The content priority matrix – focus your blogging efforts

In my previous post I applied the Eisenhower priority matrix to companies/investors’ priorities. In this post I try to answer the question: how does the money issue affect the nature of (corporate) blogging? I also give away 6 tips for single-topic blogging and my thoughts about part-time business blogging.

The two sides of the content priority matrix for blogging

What is the main issue with blogging to make money in whatever way?

Content Priority Matrix for Blogging

Content priority matrix for professional bloggers

It could be this: the point of anything you do to influence other people is that there are two sides to the window (or priority matrix) you’re looking through.

Where there are bloggers looking out, you’ll find readers looking in. At least, I sure hope so.

Content priority matrix: focus for professional blogging

Professional bloggers, from their side of the ‘window’, would be interested in these aspects of potential blog topics:

  • Money generating topic – adjacent but non-commercial topics
  • Expertise – no expertise

As a full-time professional blogger you would invest most of your time on topics that let you share your expertise and that could yield money by addressing people’s urgent and important needs. If there were a related topic that could make considerably more money you’d spend some of your time extending your expertise in that direction. The other bits you’d leave out or use to add interest to your otherwise fact-ridden business blog.

The ‘expert-no money’ quadrant is also amply filled by personal blogs. ‘No money’ may in fact not be an accurate description, because showing yourself to be an expert at anything, including being consistently funny, may still end up in some kind of business or career opportunity!

What matters to business blog readers?

What writing is there on the window sill on the outside – the side of the readers of a business blog? You might learn more by taking a peek at the matrix I made for this post, in which I try to visualize the way we (sensible consumers that we are) prioritize our purchases 😉

  1. Relevant – not relevant (‘important’)
  2. Urgent – not urgent

If a blog post deals with a relevant topic, you’ll read it – note that this involves a decision to invest your time! Now, if I try to coax you towards signing up for more, I’ll have the greatest success if I’m not only spot on topic-wise, but if you’re also convinced that:

  • you need to know more
  • you need to buy this service or product urgently

You’ll find plenty of blogs out there that tell you how you should tackle the issues of being utterly relevant, building trust, and connecting. Crafting a sense of urgency is an absolute knack of some sales folk. You know, the ones who catch you viewing stuff like door locks and come up with a special offer only for today to “help you keep your precious family safe” from the big bad world outside if you’ll go for the Complete Burglar Alarm Set For Pros. Them.

If you don’t want to be pushy, remember not everyone responds well to the “buy now or miss out on a life-changing experience” approach. You can opt to be more subtle.

6 tips for single-topic blogging

“Stick to one topic and forget the rest” is the advice professional bloggers/content marketers give to others who want to make money blogging. To make a single-topic blog work, you need to:

  1. check every month which of your posts got top numbers in readers, subscriptions, and conversions.
  2. skip the rest and focus on the stuff that works
  3. keep experimenting by introducing the odd off-topic post and check the results
  4. plan ahead so you don’t run out of content juice
  5. haul in guest bloggers to take the strain off your blogging or to increase the frequency with which you post
  6. keep an eye on similar blogs for more ideas.

Part-time blogging

As a part time (business) blogger you might find yourself running into a serious writers’ block if you tried to stick to just one topic and write about it several times per week. The alternative is to blog once or twice a month. That’s often enough for blogs that are part of a business website. You’ll keep fresh and relevant content coming without it costing too much time and effort.

The main thing is that you think about your blog and make decisions. It’s fine if you change your mind later – just remember to make another informed decision rather than drifting into a blogging routine you never intended to develop. Especially in corporate blogging, focus is key.

If you run into unexpected topics on this blog, I hope you find them a pleasant surprise. Add your thoughts about content, priority, money – please share this post – I hope I’ve given you food for thought 😉

Blogging impressions: 5 tips from my content creation ‘desk’

Sometimes the only way to get going is to sit down and start writing. At the beginning of this month I felt there were things I needed to share with you about LinkedIn even though I know it’s not for everyone. This time I want to share some tips from my first 6 months of blogging.Content Creation

I started this blog in order to find out if I could write, and write on a regular basis without simply running out of ideas really fast. Most of the time I have some idea of the subject before I sit down and write more than just a few lines – but sometimes I start my content creation process from scratch. All in all I guess I have the content as well as the rambler bit covered 🙂

Well-known important blogging tip: keep some ideas and drafts handy

It’s really helpful to have a couple of ideas for posts. But just now I reviewed my drafts and found they looked rather stale. Mark Schaefer reported something similar happening to him a while ago when he forgot his routine: whenever you have an idea, jot it down somewhere.

I’ve been meaning to write another “blogging impressions” post for a while, because it is about half a year since I published my first post.

My blogging tip: prepare for change so it doesn’t mess up your blogging routine

One major development which may impact my blogging frequency is the fact that I’m now back to my 32-hour work week (4 days). On my day off I tend to do way too much to entertain my son and myself. And my son is no longer taking naps in the afternoon. This means I have less time to let ideas for new posts form and to jot them down for later use. I have yet to find a routine that fits my new schedule. I may need to go back to posting once a week for a while. But we’ll see what happens 😉

How have 6 months of blogging on Content Rambler affected me?

Well, I’ve felt a lot better about my work and related activities. Because blogging helps me share all the things I read and learn along the way. I enjoy sharing my knowledge far too much to let it depend on occasions like presenting a topic to my team. Based on my early blogging experiences, my answer to the question:

Why should you blog?

Would be that your reasons to blog may include:

  1. Improving your writing skills
  2. Being creative
  3. Seeing tangible results of your efforts, starting with the existence of another published post (possibly followed, at some point, by a like or a comment online or IRL)
  4. Feeling better about yourself thanks to 1-3.
  5. Testing your ability to keep it up (discipline or passion?)
  6. Not depending on others to contribute something sensible (or funny) about subjects that matter to you
  7. Sharing your knowledge

Some of these reasons are purely personal. Others could be relevant for business purposes. Some listed benefits touch upon definite drawbacks.

Blogging tips 3-5: how to deal with the drawbacks

Just start writing Sometimes you think you have no idea what to write about. You need to just get started, writing about anything, and when you review your text you’ll probably find the start of a new post in there. It’s how I started this post, and I’ve left the first bit in to show you how it works. At some point I realized I had tips based on my blogging experiences that I wanted to share.

Blog when you think no one cares – a blogging tip from Jeff Bullas this time I think. I read too much. No response to your post is something you need to get used to. Some bloggers get around this by bringing all their Facebook friends onto their blogs. If you don’t have that option, look up other blogs via your WordPress reader and spend some time liking and commenting on interesting or funny posts. After all, your fellow bloggers are putting in their time and effort just like you! Show your appreciation for a good post and let ’em know you exist. Maybe they’ll visit your blog as a result, and maybe they won’t. It’s called free will, and you need to deal with it.

Trigger actions This ‘blogging’ thing takes time. The writing, editing, getting images, looking things up to avoid talking complete rubbish… unless you limit yourself to writing only about topics you’re completely knowledgeable about and you skip editing. Or you don’t write (much) but post photographs instead. To help the ‘discipline’ bit: instead of saying you’ll sit down to blog at 8.30 PM, build in actions that trigger your blogging routine. In my case, as soon as my son is in bed, I go downstairs and sit down to blog. Once I’m blogging, there are times when I’m oblivious to whatever crap is on television but first I need to get started. My routine is “go downstairs and blog”. Easy. No thinking, no decisions required.

Finally, not really a tip because I haven’t looked at possible answers yet: knowledge sharing (#7) Sharing your knowledge may sound great but if you want to know how many people are actually reading your (business) content, you should know WordPress statistics don’t register every view (see their support pages). You notice something’s not right the moment you get more likes than registered views. If you have any suggestions apart from going self-hosted, please let me know.

That’s it – five ways from my content creation desk to help you “Just do it” instead of running into the brick wall called writer’s block. If you’d like to add your thoughts about blogging, my comments section is always open 😉

5 key questions to help you write your LinkedIn summary

After my rather long 16-LinkedIn-tips post of last Friday I’d like to stick to just one detail of your LinkedIn profile in this post: your summary. If you’ve left it for later like I suggested, great. Today you can fill the gap.

Why do you need a summary on your LinkedIn profile?

Writing Your LinkedIn Summary

In real life (IRL) you may meet someone, chat a bit, find you have common (business) interests and decide to exchange either business cards or anything ranging from email to phone number or Twitter handle. Just so you can follow up a pleasant and potentially beneficial contact.

On LinkedIn, your summary should give a first impression of you as a professional as you’re not present to introduce yourself.

Who are you as a professional?

If you’re having trouble deciding what to tell the world about what matters to you most, ask yourself what tasks or situations bring out the best in you. A few examples:

  • Suppose you’re completely result-driven. There’s no better moment than when you get to present your solution to a nagging issue your colleagues or clients have been working around for ages.
  • You’re a people person. Helping people out is what you get up for in the morning (or would, if you didn’t have a job that doesn’t suit your personal strengths). Or, nothing can beat having meaningful conversations that allow you to really connect with people – some call this ‘networking’ and treat it like a chore but for you, it’s the air you breathe.
  • Or say you’re both. There’s no buzz like the one you get after you’ve helped resolve a really sticky problem that was ruining someone’s life. You can do this kind of thing in absolutely no time at all – you power up, get things done, and make your co-worker, client, or a complete stranger for that matter, immensely happy.

Describe who you are in a business setting. That’s you as a professional.

What do you put in your LinkedIn summary if you’re a student?

Exactly the same kind of information. Except your ‘business setting’ is the projects you’ve done, an internship, a part time job, tasks you performed as a volunteer. Anything anyone ever asked or required you to do for them. What activities or situations are the spice in your food?

How should I use key words in my LinkedIn summary?

You can add key words to appear in search results but they should look natural in the context of your summary. Do NOT just open a text book and select anything you think would attract potential employers or clients. Your summary is not about what you studied, but what you (intend to) do with the knowledge and skills you’ve gained as a result.

How long should my LinkedIn summary be?

Think of your LinkedIn summary as an “About the author” bit above or below a blog post, or a Twitter bio. It can be anything from 30 to about 100 words. If you go well beyond 100 you’re probably adding too much detail to your ‘first impression’ and chances are you’re repeating yourself. See what details you should rather use to describe individual projects, jobs or other activities. Or add a link to your “About” page if you have a blog, or to a short video.

In short, use your summary to introduce yourself as a professional. Stick to what you know to be true about yourself. This way it’s clear to everyone that “what they see is what they’ll get”. Wouldn’t it be great to get an interview based on who you are?

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. If you did, please share it – I would really appreciate it! You may also leave your thoughts and questions about your LinkedIn summary in a comment – I promise I’ll reply to anything non-spammy 😉

Incoming! Using a content ‘landing strip’ for your visitors

Anyone who tries to get marketing to ‘do’ social media is in danger of ending up in another tiny unit next to the established teams, like I mentioned in my previous post. The effect of ‘siloing’ – chopping up anything to do with customer/contact into ever tinier areas of specialization – is that you get people adding social media ‘on top of’ whatever content is produced by a different team, or probably several teams.

Providing a content ‘landing strip’ to your visitors

Content landing strip for your visitors

Perhaps you’ve found that there are considerably more people who visit your web page than actually click through to a specific piece of content you’d like them to view.

You may be looking at visitors who walk off after passing through layers of information that are not in sync with each other.

A perfect landing strip provides a consistent experience every step of the way toward a particular piece of content you want a certain type of visitor to view.

Compare the following situations.

Situation A: Content and distribution coming from isolated teams

  1. You spot a super-interesting message on a social network you’re using. It fits right in with an issue you run into as a part of your work. You want to know more.
  2. You click the message which leads you to a page on a website. The subject that triggered you to click through doesn’t seem to be there: this page contains a general text about issues people in your business role encounter. There is a report on the page which the message also mentioned, but nothing on the page mentions the specific issue you are interested in.
  3. Now I’m sure there are people who are interested enough, and who know your company well enough to know that you deliver real value in your reports, to click through to the report.

This is no comfortable ‘landing strip’ for your visitors – this track is more fit for a bit of off-the-road experience!

Situation B: Content and distribution coming from collaborating teams

  1. You spot a super-interesting message on a social network you’re using. It fits right in with an issue you run into as a part of your work. You want to know more.
  2. You click the message which leads you to a page on a website. The subject that triggered you to click through is the main topic on the page. The text gives you an example of the issue mentioned in the social media message you clicked on, and refers you to paragraph 3 in the report on that page.
  3. You decide to click through knowing more or less what you’ll find, and where to look for it.

Example number two gives you a consistent experience. It triggers your interest and doesn’t allow you to get ‘lost’.

Is a content landing strip necessary?

Some – perhaps most – customers are able to find their way to your most precious content regardless of what you do. Unless of course you make it too hard for them. My point is you are not the person who decides what is too much work to get at your content. That decision lies with your visitors.

My bit of amateur psychology:

  • Curiosity, and the optimistic hope that you may have something good to offer them, is a ‘happy’ state of mind triggered by your initial message.
  • If you throw up any kind of barrier that makes visitors to your website ‘work for their money’ some may leave. And they may not come back for a while.
  • Others will still click through but they’re in a different state of mind: searching, analysing which part of your report is the most relevant. For some, solving this problem is a reward in itself, but anyone who is pressed for time will expect more value for, well, ‘money’. You end up having to make your content better to counter the “So what?” attitude you’ve just created yourself!

How do you improve your visitors’ experience?

Creating your landing strip

Work your way from the inside out. Things to consider while designing your visitors’ experience:

  1. Who do you want to view your masterpiece? What do you offer them?
  2. If there are people with different needs out there, you need a bit of information on your website that addresses those precise needs. Two or three ‘bits’ if you’re talking about a major industry report that addresses issues that are relevant to people with different interests.
  3. A marketing guy will want to see different information than someone in customer service. You may point them towards the same section in your report – but you’ll invite them in different ways. You need to decide if you want to do all this on your website, or on a social platform.

Evaluate the result going from the outside in. Once you’re happy you have every step covered, walk a mile in your visitors’ shoes. My tips for this:

  • Take every step a visitor would take from your social media message down to your content masterpiece.
  • Act stupid while you do so.
  • Do this when you don’t have a lot of time, you’re tired and generally fed up to make sure you nag about anything that’s not perfect 🙂

That concludes my thoughts about a content landing strip to suit your visitors – leave a comment to add your thoughts on the topic and I promise to reply to anything non-spammy!

Blogging impressions: time for reflection

My previous post has given me food for thought… Lately I’ve taken to writing down my blog posts in less time than before. This has some advantages like not being able to overdo the editing part. One drawback is that it doesn’t leave much time to do any editing at all.

Blogging: time for reflection

In this post I’ll share my recent experiences with you and hand out some tips based on them.

I hope you’ll find my tips useful – feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!

Tip #1: Try to write your post in one session

My previous post was written on one day, but in several sessions. Family life and working hours take up time that I can’t spend on blogging.

I’ve noticed that whenever I pick up where I left off, my perspective has changed slightly. Even though I interrupt my writing process, I can’t just shut down my thoughts to wait until I have time to write on. This is a major issue if you want to write coherent posts!

Distractions are BAD news

Anyway, what with working from home, tending to a sick child, cooking dinner and so on, I was editing until well past 10 PM… after a broken night with our kid crying in bed several times. If you have kids and a blog, it’s bound to happen to you at some point.

In my case the result was: a post that might have been better, with a title that I wasn’t happy about but every time I changed it seemed worse than before. In the end I just hit ‘publish’ because I had planned to publish and after I did I could stop.

I came back to change the title the next morning after thinking of several alternatives after around 4.30 AM. Yes, that was our son crying again – you guessed it 😉

My conclusion is that quiet sessions to get your thoughts written down are essential.

Tip #2: Take time for reflection (if that’s your style anyway)

Depending on whether you’re writing a personal blog or more businessy stuff in the latter case you may need an editing session as well…

Mind you, not being able to put off editing, or deciding you don’t need a separate editing session means you do it while you write. Telling yourself you’ll reread and edit after you get your post written down should help you get things done before you start criticizing your work.

My inner editor seems to have returned – or maybe I’m just more aware now that I try to write my posts in less time from draft to publish. Or being tired means the inner editor becomes more of a nuisance than usual – what do you think?

Your inner editor messes with your writing process!

Worse than the editor telling me I’ve done something wrong is the inner quickly-excited person (also my inner editor?) who keeps telling me “hmm, this is interesting too… can you put it in?” or “hey, I’ve a great idea for an image to go with this post, how about checking for suitable pictures on OCAL (the Open Clip Art Library) now?”

Seriously, it’s like having a kid standing at your table trying to give you ‘food’ or wanting to sit on your lap and then asking “What’s happening now” every 30 seconds while watching Bob the Builder. Which is happening today because I’ve decided to sit down for once and write this thought down before it flies off.

Tip #3: Watch your inner editor or it will make you rewrite everything

You reread your post, and upon reflection, think of something you want in there… and this, and that… STOP! This is the same thing that happens to me if I interrupt my writing. You’re really writing your next post into the one you already had!

If this has ever happened to you – and it’s more likely to happen if you don’t blog (almost) daily – you’re blogging a lot more than you think. Except all your thinking and writing energy goes into far fewer published posts!

All in all I guess the bottom line is:

  • More editing means less publishing.
  • More publishing also means less (time for) editing.
  • You get a lot of published posts, or a few heavily-edited posts, but rarely both.

There’s probably a precious balance hiding somewhere out there for every one of us. Have you found your ideal mix yet?

Please add your thoughts in a comment – I promise to reply to anything that’s not spam 😉 How do you make blogging, editing and reflection work for you?

Closer to you: moving from content marketing to co-creation

Anyone who has blogged for a while will have noticed that some topics are more popular than others. And that it really matters whether you have succeeded in making your content relevant and even useful to your readers.

Content marketing really equals content + marketing…

As far as I can see the point of content marketing is:

Measure the results of everything you do, and adjust your content accordingly.

This sounds like common sense marketing tactics – so much so that I find myself wondering whether any other kind of content marketing deserves the ‘marketing’ tag.

Content marketing for a lone blogger

For a blogger there are limits to what you can do with the results you measure. You may have tried a different topic as a one-off for the festive season and found it really popular – but that doesn’t mean you feel comfortable or passionate enough to scratch the things that didn’t work in favor of your ‘most popular’ topic.

What you can do is:

  • find out if it really was the topic that sparked the sudden rise in interest,
  • or whether you added a different kind of title, style, way of addressing your readers, or even a different kind of image.
  • If no-one bothered to comment you’ll have to go through your popular post(s) and try to find out what makes them ‘ring’.
  • Then, list your results and experiment with them in your new posts.

Moving from content marketing to co-creation could make sense – for some

Rather than painstakingly follow a trial-and-error method to zoom in on what works for your audience as well as yourself, you could (simply put) ask your readers what they would be interested to read/hear about. But this doesn’t always work:

Worst practice co-creation

Worst practice co-creation

  • The average one-time two-minute visitor doesn’t know you. So the chance that anyone is inclined to reply is remote, and if they do their input may well lead you off the track altogether. General tips, yes – co-creation, I don’t think so.
  • “Just ask” isn’t really half enough. You might end up alienating your fans if you ask them for ideas every time you’re stumped for inspiration. Writing a post about a requested topic is nice, but unless it’s a topic on which you can really deliver big time you’re bound to disappoint some readers.

Co-creation is not about getting others to do most of your work, or about squeezing casual remarks from readers for quotes.

I feel that commitment from both sides should balance out. This means bloggers like me, who spend a limited amount of time on their blogs, should not expect a level of commitment from our readers/fans that we can’t match. If you’re a professional blogger things may be different.

What steps could help you on your way to co-creation?

What you can do:

  1. Building up a community around your blog/brand. This takes time, especially if you’re just starting out. If you have a company, your customers and suppliers are stakeholders – you may expect them to have an interest in what you do.
  2. Find your fans. Fans are only a (small) part of all the people in your community. If you don’t have the time or resources to build up a big, open community of your own, you’ll need to access existing communities and hand-pick potential fans yourself. The alternative is to wait for them to find you, or to buy a list of people in your segment (marketing again).
  3. Next you need to ask your fans to get involved. This means getting them onto a platform of your own (like a Disqus community for the readers of your blog, or a secure wiki).
  4. Wait: before you do anything, you need to be clear on what you expect from your fans – and what they may expect from you. Because there can be no hiding on your part in a small community with your name on it.

Co-creation: are we there yet?

If you’re a blogger these steps may be the bigger part of what you need to do: getting structural input from people in a certain business will help you get your facts straight.

The moment co-creation needs to lead to complex products you’re looking at involving your fans and colleagues in long-term, in-depth matters. That takes commitment from both sides and a lot more work from you.

I’m indebted to Steven van Belleghem for the subject of this post. Reading “The Conversation Company” unavoidably influenced my thoughts.

If you’re still here… thanks for reading my post 🙂 If you’re not exhausted yet, please leave your thoughts on content marketing, co-creation and blogging in a comment!

The big issue: content creation and originality

Sometimes inspiration drops in through Twitter. It happened to me a moment ago and since I had been planning to blog this evening (yesterday evening by publishing time) I decided to write about it 🙂

In this post you’ll find my thoughts about content creation plus 3 tips.

This post originated in something I said in a DM:

No human is ever as original as they claim to be – or as unimaginative as they fear to be. {click quote to tweet*}

I think this quote is mine, but if you’ve seen it anywhere before, please let me know. My opinion in the matter is, as you may have guessed:

  • There are plenty of people out there – some of them I’ve met on Twitter – who claim to be completely awesome. I haven’t unfollowed anyone yet for boasting about their accomplishments – but I’ve come close 😉
  • On the other hand, some people are so hesitant you’ll never get to hear from them because they never even try…

The quest for originality in content

The worst thing you can do is consider blogging, or creating any kind of content – or anything at all, from the perspective of what you don’t have.

Content creation and originality

Content originality? Parts of this picture from OCAL.

  • Your first issue is that you’re human and so is your audience (unless you’re Men In Black). This limits your spectrum to subjects humans find interesting.
  • Then there’s the marketing issue: not everyone likes the same stuff. You need to find your audience and come up with stuff they like.
  • Next up: competitors. There are so many people blogging about the same topic – what can you possibly add?
  • And so on.

If you follow a similar train of thought, the sensible thing to do is, well, nothing. But wait – let’s try the same thing from the perspective of options that are open to you:

  1. You have a personal set of experiences in your life and career that is unique.
  2. This gives you an original view on topics that (many) others are interested in.
  3. Knowing this, you can learn by watching what competitors do in coming up with (original) content without getting the nasty feeling there’s nothing left to do.
  4. Lots of competitors? Great! Keep an eye on the ones who do their research. Be nice though – no stealing.

Here’s my best advice when it comes to the quest for original content: stop searching – for now. Accept that you’re probably not producing original (unique) content. Focus on other aspects instead. Originality will find its way to you once you’re actively creating your own stuff.

Tip #1: Opt for quality rather than originality

I wrote two posts about content curation earlier. One is about levels of content curation (the good, the bad, and the ugly). In the other I talk about content curation as a way to show your expertise. Here’s my view for what it’s worth:

Content creation is basically high-level content curation.

If you have no idea how to start, try curating other people’s stuff. Collect other people’s content, select the interesting bits and re-write it so that the resulting piece of content adds value in the eyes of ‘your’ audience.

I started my collection of interesting content on Pinterest, but any tool that will let you group and re-group information easily will help you get a clear picture of what there is, and where you might add the biggest value based on your expertise.

Your content may not be original, but what’s original about the post I’m writing? I’m sure there are similar posts all over the internet. The difference is that this one represents my take on a familiar issue.

Tip #2: Focus on delivering relevant content to your audience

Create stuff that matters to the people you create it for, and do it well. The rest is BS.

What insight can you add that’s relevant for your audience?

{click question to tweet*}

If you’re wondering what content curation looks like on a good day, read this blog post by Kara Jackson that is a great example of content curation while also being about content curation. As you’ll see, good content curation is quite similar to content creation. Both require writing skills, for one thing 😉

Tip #3: Don’t, ever, advertise at me and call it a blog

This one is for you if you’re a creator of business content. If you want to tell me “you must be running into problem X, we happen to have the perfect solution, please register here”, do it elsewhere on your website.

Use your blog to build your credibility as an expert and potential problem-solver. Show me something that makes me think: hey, I didn’t know that, never viewed the subject that way, I’ve learnt something today… You’re allowed to amuse me while you’re at it. Be creative 🙂

It’s originality, but not as we know it

The truth about originality is it doesn’t exist in the way we think it does. What does exist is “something old, something new…” in new, unexpected combinations.

*Click to tweet: the first time I saw this type of link I wondered if all it took was one click to tweet. Fortunately you also need to click the actual Twitter action button 🙂

Please leave your musings about blogging, content, and originality or your tips for further reading in a comment – I will respond to any non-spammy contribution!

Social business: why you should add strategy to your content

One aspect of social media in a business is something I’m just about starting to ‘get’. It’s not just social media. It’s how to get your message across to potential customers at all, now that social media are becoming part of the business habitat. Everyone is suddenly in marketing. And my discovery (tah-daah!) is that many of us suck at it.

Social media: knowing how it works is not the issue

I don’t mean we can’t do marketing no matter what you do for training. I mean that right now, even if we know our way around social media, we have not been trained yet in (the basics of):

  • Risk management
  • Content marketing
  • Social media for business purposes.

Add strategy to your content. Image: Thinker - ContentRambler avatar

Thinking up a content strategy [OCAL image with alterations]

This may result in (m)any of the following:

  1. Your colleague has been told that social media is all about personal. She does a meet-the-whole-family blog and discusses details of her private life you don’t want to know about – depending on your interests 😉
  2. Another colleague (I’m assuming you have many of them) uploads an 86-page presentation to SlideShare, assuming she’s done her sharing duty this way. Description: “this is a presentation I did two weeks ago, enjoy”.
  3. A third colleague likes to rant about telecom services, airlines and so on which he had bad experiences with. Unfortunately one of these companies is a customer of yours.

Since I’m confident that you can spot the issues in the first and last example at once no matter what your professional background is, I’ll move on with the second example. Why? Because this is at first sight the least damaging thing anyone can do. And for that reason, it probably happens more often than the other two.

How to handle professional content

From a risk perspective, I’d really like to know if there are things like customers’ names in that presentation. If there are, you’re in trouble.

Let’s assume that it’s ‘safe’ content though, meaning it’s not about private stuff, nor does any customer of yours look bad or have their information shared on the internet. What are the downsides?

  • Your colleague’s description doesn’t really tell anyone what those 86 pages are about… that’s a missed opportunity. Possibly half a dozen opportunities, depending on what is in that presentation. I’ll get back to this topic later.
  • Here’s the good part: if the title of the presentation is as nondescript as the description, no-one is going to read it. Unless your colleague is, say, Seth Godin.
  • The bad part is that no-one will read it. But at least you’ll have a chance to improve the way your content is presented before it’s been downloaded and possibly put to good use without you ever seeing a dime in return. Or getting a “thank you”, or a new contact with an invitation you might have used for a spot of networking.

Optimizing your content for different learning styles

Depending on the content of a single presentation you could get up to half a dozen blog posts out of it; make a couple of video interviews; do a web chat or two about the subject. And I don’t mean either-or: you could do all of them. Why?

Learning styles

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a colleague repeat the basics to me just yesterday. By typing pages full of words, I’m basically catering for a specific type of person. I’m probably writing for people who learn in a way that is similar to my own.

I used to have books for breakfast. When I got to read my first ‘grown-up’ book in English – Dune, by Frank Herbert – I didn’t do any homework for three weeks (goodbye Math results). If I woke up in the middle of the night I’d read in bed.

Adding examples, especially about people and situations you can relate to, makes a (long) text more digestible for people with a different learning style. The same goes for adding a picture – preferably one with a personal touch, or with warm colors. Pictures that reach out to the viewer.

Time pressure and content guzzling

Another colleague told me that, because he spends so much time in the car, he prefers to listen to podcasts of blogs – especially by those bloggers who are real storytellers. The fact that some professions have people on their feet and in their car at all times of the day gives you yet another reason for trying different media.

Your social business needs a content strategy

For your (future) business, being on social media without knowing how to market your content doesn’t make much sense.

Note that I’m hardly saying this as a die-hard, veteran, marketing blogger. Needless to say I know I’m missing a big portion of my ‘potential audience’ by not using every available medium but just writing what’s on my mind. If you’re blogging like me and you’re not getting the most from your writing right now, that’s fine – if you’re fine with it. If not, you have work to do.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I wrote it today, in two or three sittings (I have a job and a family!), which is about the fastest I’ve done so far for anything that isn’t actually a “Blogging impressions” post 🙂

If you’ll add your thoughts on the subject of social business, content strategy or anything related, I would appreciate it and I’ll reply to any (non-spammy) comment.

Blogging impressions: the road to a content strategy

Congratulations! You have been blogging for a whole… 2 weeks? 3 months? A year and a day? So… what have you written about, and why?

Blogging impressions: the road to a content strategy

Congratulations on your blog!
[OCAL image]

In this post I’d like to talk about blogging and your content strategy.

It’s not about my personal experience in content marketing or business content strategy, because I haven’t tried to use this blog to get you to buy my stuff. I haven’t asked you to register so you get access to my most brilliant contributions to the improvement of human kind.

For now, I’ll be quite happy if you buy my ideas in stead of chucking them in the bin 🙂

Blogging without a content strategy

If you started out like me, you’ll have tried the whole blogging idea on for size. Questions you may have asked yourself when you started up your blog:

  • Do you still enjoy writing when you ‘have to’, in other words if there are readers out there and you feel you should publish new content on a regular basis?
  • Does anyone even care what you write?
  • Can you come up with enough ideas to get beyond, say, 10 posts? Or will the creative juices dry up in no time at all for whatever reason?

They’re all legitimate questions when you start out. If you start blogging to find the answers to these questions, you don’t need much of a plan beyond:

I’ll write about subjects X and Y because they’re interrelated and I run into issues a lot and maybe other people will like to read about how I view or solve those issues.

The subject and issues you decide to write about can be either your toddler’s tantrums or trends in social media. I’d advise against putting them in the same blog: I’m told Google doesn’t like it.

Why you may need a content strategy – or something like it

Once you’re blogging for a while you may find that sometimes ideas for new posts just roll in faster than you can find the time to write about them. At other times you’re stumped for ideas because they all whizzed past your head in the previous days and now they’re gone. This happened to me a few days ago. I had a great idea – I think, at some point the text was taking shape right inside my head. By the time I had a moment to sit down and take notes it had escaped me completely.

Sometimes daily life is a regular pain in the backside. That includes grocery shopping, hairdressers and pans boiling over (and your adorable kids, too).

It pays to just face it: letting content creation (blogging) depend on creative flashes like that won’t work if you want to produce new stuff every day or week. Unless you blog about your own life – even if you forget everything you meant to write about you could still blog about your ‘senior moment’ 😉

What happens if you chuck a stone (a plan) at your blog?

Here’s the good news: it won’t break. I’ve spent the past few posts writing about aspects of social business with the titles and subjects more or less ready. And it’s been all right in the sense that I knew exactly what I would write about, and was able to read up where necessary.

On the other hand, writing about a single main subject has made me extremely critical of my own writing. Publishing several posts in a series has exposed the limits of my knowledge about the subject. I spend a lot of time reading because I’m still looking for ideas that are not basically hot air balloons: amazing to look at (which I can do for hours) but basically nothing inside with a sleek outfit and lot of noisily burning gas underneath.

Blogging to a plan: feeding a newly-fledged content strategy chick

If you start planning subjects you may find the idea of treating a subject in a series of posts attractive. If so, you may run into the following:

  • You get the strong impression you’ve written something already in your previous post. This can happen even if you’ve planned the main subject for each post in advance. I find this effect is stronger if you write a series on a single subject because you planned it that way.
  • You start over-editing as a result. You may want to improve single posts in a series because you feel you’re repeating yourself. Do you find yourself chucking bits out, re-ordering and rewriting?

These are my tips to counter these effects of topic-related series:

  1. if you commit to writing a number of posts about a single subject, it really helps if you’ve read or experienced so much that you can easily write from memory.
  2. Being boundlessly opinionated on the subject is also a great way to churn out one post after the other 😉
  3. Less frequent publishing. This way you can concentrate on the core of your subject and spend lots of time on research. Or do the exact opposite:
  4. Publish more often – if you don’t post every day already. Frequent posting:
    • Prevents rereading endlessly.
    • Means you’re not forcing yourself to hang on to your drafts until ‘publishing day’.
    • Your posts are fresh rather than stale.
    • You’re not tempted to write new articles that relate to your topic into an otherwise finished post (don’t ask).

So there, I’ve solved the beginners’ content strategy puzzle – for now 🙂

Have you got bits and pieces of content strategy from your own blogging experience – what works for you and what doesn’t, then let me know by leaving a (non-spammy) comment – I will reply!

You are now in marketing: the content perspective

Do you have a blog? Have you told all your friends about it yet?

Chances are you’ve done both. In case you’re not a marketing fan, yes, you were marketing your blog. You may think “well, I haven’t told anyone yet because after all I’ve only published two posts and I’m not sure they’re that good”.

Tell you what: you are not off the hook for being too modest for marketing. I didn’t advertise this blog when it had only two posts. So you’ll get over it too I expect 😉

At some point you will:

  1. find out who wants to read (or even buy) your stuff
  2. make a plan to get them onto your blog (“I really should ask all my friends and colleagues” is enough of a plan for a non-marketer)
  3. go do it (stick to your plan)
  4. watch what happens next to find out what works and what doesn’t so you can:
  5. change what you’re doing until it does work.

If you’re doing the marketing jig for the first time and this is actually your plan you’ll be happy to know you won’t blow a hole into a 40M budget if it all goes pear-shaped 🙂

Let’s see what marketing tells you about your blog!

Outbound marketing

Traditionally, advertising your stuff in all forms has worked a treat – and it still does, to an extent. So by all means tell people about your blog.

Marketing prism: multi-faceted subject
Marketing facets:
Which is your favorite angle?

There are a few issues:

  • Relevance. If you’re looking for a title like “4 novel ways to wear sandals”, you don’t read this post even if it’s in your mailbox. Serendipity alone does not overcome “Not this, not now, not ever”.
  • Ever wonder why companies don’t ask you after 5 years or so if you still read their mails? Maybe they don’t want to know? Keep in mind to ask your subscribers after a while.

The balance is shifting to inbound marketing

We (as consumers) are morphing into ‘inbound traffic’ as we speak, calling and emailing when we‘re ready. Even if you’re an old school marketer yourself, I’ll bet you’re no different when you’re on the buyer’s seat. Companies are trying to steer us after we hit their radar, some more successfully than others.

Marketing match-making

An article I read a few days ago mentions 4 ways outbound and inbound marketing can work together. I’ve filtered the marketing talk out:

  1. Re-use the best stuff on your blog and send a “top 5 posts of the season” in a newsletter to your readers and everyone you think might be interested who’s not yet visited your blog.
  2. After you meet someone at an event, don’t send them a standard ‘nice to have met you’ email: mail them (part of) a post on your blog (or someone else’s) about a subject you discussed. Or put the link in your request to connect on LinkedIn. Make whatever you send worthy of the recipient’s attention. Come on – you want to be relevant, don’t you?
  3. Your emails, ads, LinkedIn profile should all give readers a chance, and if possible a reason, to visit your blog by following a link provided by you. A link, mind you, to a post that is relevant for anyone who just read your email, ad, or profile.

The article I just referred to leads you to a single destination which it fails to mention:

Content marketing

With all the writing on the web it’s no surprise I found an article while I was drafting this post that asks the question what’s so special about content marketing.

It focuses on the fact that:

High-quality content that is super relevant to readers will end up winning the game.

A couple of hundred articles on the internet will more or less tell you this, so you’re excused for not being completely amazed.

Relevance sounds too obvious, doesn’t it? But it means different things depending on what you’re looking for.

If you’re not a marketer but you do think you ought to get interested, this post may be just about as much as you can stomach (or too much). A pro might have left after the first glance if he/she even bothered to click the title.

What can you do for your blog right now?

A few examples for you to chew on:

  • If you’ve spent the past year business blogging like a maniac without seeing the kind of results you were aiming for, you may be doing something wrong in marketing terms. Perhaps you’re relevant for other people than the group you tried to reach. You either find out using marketing basics like the 5-step list above, or accept that your blog is really a personal blog – not a business blog.
  • If what you’re doing is Pinterest-on-a-blog, and if you’re getting exactly the types of response you might get on Pinterest if you upload a picture of a pretty dress (don’t get me started – I’m a ‘business’ user), you are definitely selling products but probably not ideas. If that wasn’t your goal when you started blogging, it’s time to change tactics.

Brian Clarke (a.k.a. Copyblogger) said during a recent presentation: content marketing is a bit like stand-up comedy. You get an idea, you try it out on your audience, you find out what they love and what they hate, and then it’s “dial up what works, dial down what doesn’t”.

If you blog, I hope I’ve given some idea of the marketing jungle out there. If you’re an experienced marketer I hope my post was entertaining 😉 Either way please comment. Suggested further readings are also welcome!

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