Posts tagged ‘blogging’

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.

October 22, 2014

Boo-hoo my content was stolen! Who cares.

ContentIsKing3Recently, I was browsing Google Images to find some multimedia that would help visualize some talking points for the Social Media Management course I teach at Algonquin College. This is a completely regular, and useful, behaviour for me. This time, I was just looking for the words “Content is King” stylized in some way to add a bit of visual interest. Pretty blazé, I must admit. After scrolling through a few pages of image search results, I came across the image to the right, and it struck me in just the right way – I loved it.

I thought “this is exactly what I need” and proceeded to save it to my lecture folder and insert it into my presentation. Something was troubling me, though. I thought the image was awfully familiar, but just couldn’t put my finger on where I had seen it before. Then it hit me, I had created this image myself about three years ago for a blog post on davidhallsocialmedia.com about creating blog content.

My immediate reaction was to do a Google search by image to see if anybody else had used “my” content. Turns out that Google returned 8 pages of use of the identical image on a variety of different pages ranging from blogs on website development, SEO, PR, and marketing. For a brief moment, I have to admit that my proprietary-self was thinking “these people are stealing my content, and didn’t even give me credit. How dare they!” After about 60 seconds of feeling this way, I quickly climbed down off my “who do they think they are” high horse and realized that I had, in fact, “stolen” virtually every single element that made up the graphic that I “created”. Let me explain…

War Is OverFirst of all, the saying itself has been bantered around for a good 20-25 years. Exact origin of the phrase is still a bit contentious, but most people will agree that Bill Gates popularized the saying in a mid-90s essay by the same name. I didn’t even put a twist on the saying, I used it verbatim, with no attribution.

Second, the little crown I used on the “G” was not designed by me. That image is a stock shape in Adobe Photoshop. I simply tilted it on an angle and shaded it in using the colour palette from my blog.

Finally, the typeface and layout I used were inspired by (or stolen) from the “War is Over” campaign by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I’m a big music fan and thought it would be cool to pay homage to their work by visually referencing their peace advocacy of the late 60s and early 70s. Using a thick, black, sans serif font, stacking one word on top of the next, and including an exclamation point, I think the reference comes through. I even remember Googling to find the exact name of the font used.

I imagine that some people would say that I stole all of these elements to make one giant copyright-infringing graphic. They would probably be right. On the other-hand, I would wager that there would be another cohort of people that would say that, although I was influenced by these existing works, I am ultimately the author of the image and should be regarded as such. They would probably be right, too.

So after “stealing” content myself, and having my own content “stolen,” I’ve come to a few personal realizations about the whole stolen vs inspired debate.

1. It happens to (almost) everyone.

Rest assured that if you publish content online, it will probably be “stolen” at some point. I am in no way special when it comes having content “stolen”. I chalk it up to the cost of publishing content on the web. In fact, the more people who steal “my” content, the more people will see it, right?

2. You probably stole the idea from somebody else in the first place.

I really don’t consider sharing other people’s content, or creating mash-ups, stealing. If you look hard enough at any of your ideas, I’m sure most could be traced back to somebody else’s idea that you just modified, or flat-out stole (knowingly or not). What I’m getting at here is that very few ideas are actually so fresh they can be considered novel, so what right do we have to claim ownership over them? Consider your take on the idea as adding a new voice to the continual conversation, not a new flag in some sort of uncharted, intellectual territory.

3. “Good artists copy, great artists steal”

This quotation has been used, and reused, for over 100 years. It has been attributed to Pablo Picasso, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Steve Jobs, and more. At the heart if it, it speaks to the role of the creator as the steward of content rather than the owner of it. As artists and creators, it is our job to take what has come before us, modify, re-contextualize, and republish it reflecting our lived experience. Content isn’t about ownership, it’s about continuing the conversation. I had a great boss for a number of years who used to tell me, “Dave, don’t bother reinventing the wheel, just put new hubcaps on it.”…an expression that I’ve added to my vocabulary (yes, I stole this too).

4. If you want to get paid for your content, and you think your profits are being lost to thieves, you need a business manager.

I imagine that one response to this post might be “I’m trying to make a living on my content, so I have to be vigilant”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making money. If your content is good enough to generate a profit, I applaud you (mine certainly isn’t that good). The problem is that creating content and making money are two very different things. Every good content creator needs a great business manager, and very few people are adept at both. Prime example, just Google Roy O. Disney. He was the business brain, Walt was the creator. Disney wouldn’t be what it is today without Roy’s business acumen.

5. Get over yourself and consider it a compliment

If your content is worth stealing, then you are on the right track. If you make it even better, someone might want to pay you for it some day. At the very least, you can consider having your content stolen as an indicator of value; you just need to find your Roy Disney to transform that value into dollars.

What do you think about “stolen” content? Has it happened to you?

Remember, if you like this post, go ahead, steal away.

September 29, 2014

The Science of Marketing – 6 Key Takeaways [Book Review]

science-of-marketing

August is the only month on my calendar where I get a bit of time to catch up on my personal reading list. This year, I spent much of that month reading book after book about social media, marketing, communications and leadership. One book that had immediate actionable content for social media community managers, was The Science of Marketing (2013) by Dan Zarrella. Working for HubSpot since 2009, Zarrella has access to the tens of thousands of data-sets he uses to identify trends and make process and content recommendations on how to improve your organization’s social media presence. Once you get past Zarrella’s description of himself as a “Social Media Scientist”, you’ll find some rather useful information that can help you benchmark and experiment with the social media communities you manage.

This is a tactical book, not a strategy book. If you are looking for ways to tweak your Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, email marketing, blog, and lead generation efforts, this book is well worth the 200-page read. A few key takeaways:

  1. Content is still your biggest ally, and the most important piece of the social media puzzle. Zarrella’s response to the question “how much should I be blogging/posting” is “more than you are now”. He even suggests that, to increase engagement and shares, the optimal amount of blog posts is three per DAY.
  2. Blog posts published on Saturday and Sunday get more comments than posts published during the week. Zarrella considers two reasons for this. First, weekends allow users more time to actually read a blog post. Second, fewer companies publish content on the weekend, which means less competition for attention. In fact, Zarrella suggests that we should seek to publish our content when others are not. He calls this “contra-competitive timing”.
  3. Sentiment is important. Posts that are positive get the most comments, shares, and likes. The second most effective are negative posts, which leaves neutrality as the last place finisher. In other words, neutral is boring. If you are going to post something, make sure it contains your tone and think positive first.
  4. Calls to action work. The primary example used in this book is the correlation between retweets and asking for retweets. Zarrella found that simply asking people to retweet your content delivers four times more retweets than tweets that don’t make that request. I wouldn’t use this tactic for every piece of content I tweet, but it’s good information to know if you are responsible for managing an emergency/crisis situation where you need information to spread very quickly.
  5. If you want to catch your audience’s attention on Facebook, photos are by far the best option. Zarrella’s research indicates that photos are the most sharable form of content on Facebook, blowing text, video, right out of the water.
  6. He even gets down to a very granular level of detail by looking at where within a tweet is the best place to include a link in order to maximize clicks. The answer: right in the middle. He even provides lists of the most, and least, sharable/retweetable keywords.

All of these ideas, and about 100 more, are laid out in simple language and charts in this book. The author is quick to mention that his findings are in no way the set-in-stone way to do things that will guarantee success on social media. They are merely data-backed observations that can help marcom professionals tweak and tailor their social media program. In essence, what Zarrella has presented in this book is a look at trends in social media engagement. It’s now up to us as social media managers to use this information to benchmark and experiment and see what works in our communities.

You can find this title on Amazon for about $20, well worth the investment.

January 11, 2014

The art of Re-Blogging

You’ve probably noticed recently that posts, or re-blogs, from different authors have been appearing on www.davidhallsocialmedia.com, and may be wondering what the deal is.

Re-blogging is quite simple. Essentially I am sharing a post from another WordPress blog on my site, with a few additional comments of my own. Once I find a post that I think my readers would be interested in, all I have to do is click a little button, add some text, and it’s done.

reblog-wordpress

I view it as a win-win-win situation for everyone involved:

  1. Readers of www.davidhallsocialmedia.com get fresh content from a different viewpoint.
  2. The original author is clearly credited for their work and has it exposed to a new audience.
  3. I get to share new voices and topics on my blog that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to, in turn creating a better site / collection of posts.

The bloggers that you are reading in these re-blogs are students in the Social Media Management course that I teach. Their major project in first semester is to create a blog related to Public Relations, start publishing posts, and promote their work. Originally, I hadn’t planned on re-blogging their posts, but some of the posts were so interesting / well done, that I thought www.davidhallsocialmedia.com readers would find them to be a valuable read.

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