Social business homework: all employees are not (yet) equal

Do you know the one thing that amazes me the most about social business? It’s the way it doesn’t seem to take off even though your boss says it’s a good idea 😉

Social Business Homework: all Employees are not (yet) equal

Social Business Homework (based on OCAL image)

Of course it really helps if your CEO and/or CFO and others are blogging or tweeting and generally showing their support of social media use by actually being present on them…

Your company may even have a number of employees dedicated to filling social media channels with fresh branded content or teaching others how to use social media for business purposes.

But there’s a snag somewhere I think – wouldn’t things go a little faster if there were not? So where exactly is the hurdle we need to jump?

The perceived value of social media for business

One issue is perception. My impression is that in many parts of businesses, processes are rolling on like they always did with social media seemingly adding little value. But I happen to have done a bit of archiving in my time 😉 and here’s the thing:

  • an archive contains process-bound content. That content is produced as a result of you doing your work. This is valuable information which people may want to know about at a later time, so you need to store it for a number of years.
  • on the other hand, there is information which you may have read to inform yourself about a topic in order to do your work well. Stuff you need to read up is not considered of direct value for the process. So you can chuck it out whenever you like (well, after a year).

This perceived difference in value affects decisions as to who is allowed or expected to use social media as a regular part of their job.

Social business homework: all employees are not (yet) equal

Depending on where you are in your organization you’ll be able to use social media for different purposes. Some of them add value directly and some indirectly.

  • For people with a lot of professional connections on LinkedIn – I mean connections they actually know and have spoken with – and for whose job a large network is essential it’s relatively easy to use LinkedIn to benefit their company. If they need to come up with new leads, they check who in their network is familiar with the topic or has connections that bridge the gap between their own company and the potential customer’s business.
  • Making new connections is easy on Twitter, but not everyone wants to engage in conversations. Finding people with similar interests is great though. If they’re in your industry or in the same region as well you may at some point meet up at an event and add your new connection on LinkedIn (or Facebook if that’s your preferred place for contact).
  • Another thing: I use Twitter to look up recent posts/articles on subjects I need to read up on. Actually Twitter is the reason I’m not using search machines exclusively anymore for finding relevant information about anything regarding social media, social business, content marketing. Because social media marketers and content marketers are out in force on social media 🙂

My point is that each way of using social media adds value – but that value is not equally visible. And nothing you do counts unless you make sure people notice you’re getting results doing it.

Accepting that using social media can work

How to integrate social media into your work:

  1. Examine your job and identify one or two tasks, where social media may add value.
  2. Make sure you know exactly at what point and to what purpose you will be using social media.
  3. Don’t overcomplicate. If it means you “search database X, Google it, and check Twitter” for information about a topic, fine.
  4. Keep it up for at least a month, because apparently that’s how long it takes us to form new habits.
  5. Then check the results and ask yourself if you’ve developed new methods that allow you to get the most from your new way of working.
  6. Make a note of any tangible result you got through social media.
  7. Review your daily activities again for other tasks that may benefit from using social media.
  8. If there aren’t any, fine. One or two tasks are a great start. Don’t rush.

The best way to prove the value of social media for business would be if you could tell your manager that you found that excellent article/that lead/a piece of information through a search on Twitter or a tip from a Facebook friend or a LinkedIn connection… if that leads to raised eyebrows you can always add that your study at X has given you an excellent network of professionals in your field 😉

As far as I’m concerned you’re ‘social media-enabled’ as an employee when your manager (and the level above that) accepts that you use social media for some aspects of your work because it helps you get the results they need.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed it’s that accepting the fact that social media can contribute to almost anyone’s work is crucial – and not always straightforward.

Please add your thoughts about social business, social media, and any related topic in a comment – I promise I’ll respond to any non-spammy contribution as I value your input 🙂

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?

How to turn your business social: Back To Front

If you’ve checked my “social business” Twitter account, you won’t be surprised to hear I’ve been reading quite a lot about social business, social media, content marketing and several other buzzwords.

At this point I’ve come to an important conclusion:

Many articles about content marketing and what it will mean for your company are full of marketing BS.

They are completely focused on marketing and what that team, or the organization as a whole should be doing to get social business right.

Road Narrows in your company?

Are there road narrows in your company?
[OCAL image]

Not a lot of help if your middle name isn’t marketing. Is it?

The main idea of most articles is that you’ll hire them to organize “social business workhops” or to take care of the actual transition. That’s obvious enough.

What I don’t read enough about is what happens if you succeed. Maybe they tell you that after you invite them to talk about your plans. I sure hope so.

The viral nightmare

Suppose you get everything right on the ‘marketing’ side of your business. You get your content sorted, your marketing team is social media savvy, and your campaigns are getting results. Actually it would help if things didn’t go quite thát fast…!

Because suddenly your marketers are up to their ears in questions and complaints coming in through social networks. Your sales people can’t handle demand. The phone at customer service is red-hot.

This is a really bad time to discover you should have trained your customer service team to handle social media for your business… three months ago!

If marketing and sales employees fail to keep up, anyone who is seriously displeased about a purchase is now also annoyed because their complaints via social networks don’t get an answer either… and if you’re really lucky they’ll end up on the phone with your call center.

How to prepare your business for success

You’ve done step 1: reading this article. And if you’ve read more on the subject, please add any must-read articles in the comments section!

Step 2: you need a plan.

  • Plan A: All-is-well if you have the time and resources to prepare thouroughly.
  • Plan B: “Oh… Beep” if you don’t.
  • Plan C (recommended): Combine A and B. You’ll see why.

Plan A: if you have enough time and resources to change your organization

A rough plan A could look like this:

  1. Train your call center/customer service staff for business social media.
  2. Get them onto social media accounts for your business. They are to handle any feedback, positive as well as negative.
  3. Get everyone else involved who will be in touch with customers at any given moment. Marketing – sales – after sales – customer service, the lot.
  4. How do customers get ‘handed down’ the organization? How would this work if you added ‘social’ to the picture?
  5. Get your CRM system hooked up to your social media accounts. It shouldn’t matter who talks to a customer or which channel they use.

Once you feel you’ve got every relevant part of your company connected to the expected information stream…

Time for a trial run.

You have three options to find out if you’re prepared for the big one:

  • A simulated campaign
  • A real campaign targeted at a very specific group. Mind you: it’s online, so if your campaign is in any way interesting to people outside the group you want, you may end up with a runaway (viral) campaign at a time when you don’t know if your business will be able to handle the consequences.
  • You don’t run campaigns. Business as usual, but social is now part of that business.

Plan B: the ‘what-if’ approach

Aim for a quick fix for any nasty side-effects of taking the plunge by asking yourself a few questions for hypothetical situations.

Examples of ‘what-if’ questions are:

What if: your campaign leads to so much demand you can’t possibly meet it? You can only say “No, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait… we’ll help you as soon as we can!” so many times before people get really annoyed.

  • Can you identify anyone up front who can pitch in if it’s urgent?
  • Can you give your customers any idea of how long it will be before they can expect their purchase?

What if: the social channels you set up are hijacked by complaining people? How or to which team or person will you refer complainers? Is that team available through social media?

What if: your intern gets hold of your business password and accidentally publishes a private update on your account? (Note: if you want to prevent this, I suggest you make it very clear to everyone they are never, ever to delegate their responsibility).

You’ll notice this is not a miracle cure – just risk management the quick-and-dirty way. Depending on the type of business you’re running, you’ll come up with your own set of major and minor risks.

A few thoughts on business change

All of the above isn’t just true for developments in social media. Every organization runs into challenges of scale. At such moments it’s either you lead the horse, or the horse leads you. Go on, you choose 😉

Social media may act as a katalyst and propel your business onto the next level backwards. Based on that observation I would have you consider to prepare your business for success – back to front.

+ If you found this article of interest, please share it.

What else can you do today to turn your business social?

Blogging impressions: how to improve the focus of every post

Just around the time I started to blog I found a post which didn’t sink in at the time I read it. However a few posts later I realized the value of this remark:

Don’t try to save the world in a single post.

(If you happen to recognize this quote please let me know and I’ll be sure to mention the author for inspiring me.)

When you start blogging you may have so much to share that you end up cramming too many (interrelated) subjects into one post.

Blogging Impressions 2: Add Focus to your writing

Add focus to your writing

By doing so you run a few risks at once:

  • You find yourself running out of subjects quite soon (or so it may seem);
  • You exhaust your readers by the sheer length of your post. If it’s a detailed “how to” step-by-step guide you’re excused – people love that like they love one-stop shopping!
  • Your post would have been better if you’d chopped it up into several posts so you could focus on one subject – rather than saying a little about a lot of different subjects.

How to improve your posts: quick fix

Suppose you find you’ve just written an incoherent, rambling post that offers a “sight-seeing tour of my favorite subject”. What can you do about it?

  1. Take a moment to identify subjects (or aspects of your main subject) that would be much happier in their own post. Sometimes a single paragraph contains enough information for a whole post. You’re not doing it justice by confining the subject to a single paragraph.
  2. Get rid of paragraphs that lead your reader off the main track. Move any paragraph which does not support your main statement or question into a separate space (note, document, draft). Leave it there for a few hours.
  3. Edit your original post. Make sure your recent pruning session doesn’t leave ugly marks in your text. Remove arguments that don’t make sense because the only reason you wrote them was to lead up to the subject that didn’t quite fit in…
  4. Then come back and see if the paragraph you took out has the potential to grow into a whole post once you’ve added water and proper soil.

New post: try to start writing by not writing

Approach every subject you’d like to tackle in your blog as though it’s a project. Here are a few steps that may help you.

Explore your subject. Your main aim is to find out what different aspects there are – some of which might lead you into opposite directions. You can try mindmapping, or just sitting and thinking if that suits you better. Find information on the internet if you think you have missed anything.

Select aspects to write about. Take one or two aspects you could write a nice, focused and ‘complete’ post about. Try to be clear on why you need to focus on your selected aspects today, and why other aspects can wait.

If you’ve chosen more than one aspect, determine what the connection between those aspects is: why and how do they fit into one post? If you can’t find an answer, putting them into the same post may be a mistake.

Then sit down and write.

Edit your new post. Are you happy with the result? Are there parts of your post that seem out of place? Check if those parts happen to belong to different aspects of your subject, which you resolved to write about at a later time.

Think of your blog as a book. You don’t need to write it in one day. You just need to know what the chapter you write today adds to your story line.

Simply knowing what each separate post is supposed to solve or add should give a sense of direction to your efforts. Good luck!

+ If you enjoyed this post, please share it.

How has this post helped you? What other methods do you use to improve your blogging?

Twitter: 6 strategic tips for newcomers

I’ve been active on Twitter for a while now – though not long enough to have stopped being surprised (or somewhat dismayed) on a regular basis.

Great things about Twitter

Twitter provides an egg image for new users

Getting to know new people from across the globe – including people living quite close by, who remained unnoticed for a long time. Talking about things your relatives or friends may not be familiar with, or interested in because they relate to hobbies they don’t share or to your professional interests.

If you follow accounts with lots of links to interesting articles it is like having your intellectual equivalent of a bag full of sweets with you all day long. Even without searching, new stuff pops up. All you need to do is check out anything which looks interesting.

Surprises on Twitter

People expecting you to follow back within 24 hours. This came as a bit of a surprise to me. I mean what if you’re busy, or off for a holiday, or your spouse got angry because the best way to get you to talk to him/her would be to DM you on Twitter? Remember time zones.

People who don’t answer. I know some people have crazy numbers of followers but if you think talking to your followers is getting too ‘social’ then don’t follow back. Risk losing some followers. Or get some handy tool to help you stay social.

Clone accounts. Imagine checking a new follower’s bio and tweets, thinking ‘oh well, why not’ and following them back only to find some clone account following you the next day! I wrote a post about clone accounts earlier, and recently a similar thing happened to me.

Unfollowing and refollowing. I’m at a stage where I can still (just about) handle the number of new followers I get in a day and I check accounts regularly. I don’t like to see the same faces popping up several times among my new followers. If I don’t follow for some reason, tweet me a message if you think you can add to my (professional) life – show me you’re willing to talk to me. That adds value if your bio didn’t convince me!

Automated unfollows. I’m not kidding – it happened a couple of times before my very eyes. People who follow you because you might be interested in their products or services and who unfollow the second you press the follow button. I call that impolite. Only old-school, outbound marketers who want to be heard without having to listen do this. As I have only two ears myself (happy coincidence) I understand the problem of having a lot of people in your Twitter feed but hey, if you’re in marketing then it’s your job. Get your social media tool box out and go social.

#FF or #FollowFriday – apparently some people have decided to use their working hours on Friday to broaden their networks. They tweet #FF messages mentioning people they recommend you follow. I prefer the ones that state WHY these people are so interesting…

First steps strategy for Twitter newcomers

  1. If you’re not tweeting much yet, use lists to collect people you’d like to be followed by. Who goes into your list? Anyone with way more ‘followers’ than ‘following’. Let’s call them ‘influencers’. These are people who have plenty of others to talk with, and they need a reason to follow you (back). You can try to give them one by trying the next few tips.
  2. Get a profile picture. If you’re not comfortable with the idea, there are plenty of people who use a picture of part of their face, or a picture that shows them really small, or hazy, or dark. Whatever you do, it pays to ‘hatch’ from that egg.
  3. Write a bio that shows what sort of subjects you’re interested in.
  4. You can follow the ‘social’ people who are following more people than they have followers of their own.
  5. Retweet stuff from your influencers that you like. Quite a lot of people on Twitter will thank you for retweeting or mentioning their name (Twitter handle).
  6. If you have about the same number of followers as following, remember that others may interpret this as a sign you’ve an automated follow-back tool, and follow you in hopes of gaining more followers.
  7. Update: At some point someone will retweet an article you either wrote or discovered and shared, or mention you. My fellow blogger Daniel Sharkov (@DanielSharkov) has kindly pointed out that thanking people for sharing your stuff is definitely something you want to do. It may well lead to conversations and follows, but apart from that, people appreciate courtesy.

Looking back at my first Twitter adventures I would say the moment you decide to become active and therefore visible on Twitter, you need to be aware of what goes on around you. I hope I’ve given some idea of what you’re likely to encounter.

Did I miss anything major which you feel would really help people new to Twitter? If so, please add your tips in a comment to this post!

Great content curation: How using your expertise adds value

In my previous posts I have talked – a lot! – about social networks and sharing. I only briefly touched upon that which is being shared. Content. Loads of content.

This post is different. It’s shorter. And it can be summed up as follows:

Why content curation deserves your attention: a great way to add value using existing

If you hang around online long enough you’ll notice content is being reduced, re-used and yes, recycled endlessly.

I’ll be the first to admit that not everyone can blog full-time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t share your expertise. First, here is what you don’t do.

Definite don’ts in content curation

Here are some methods of re-using content you really should not consider:

  • Complete blog posts copied into a company website. Luckily I haven’t seen much of this, yet. “Text produced originally on blog X” – This had better be evergreen content because whatever it is, it’s not news. Stay well away from the murky waters of content theft.
  • Tweets that contain no reference to the author of the content it is linking to. This method suggests to casual observers that you’re rolling in home-made content. I’ve seen this a couple of times. How will anyone be able to tell quickly what your personal expertise is?
  • Blogs on company websites that contain image and some text from a different blog, add sauce “Well I think it’s a great contribution on subject X…” blah, blah. Actually I ran into one of these recently. Reading this particular blog left me feeling disappointed and guess what? I went to the original blog that was way better than the drivel I’d just read.

How to apply your expertise effectively

Great ways to use existing content without spending a lot of (extra) time can be swept into two heaps: social network updates, and the light version of blogging.

Updates are great if you don’t want to start blogging in any way:

  • Start by mentioning the original author’s name (Twitter handle for preference) in all your tweets, pins and updates.
  • Refashion the original title if necessary. Make sure your text reflects what you think makes this content worth reading or viewing.
  • Use keywords or hashtags depending on what your audience likes – only if they suit the content of course.

If this sounds like a lot of work in a tight space, you’re right. But it will cost you less time than drafting a full-length original blog post. The same goes for ‘light’ blogging:

  • Write a “Top 3” based on articles you’ve read on a subject in the past week. While you read, jot down what each article adds to your line of work. It doesn’t really matter where you do this: in Notepad, or directly into your planned blog post. Whatever works for you.
  • Or you can collect a few snippets of text and proceed in much the same way.
  • If you’re good at visual representations it’s faster and easier to (re-)visualize content than to write about it.

Your main aim should be to inject your expert opinion, however briefly.

The content curation methods I’ve just described will not lead you to eternal glory but they will allow you to show your expertise without risking your professional credibility or possibly even legal issues.

Do you curate existing content often? Did I miss any methods to curate successfully? If so, you’re welcome to add your comment to my list!

If you think this post was useful to you, please share it.

Why Twitter Automation is Not a Matter of Set and Forget

There has been a lot of attention for fake followers on Twitter lately. A week or so ago I tried one of those tools for finding out “How many fake followers YOU have”.

It turned out I had 1% fake followers. I don’t have that many followers yet so that would have been 1.3 follower at the start of August.

Dog chasing hashtags dropped by birds

Finding followers – who’s snapping up your tweets?

Since I make a point of checking new followers’ bio and tweets before following them back, I knew which follower it was. You might describe this particular follower as “one of those companies that have heard they should be on Twitter but don’t know what to do there, apart from putting up a poster in their shop window”. Calling it a fake follower is going too far in my view. It’s just not a very desirable follower.

If (?) you’re on Twitter you may have noticed some pretty odd accounts popping up among your own new followers – if you’ve taken a closer look at their accounts and tweets. Have you?

Check if these 4 types of followers sound familiar – and what to do if YOU’RE that follower!

4 fake, fraud and odd follower types on Twitter

  1. The unlikely follower.First up are followers who have absolutely nothing in their description or tweets that matches anything you do. This type of follower isn’t a problem unless any of the following points also apply. They may be looking for information about a topic and find YOU. Lucky you.
  2. The absent follower. Followers who have 4000 tweets but the last one is over 100 days old. Is this someone who got tired of Twitter? Or did their spouse grow tired first? Perhaps a sabbatical… I hope.
  3. The silent follower. These followers literally have NO tweets at all. Just a link to a website, and possibly a description of the amazing products or services they offer on that website. Selling stuff the lazy way is not against the law. Is it?
  4. The zombie follower. These followers do in fact tweet on a regular basis. But something is wrong with those tweets, especially if you look back over a couple of weeks. They may:
    • Retweet from a limited number of other accounts. As you review those retweets you may wonder why on earth anyone would want to retweet these particular tweets.
    • Share information from some news website that add a flavour of relevance. But if a news item is too long it lacks a link to the website. The text just stops mid-sentence.
    • Tweet highly similar messages that link to a website that promotes a product or service.

What to do if you have the nagging feeling your Twitter account resembles any of the above – which you never intended when you first started your Twitter adventure?

#1. Are you someone’s unlikely groupie?

If you want to be followed back – if your goal is to find readers and sharers for your content, consider updating your profile regularly to reflect shifts in interest. Show your interest in the topic by (re)tweeting or replying. If you’re just looking for information, being tolerated on general principles may be all you need. Otherwise make sure you don’t end up either without new followers, or hidden behind a filter.

#2 Are you still active on Twitter without realizing it?

Are you all right? If so, you need to assess why you’re on Twitter since the only thing that is still happening is your little tool finding interesting accounts for you.

  • Is it time to delete your account because you’re not even reading your tweets anymore?
  • Are you following people who have little to say about topics that interest you? In that case, start following people based on your interests. Put them in a couple of lists so you can check up on your favorite subjects anytime.
  • Can’t think of anything to say? Somehow if you managed to get to 4000 tweets I can’t imagine how this could happen. Perhaps you have zero followers who are interested in your tweets. Does the content of your tweets match the interests of your followers? If there is a match but nobody who replies or retweets your stuff, perhaps you need to improve your tweets. Find information on how to get your message across in 140 characters. Add links to articles about your topic. Add hashtags, 3 max. Use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite not for scheduling, but in order to find out if anyone actually clicks on (the links in) your tweets.
  • Or perhaps you were overenthusiastic when you first started out? In that case you may have ended up spending way too much time and energy. If you’re eager to share information, consider setting up a Buffer account and set it to three tweets a day. Skip the weekend. Use your online reading time to sniff out the best content and collect it in your Buffer. When you’re on Twitter, use your time to reply, and tweet & retweet only stuff that is fresh and new in the sweet knowledge that your Buffer will do the rest.

#3 Are you quietly following people around?

Consider getting busy.  A Twitter account is NOT the same as real Twitter presence. You need to take action to earn people’s trust. Unless you are absolutely sure that your customers are looking for a lazy entrepreneur to show them how to get rich while they sleep.

#4 Are you that zombie on the hunt for followers?

People prefer to connect with people. Automation is a great way to make our social networking lives easier. But many people would like there to be a person in there with all the automated stuff.
If you don’t have time to find great stuff for sharing, consider tweeting less, like 4 times a day. Don’t inundate your followers with rubbish.

Tips to escape premature zombiehood on Twitter

You may have set up instructions to make your life on Twitter or any other social network easier and less time-consuming. Or you’re considering it.
Remember whatever you do in real life, those instructions which will keep going forever. Make sure you can stop or alter whatever you started. Start here:

  • Get organized. Document all the stuff you ever started. Social networks and apps can clutter your online desk.
  • Take control. Review your goals and decide to:
    • Get rid of social accounts you haven’t used for a while;
    • Make changes that will make those accounts valuable to you (again);
    • OR put a text in your bio or in a message that indicates you are at present busy elsewhere. If you choose to do this, be helpful and indicate how you may be contacted. Don’t just get up and leave.

Do you have more useful tips and suggestions for inactive or zombie accounts? If you do, please share them in a comment. Or find me on Twitter.

More about this subject in this article by Lisa Buyer on SearchEngineWatch.com and on Mediabistro.

Getting those sharing buttons sorted

If you love sharing other people’s content, making it easy for them to share your own content is an important step in setting up your blog. In fact it would have been #2 on my to-do list if I had bothered to make one – right after selecting a theme.

WordPress Content Sharing Buttons: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Buffer, Press This, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and Tumblr

Sharing buttons on my WordPress.com blog.

The standard sharing buttons on a WordPress(.com) blog have two issues I noticed in particular:

  • They mentioned WordPress but no author;
  • There was no “Add to Buffer” button.

In this post you’ll find out what happened when I ran into these issues; how I fixed them; and a few examples in case you’re haven’t had a chance to look into this for your own blog. But first let’s explore why I’m calling them issues and talking of fixing them.

Why is it a problem if your name is not automatically added?

Quite a number of blogs have a “via @twittername” part in their messages. I’m so used to this I often add the Twitter name of the blog author to my tweets if they are missing. This means that I need to look them up and paste their names in, which can be more work than it is worth. Sometimes I skip the whole exercise for that reason. In fact, once or twice I gave up on sharing an article altogether. That should not happen to sound content. For that reason, make sure your name is part of the message. Anyone is free to do some editing, but the main thought here is that you make sharing as quick and easy as possible.

Another reason for including your name is that finding out how often and by whom your content is shared can be difficult if:

  • The sharer changes the title of your post – possibly optimizing it for Twitter, or for a particular audience;
  • They share your content through a scheduling tool in stead of retweeting or reblogging.

If your Twitter name is part of the message they may simply leave it in – so long as it fits. That gives you an extra option to check for tweets that link to your content.

Also, having your Twitter name shared makes it easier for readers to find you, just in case they’re not ready to follow or subscribe to your blog.

Why is the absence of a Buffer button a problem?

The Buffer app is very useful if you:

  • Check the latest developments online at a time when a large number of potentially interested people are asleep;
  • Want to share the latest without swamping followers with a dozen messages at once, and
  • Prefer a simple solution since getting the hang of a more complicated tool seems a bit premature when viewing your present number of followers.

All of the above apply to me so even before publishing my first post I tried to fix the Buffer issue. Since I didn’t like the fact that the sharing buttons were only at the bottom of the page I started by pasting some code into the top menu. That worked. Sort of. I didn’t manage to get the title of the post into the message. I looked the Buffer issue up and found an old Q&A on WordPress.com. The answer read something like: “The Buffer button isn’t in html. Sorry.”

(I published my first post.)

Then I e-mailed the guys at Buffer. First of all, they were OK with my using the link without the button since I couldn’t paste that into the menu. Second, they suggested a way to fix the title issue. It didn’t work but even so, thanks guys. Third, they said they would contact WordPress.com to see if they could fix the absence of the Buffer button. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

(At this point I started to think about writing a post about the subject.)

Then I decided to check the sharing buttons again. Meanwhile though, I had completely forgotten where to find them. After I found them (nowhere near Appearance – Widgets but in the Settings section) I noticed the link “Add new service”. Since I’d already spent some time on the link in my top menu, I pasted my code in and it worked fine. Then I tried different options until I got as close to the messages I got from other websites as I could.

Creating personalized sharing buttons

Adding a new service, as WordPress calls it, has its own issues:

  1. You can’t just edit the new button, no, you can create it or delete it. Not DIY friendly for non-techies or perfectionists!
  2. WordPress gives you a few bits of code you can paste into the sharing button but I ended up adding bits from my earlier code to complete my message. Besides, you do need to know how to glue all those bits together to make your link work.
  3. You need to get a link to really tiny icon images.
  4. Did I mention you probably started up your blog because you wanted to spend time writing?

Just in case you have considered personalizing the sharing buttons on your own blog, here is what your code might look like (in Bold are the bits you would change to your own site or Twitter name):

http://bufferapp.com/add?text=%post_title%%20yoursitename.com&url=%post_url%&via=yourtwittername

Note: %20 is for adding a space as in add%20your%20sitename%20here

Once you get one button to work the way you want it to, you may be tempted to use similar codes to personalize other buttons. I sure was! So I changed the Twitter button next and set it to include my tags as hashtags:

https://twitter.com/share?text=%post_title%%20yoursite.com&url=%post_url%&via=yourtwittername&hashtags=%post_tags%

Now I’m planning to wait and see which I like best – the one which I end up changing the least when sharing. I think I’ll like the one without hashtags best since I’ve added as many as four tags to this post! But maybe time will prove me wrong.

Let me know which you like best: adding or deleting hashtags? Use the comments section below.

P.S.: You can find the tiny icons for the sharing buttons at:

Buffer: http://static.bufferapp.com/images/logo_icon_small.png

Twitter: https://dev.twitter.com/sites/default/files/images_documentation/bird_blue_16.png