Archive for April, 2011

April 26, 2011

Social Media for Business – The DOs and DON’Ts [Infographic]

Here’s a great infographic from The Steel Method that features a few very simple, but very valuable, do’s and don’ts when it comes to using social media for business.  Before we get to the infographic, I have a few more DOs to add to the list:

Be sure to use multimedia. Photos and video are a great way to vary the way you deliver your message and engage with your audience. You don’t always need to be the one creating the content about your company;  you can share what others have created and posted online if it is on message. I often use the “favourites” option on YouTube to aggregate relevant content to appear on my channel and share it that way.

Promote and cross-promote your social networks. You need to let people know about the social networks you are active in. Promote your official accounts on your website and also on your other social media networks. I am often using Twitter and Facebook to promote new videos on YouTube or new sets on Flickr. Another trick is to link your Facebook and Twitter accounts so they can update each other. Or if you use a tool like HootSuite, you can add LinkedIn, WordPress, and Foursquare into the mix.

Establish a reporting and measurement system. Maybe this is implied in the “create measurable goals” section, but it bears repeating. Be sure to set up a reporting system so you can establish benchmarks and be able to track the progress towards your goals. This lets your executives know that you are on track, and also lets you know if you need to make any changes along the way to achieve your goals.

Now for the infographic:

April 20, 2011

8 great steps to start a blog: The “Blogging 101″ checklist

Often I hear “I want to start a blog, can you help me get started?” The more I answered those questions the more obvious this blog post became – A simple list of steps to help guide others through starting their own blog.

There’s so much to cover, so I’m going to break up my “blogging” series into a number of posts: the first, “8 great steps to start a blog,” followed by a post on “content creation,” then a post on “blog promotion,” and finally one on “blogger tools (free software and apps).”

Let’s get started, and yes, the order is important.

1. Decide what you are going to blog about. This may seem obvious, but it’s critical to put some concrete thought into your blog topic before you go any further. The biggest mistake when starting a blog is that people are too diverse in what they want to blog about and just write about what they are interested in. This approach ultimately makes the topic of the blog about the author and, to be honest, nobody really wants to read a blog about you, what you do in your spare time, what your favourite restaurants are, how great your amateur band is, etc. The key is to pick a topic that you are knowledgeable about, passionate about, have experience in and stick to it.

2. Determine who your intended audience is. Who will most likely want to read your thoughts about this topic? Be specific and really start to think about the ideal demographic profile of the person who will be reading your blog. Consider age, gender, career level, industry, education, etc. This can change and grow as your blog matures and you get some insights from your web traffic analytics, but always write with an intended reader in mind.

3. Choose your platform. You know what you are going to blog about and who you are writing for, now it’s time to choose a blogging platform. You want to spend a bit of time on this because you need to make sure you will be happy with your choice now, and for years to come. I use WordPress.com, and I’m quite happy with it. It has several free, well-designed, functional themes that are customizable – very important in my decision.  WordPress (and other sites) also provide “site stats” to help you learn a bit more about who your readers are. Besides WordPress, you may want to also consider Blogger, Posterous, Live Journal, Tumblr, and Typepad. Here’s a decent comparison of some of the tools from bizchickblogs.com.

4. Choose a design template for your blog (often called a theme). This is where WordPress leads the way. They have so many free themes to choose from ranging from highly customizable to the very simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Spend a day or two looking at dozens of theme options to find one that serves your needs just right.

5. Customize the look and feel of your blog. Your chance to really make your blog your own. Once you have your theme, there are often many options you can use to make your blog like none other. Try to avoid using too many default design and layout settings. The first thing to do is choose a colour scheme (palette) that you will use in all of your design decisions . For those of us with a less-than-perfect design flair, www.colourlovers.com can help you figure out what looks good together and what doesn’t.

Next step to customize your blog is to incorporate your colours and name of your blog into your header. Your header should be simple. Include the name of your blog and a recognizable image that fits with your theme. Not all blog themes have a custom header capability, so take  a quick look through a few of your options on WordPress.

6. Make sure there are social components to your design. This is what social media is all about. Shares, comments, rankings, etc. You have to add these elements when you are customizing your theme, but it is such a critical component I decided to make it it’s own entry on this checklist.  The idea is to empower your readers to share your blog with their own networks, and also provide you feedback on what readers like and don’t like about your blog.

On the sharing front, I encourage my users to share using Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, and email. For feedback, I enabled the ranking system and also allowed open comments – this means that all users who want to comment on a blog post can do it without moderation (I am yet to have to remove a comment due to inappropriate content).

7. Buy your domain name. This may not be for everybody, but if you want to communicate professionalism you are going to want to buy a unique domain name. It costs about $20 a year and is well worth it. It takes your blog from the appearance of a free, homemade diary, to a very professional and focused image. If the blogger thinks their content is worth investing some money in, the reader may think it’s worth investing 90 seconds of their time to read the blog.

8. Stop worrying that people will think your ideas are stupid, and start writing. Now your fingers hit the keys. After you are all set up with your blog, it is ultimately your content that will determine how much response you will get.  One of the big stumbling blocks for bloggers (both rookie and veteran) is they may be worried too much about what others think. Stop worrying about it and start writing, and you’ll be able to figure it out as you go. After all, nobody is going to shut your blog down for a few bad posts.

My next post in this “blogging” series will be “Blogging 201: tips on creating content”. Look for that in a few weeks.

April 13, 2011

3 tips to simplify the hectic schedule of the social media manager [Infographic]

Here’s a great infographic from SocialCast for all of the social media managers out there, myself included. I think we can all find a bit of humour in this, and quite a bit of truth.  Personally, I do 12 of the 14 of these tasks on a daily basis.

The fact of the matter is that the longer you have been a social media manager, the less hectic it becomes as you figure out a few tips, tricks, and tools to help get your job done. Here are my top 3:

1. Train the internet to find you. I’ve said it before – use the free tools out there to aggregate the content you need so you don’t have to go out and find it. Subscribe to some RSS feeds, follow a blog, sign up for Google Alerts, do keyword searches in TweetDeck, enable alerts on your smartphone when your organization is mentioned, download and install FeedDeamon to keep on top of all  of your feeds and searches, etc. Figure out who and what you need to listen to and use an aggregator to do the leg-work.

2. Invest in management and reporting tools. There is a difference. You have two specific needs. First, you need to manage your community and be responsive, attentive, and timely. This includes responding to questions, providing great content, managing messages across a number of platforms,  sharing links, scheduling posts, etc. Many of us have already figured this part out and are using TweetDeck, Seesmic, TwitterBerry, Co-Tweet, Hootsuite, etc.

Second, you have to report on how great the work you are doing is to your boss, and your boss’ boss. To do this, you may need to invest in a tool that provides a dashboard explaining how your social media efforts have driven website traffic, impacted conversions, identified new leads, etc. I had to talk to some analytics people to figure out how to deliver this report. First step was to signup for, use, and understand, Google Analytics.

3. Empower others in your organization to contribute content. Your job shouldn’t be focused 100% on creating content. Tons of great content is out there on the internet; our job as social media managers is to find the content relevant to our audience, and share it. It is a good idea to encourage and empower others in your organization to share relevant content from your organization on your Facebook wall, check-in at your business using Foursquare, share a video on YouTube, or just tweet a question.  One hundred little content creation engines are much more powerful than one over-worked social media manager banging away on the keys.

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