Posts tagged ‘Blogs’

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.

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.

August 10, 2011

8 tips on promoting your blog and building a loyal audience [Blogging 301]

So you’ve started a blog and now you’re wondering why nobody is visiting. You’ve done everything in Blogging 101 and Blogging 201, but you feel invisible.  Your next step is to start sharing and promoting your blog to drive readership.

Promotion of your blog should be a part of your overall blogging strategy. Remember, you won’t be an overnight success, as it may take months and months of consistent blogging and promotion to build a loyal following, but here are a few tips to get you on the right track.

1. Set goals. If you fail to set goals, you won’t have a target to aim for and you will have no way of knowing if your blog is a success. I can assume that if you are reading this post, you’ve already made the decision that you want more than just friends and family to be reading your posts and you want to reach as many people as possible, right? So set some goals, and be realistic. Would you be happy with 100 pageviews a week? 1,000? How about 20,000 page views a year? Really think hard about how successful you think you can be in your first year and shoot for that target. You don’t have to just set pageview goals: think number of comments, interactions, and shares too.

2. Leverage your social networks. Here’s an easy one – use your existing social networks to spread the word about your blog and each new blog post.

Twitter is by far my most useful referral tool. Be sure to use relevant hashtags to insert yourself into conversations, thank people for RTing and commenting on your work, and tweet at the best time of day (for most industries that’s between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.). This behaviour helps to encourage feedback, shares, and comments.

At the same time, as you are promoting your blog on social networks, you should also be actively trying to continue to build a following  of your target audience on these networks. For example, if you are writing about local food, seek out, follow, and interact with those who like to post about food in your city.

Facebook and Google+ are starting to provide some decent traffic for my blog, and don’t forget about social bookmarking: reddit, digg, stumbleupon, etc.

3. Think SEO when writing content and headlines. Admittedly, I’m not an SEO expert, but we can all use a few key principles to help make our content more attractive to search engines. First, be sure to use common search terms in your headline. You can check out Google Adwords or Google Insights for some help in determining what they should be. Second, in your body copy, be sure to use these same search terms and link them, where possible, to other posts on your blog, or major sites online (i.e. Wikipedia). Finally, if you have images on your blog (and you should), be sure to use these same keywords in the name and title of the image file.  There’s way more to SEO than this. For a more complete tip-sheet, check out this list by Reverse Delta.

4. Share the “link love”. Often ideas for your own blog posts will stem from what you’ve read on others. If I’ve pulled an idea, topic, or infographic from another blogger or website, I always reference where the material came from and reward them with a link-back to their site. The link is still the currency of blogging. Simply put, the more influential pages you link to, and who are linking to you, the higher your blog will return in search results.

5. Get other people talking about / sharing your content. Start by doing the simple stuff. Make sure your comments are open and include buttons to share, like, tweet, rank, email, stumble, digg, etc. The easier it is for your readers to share, the more referrals you can expect. Next,  Join the conversation with other bloggers by being active in the blogging community. You should be liking, commenting, reviewing, and critiquing (professionally) other blog posts. If the idea for your latest blog post was a reaction to something you read on another blog, be sure to return to that blog and post a link to your reaction in the comments section; remember, your are continuing the conversation, not attacking the other opinion.

6. Consider guest blogging.  If you are an established blogger, be open to the idea of contributing a guest post to another blog with a similar focus. You may also be approached to have your existing content syndicated on other blogs: this is a good step too.  Another way to expand your audience is to invite another thought leader in your field to contribute a post to your blog. This not only provides your readers with new content and a new perspective, but also it avails you to the loyal following of your guest blogger…who, I would assume, would help to promote his/her post on your blog to his/her readers.

7. Use offline promotion techniques.  So you want to turn pro? Well, I’m not there yet, but consider the use of traditional marketing materials to drive traffic to your website. This can take the form of almost anything: posters, flyers, stickers, post cards, club cards, t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc. If you choose to do this, be sure to include a unique, and trackable URL, so you can evaluate how many visitors your campaign has generated. At the very least, you should include a URL to your blog on your business card.

8. Don’t over promote. Sometimes you just need to give it a rest. All bloggers can admit to themselves that they may have crossed the line when promoting their blogs, but it’s good to not make a habit of it.  I try to promote my posts for about 24-36 hours, then let them flow down stream.

Is there anything else that should be on this list? Leave a comment and let me know.

July 7, 2011

Responding to negative posts about you or your company – Tips from the US Air Force

This morning I had a conversation with @LyaraPR, Algonquin College PR student, about how to respond to negative posts about you, or your company, on social media networks. I shared the following flowchart that I’ve been using for a few years that helps keep in perspective what to consider when you encounter a negative, or erroneous, post. It was developed by the United States Air Force Public Affairs Agency – Emerging Technology Division and it’s a good document to print and keep close-by your computer, especially if you are a community manager on behalf of an organization. It’s been around for a while, but it’s still quite useful. Take a look…

NOTE: They also have a 25+ page Social Media and the Air Force document (PDF) that details guidelines, trends, and best practices.

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.

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