Tag: communications

9 Characteristics of Great Blogs

Social Media5 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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Why most web content sucks

Digital Strategy3 Comments

It’s often said that content is king. So why then do most businesses online presence fail precisely because they treat their content like the king’s poor idiot cousin?

Here are some thoughts why:

It’s an afterthought

A disproportionate amount of time gets spent on the design and function of a website instead of thinking through content requirements, site structure and navigation. Often it is only after a website/blog/social media profile is setup that creating content even enters into the equation. If design is what gets the audiences attention, it’s the content that makes them stick. Content and the related issues such as information architecture, site structure and functionality all need to be addressed early.

It’s created for marketing (not people)

While websites in and of themselves are a marketing tool, content needs to be aligned to user objectives. In short, stop thinking about content in terms of marketing and promotion but more informing and entertaining. The old saying people use the web to save time or waste time applies here.

It’s not optimised for the web

The web is not like any other environment (it’s save time or waste time, again) and you need to respect that. Think about all the good stuff like SEO, headlines, tags, links and appropriate writing for the web when you start preparing content. Whether you’re outsourcing your copywriting or doing it yourself, make sure you check out some of great resources on the web, such as Website Criteria and SEOmoz.

It’s too brief

While web content shouldn’t be vast, sprawling amounts of text, it also shouldn’t be too short. It seems like the conversational aspect of social media has almost become an excuse for content to be vague. Understanding your audience is key to giving them the information they need quickly and succinctly without having to navigate a plethora of pages.

It can’t be found and shared

Build it and they will come is definitely not how it works. If a wicked funny video gets created and no one watches does it really exist? With so much content floating around the webs, you need to give yours the best chance of not only being found but also being shared by your most loyal customers. Think SEO and SSO (Social Search Optimisation), RSS, platforms and basic sharing/interactive functionality.

No one is responsible

Someone in your organisation whether it’s big or small needs to be responsible for maintaining content whether it’s on your website, Facebook page or blog. Stuff goes out of date really fast on the web and you need to keep feeding it with interesting, relevant content otherwise your audience will simply stop paying attention and go elsewhere. Particularly in social media, there is so much else to do that it’s critical that you give your audience compelling reasons why they should follow you. Besides, nothing looks worse than a long forgotten Facebook page riddled with unanswered questions and spammy comments.

These are just some of my views. What do you think? What other common web content mistakes have you seen?

If you’re keen to find out more, Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web is a great place to start.

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Putting social media to work

Social Media1 Comment

Recently, I presented a webinar to a small group of alumni from the Executive Education unit at the Uni. It is a high level look at how social media has changed the communications landscape and some of the ways business can leverage it to build stronger relationships with their customers. It is a precursor to an intensive social media workshop I am facilitating in December.

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A quick reminder of the true power of social media

Social Media1 Comment

As part of my work as a mentor for MEGA, I had the privilege recently to meet with Sandra Cook. Sandra runs a website called Journey Beyond Road Trauma, an online social network that brings together those affected by road trauma. Officially launched this past Easter, it has rapidly grown into a community of 400+ who lend support to each other, share stories and honour the memories of loved ones lost.

Journey Beyond Road Trauma

As marketers, we spend so much time thinking about what this new technology means for our business that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Social media is more than just a new way to observe and interact with our customers, but a total revolution in how we as a society communicate and connect with each other. It empowers tribes to form and mobilise around a common cause. While some are nothing more than pure novelty, there are others that have the power to truly change our world for the better.

The tribe that Sandra has built is well and truly the latter and a reminder of the true power of social media.

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Who Owns Social Media?

Digital Strategy, Social Media8 Comments

Last week, Michelle Prak asked on her blog where social media sits in an organisation. As social media becomes a mainstream activity, the question must be who within an organisation is ultimately responsible for it?

“Social media and PR work well together”

Michelle argues that since social media is about conversations, PR professionals are best suited to take advantage of it. Marketers, she says, are not as interested in what audiences are saying about their brands.

The problem I have with this, is the general misunderstanding about what exactly marketing is. I am a marketer, and in my mind, the essence of marketing is matching consumers with the right products and services that fulfils a need or want in their life. This encompasses everything from supply chain management and customer service to sales and communication.

By my definition, PR, advertising, digital, etc. are all fall under the umbrella discipline of marketing. This is not to say that I’m a PR expert, which I’m not. I’m a marketer with specialised expertise in marketing communications and digital media. Conversely, all PR people are also marketers and to extend that a little bit further, so too is everyone else in an organisation. Understanding what marketing is and what the implications are for business can only make you better at what you do. For instance, customer service are right at the coal face and have more interaction with customers than anyone else. They have as much responsibility for marketing an organisation and embodying what it stands for as someone with ‘marketing’ or ‘communications’ in their job title. By being aware of why it is important to stay on-brand and what that means, they are more able to do their job than someone with no clue about why they have to say or do the things their job demands.

Where was I? Oh, right.

To try and limit social media to just the realm of PR, advertising or any other niche discipline, is to restrict the potential social media has to fundamentally transform a business. Social media must have a multi-disciplinary, marketing-led approach that first and foremost takes into account business objectives before tactics and execution. Only by taking a step back to ask ‘why?’ will an organisation truly know how best it applies to their business.

“Social media fits within a business’s communications strategy”

The first instinct most marcomms people have when presented with something like social media is, how can I use this to broadcast my message? This is exactly the wrong approach to be taking. While the disintermediation of media has enormous advantages, it has almost meant that brands now think they can start broadcasting their message directly to their target market instead of going through a media channel. Just because a conversation is happening out there about your brand doesn’t give you the right to engage with them uninvited.

Thinking about social media purely as a communications tool ignores what I see as two of it’s biggest benefits. Instead of rushing into engage, organisations need to first listen and learn what their customer’s are saying and how they want to be engaged. Going beyond Google alerts and other searches, social media monitoring tools such as Radian 6 and Dialogix gives brands unprecedented ability to monitor and analyse what’s being said about them online.

This insight and access into the mind’s of their consumers allows brands to really build intimate relationships with their customers by tailoring and personalising their approach. Building massive followings and blindly bombarding them with offers and promotions is no different to the traditional advertising that audiences are already switching off to.

As the always insightful Jay Baer writes, a better use for social media might be to strengthen the relationships you already have, rather than create new ones with people you don’t know.

“Why would a consumer “friend” us or “fan” us or “follow” us in social media, unless they were either already a customer, or at the very least had us in their purchase consideration funnel? The average Facebook member becomes a fan of just two companies per month, yet is exposed to thousands of brands during that same period. People don’t experimentally engage with brands in social media, they engage with the brands they already support.”

While the industry is still incredibly nascent, it appears that the best use of social media is when it is approached holistically and not just focused on the conversation but also on the insights into what an organisation’s customers think and say.

Read Michelle’s original post.

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