was only one measure that seemed solid. And most people overlook it.

People tend to savor of the quality that comes with being different.

Time on site. The most popular bloggers hold people's attention for about two minutes and those minutes are sometimes spread across as many as three or more pages (and that includes time for people to leave a comment). Higher quality posts tend to hold people for about four to five minutes (based on real time graphs, not averages that are also misleading).

Even among blogs that were picked for one or two posts during the year, we noted small surges in the time people spent on the fresh pick post compared to other posts read. This held true even for fresh pick posts that didn't draw very much traffic. Those posts were enjoyed by the traffic they drew. And that makes all the difference.

red carIt reminds me a little bit about the Twitter stunt shitmydadsays. Two million fans with long gaps between tweets and never a response. Did they ever read the book? It starts out as if it could be funny, but never delivers. And yet, it's triteness is offset only because it is vanilla. It's perfect for a television series on CBS, even though it lost 25 percent of its audience after the first show. It has a balanced following now, being saved by William Shatner.

That's how it goes sometimes. Did you ever consider that nobody boasts about eating vanilla, ordering a pepperoni pizza, or buying a white car? Not really.

They may mention it in the moment, but the memory of commonplace isn't all that memorable. And, when you think about it, if the content (not the personality) isn't memorable, then how could it ever be influential? Quality content makes people think.

This is the third lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors.

Friday, February 11

Cheapening Content: How Amateurs Feed Content Farms

"We need six to seven articles a day with 200 words each. $15 per story. ... Ten articles, 400 to 600 words each, three key word links, and level one and two "spun" versions. Less than $500. ... Ten articles, 300 words per article, $200. ... 100 short customer review submissions, $50. ... Ghost articles, 100 words, $3 per article for content farms submissions."

These are actual freelance writer solicitations, taken from several freelance markets online. Consider it a welcome to the world of digital content, where amateurs are writing for as a little as $10 per story or a few cents a blurb. Some of them make nothing at all. Many of them will never see a byline. And even for those that do receive a byline, their stories appear nowhere in particular.

Worse, the majority of offerings aren't about original writing anymore. Almost half of the proposed work is for "spinning content," which is the catch-all term for rearranging paragraphs and using a thesaurus to make the same articles sound like different articles. Right. Some publishers want to automate the process so they receive ten stories for the price of a fraction of one. They'll get plenty of takers too. The amateurs are desperate enough to outbid each other to oblivion.

Expertise is nonessential. Proficiency is in the eye of the beholder, sort of.

Content mills, or content farms as they are called, are not just about little companies or shady operators anymore. It's becoming a standard practice.

AOL asks its writers to produce as many as seven articles a day to drive its hit-and-run visits primarily from organic search engines and others try to eek out $15 for 100 words that make it past the black hole. Yet, AOL had $315 million laying around to buy the Huffington Post. Yahoo too. It recently bought a content mill, hoping to cash in on Google traffic.

At the same time, these rates can be considered generous. Plenty of e-zines and news sites convince writers to work for free, offering the favor of exposure, appeasement of their vanity, and the promise of future "influence." All of these terms are nothing more than the newest carrots in the marketplace of quick content, inflated opinion, and illusionary traffic.

No one is exempt from receiving these offers either. I recently had someone I thought was a friend ask if I wanted "to be considered" to volunteer time for their upcoming paid subscription e-zine. It wasn't the first time. It likely won't be the last.

I sent them a video of Harlan Ellison. The context might be different, but the sentiment is the same. If the publisher can make a living off what the writer writes, then the writer can make a living too.

What Ellison doesn't consider in the modern age is the effect on unsuspecting readers. People assume the content they are reading has some sort of vetting process, especially when it comes from big brands. A growing percentage of it has very little. The content is nothing more than people plunking on keyboards in a virtual sweat shop.

The cheap content has another side effect too. The goal is to generate an ever-increasing mountain of slush that can be spammed across social networks and capture search traffic. You can see it everywhere in the news today. Half of everything reported is speculative, designed to capture our attention long enough to click on a link that refutes its own headline.

Of course. In many cases, some amatuer-publisher arrangements make pay-per-post writing and Twitter perks look like gravy trains. And yet, the companies adopting content farm approaches are the same ones that question the ethics of pay-per-post schemes. Can you imagine? They paid a writer $3 to question the ethics of another writer who accepted $150.

What writers need to know before they jump into the profession.

There is a time and place to write cheap or free, but it's never based on the terms offered by the client or publisher. It's only based on your terms. (The same can be said of pitches from public relations professionals.)

No Experience. While there may come a time when no one asks for clips or samples, amateurs do have to start somewhere. They need about five clips and samples. There is nothing wrong with writing a few for the favor of a byline or, assuming the publisher is reputable, working on speculation for the right acceptance rate. Even so, no one is going to be impressed by poorly edited clips under 200 words. You'd be better off publishing a blog, assuming you have some talent.

Topic Passion. Sometimes you might want to cover a topic that is near and dear to your heart, perhaps even an article that helps generate exposure for a nonprofit. It's an admirable pursuit, even if whatever you are passionate about isn't related to charity. That might even be what you are hoping to achieve — a forum of sorts, now and again, without starting a blog.

Promotional Purposes. You own or work for a company or already have your own blog. Writing the occasional guest post or agreeing to a temporary cross-post endeavor sometimes serves as a nice introduction. But you have to make sure it makes sense for you and your company or your blog. All guest posts ought to be accompanied by a bio and direct link somewhere. Even then, choose carefully. Not every promotional opportunity is worth the time it takes to write something.

Personal Favor. In the same vein as promotional, writing an occasional guest post for another blogger because they don't want their blog to go dark while on vacation is a nice gesture. The relationship exchange rate usually works both ways. Mostly, it only makes sense when you have a commodity or service or blog in the first place. Sometimes you might even help someone start something, but never do it if you expect something in return. It's a favor, nothing more.

Community Passion. Maybe you belong to some community and want to contribute something. There is nothing wrong with it. Sharing between friends and people with similar interests is much like bringing a pot roast to a pot luck. Just keep in mind that every social network has its own rules of content ownership. Be very wary of any network or service that claims all rights, especially if they supersede your own rights.

no calorie contentWhile there might be a few other special cases, there aren't too many good reasons outside of these five. Expect some people to try and convince you otherwise.

Ninety-nine percent of all offers that promise "more work in the future" are lies. Unless it is in writing, no one will ever give you stock in a start-up company or publication (and even if they do write a contract, consider such offers with the skepticism of an investor). Accepting a reduced rate to help someone during a rough patch (or extending excessive credit) is money that you ought to consider lost revenue until proven otherwise.

It might sound cynical, but it's reality. The difference between a professional and an amateur is that the professional can produce something that people want and the amateur has to convince people that they can produce something people want. Having worked on both sides of the fence as the vendor and client, I learned most of it the hard way. Sometimes two or three times. You don't have to.

So what is a fair rate for freelance writers?

When I owned and published a limited subscription international trade publication, we paid $300 per 700-word article, which was 30-50 percent higher than publications with similar circulations at the time, regardless of where the writer lived. More recently, I asked two writers if they would volunteer to write for Liquid [Hip], but haven't given them assignments because it conflicts with my belief that writers deserved to be paid. I don't have a budget.

I ran into the same conflict a few years ago too. I passed on a lucrative offer to become an editor and co-publisher of what seemed to be a well-financed online publication. Negotiations broke down because I wanted to pay writers and they wanted to appeal to the willingness of amateurs to crank out free content. No hard feelings. We're still friends.

writersAt the same time, maybe amateurs need to know that professional freelance rates for copywriting range from $45 to $150 per hour, web content from $40 to $100 per hour, and technical writing from $50 to $100 per hour. Two hours per half-page is a fair estimate of time, with adjustments for research, interviews, and revisions built in to the estimate. Some writers do charge more, but anything less is amateur. Too much amateur work will only keep you there.

By the way, some material, like print ads and outdoor, take more time, regardless of how many words. Ergo, it often takes more time to write less. So expert magazines often pay less than those rates above, with the low approximately $150 for 600-750 words.

Anything less, regardless of praise, should convince you to look at what kind of revenue they generate, how nice their offices might be, and what kind of cars they drive. Why? Because you might be the person who affords them those luxuries.

Related articles on quality content and content farms.

• Content Farms And The Death of Remarkable Content by Lisa Barone.

Four Ways To Improve Content by Geoff Livingston.

Mahalo’s Calacanis: Time To End The Content Farm Arms Race by Danny Sullivan.

I Worked on the AOL Content Farm & It Changed My Life by Marshall Kirkpatrick.

Blekko Bans Content Farms Like Demand Media’s eHow From Its Search Results by Erick Schonfeld.

Monday, January 31

Publishing Content: How Much Is Too Little Or Too Much?

not everyone looks good in a derby
Chris Brogan says the more you post, the more traffic you get. Julien Smith sees it differently. He says writing fewer posts can drive more traffic.

Considering they co-authored the book Trust Agents together, some people might assume they'd be on the same page about this topic. But they aren't. They're both a little bit right, and both a whole lot wrong. They're writing about what works for them.

How often should you post on a blog to get more traffic?

It's the wrong question because it depends. It depends on you. It depends on the subject. It depends on the audience. It depends on the field.

It's almost like buying a hat. It depends on you. It depends on the hat. It depends on where you want to wear it. And while you can try on other people's hats as much as you like, none of them will fit until you find one that fits you. Even then, it still won't fit for every occasion or forever. And sometimes, somebody might already be wearing the hat you fancy.

In tracking about 250 blogs, daily, for almost a year, our team had all sorts of reactions sifting through the reader every day. Some daily authors kept our interest. Some daily authors bored us to tears. And some daily authors made us hate social media.

Conversely, some occasional authors made us wish for more. Some we forgot about completely. And others, well, let's just say we wondered what they would write about if they didn't write about what other people had already written about.

Three truths about frequency and blog authors.

blogs1. Consistency. No matter what you decide — daily or weekly or in between — consistency matters. Not only does it matter in terms of frequency, but for quality as well. Daily authors do have an advantage in that readers might forgive a few flat posts as long as they nail at least one a week or every other week. However, consistently posting on the topic du jour or self-promoting drivel becomes maddening to read. Inconsistent bloggers also have it harder; they practically start from square one with every post. Nobody knows them well enough to know whether they wear a hat or not.

2. Clarity. Not all that different than a batting streak in baseball, authors ebb and flow. In looking at the ten authors who made the top five in at least quarter, all of them had short, sustained bursts of high quality content — two or three superior posts within days of each other. After each burst, quality waned as they caught their breath or took a break. The lesson is one of humanity. Nobody is such a genius that they can write a riveting post two or three times a day. Einstein couldn't even fit into a hat like that.

3. Comments. Most social media measures that include comment counts are baloney. Sure, comments give authors insight, but there is context to consider. Asking the same audience to leave insightful, conversational comments day in and day out just isn't going to happen. It would be just like expecting people to compliment your hat every day. Besides, we found even the sloppiest controversial posts consistently outperform high-quality educational posts in comments, especially if they are published daily. We also found popular blogs draw more comments because people want the author's attention or the attention of the author's readers. People who say "best post ever" rarely ever mean it.

A quick look at the top of the scale.

Fresh Content Top ThreeThe top three most picked authors included Valeria Maltoni (red), Geoff Livingston (purple), and Ike Pigott (green). All three have different publishing styles, ranging from daily to semi-consistently, to inconsistently. They also have different writing styles, ranging from strategically educational to timely provocative to wildly well crafted. About the only thing in common outside of a few shared ideas is that they all know what fits them as an author.

Measurements at a glance overwhelmingly favor Maltoni, with Livingston drawing more comments and shares, and Pigott having the smallest bounce rate and longest time on site. However, on any given week, each of them can out "traffic" the other. The same can be said about the quality of the content they provide.

While Maltoni might appear to deliver more quality, the graph doesn't account for the ratio of picks to published. For example, Pigott published significantly less and Livingston took several breaks during the year. More important than trying to decide which offers more quality posts is to note that higher peaks are followed by deeper valleys across all three.

For methodology, the scale awarded five points for each fresh pick post, diminishing them at a rate of one for each week following. In other words, one post would be scored a "5" and then drop to a "4" on the following week. The diminishing number would be added to any fresh pick that it overlapped.

A quick look at another section of the scale.

four bloggers from fresh contentThe next grouping is more indicative of most quality-oriented bloggers. It includes Lee Odden (purple), Jason Falls (blue), Adam Singer (green), and Ian Lurie (red). It uses the same methodology as above.

Basically, whether authors published daily or not, the best authors tended to deliver about one outstanding post every four to five weeks regardless of how often they publish. That doesn't mean the rest of the content is fluff. It simply means that their best content — most original, engaging, and inspired — comes at a pace of once a month. In comparison, about half of the fresh pick authors deliver one exceptional post every three months. The greater majority, including those that weren't tracked by the experiment, only do so once or twice a year.

As an additional point of interest, we began covering Lurie in the second quarter. Odden seemed to publish more in the beginning of the year than at the end of the year. Also, while it was too complicated to show three more bloggers on the graph, these patterns fit the other three as well: Danny Brown, Maria Reyes McDavis, and Bob Conrad.

So what should we consider in deciding content frequency?

hatsIt depends on your ability to deliver consistent high quality content within whatever schedule you set. It depends on the audience, and how much about your area of specialty they can digest. It depends on the subject matter because the more specialized it becomes, there are naturally fewer topics to write about. It may even depend on the saturation of the field.

Conversely, Brogan and Seth Godin are very general in their writing. While that means their groundbreaking posts are even further and fewer between in favor of a high frequency fortune cookie styling, it's the derby that fits for them. What's more important is to determine what hat might be a fit for you.

This is the first lesson from the Fresh Content experiment, which tracked 250 blogs for almost a year. The experiment focused on the quality of the content and not the perceived popularity of the authors.

Tuesday, August 24

Applying Mechanics: Five Tips For Better Writing

Writing Mechanics
Last week, I wrote a post about crafting better content, which focused on prep work that takes place before writing content. The companion piece is this post that focuses a bit more on mechanics.

After all, great stories can capture reader interest, but it takes a practiced hand to keep them. One standard practice inside many major corporations that publish printed employee newsletters or magazines is the red test. Basically, editors ask a few readers to draw a line under the last paragraph they read in a story. In most cases, the average reader makes up their mind about a piece in three paragraphs, assuming the lead sentence is strong, and skips or skims the rest.

Are there exceptions? Yes. Great stories are read from the lead sentence to the last. And the reason they are is mechanics.

5 Mechanics For Better Writing.

The mechanics of writing are much more than error-free prose or good grammar. The technical craft of writing covers a wide range of subjects. Here are five that I often look for in determining how good a writer might be.

• Provides A Well-Organized Story, From Start To Finish.
The biggest challenge most writers have today is content organization. While various mediums require the content to be organized differently, many writers fall into a cross-medium standardization that doesn't work. You can see it in transitions, with hard, jarring breaks between ideas instead of thoughts that flow from one into the next. The second most missed consideration is the lead, but that deserves its own paragraph.

• Writes Effective Leads, Laced With Facts And Accuracy.
Lead sentences or paragraphs are everything (especially for short-syndicated blog posts). I could write several posts about lead sentences alone (and have). Great leads are more than simply telling readers what the story is about, especially when other people are covering the same story. Mass media is losing sight of this; most publishers are sounding the same. The mosque at Ground Zero is a great example. Some 1,600 magazines led with a waffled opinion from the President of the U.S. I can't imagine a more boring approach to the story. I wonder what some extremists might think.

• Covers The Subject Thoroughly, With An Identifiable Action.
Unless you have specific space constraints, there is no perfect formula for the structure of a blog post or ad copy. (Outdoor is a bit different.) Writers need to provide enough coverage of the subject that it makes sense to the person reading it. The rule of thumb is to answer more questions than you raise, without asking the reader to do their own research. Writing a blog post is a bit different in that writers can cheat. You can sum up a situation in a line and link to another article that provides a back story. In wrapping up a story, always consider a call to action of sorts, even if it only sums up what you hoped they got out of it.

• Looks For New And Interesting Ways To Tell A Story.
As someone who follows several hundred blogs, I can safely say formulaic posts have become readily abused. When every post consists of two lead-in paragraphs, five or ten breakout bullets, and one concluding thought, the brain gets bored. Sure, that approach might be a great search engine magnet online, but it kills subscriptions over time. Mix up the format now and again. Interesting stories tend to reveal whatever structure might work best, assuming the writer is taking the time to think the story through.

• Self-Edits Consistently, Working Toward Crisper Copy.
Time is always a challenge for me on this blog. I often write the posts first thing out of the box in the morning (even if I've been thinking them about for days or weeks). The downside to this approach is I don't always have time to do what I might do with commercial copy or on assignment. What's that? Rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting. In my classes, I often tell students that there are very few great writers; most of us are great rewriters, reworking the copy as long as we can against the pressure of a deadline. If you never rewrite copy, chances are that your readers already know it.

These are among my top five mechanical considerations when I screen writers. It doesn't even matter what they are going to write. But more than that, I try to apply it to my own writing as well. Sometimes looking at a quick list like this can remind us why people bother to read the content. Case in point, while writing this post, I couldn't help but to think that last story I approved could have had a better lead. Thank goodness social media tends to be forgiving. What ought to have been the lead became the tease line across networks.

Thursday, August 19

Making Myths: Copywriter vs. Blogger Debate

Glenn Murray wrote a great link bait post entitled "Bloggers Versus Copywriters: 8 Reasons Why Bloggers Do It Better." Most bloggers who read Problogger loved it. But does it mesh?

1. Murray: They know what they’re writing about.
Murray asserts most copywriters write about different things every day and it's rare that they write about things they are actually interested in whereas bloggers always write about what they love.

Fact or Fiction? Mostly fiction. Good copywriters are passionate about what they write about. If they aren't passionate about it, they will be. The same holds true with bloggers. Some are passionate about the material, some aren't. Advertising has an equal chance to be informative, accurate, and helpful.

2. Murray: They have a more immediate and real incentive.
Murray asserts that copywriters write about other people's products. They are paid by the hour and not for results. Bloggers, on the other hand, get paid for selling their own stuff and thus are more result-focused.

Fact or Fiction? Total fiction. Show me a copywriter that isn't generating results and I'll show you a copywriter who is out of work. They are only as good as their last ad. Bloggers, on the other hand, will write some posts that draw hundreds and others that attract no one. It's expected.

3. Murray: They know their audience (better).
Murray says most copywriters have a vague knowledge of their audience, investing more time getting to know the product or service. Bloggers, he says, know the audience intimately.

Fact or Fiction? Total fiction. While there are some novice copywriters who work solely off creative briefs, the best copywriters invest plenty of time pouring over studies, surveys, field work, direct customer contact, competitor information, and their customer interaction, etc. Sometimes, they know more about the audience than the audience knows. Bloggers, on the other hand, know their readers and, specifically, what their readers tell them.

4. Murray: They’re not writing for clients.
Murray asserts that copywriters have to write for the client, because the client ultimately decides what ads will live and die. They are also subjected to grammar Nazis that cling to arbitrary rules. Bloggers can write any way they want, he says, as long as their readers like it.

Fact or Fiction? Fact. Unless the blogger is writing a client's blog or is deeply entrenched in pay-per-post models, they have a lot of license. Copywriters are appeasing multiple people — clients and audiences (which is better than PR people who have to write for clients, editors, journalists, and the audience). However, copywriters don't have to suck it all up. They make recommendations all the time. One of my favorite statements: We can do that, but we cannot promise any results.

5. Murray: They get immediate and real feedback.
Murray says that most copywriters know when clients are happy, but not the audience. Bloggers, on the other hand, have access to everything from analytics to comments.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction. The only copywriters that do not know whether or not their work is effective are copywriters who never ask. Sure, they may not care about a one-time pick-up job, but they will know plenty about any regular gig. Bloggers do have more information. However, their analytics are skewed. Their core readers will say every post is great, even when it's not.

6. Murray: They’re not writing for themselves.
Murray says copywriters see themselves as artists. They love to write for the sake of writing. Bloggers, on the other hand, only write as a means to an end.

Fact or Fiction? Partly fact. Copywriters, especially young ones, see themselves as artists. In fact, so much so that it conflicts with Murray's fourth point. Novices take it very personally when clients change copy. But bloggers, if they have editors or clients, do too. Give them 15 years. After that, they won't cry anymore. As far as pretentious writing? That totally depends on the client and what works with their audience. Only arrogant hack copywriters *need* to be profound; bloggers too.

7. Murray: They're not writing for their teachers.
Murray says that many copywriters are haunted by their English teachers whereas bloggers don't care. He also says copywriters tend to write with complexity despite readers wanting clarity.

Fact or Fiction? Total baloney. They are just as many complex blogs as there are clearly written ads. Heck, sometimes copywriters have space for five to seven words. Clarity is critical for any written medium and if a copywriter doesn't know it, they aren't working. Even on this blog, the only time I get muddled in complexity is when I don't have time to write less.

8. Murray: They follow best practices.
Murray wraps up by saying copywriters don't follow best practices. Bloggers do follow best practices, he says.

Fact or Fiction? Completely made up. Worst point ever. Murray ought to have stopped at seven. While he might be a decent copywriter, he doesn't seem to know what the guy in the other cubicle might be doing.

Final Thoughts On Copywriters Vs. Bloggers.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Copywriters and bloggers cannot be compared, not really. There are only good writers and bad writers (and everything in between). For anyone working in the field that really knows their stuff, they'll tell you that.

The only difference between copywriters and bloggers is the style in which they write. And, some of those copywriters and bloggers are blessed (me among them) with the ability to toggle back and forth between those styles (articles, news releases, etc.). Not all writers can do that and that's okay.

If I've learned anything over the years, it's that every style of writing can teach you to be a better writer. I've shared that with every single writing class I've ever taught. Don't discount any of it. It's all good stuff (especially poetry). After that, it's all in how you apply it and whether or not someone will buy it.

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Wednesday, August 18

Crafting Content: Five Tips For Better Content

According to Pingdom, there are approximately 234 million Websites (47 million are new) and 126 million blogs. This doesn't count the abundance of Facebook pages or other social network platforms that double as content creation sites.

Although some smart businesses don't care as much about total visitors as engaging prospects and customers, most of them are competing for the attention of some of the 1.8 billion people online (about 260 million in North America and 420 million in Europe). And there are many different tactics to do so.

While there are many possibilities, content remains a primary driver. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Live, Baidu, Wikipedia, Blogger, MSN, and Tencent all rely on content. Search engines help us organize global information (usually by ranking for better content). Social networks help us keep up to date on our network of friends (usually by making it easier to share content). Other platforms, like YouTube and Blogger, rely on content from contributors.

5 Tips For Crafting Better Content.

With an increasing number of daily messages from an increasing amount of sources, it stands to reason that the bar for better content will continue to be raised. So the question companies, businesses, public relations, publications, and bloggers need to ask is how to provide better content. Well, the first step isn't presentation as much as it is value identification. And here are five ways to add value...

Recognize and act quickly on story opportunities.
Tracking trends and tying current events often captures more interest than Website content long forgotten. Even stores and e-commerce sites need a steady stream of fresh surplus to keep people coming back. For most Websites and blogs, the easiest tie-in is "news," assuming they understand the definition of news. But news isn't the only opportunity. Topics that people are searching for tend to trend. Or, if you are up for a much more challenging prospect, you can deliver what they never thought to look for and love it when they find it.

Gather facts carefully and accurately.
The quickest way to build credibility online isn't always simply being friendly or being flashy with numbers. Credibility is built on the ability to deliver on promises. If you promise a compelling, interesting, educational, or humorous story, your ability to consistently deliver that content will keep people coming back. If you want to stand out among all the other opinions over the long term, be especially clear about what you know to be facts and what you know are your (or others') opinions.

Provide a variety of sources and ideas (at least one).
There are dozens of different topics where facts alone don't measure up. Generally, people base their decisions on a variety of perspectives. The better content usually provides some insight or understanding of any opposing viewpoints. The mosque near Ground Zero provides a solid example. Every day, I read polarized accounts of why it should be or should not be built there. These varied opinions almost never consider the opposing viewpoint, which diminishes the strength of the argument and turns dozens of posts into nothing more than "I also think" puff pieces. The diatribe on this issue is also why I never covered it.

Add in little known facts and/or fresh quotes.
Every day, journalists and bloggers, with increasing regularity, recap what other people write about. In some cases, it's verbatim. If you want your content to stand out from the pack of recaps, add new insights, perspectives, little known facts, or quotes that haven't been published or are long forgotten. The ability to provide a new perspective on a topic can mean the difference between rehashing or adding value to the content and conversations as opposed to adding to the noise.

Research and explore different story angles.
Sometimes, better content comes from repurposing intent. For example, dozens of people have used Website and blog numbers to demonstrate that online marketing and information is growing at an amazing pace (and to demonstrate why you need to increase your marketing online). But today, I'm using them to illustrate something different. As more people and organizations add to the noise, the bar for what constitutes valuable content is raised. Much in the same way, if I were to write about the mosque (which I'm not), it would be a piece about diatribe in order to drive the topic away from emotions and toward communication.

The takeaway here is simple. Before you concern yourself with techniques and tactics related to presentation, you have to be able to identify the right topics. For organizations and businesses, there is the additional burden that these topics must fall within the strategic communication plan. For individuals, it's simpler still. It's the fundamental difference between being an engaging writer and someone who will bore people away.

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Tuesday, August 3

Going Social: Goodbye Citizen Journalist, Hello Journalist Citizen

Forbes isn't the first to flip the switch, but it is one of the most interesting and sure to get attention. Starting today, according to the Business Insider, every reporter will now be required to have his or her own blog. They won't be alone either.

"Moving forward, when I look at an operation like Forbes, I look at a mixture of a full-time staff base and hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of freelance contributors," Lewis D'Vorkin had previously said. "It's a blend."

It makes sense, sort of. For the last several years we've seen the resurrection of the citizen journalist. And for the next couple of years, we might see the rise of the journalist citizen.

What Will The Journalist Citizen Be?

In April, Ike Pigott explored the possibly of organizationally embedded journalists. But journalist citizens might be decidedly different. They won't be embedded in organizations. They'll be embedded in our social networks and, perhaps, actively participating, promoting, sharing, and investigating story leads.

They already are, you know. Early last year, we worked on a brief for several major publishers to do exactly that. It was the first phase of what might later become the journalist citizen. Specifically, they wanted to know how to tap into stories that people in social media find interesting and then give those stories a spin, upgrading those ideas with access to better, harder-to-reach sources.

The next phase is closer to what Forbes is proposing to do (but they were not one of the publishers who received the brief). Journalists will actively participate and promote the stories they create (or each other's stories maybe). They'll have to.

Although most emigrating print publishers are standing firm that reporters will be subjected to eyeball quotas (a standard practice among broadcasters), one wonders if there will be a certain amount of pressure upon the participating press to build their own "tribes" around the subjects they cover. Or perhaps, they'll discover, there are no "tribes."

Online participants are very much as free as ever. Long before anyone called them tribes, we called them nomads, whom marketers and media hope to capture as they wander their way to watering holes for individual conversations, family gossip, fun, and games.

Perhaps more disturbing than journalists splitting their time between investigative work, objective journalism, social networking, story promoting, and defending whatever it is they lend to a topic, will be the increasing loss of objectivity as they serve to cater to what some might call temporary tribes (even if there aren't tribes).

I cannot stress temporary enough. You see, unlike real tribes, they move on if you write about the same thing too much or too many different things. It makes sense that marketers would attempt this balancing act. They wear the agenda on their sleeves, and its name is sales no matter how many relationships or niceties they offer up. There is nothing wrong with that.

But the media? If the agenda isn't to tell us what we need to know whether we want to hear it or not, then what is it?

Don't get me wrong. I think the move by Forbes is the direction that communication is moving. But what strikes me is that if newspapers and magazines have finally surrendered to social media, what valued proposition will they bring to the table, especially if they support a platform that allows hundreds and hundreds of freelancers to submit stories that compete with their staff? And, equally interesting, what will the value proposition be for them?

After all, there is always reality. Reality suggests that if newspapers and magazines recognized that being relevant online was more difficult because it forced them to compete with television and radio news in the same space, imagine what it might mean if they have have to compete on a daily basis with blogs too.

It seems to me that things will be getting messy. Imagine consumers being asked to choose from the people in the field who have blogs (experts), journalists who have blogs (professionals), citizens who have blogs (casual observers with sometimes very good ideas), and, well, public relations pros with blogs. Huh. I'm okay with that. It's stranger than fiction. How about you?

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Wednesday, March 17

Understanding Bloggers: Why PR Doesn't Get Them

While working with a record label on the release of a movie soundtrack that included a new single from a popular actress/artist with a loyal fan base, it only made sense to reach out to the dozens and dozens of fans who had built blogs in her honor. It made sense, especially since fans saw the star differently than most in the mainstream.

The general thinking was, as fans, who had a loyal following of more fans, they would be receptive to a relationship one step removed. However, had I adopted a common public relations practice, the tactic would have been to collect a list and pitch them, perhaps laced with all those faux personal courtesies too.

Fortunately, I already knew something that most public relations practitioners do not. Pitches are not introductions. They are pitches. And bloggers, well, they are as different as passersby who use the New York City Transit, which serves as many as 1.6 billion riders every year, or perhaps the Tokyo Metro, which serves more than 3 billion. They are all different, and most of them do not see blogging like social media experts or public relations pros do. Their motivation or combination of motivations have little to do with the motivations of public relations practitioners.

Ten Motivations Of Modern Bloggers

Media-Centric. Whether they are journalists who happen to blog or bloggers who aspire to provide content like citizen journalists, these bloggers are the most likely to be interested in a pitch. They are the most likely to consider their audience, have an interest in insider news (even if it is spun up by public relations practitioners), and be most receptive to push content provided in a new release. However, they are also the most likely to make fun of blind pitches and point out erred efforts.

Profit-Centric. They blog purely for the purpose of monetization. They generally pick and choose their subjects based on a pay rates (e.g., pay-per-post, etc.) or, sometimes, are contracted to write stories at rates that range from $25 per post to $250 per hour, depending on the blogger. They are only interested in peddling public relations content for cash.

Popularity-Centric. They are the most likely to look for every traffic tip and tactic imaginable. They are most concerned with creating the illusion that they are popular based on various measures ranging from page rank to link love. They may be interested in public relations pushed ideas if they are reasonably exclusive and they think it will inflate their numbers.

Affiliate-Centric. Whether they are serving a company or are part of an affiliate program makes little difference. The primary purpose of the blog, even if it adds value and is well read, is to market a product, service, or company. It's that simple. They are rarely interested in content unless it directly connects to their business or affiliate program.

Incentive-Centric. They like freebies, coupons, discounts, contests, product samples, and write content around the various incentives offered up regularly by public relations professionals. It's not that different from profit-centric bloggers, except cash isn't king. Gifts, praise, and follow-ups filled with gratitude will win them over.

Education-Centric. It's surprisingly rare, but there are some bloggers whose primary purpose is to educate existing students and anyone who happens to drop by and visit from time to time. Popularity and profit are secondary to education because the motivation sometimes requires them to be unpopular. The only way to connect with them is to deliver something that they think would be useful for formal or informal students.

Cause-Centric. Some bloggers are cause-centric, which doesn't necessarily mean non-profit. While some are related to altruistic causes, others' causes range from political affiliation, fan clubs, television show cancellations, and other pursuits. In the six divisions of modern media, they are the most likely to have an agenda. If the pitch supports the agenda, they may be interested.

Interest-Centric. Special interest bloggers still dominate the greater space of social media. These bloggers are simple enough to understand. They have a hobby and want to share their passion for it. It might be any number of hobbies, ranging from poetry and photography to bead work and being a mom. There is 25-75 split in whether they are interested in a pitch.

Relationship-Centric. Some bloggers are interested in developing deeper relationships with like-minded people online. Generally, traffic is less important than the friendships. Sometimes they'll develop 20 or so friends online and off. If they happen to have any popularity spikes, it's generally by accident. They are usually not interested in pitches, preferring to focus on their own personal topics while making or retaining friends along the way. They don't care about your client.

Ego-Centric. Some bloggers like the sound of their own voices, and there is nothing wrong with that. Any other measure might make them feel validated that their ideas and opinions have merit, but it doesn't really matter. True ego-centric bloggers are just as happy being misunderstood or undiscovered as much as they appreciate the occasional praise. Engage them at your own risk.

If you or your public relations firm don't understand these sometimes subtle and often mashable motivations, you have no business attempting to pitch bloggers or developing a blogger outreach program. Besides, most bloggers do not consider a pitch as being the most acceptable introduction. It basically advertises your aim to use them right from the start. It's best to avoid the pitch, anyway.

When it came to introducing the movie and soundtrack, it was a simple enough. One of the biggest questions about the film was which working title these fans might expect. The introduction was simple enough. We publicly engaged them with the answer. And, once we publicly engaged them the first time, most sought connections with us based on their terms.

The only bloggers we didn't engage were profit-centric bloggers (beyond direct paid advertising). Even with disclosure, pay-for-post arrangements are risky propositions in terms of outreach, credibility, and occasionally ethics. Otherwise, we did not discriminate based on popularity, reach, influence, or any other measure — even when one blogger successfully circumvented our relationship to secure an exclusive clip with the record label (it was the first and last time the label made that mistake).

The results were proof positive. Among some 45 films the studio intended for DVD, the film we worked on moved from last place to first place in terms of receiving more distribution outlets. And, once released, it captured higher than expected sales rankings via online stores, almost all of it driven by social media over mainstream media.

In conclusion, the takeaway is simple enough. Engage bloggers publicly on their terms because most of them will never engage public relations on the terms that those pros are used to nor do they have any interest in learning about advertising or public relations. Think win-win or no deal, without judgment on the outcome because all bloggers are different.

(Hat tip: Jason Falls for the inspiration on this subject.)

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Wednesday, February 24

Going For Gold: How To Win With Social Media

Social media experts, social network managers, and bloggers could learn something from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. There are 2,636 athletes from 76 countries competing in 15 sports, which have additional variations in form and technique. All of these athletes are different.

Each and everyone of them has a different attitude, approach, skill, technique, style, and degree of teamwork. And yet, they share a common bond in that they all represent the best of the best in winter sports. So does social media.

Every time I read a well-meant post about how social media should be approached, I cringe a little bit. Should doesn't really have a place in communication, let alone social media. In an environment where more than 69 million people might define social media as playing Farmville, who's to say what should or should not be done? Either it works or it doesn't.

Sure, there was significant back and forth when Forrester Research reset its analyst blogging policy. You can find one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful summations offered by Shel Holtz. However, while his conclusion may or may not line up with what works for Forrester Research (it's too soon to tell), his conclusion certainly doesn't work for social media. Here's why...

How To Win Online Like An Olympian.

Know Your Sport.

Can you imagine what might happen if figure skaters approached pairs like ice hockey? I doubt Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China would not have taken home the gold in figure skating pairs for a body check. I also doubt that Jarome Iginla of Canada dreams of a reverse rotational lift with Alex Ovechkin from Russia.

Social media is much like that. Different niches develop their own sense of the sport. Foodie bloggers and mommy bloggers are different from business bloggers and communication bloggers (though some blend the elements). Even in communication, there are variations. Advertising, public relations, marketing, social media, and communication education all approach social media differently (and the best of them tend to manage client social media efforts differently too).

Know Your Game.

Not everyone believed that Evan Lysacek from the United States could win gold without the all-important quadruple jump. He did. Lysacek edged out Yevgeni Plushenko from Russia with an overall routine featuring better jumps, spins, and footwork. Meanwhile, Daisuke Takahashi from Japan employed a much more playful style to win bronze.

Social media is much like that. Long format or short format, lists or no lists, personal or formal, pictures or no pictures, comments or no comments, video or no video — all of it is as diversified as various sports. What really matters is that any individual blog or online community excel at whatever sport it might be similar to.

Know Your Team.

In the Olympics, not every team is the same. It takes a different kind of team to be part of a four-man blobsled than it does to play hockey. Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue had to consider each other's strengths to win gold in figure skating pairs. Shaun White didn't have any partner limitations in landing a gravity-defying double McTwist 1260 in snowboarding.

Social media is much like that. One of the things that Forrester Research did was reconsider how it views the team. Holtz doesn't have any such limitation. He is an all star, even when he plays for a team. Seth Godin has a different style too, one that is much more independent and isolated. Yet, it works for the people who read his books and blog.

Know What Matters.

Apolo Anton Ohno is one of the most popular Olympians on Twitter, with almost six times the followers of Lysacek. Does that mean Lysacek might consider giving up his gold medal figure skating success in favor of the short track? Does it mean he is less of an Olympian?

That would be silly to think so. And yet, it's not so silly to some people in social media who adopt a prevailing thought among communication bloggers. Some are torn between being more conversational or controversial because their colleagues seem more popular. The truth is that their comparison neglects that they might be in a different sport with a different style and a different team approach.

When bloggers align themselves with what the most popular people are doing based on perceived success, they've lost. In most cases, with some exceptions, the most popular reach a perceived success by knowing what sport, game, and team approach they want to take. And then, they play it perfectly.

Sure, some copycats can duplicate what those who came before them did. (It's very simple to do in social media circles, if all you care about is numbers.) But they will never quite measure up with compelling ideas because they are trying to be something they are not. So, popularity aside, maybe people ought to do what works for them or their organizations.

After all, the best sky jumpers don't dream of being figure skaters, they set their sights on being the best jumpers that they can be. How about you? Do you feel a disconnect with the sport you chose because it's less popular, flashy, or self-reliant? Don't be. Just be the best you can be. Or, if you're working in social media for an organization, make it the best it can be.

This is how I've come to view the Forrester Research policy change and the conversation that lingers on. Forrester Research is trying to be the best it can be.

And when you look at the Forrester Research case without the emotive buzz of taking something away from all-star analysts, then you realize Forrester didn't change sports. What it changed was the team approach and style of play.

Instead of picking star players from NHL teams, Forrester wants to play like the Herb Brooks' 1980 Miracle team. Does it matter? It doesn't matter if they continue to score shots for their clients. Conversely, it might matter if individual players feel less empowered to take opportunity shots that still score for the team. Time will tell.

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Friday, February 19

Organizing Lists: Retention Psychology & Branding

Almost everyone involved with online content creation knows it. Lists can be powerful tools for traffic attraction. Search for "3 tips" on Google and it will return 80 million results. Type in "5 tips" for 74 million. Ten tips returns 84 million. So on and so forth.

Okay, people like lists. So what?

Lists can be excellent resources, which is why we like them. But lists can also interfere with retention. In fact, most memory studies conducted by psychologists reveal that the power to retrieve information from our memories decreases with every new bullet item associated with those clues.

In one study (Anderson, 1980), participants were given a list that associated two professional titles with five actions. For example:

• The banker was asked to address the crowd.
• The banker broke the bottle.
• The banker did not delay the ship.
• The lawyer realized the seam was split.
• The lawyer painted an old barn.

When the participants were tested later, they took longer to remember any facts about the banker. Subsequent studies demonstrated that the more facts provided about someone or something, the less likely they were to retain facts unless those facts were well organized and grouped together to form other associations.

For example, if all the banker facts were related to a ship and all the lawyer facts were related to a barn, participants had no trouble retrieving facts about the banker or lawyer. Why? Because the lists were effectively reduced to manageable memories.

The link to retention becomes: banker + ship: three details; lawyer + barn: two details. It becomes a powerful memory.

Creating Organized Context Associations Drives Content Retention

Think about how this applies to branding. In Tiger Woods' statement today, media headlines focused on that he admitted to having affairs and apologized. Afterward, the stories all opined whether or not the apology should be accepted.

On the other hand, a word cloud reveals his focus was on his wife, family, friends, and children as it relates to his behavior.

So why didn't most media pick up on these central points? In looking at the full transcript, the organization of his apology was muddled, leaving the media construct simpler associations that set the tone for the apology regardless of what Woods said. For most people, they are more likely to remember the news snip than the statement.

Think about the last few posts or news stories you read that contained a list. Can you remember most of the bulleted items? Probably not. More than likely, unlike posts that tell a story or have one central theme, you might remember the topic but none of the details.

The good news for the list builder is that people will have to revisit the site to retrieve the information again. The bad news for readers is that the lessons and the author are less likely to be remembered over the long term. This doesn't just apply to posts. It applies to education in general.

In my course material on writing, students frequently tell me that they are more successful retaining my five elements on writing and Ike Pigott's three element on writing than those offered by Don Gale or Ogilvy and Mather.

Although all of the four sets lend value, the difference is in the presentation. Pigott links three frequently associated attributes to his writing, underscored by a kung fu analogy. I employ organized association, reinforcing those points with alliteration.

Why is it important? It's important for bloggers and journalists because while increasing retention might not spike traffic, it will help readers retain information and associate the content with you. Otherwise, they will be more likely to forget the content and the source, eventually conducting a new search based on the headline they remember. Will they find your post again? Maybe.

In closing, I'm adding a related psychology study to my watch list. Richard Elliot Wener, professor of environmental psychology at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, is studying whether highly visible recycling bins remind people to not only recycle but to also be more environmentally conscious in general.

How it that related? The study might have findings that cross over into understanding organized associated content, and whether those associations affect behavior.

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Monday, January 25

Shopping For Moms: Retail Turns To The Net

A recent analysis of moms in the marketplace, All About Moms: A RAMA/BIGresearch Initiative, solidifies the growing importance of social media among B2C businesses. In some ways, social networks and social media sites are evolving to become the content-connection-catalog-coupon books.

"Retailers who aren’t engaging customers through social media could be missing the boat,” said Mike Gatti, executive director for RAMA. “Twitter, Facebook and blogs are becoming increasingly popular with moms as they search for coupons or deals and keep in touch with loved ones. The web provides efficient, convenient ways for brands to stay in front of their most loyal shoppers and attract new ones.”

According to the survey, surfing the Internet and checking e-mail was was on par with watching television while other media consumption such as listening to the radio, reading a magazine, reading the newspaper ranked considerably lower among weekly media usage. In fact, moms tend to be more engaged online than 18+ adults, outpacing the general population on regularly and occasionally participating on social networks and blogs.

Moms Social Network Preference

• 60 percent of moms use Facebook; 50 percent 18+ adults
• 42 percent use MySpace; 35 percent 18+ adults
• 16.5 percent use Twitter; 15 percent 18+ adults

Moms Read, Post, And Maintain Blogs

• 51 percent read blogs; 46 percent 18+ adults
• 28 percent comment on blogs; 23 percent 18+ adults
• 15 percent maintain their own blogs; 13 percent 18+ adults

More significant than the raw numbers themselves, 97.2 percent of moms said they give advice to others about products or services and are very likely to seek it, with 93.6 percent saying they ask advice before making their final decision. Sharing advice tends to take place on social networks.

While moms tend to be more tech engaged than the general public, it does not mean they welcome intrusive marketing. A large majority (66.5%) consider text message marketing and voicemail marketing an invasion of privacy. They prefer product samples to be mailed, but in-store samples tend to have more influence.

The survey also ranked popular cable networks, magazines, and newspapers. The study was released by The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, which is a trade association representing over 1,500 retail companies and their advertising and marketing executives. The full study is available from the National Retail Foundation.

Three Related Conversations About Moms And Marketing

Marketing to Moms on Facebook Report by Holly Buchanan

Is Your Marketing On Target For Young Moms by Karen Corrigan

Marketing To Moms, Marketing With Moms by Kim Moldofsky

Monday, November 9

Reaching Mainstream: Social Media And Social Networking

Palo Alto Networks released a new study that pinpoints just how much social media, social networking, and collaborative Internet applications for business has increased in the last six months. What makes the study unique is that it considers organizational usage as a significant measure in determining adoption.

Highlights From The Palo Alto Networks Study

• Twitter session usage grew more than 250 percent since April 2009.
• Facebook usage increased by 192 percent, surpassing Yahoo! IM and AIM.
• SharePoint collaboration increased bandwidth usage 17-fold since April.
• Blogs and wiki posting increased by a factor of 39, with bandwidth increasing by 48.

The study also shows that there is an substantial increase in adoption all applications that are collaborative in nature (social media and social networks) for personal and business use. While employees are likely to use these tools for personal reasons, they also use them to increase business productively. The continued crossover suggests companies increase employee eduction on the subject of balancing authenticity and transparency.

Key Applications To Watch In 2010

• SharePoint grew by 48 percent in usage, compared to Oracle Collaboration Suite and IBM Lotus Notes, which only increased 11 and 12 percent respectively.
• Twitter, despite being limited to 140 characters, experienced a 775 percent increase in bandwidth usage, accounting for more than 184 MB of information per organization.
• LinkedIn was adopted by 89 percent of the organizations surveyed, but bandwidth and usage per organization has declined 42 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
• Facebook Chat, while released in April 2008, has become more widely used than Yahoo! IM and AIM (within the survey sample).
• Blogging by organizations has increased in usage from 22 percent to 51 percent in since April 2009.

The study cites The McKinsey Report on Web 2.0, which reveals that 69 percent of companies have gained measurable benefits in innovation, effective marketing, and better access to information. All of these benefits have lead to lower costs and higher revenues.

It also cites a report from AIIM, which also concluded that the top three business benefits cited by organizations include: knowledge sharing, information gathering, and the increased speed of communication delivery.

You can find the full report, which also addresses security issues, here. Palo Alto Networks specializes in next-generation firewalls.

Based on the Revised Technology Adoption Life Cycle, social media and social networking seems to be well over the mainstream curve with the late majority struggling to catch up. Anymore, organizations without any online presence will likely be left behind.

Friday, October 16

Spotting Trends: Seven Myths About Blogging

Today at BlogWorld New Media Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, BlogCatalog will release excerpts from a research study “An Analysis of the Blogosphere: Its Present & Future Impact,” which was conducted by SPECTRUM Brand Strategy Group, LLC (SBSG). The finding are based on a compilation of interviews with influential bloggers; a quantitative survey of BlogCatalog members; and a qualitative discussion moderated by the SBSG research team.

“What we have found is that many of the standing theories embraced by social media experts are not necessarily based on the experience represented by the majority of independent bloggers,” said Tony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. “In some cases, the SBSG study seems to suggest that many social media experts are isolating themselves from the greater population of the blogosphere.”

Seven Trends In Social Media Related To Blogging

1. Who are bloggers? While many people speculate younger audiences dominate blog authorship, the reality is that they are dominated by “digital immigrants” (Generation X and Baby Boomers). “Digital natives” (Generation Y and younger) are still exploring how they might best use blogs.

2. Will Generation Y follow these leaders? While there is an educator/student relationship, there is also an increasing divide between A-list “digital immigrants” and the greater population of the bloggers, especially younger content creators. As A-list bloggers have become less accessible, the majority of newer bloggers are looking for better solutions and different connections.

3. Do A-list bloggers have better insights? There is no correlation between A-list bloggers providing better insights
than novice or undiscovered bloggers. In fact, as A-list bloggers become more comfortable and complacent with some tactics, the study suggests new, novice, and undiscovered bloggers tend to take more risks that lead to innovation.

4. Is new media replacing traditional media? The vast majority of bloggers have no intention of becoming citizen journalists. It is more likely that content creators, citizen journalists, and journalists will become increasingly interdependent and not competitive with each other.

5. Can people trust blogs? Among bloggers, trusting other bloggers is not an issue. As readers, bloggers are
generally more suspicious of corporate blogs and traditional media than of other bloggers, even those who remain anonymous. There is also an increasing need for more human oversight over algorithms in discovering quality content.

6. How do bloggers measure success? Bloggers clearly and consistently identify their content as opinion communication and the authors aim to receive recognition and readerships. While corporations are interested in measuring a return on investment, most bloggers are more concerned about affirmation and engagement.

7. Will micro-blogging and social networks replace blogs? Most bloggers see micro-blogging and blogging as an interdependent activity, with micro-blogging, especially Twitter, being used to market blog content. They change where the discussion takes place, but thought leadership occurs on blogs.

There are more conversation topics to be found in excerpts being released today. There are additional points to be found in the full study, which is still being compiled.

Additional Points of Interest At BlogWorld

BlogCatalog is also handing out information on two upcoming Bloggers Unite events in November — Veterans Day: Who Will Stand on Nov. 11 and Bloggers Unite: Fight for Preemies on Nov. 17. Please save the dates and dedicate a blog post for both important causes.

If you are attending BlogWorld and have questions about either event, look for me Friday morning or Saturday afternoon, after I finish my class at UNLV. Or, look for our communication manager Hadley Thom, who will also be frequenting the BlogCatalog booth between sessions.

Who wouldn't be with Clive Berkman passing out special treats for attendees. He cooked the chocolate at my home last night; I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 7

Shining Starters: 10 Tips For Blogger-People Relations

While there are many top ten lists for bloggers, most seasoned bloggers — independent and organizational alike — will tell you that writing content is only part of the equation for sustainable success. Virtually every successful blog does more than offer good content. Many establish a sense of connection and sometimes community despite a presentation-like format.

The ability to infuse engagement, outreach, and relations into any social media program is the difference between having a successful program vs. one that doesn't seem to work. After all, if anyone can write a post and be successful, then every blog would have better than 200 readers. Most don't.

A few months ago, we performed an evaluation on an internal blog for a government agency. Despite the opportunity to employ it as a strong internal communication tool, the apparent lack of engagement and occasional adversarial tone from employees had left the communicators at a loss. What were they doing wrong?

In addition to providing six primary recommendations and 14 steps to realign the blog to meet its original objectives, there were some additional concepts missing from the program that had nothing to do with the nuts and bolts and writing posts. They had everything to do with people-to-people relations and organizational values. Here are ten tips.

Ten Common Sense Blogging Tips Beyond The Post

• Treat others with respect, even when you disagree with them, and they will respect you.
• Listen to what others have to say, and understand their point of view before being heard.
• Never be afraid of holding a less popular opinion, and people will add more value to your opinions.
• Keep your promises, even if it means making fewer promises, and people will know they can trust you.
• Allow others to share in your work from time to time and they will take responsibility for it.
• When others see justice used in solving problems, it reaffirms their sense of right and wrong.
• Invest one-on-one time with people, answering their questions and joining discussions, and they'll know you value them.
• If you expose yourself to diverse viewpoints and ideas, you'll benefit from improved critical thinking skills.
• Praise efforts, but never be afraid to improve, expand upon, or correct them, and the recognition means more.
• Lead a balanced life because the best posts and stories don't originate from online content.

From time to time, you'll find some of the best read and/or social media experts stumble on these points too, either slipping into diatribe or extending niceties to the point of pushing forward concepts laced with problems. It's okay. We're all human.

More to the point, however, is that observing those ten tips makes all the rest more manageable. Here are some of the better ones that we've collected. Enjoy.

Five More Blogging Tips From Around The Web

10 Simple Productivity Tips for Bloggers>Daily Blogging Tips from DailyBlogTips

10 Tips For Writing Blog Posts That Shine from Top Ten Blog Tips

• Build Upon Your Strengths As A Blogger from ProBlogger

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers from Wired

• 10 Tips for Becoming a Great Corporate Blogger from Scout

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