Month: April, 2011

Walking away

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“To thine ownself be true.”
– William Shakespeare

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”
– Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

We all like looking at pretty things; especially if we’re the ones creating it.

It can be really hard to resist the lure of dabbling in Photoshop and Dreamweaver. Particularly on the web where part of the brief is to experiment, test and optimise, many digital marketers (myself included) love nothing more than to roll up our sleeves create.

In pretty much every case (unless it’s core business), this is a mistake.

We should learn to let go of those things we perceive as being ‘fun’ to do and focus on what really matters. This means letting go of tinkering and letting the experts do the work even if it’s going to cost you in the short term.

It’s cheaper to DIY

For some businesses this may be true, but for most, this argument doesn’t hold any water.

The cost imperative is often misplaced as the cost in terms of salary/lost productivity of you spending several days designing a new website far outweighs the financial cost of just getting a web designer to do it. Unless you have no money and there is no one else who could possibly do the job, there is no way you can say that the time you spend (a) figuring out how to do something; and (b) doing it at a suboptimal level, could be better spent doing something else that is more core to your business.

Having come from the NFP world where everything was done with shoestring, rubber bands and sticky tape, my thinking has shifted somewhat from trying to do everything myself and putting out an amateurish product, to engaging a professional who shared our vision and had a desire to work with us at a price that wouldn’t hold us to ransom. There are now so many design houses and agencies out there that its not too hard to find someone that matches your ethos and budget.

Ok, so what then?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was from the Managing Partner of a large Adelaide law firm who asked me, “What do you want to be known for?”

While slightly out of context, his point was that if you want to get ahead you need to be an expert at something – your competitive point of difference, if you will – and that if you aren’t clear about what your objectives are for both your career and your job, it’s easy to get distracted. But if you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, it becomes much easier to walk away from the ‘nice to do’ stuff so you can focus on the task at hand and get the job done.

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9 Characteristics of Great Blogs

Social Media4 Comments

With over 156 million blogs in existence, it’s safe to say a fair whack of those are rubbish. Of the remainder, most are ok, some are good and a rare few could be considered great.

I was recently invited by The University of Adelaide, Discipline of Media to talk to first year students about what makes a great blog. This is what I came up with:

Great blogs…

  1. Have a voice
    They are not anonymous. They reflect the profile, personality and passion of the author.
  2. Are focused
    What they are about is clear. There is no confusion from readers what they are going to get when they read this blog.
  3. Use compelling headlines
    Time is precious. Although I subscribe to a few dozen blogs, I only have time to read a handful of posts a day. Most of the time, I make a judgment call if I’m going to read something based on the headline and if it excites me or I can instantly see the value from reading it. There’s a reason ‘Top 10…’ posts make great link bait.
  4. Use paragraphs and lists
    The old adage that the web is for scanning and skipping holds true. It’s a lot easier for me to skim through an article and extract something meaningful if it’s broken up into bite-sized chunks than a impenetrable¬† slab of text. If I quick scan reveals it to be worthy, I might even read the whole thing.
  5. Make good use of video, audio, images
    Depending on the type of blog (and in this case, I’m going to assume it’s an ordinary text blog not a fancy vlog) you don’t want to overdo it. But selective use of interesting videos and images that complement the copy can really add a lot to a post. Having said that, it should never come at the expense of the writing. And if you’re simply not good at sourcing images (like me), don’t break your back trying to do it and focus on the words.
  6. Can be subscribed to
    If I like what you’ve got to say and want to know when you’ve posted something new, don’t force me to visit your blog in the vain hope that there’s something new. Let me subscribe to and RSS feed or a newsletter to be notified when you’ve got some new content.
  7. Can be shared
    By that same token, if I like something make it easy for me to share with my network. Provide easy links to at the very least ‘Like’ and ‘Retweet’
  8. Have a unique POV
    If you want to stand out, you’ve got to be different and unique. Don’t regurgitate someone else’s thinking and link back, bring your viewpoint to the table and tell me why that is. If all you’re reporting is news then how are you telling me something I couldn’t find somewhere else?
  9. Are polarising
    If you’re not making someone mad then you’re not doing it right. You need to have an opinion. Matter of fact with 156 million blogs, you better have an opinion. To be anything but is to be vanilla.

    And despite the title, here’s one more for good measure…

  10. Are consistent
    There are regular posts on a consistent cycle. Whether it’s several times a day, daily or weekly, you know when to expect the next one, thus creating a sense of expectation.

So there you have it. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments. And if you’re looking for an example of great blogs, look no further than the blog roll.

 

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