Archive for ‘tips’

January 27, 2015

3 lessons learned from writing 100 blog posts

100BlogPosts

With this being the publication of my 100th blog post on davidhallsocialmedia.com, I think it’s time to reflect upon a few lessons I’ve learned since my first post in 2011. When I started this site, I shared many of the ideas that I had about how to be a successful blogger in a three-part series about starting and writing a blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). Primarily, these were lessons that I had learned through research, and a bit of my own blogging experience. Each of these posts was written before I had a full year of experience blogging. Although (I think) that three-part series still offers good tips and information to people thinking of starting a blog, here are three more things I’ve learned after being in the trenches for a few years:

1. Consistency is key

We all know this. Post regular, quality content, and you’ll be successful. The problem is, this is very hard to sustain. I’m not a professional blogger; I don’t get paid a cent for a single word. That’s OK, because that’s not the purpose of this site. I measure the success of my site by views, comments, and shares. It took about a year of me blogging at least once each week for traffic on the site to really increase. As I continued the one-post-per-week model for another year, traffic nearly tripled.

In January 2013, my wife told me that we were pregnant. Fantastic news! I decided to focus on the immediate tasks at hand and willfully neglected my blog. I didn’t publish another post until about 9 months later (I wonder why). Most of 2014 was spent with my new son, only blogging sporadically. I loved this time, but my blog traffic certainly didn’t. This lack of new content really hurt traffic on davidhallsocialmedia.com. Now in 2015, my goal is to resume the one-post-per-week model to see what happens.

2. Build shareability into your content

FacebookThumbnail

Example of the Facebook thumbnail that requires blogs to have embedded multimedia in order to work properly.

As you are writing every post, think about trying to make it as easy as possible for your readers to share it. To do this, I focus on three main components.

First, be timely. My most popular posts are the ones that are published (or promoted) during times of the year when people want that content. If it’s Christmastime, find something interesting to connect your topic to that observance. Same idea goes for the Super Bowl, first day of school, or even shark week.

Second, always include at least one image in your post. Make sure it’s not awkwardly proportioned, too large, or too small. I also try and put it right at the beginning of the post. I do this because, yes, it’s nice to see an image above the fold when landing on a website, but more importantly, many social media share buttons automatically grab an image from your post to accompany that link when it is shared on your personal network. The most visible example of this is the Facebook thumbnail; Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ also do this.

Finally, forget Facebook; the headline of your post is your best promotional tool. It’s important to try to convey one interesting message from your post in 100 characters or less. Try and get one key fact or statement into your headline. It doesn’t have to be a summary of the whole post: just a key point, statistic, or opinion that may get people to click. During the 6-week blogging assignment in the Social Media Management course I teach in Algonquin College’s PR program, I encourage my students to think of the headline of each of their posts as a tweet.

3. Always think about your audience, but you won’t always satisfy them

You need to be comfortable with writing content that nobody likes. If you haven’t published a failure of a post, you haven’t blogged. I’ve written some blog posts that have gone nowhere. Back in 2011, nobody was interested in what I had to say about Trendsmap and finding geographically relevant tweets. Only about 50 people viewed it right after it was published, and now 4 years later, it has a whopping 160 views. According to the viewership, comment, and social sharing statistics, that post is garbage. I still love Trendsmap, so I’m good with it.

You won’t know who your readers actually are until you publish for a few months, better yet a year, and pay attention to your site’s analytics that tell you what countries your viewership is coming from, what search terms are referring  to your website, and what social media networks your viewers are finding you on. My readers, for example, are primarily Americans who work in the Marketing / PR world. This doesn’t meant that I don’t get plenty of readership from my home and native land, but it does mean that I write posts with the majority demographic in mind.

Useful content is sometimes better than thought-provoking content. I try to be helpful to my readers by posting how-tos, infographics, and resources that I have found useful in my own life. Posts of this nature, along with the timely ones, tend to get the most viewership. I do also write for myself. These pieces don’t generate great traffic, but they do give me an opportunity to think through a few ideas and try to organize them in a somewhat articulate fashion. I imagine that this post won’t be wildly successful based on views, but it’s important for me to write it. I have gone through the experience of writing 100 posts, and without reflecting on it, it would be a personal learning opportunity missed.

January 21, 2015

Facebook cover size, and 26 other exact images size requirements for your social media profiles [Infographic]

I’m always checking, rechecking, and double checking the proper size constraints for images uploaded to my social media accounts. Nobody wants to upload a profile picture, which they rather like, and have the parameters of the website stretch and skew it to make it fit the one-size-fits-some model. I have found that the best way to avoid the potential problem of stretching and skewing is to crop (or design) the images you plan on using on your social media accounts to the exact pixel sizes according to the rules of the site…but that information isn’t always easy to find.

If you do plan on uploading exact-sized images to your Facebook account, the good news is that you don’t need to be a Photoshop expert to create these perfect pics. Sure, Photoshop will work just fine, but you can crop your images to exact sizes using almost any photo editing software, including the ones that come bundled in Windows (Microsoft Image Manager), or OS X (iPhoto). If you want to use software with a few more features than these standard options, but don’t want to pay a dime, you can try one of these 10 free photo editing tools. I’ve used GIMP in the past and it works well.

Below is a handy infographic from the people at setupablogtoday.com who have collected all the pixel requirements for some of the most popular social networks all in one place. Knowing these exact sizes will help you create and/or crop perfectly-sized profile pictures, cover images, headers, backgrounds, banners, and thumbnails.

2015-social-media-image-sizes-infographic

August 16, 2013

Kids would actually change their online behaviour if they knew their parents were watching [Report]

parents-just-dont-understand

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about the relationship between children, their parents, and the Internet. Most of us would probably agree that parents need to educate their kids about getting the most out of the internet while staying safe. The problem seems to be that, although parents worry about their kids, they are unable, or unwilling, to take the necessary steps to create the next generation of Netizens.

The truth of the matter is that the Internet is an 18+ world – always has been. Kids need to be shown early on how to navigate and keep themselves (and others) safe and productive online.

The 2013 McAfee Digital Deception Study explores the online disconnect between parents and pre-teens, teens, and young adults. This 23-page report makes it clear that many parents’ perceptions are out-of-sync with today’s online reality. Some of their findings include:

  • 62% of parents don’t think their child can get into that much trouble online.
  • Only 17% believe the online world is as dangerous as the offline world.
  • Only 20% say they know how to find out what their child is doing online.
  • 74% of parents say they don’t have the time or the energy to keep up with everything their child is doing online.
  • 72% of parents say they are overwhelmed by modern technology and just hope for the best.
  • 66% say their child is more tech-savvy than they are, and they’ll never be able to keep up with their child’s online behaviors.

Really? The majority of parents don’t think their child can get into that much trouble online? Only 20% say they know how to find out what their child is doing online? 74% of parents say they don’t have the time or the energy to keep up with everything their child is doing online? Come on, get with it parents – invest some time (and potentially money) into internet literacy. If you don’t know where to start, simply Google “How to track kids online activity” and start reading. I’ll bet your kids will be at least this resourceful when they are looking for ways to hide their activity from you.

Sure, kids don’t make it easy on their parents to find out what they are doing online. This study also showed that young people use a whole host of techniques to hide their online behaviour from their parents, and less than half (47%) of parents are aware of these measures, which include:

  • Clearing browser history or using a different browser than their parents
  • Deleting IMs and videos
  • Viewing content away from the home and on different devices
  • Creating private email addresses and social media accounts their parents don’t know about
  • Disabling the parental controls

In essence, young people know how to hide their online activity, and most parents are either clueless or unmotivated to do anything about it. The golden nugget in this study, from my perspective, was that the report indicates that nearly half (46%) of these young people said they would actually change their online behaviour if they knew their parents were watching.

Below you will find an infographic with similar stats about social media use by children. It  also contains plenty of stats covering cyber-bullying, sexting, the amount of time a young person spends online, etc. As you might imagine, I was most intrigued by the “Parental Perceptions” section. For example, 72% of parents worry theirs kids will share inappropriate information with strangers online, but only 33% have helped their children establish privacy settings. It seems as though the actions of parents don’t match their anxieties in this case.

Kids and Social Media

August 15, 2012

I challenge you to Google yourself! [Infographic]

A simple Google search to see what results come up when your name is punched into the worlds biggest search engine – It’s just a smart thing to do. Feel free to head over to Google now to do a quick search…I’ll wait…Did you like what you found?

You may be surprised to know that you are not the only one searching for information about you online. It turns out that just about everybody wants to know more about you, and it’s not just your family and friends:

  • 79% of HR recruiters and hiring managers screen job candidates by reviewing online information about them.
  • 86% of hiring managers have told candidates that they were rejected based on what was found online about them.
  • Even 12% of College admissions officers said that posts which include photos of alcohol consumption, illegal activity, and the use of vulgar language have negatively impacted a potential student’s chances in being granted admission.

Sometimes I think that too much of the “Google yourself often” conversation is framed around the fear of having bad things appear online about you. This fear approach may motivate some, but I prefer to remind people of the opportunity angle. Yes, I firmly agree that it’s a good idea to keep your questionable behaviour offline as much as possible, but it’s also good to remember that hiring managers are looking to find out good things about you too…so they can hire you. This infographic from 2011 says that 68% of recruiters have hired a candidate because of what they saw about their potential hire on social media. Some of these reasons were because the candidates profile:

  • Gave a positive impression of their personality and organizational fit
  • Supported their professional qualifications
  • Showed the candidate was creative
  • Showed solid communications skills
  • Demonstrated the candidate’s awards and accolades
  • etc.

Googling yourself isn’t about vanity, egotism, or a sense of self-importance. It’s about ensuring your online presence is an accurate representation of who you are personally and professionally. You wouldn’t submit a resume without proofreading it, so it just makes sense to take a few moments each month to Google yourself and “proofread” the information available about you online. If you don’t like what you see, you can take steps to remove questionable posts/photos and change your online behaviour going forward. It’s better to start now than to wait until you are actively looking for a job.

For some additional facts, stats, and tips to help you find out what the internet is saying about you, check out the infographic below from www.backgroundcheck.org.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This infographic asks you to log out of Google to get “unbiased results”. It is true that this will disconnect the search results from any information Google has stored about your Google Account. But Google also uses third-party cookies that your browser has stored to customize your results as well. To turn off both of these customizations at the same time, all you have to do is add the simple “&pws=0” URL parameter to the end of your search URL, hit enter, and you will see the results most people on the web will see. The URL should then look something like this https://www.google.com/search?q=Your+Name&pws=0. Big thanks to colleague @erichollebone for sharing the URL parameter tip.

The Google Yourself Challenge
From: BackgroundCheck.org

…And, on a lighter note, a final thought on “Googling yourself” from 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy and Tracy Jordan…

June 6, 2012

Are your tweets worth reading?…Probably not [Infographic]

For years now, my Twitter rule-of-thumb has been to always keep my audience in mind when I tweet. I often ask the question “how is this of value to my followers, or to the individuals I’m interacting with?” If I can see value, I send it; if it’s a bit weak, I think twice. Sure I’ve sent out some garbage tweets over the years, but for the most part I think I’ve been pretty consistent.

Essentially I’m trying to share content that is worth consuming and sharing, but I’ve never really stopped to think what percentage of my tweets are “worth reading” according to my readers. A recent study that appeared in the Harvard Business Review suggests that only 36% of the average users’ tweets were actually “worth reading”, leaving the remaining 64% to be either “just OK” or “Not worth reading” at all.

This study asked 1,400+ users to rank 40,000+ different tweets, and they were able to compile a list of the best and worst “types” of tweets. There were a couple surprises in there. First, “random thought” and “self-promotion” tweets were most popular. I would have thought that these would have been considered useless or too self-interested, but it turns out that the “random thoughts” are often good for a laugh, and self-promotional tweets are welcome when they link to useful resources and information.

Another surprise is that “conversation” tweets ranked as one of the worst types of tweets. It appears that most Twitter users don’t appreciate public conversations between a few people.  Personally, I like these tweets. I love having open conversations on Twitter. I will use a RT to provide the context of the conversation and add my additional thoughts as well.  I often find that others who were not in the original conversation will chime in to further the discussion and offer new points-of-view.

Now for the infographic:

What percentage of your tweets do you think are “worth reading”?

May 10, 2012

Do you do “Social Media Spring Cleaning”? Here’s how I’m polishing up my accounts…

Ensuring that my social media profiles are up-to-date is something I think about often, and speaking with other communications professionals, I know that I’m not alone. The trap that I fall into is that I know I have to update my profiles, but I procrastinate, work on more “pressing issues”, and never get around to it. But this year is different. I’ve decided to put an annually-reoccurring event in my calendar titled “Social Media Spring Cleaning” to force myself to take the time I need to make sure all of my information is clean and current. Here’s what I’m suggesting:

Start by visiting all of the social media profiles you have signed up for. First, you want to get an idea of what you signed up for, and second, you want to see how they look. Read all of the content to make sure that you’re pleased with it. Identify what needs to be changed/updated. Start with the networks you use most often, then start looking for other ones that are less active or you just plain forgot about.

Update your profiles. Make sure your information is consistent. Be sure to add new information from the year past. This is also a good time to take a peak back at what you’ve been posting to see what you have been up to the past few months. You may feel the need to remove some postings that you made that are no longer relevant or are completely off topic.

Delete any old accounts. Consider deleting (or disabling) any accounts that you haven’t used in the past 6 months, or don’t intend on using in the future.

Google yourself. But spend some time and go deeper. Take a full hour to search google images, videos, YouTube. Then go to other sites such as Peekyou.com, pipl.com, wink.compeople.yahoo.com, or zuula.com to search for your online presence. If you can’t find yourself, try including other things people may know about you when searching, like your city, place of employment, previous schools you attended, or friends/family connections. All this can be done for you personally, and/or the brand that you manage.

And I’m happy to report that I do take my own advice. Here’s what I’ve been able to do:

…It took me between 2-3 hours to complete it all.

If you have any other suggestions about what to include in a “social media spring cleaning” exercise, leave a comment and let me know.

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