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Before starting to rattle off articles on a blog, develop a strategy. Strategies can take a from of a plan, a list of article topics or even a blog description. They can even be an analysis of competing and complementary resources, not just blogs but traditional sites, portals or newspaper and magazine sites. This advise comes from seeing too many blogs and articles missing the mark. It also comes from over a hundred conversations with people who can’t answer basic questions about a blog. By developing a strategy and doing a little research, a blog can be launched into the right direction. It will also focus your work into specific tasks.
- What is the best way to get noticed?
- How can you get your message into people’s heads?
- What is the most effective strategy to deploy your blogging resources?
These are popular questions when you first need to budget and plan blogging. They are also useful in social media sites like Facebook. Simply put, there are too many competing voices on the Internet. Just when you thought you had the most unique service in the world, you find tens or hundreds of similar products. With a little bit of positioning you limit the scope of your work to a geographical area and maybe then you are somewhat unique. The only problem is using old style “positioning”. What we have been doing for traditional advertising media does not work exactly the same way. The differences between printed, electronic and direct marketing channels and blogs are crucial to understand. Blog popularity is driven through viral communication. Interesting blogs with focused writing attract a few readers. Once they like the writing, or find it useful (good investment tips, nice fashion pictures, travel and current event stories from a distant vacation spot) the readers spread the word about the blog. With e-Mail and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter) viral communication is amazingly fast and large. If you have ten or twenty people who exchange messages with you, this makes for a link in the viral communication chain. Out of the ten people who read your message, you only need two who have ten people connections as well. Notice that it’s not the hundreds of people who are connected to you on Facebook that count. It’s the few who re-transmit your recommendation for the blog that count. The way viral communication works depends on the habits of the people in the network. If you are a “connector”, than you understand this behavior. Connectors (this term was popularized by Gladwell in The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference ) are people who connect between ideas and people. They usually see new trends and ideas and spread them quickly. They usually know who will further spread the message and who will not. If you need to learn how viral communication works, look for a someone who is a big connector. In each field there are connectors who pass messages back and forth and people “follow” them. Malcolm Gladwell developed a simple theory that everyone can follow. His theory is basically the idea of a trend or a community. He describes how fads come and go and the behavioral process including the different structure elements (like connectors.) Read more…
- Do most executives understand the use the advantages of blogs? (capabilities, features)
- How is the shift from traditional communication between companies and their customers changing executive behavior?
- Is blogging going to become a preferred format in corporate board rooms?
- Should the average executive learn, test and practice blog and social media use?
- If executives take a wait and see attitude, are they losing something?
- Or gaining something? (there is rational here too)
When I explain to an executive about blogs I cover only basic concepts. Explaining how blogs differ from traditional Internet communication goes like this:
- Blogs are informal and open two-way communication format. Traditional web sites are more formal and unidirectional communication format.
- The basic concept of informal and more open communication with your audience is easy to explain. Writing to your audience at the right level (style, jargon) makes sense to executives.
- Next comes the two-way communication using reader comments. Getting people to comment on your message makes even more sense. Adopting a better way to speak on the Internet also makes sense.
It takes time and seeing some results for most executives to be convinced on the actual effectiveness of blogs. Seeing the difference between static web sites and blogs, real tangible results, may take time and trial and error. In today’s desire for immediate results, this is a challenge we need to address. Combine the need to show immediate results with a little suspicion about the effectiveness of blogs and it is harder to convince executives to try blogging. Trying something new takes trust. Not just the trust in the blog format, but trust in the big change in how we communicate. In blogs you need to trust in telling your audience the good, bad, pretty and ugly. The bad and ugly parts are not things we talk about usually. This is where most executives have a hard time getting the idea. “Why tell potential customers that there is anything bad in our product?” Before blogs came along, your self-image was always positive (good, pretty, nice, happy.) With blogs you need to be more real and balanced. You need to show the negative side. The same two issues apply when trying to convince executives on giving total strangers the ability to comment openly to your articles (seeing immediate results and believing in effectiveness of blogs.) Comments on your articles are going to be both positive and negative. Good comments are fine, bad ones, executives don’t like. But here lies the power of a blog, everyone can see the “bad” (negative) comments. This is feedback, it makes two-way communication useful, even critical. Two-way communication is not just useful to company executives. It is more useful to new readers, the ones who are going to be your future customers. Outsiders, looking at your responses, want to see how you respond to them. If negative feedback is real and you take it as constructive criticism, you got the benefit of improving your product, improving your service, and satisfying your customers. This will increase the trust of your current customers and show potential customers that you are serious about listening to them and will do something about their problems. Is this too simple of an explanation? Not from my experience. Everyone understands, but until they see it in action, they are still not 100% convinced. (Seth Godin calls this behavior “the lizard brain”)
In a previous article [here] I wrote about budgeting a blog with advertising and upkeep for three months [about $ 6,000]. This budget fits a product blog to promote sales or create an image. It could also be part of a new product campaign or even an in depth writing on a specific product feature. This whole blog and budget article came from questions I am asked every day: “what does it takes to do a professional blog? How much does it cost? Is it really worth it? (what is the ROI?)” There is a tendency to see blogging and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In) as a free or low cost means to promote a message or create an image. I think this point of view comes from seeing serious professional looking blogs written by individuals (some in companies.) Or blogs that look personal but are developed by companies trying to create a personal image for themselves. These blogs seem like the writer’s hobby, or a personal view of one writer inside a big company, an extension of his professional career. There are many professionals who write blogs and some are very good. But these are not the blogs companies used to promote, inform, influence or even entertain customers. For the most part, individuals write what they like, not what is important to sell a product. Companies need blogs to focus on specific business goals: image, bottom line sales, technical support, corporate messages. This is where this article can help you.
With all the buzz about social media, can we tell if this is the biggest change we have seen in communication? or just a fad? Or are the changes so fundamental that only the next generation will be able to tell how big it is? Sometimes this question comes up with people who can’t bridge the gap from the old ways of doing things to the new ones. For them a blog is just a few articles and a few comments. Seeing the process of developing articles and targeting them at a focused audience and starting a dialog is not clearly visible. Even seeing hundreds or thousands of page views or unique visitors in statistical reports does not get them excited. When I see people who like new technology but can’t see how to use it I think of how use can be explained. Or when I see people who “dipped their toe” into blogging but have not immersed themselves all the way (so they do not see results or understand how it works to the end) it just seems like a false start. One way to explain blogs is to use analogies of other big changes. Another way is to use examples, specially from large companies like Microsoft, Oracle and Intel. Examples from individuals like Tim O’Reilly, Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell are also useful. They all adopted blogging as a form of communication. Large company blogs are good examples of the use in corporate communication. There are other examples of popular and well written blogs which applies to individuals and smaller companies. Finally, books and sites of writers who explain and track trends are useful to explain the ideas behind blogging as a communication trend.
Social Media, Blogging, and WEB2.0 – IS STILL A BIG DEAL ! !
Social media concepts and use are still a big deal. Blogging was a hot trend in communication from the mid 1990s, today social media sites are still growing fast and attracting attention. Social media sites’ ease of use and fast adoption are changing the way people communicate. More people can get their own personal messages to many people. More companies and organizations can communicate with fans. This is what Facebook and Twitter have done in a very short time. Social media sites are easier to use than blog sites like Blogger or TypePad. The social media sites offer the ability to connect with many people to create interest groups (which blogs tried to do with mail subscriptions, social tagging and RSS distribution.) For the most part, all the connection schemes in blogs have not become popular. They did not offer a way to manage subscriptions and message distribution via e-mail (RSS) did not become popular with readers. Today, blogs and social media sites complement each other. If you are a blogger or an avid blog reader, you can now use Facebook and Twitter to tell many more people about your blog. Blog article writing and photo editing are the same on social media sites, now you have group subscription features which are helpful in attracting comments and distribution of your articles. Although most social media sites are popular because of the short messages, usually a few sentences, people are reading more. This makes blogs more useful and interesting.
Yogi Berra said: “If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s gonna stop ‘em.” – Like other Yogi Berra quotes, the last part seems opposite to what you expect: “nobody’s gonna stop ‘em” If you think clearly, maybe say it out loud or write it down, it makes sense. Yogi Berra made a name for himself for saying things in a strange way, but they made sense. Actually, when boggers and social media managers face new clients, this quote makes lots of sense. A simple observation of how people behave when they do not want to do something. This is the case when there are lots of new things or the change is strange (some say big, but I am not sure about that, more later.)
I tried to embed this code but WordPress.COM did not present the video correctly the original video is at: http://blip.tv/play/AbvOWgI
If you are not familiar with Seth Godin you are in for a treat. Godin is a Fast Company contributing editor turned blogger and book author. [see his books: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
>< Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
>< Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable--Includes new bonus chapter ] In this talk he tells the story of how he got blogs and books noticed by trial and error. His blog is a stream of ideas about the none technical aspects of WEB2.0. Actually, I do not think WEB2.0 is the best term here, maybe more the interaction of Internet use with everyday life. This is a refreshing change to many people that are not interested or do not understand the technology itself. To make a technology useful and relevant there are many aspects which need to be clear and simple. Social networking as an idea and in services like Linked-In, MySpace, Twitter and FaceBook are simple and useful. Godin is a writer in this vain. In this video clip he highlights both the good and the bad of the changes due to the Internet, it’s use and the way people benefit in the end. Eventually business models are used to explain the financial part. Since Godin is not a technologist he brings a practical viewpoint: how do people communicate and how technology is useful for them. This discussion can go on and on. Here are just two points on what Godin has to say:
Seth Godin for Technologists:
Technologists usually are not good in simplifying ideas. Seth Godin’s writing and blogging is useful in their simplicity. They are also useful in cutting through the detail explanations and getting to the core benefits. Godin is not shy about describing the shift from paper based publishing to the electronic format. He does not put down the old business model. But he also clearly points out how “unfair” the shift is for the older businesses. It is interesting that someone in the publishing world is more clear about the situation than the technologists themselves. But this is also not news to most people. In every technology shift there is always an insider that points out how critical this shift is all about. Andy Grove, Intel’s revolutionary CEO, who focused the company on processors and innovated in a few ways, clearly understood shift in his industry and the bigger outside world. [see Only the Paranoid Survive ]