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 😉

Money and the infinite pursuit of innovation

Having a couple of million dollars in your bank account takes the urgency out of your drive to innovate… Just last Tuesday I ran into this piece of Stanford research. It shows that an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market has a negative impact on the level of innovation in a company. I get that. Being rich might even make a lot of bloggers lazy 😉

But.
I wonder where true inventors go after they leave such a company. Do they spend the rest of their lives hanging out by the pool side? Somehow I don’t think so. So why do they leave? An IPO – or the presence of money – seems to cause a shift in a company’s priorities away from creativity. In this post I will explore the issue (without suggesting I did any kind of thorough research myself).

Money Creativity Matrix

IPOs seem to cause a shift to urgency (left) at the expense of R&D activities

Why do innovators leave after an IPO?

At one point in my career I was working at a, well not a start-up because it was a couple of years old, but still a company in the early pioneering stage. Characteristics:

  • Most people around are actively trying to improve the product, or they’re helping out on the stuff that needs to get done.
  • No one gets excited over quarterly reports, but they do get wowed by anything that will make the product easier or more fun to use because everyone wants people to know it and love it and, yes, buy it too.
  • The bottom line is that there is no budget but you’re allowed to tinker. If you have an idea, you check with your boss (the owner/entrepreneur) and he may well give you permission to invest your time, energy, and intelligence. So long as the dull must-do tasks are taken care of too.

Creativity scare #1: investors’ risk adversity

The moment IPO and suchlike is around the corner this all changes. Inventors become the engineering department. That may sound like an important part of the company, but more and more people within the company get interested in things like marketing and quality control and business process management. Which basically means more rules. It means that if you are really excited about something you thought up, you need to make sure you’re talking to the right person by the coffee machine or risk:

  • watching their eyes glaze over as they say “Oh – yeah. That’s great, really great”.
  • having them say stuff like “I’m not sure that’s allowed/safe actually”.

That’s exactly the kind of situation that might, apart from no longer having to worry about money, cause this:

“I find that the quality of innovation produced by inventors who remained at the firm declines following the IPO and key inventors are more likely to leave.” (Shai Bernstein)

Key inventors – that doesn’t sound like people who were in it just for the money. These are the born tinkerers.

Innovations that do pass the risk-and-legal test may have been compromised at an early stage – any part deemed risky is replaced by add-ons to bits that were invented at an earlier stage. It seems that investors want you to do what you’ve proved yourself to be good at, only more of it, and without risky adventures now that their money is involved. Think sequels 🙂

Creativity scare #2: a sense of urgency

Marketing talk on its own is unlikely to scare innovators away – start-ups all try to come up with a viable product. What else is there? An innovator is motivated by curiosity – wanting to find out how things work, how problems can be solved, products might be improved…

A shift in your company’s mindset from opportunities to threats (to the investors’ money, for example) will lead to decisions based on a sense of urgency. Especially if you have the money to act immediately – you find yourself buying a company that has the necessary tech rather than wasting time trying to figure it out yourself. Added effect is that such an action knocks out a potential competitor, or allows you to effectively monopolize a couple of relevant patents.
Invest wisely – don’t gamble.

How to pull off the combination of money AND the pursuit of creativity

There are at least two things you can do to safeguard creative processes in your company:

  1. I found this sentence: “Firms with more entrenched managers, whose greater job security makes them less likely to be sensitive to market pressures, experience a smaller decline in innovation novelty, and interestingly, their inventors are less likely to leave the firm.” I could translate this as “Firms that don’t get completely taken over by shareholders don’t scare their inventors away as much.” Make sure your company has solid management before even considering going to the stock exchange.
  2. Don’t interfere with creative processes by throwing risk and legal stuff in at an early stage. Let innovators tinker and give them credit for being good at it. This is what companies like Google understand. Inventors, while liking the idea of having enough money to live a comfortable life, need to know they are allowed to tinker (part of their time). There’s nothing quite like someone asking themselves “I wonder if it’s possible to… How about if I try…” and taking off. This is ‘flow’ for inventors. Mess with that and you should not be surprised if your inventors pack up and leave.

If you don’t like the sound of ‘letting them tinker’, you need to accept that your top innovators will turn elsewhere to do what they do best.

Source: Research paper No. 2126 “Does Going Public Affect Innovation?” Shai Bernstein, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, December 2012.

P.S.: I just found myself wondering how this relates to blogging vs. corporate blogging. What do you think?

I hope you found this post of interest! Please add your thoughts about innovation, creativity, and tinkering in general in a comment – what else could you do to keep inventors on board?

The usual suspects: why we don’t buy as readily as we sell

After my recent ramblings about LinkedIn I thought I might return to another topic of interest: marketing and blogging. There is a lot to be said for taking a marketing approach what you do on your blog. Especially if you’re wondering why some things you do just fall flat for no apparent reason.

Buyers Prioritization

You got yourself an audience, a good call to action to get your readers to join your subscribers list, you’re sending them information about your products/services… and then, well, nothing. Well, not nothing – but… You’re an expert. Surely everyone is going to want to buy the valuable stuff you have to offer? Why aren’t the %% higher than this?

In this post I’ll take a roundabout tour through marketing and then get back to your blog.

Marketing and the usual suspects

Purely from a marketing/sales view it’s a matter of buyer’s journey or even ‘buyer cycle’, which has phases to mark where on the road towards your first or next purchase you might be.

  1. If you’re in the right group of people (say busy working mum who loves high-heeled boots but won’t risk twisting an ankle again running after child no. 2) you’re a suspect. In fact we’re all someone’s suspect. We all buy something at some point.
  2. The moment you subscribe to anything, you turn into a prospect: someone who shows a definite interest in the kind of services/products a company offers. In some cases it means you get spammed daily – companies seem to think they need to haul you in NOW or you might end up buying a competitor’s product.
  3. Once you’re in their webshop…
  4. … loading stuff into your shopping cart (or taking similar actions) there’s an almost audible drum roll.

In many cases people never get beyond stage two. Why not? There are plenty of tips out there that focus on mending the leaks in your sales funnel, but I’m not going to discuss incontinent marketing processes here.

Theorize about your potential buyers’ priorities

Think about yourself as a reader of blogs (and a potential customer for someone) for a moment. Since I don’t know you, I’ll make up for this bit by talking about myself and pretending I’m a version of you. In this multiverse there must be a universe where I’m you 😉

You read and view loads of stuff every day, either for personal or professional purposes. Depending on your job and other interests, some topics matter a lot, others a little. There’s one topic that you’re mainly interested in because it affects your job. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to keep up to date. So you read up online. After all what’s the internet for? Then you attend an webinar. From the moment you subscribe you get spammed by at least half a dozen companies trying to sell you stuff that’s related to the subject of the webinar. Preferably expensive and IT-related. Oh, great…

Enter the wonderful world of the ‘buyer persona’

Using a buyer persona (or several) means you basically assemble some characteristics into a credible theoretical buyer. Age, lifestyle, and depending on what you’re trying to sell you throw in a job title, professional issues – or health problems and family situation. It’s a lot like certain police series, where they try to narrow down the group of possible suspects.

In the case where you are the customer, companies are guessing what you might be interested in buying, and they approach you with information that seems relevant. Despite these efforts many marketers still can’t, or won’t, take into account your personal priorities (or your influence on your company’s budget, for that matter). Now, rather than veering off into a discussion about prioritization in this post, here’s a link if you’d like to read how Eisenhower prioritized his to do list. I’ll stick to reinterpreting this handy matrix around the question “to buy, or – to forget about it”.

Your priorities – and how they affect your buying decisions

Many of us – those of us with any savings in the bank, anyway – make buying decisions much like this:

  1. Do I need it? Yes. When? Now! Unless you’re broke you’ll have no problem spending money on things you really need, urgently.
  2. Do I need it? Yes. When? Well, let’s say within the next 3 months. Hmm, I’d better get some more information… and see if I can get a discount somewhere.
  3. Do I want it? Yes. Do I need it? Not really. How much does it cost?
  4. Do I want it? I might, if it’s fun. Do I need it? Nope.

Businesses put a lot of effort trying to close the gaps that make you hesitate. For example, many retail shops know their customers, including you, well enough to be just within the price range you had in mind 😉

Back to your blog’s usual ‘suspects’

When you’re blogging you may get a lot of visitors, but the ones in category 1 are a definite minority. You do need some casual visitors though – a blog that never gets comments, likes, or shares won’t appeal even to people who are looking for a solution to their problem, NOW. So you cater, in some ways, for visitors of categories 2, 3 or even 4. If that means your blog is more fun and less businessy, hey, what’s wrong with a readable blog? But do make sure that there is something for Number One.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If so, please share it – or share your thoughts about marketing, blogging and the like in a comment. Thanks 🙂

Your career on LinkedIn: 16 tips to look your best

For a long time, I saw LinkedIn as basically a big ol’ box of resumes and not much beyond that. That changed (somewhat). This post contains my tips for your LinkedIn profile to help you if:

  • you’re on LinkedIn, but you don’t have a clue what to do except add your resume and anyway, what exactly should you put in your profile anyway?
  • you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile in a year.
  • you’re not yet on LinkedIn but want to get started.
  • (If you’re active and happy on LinkedIn, this post by Jeff Haden on Inc.com gives you additional tips.)

I won’t tell you how to sign up. If they’ve made it too hard they deserve to go out of business. If that’s the case please let me know 😉

How does a complete, updated profile on LinkedIn help your career?

Your career on LinkedIn

First reason: LinkedIn comes up with job suggestions that are deemed relevant for someone with your set of skills and experience. Second: if you’re going to show up in search results you want to be found by the right recruiters. Third: once you’re found, you want to make a favorable or at least an accurate impression so people don’t offer you all the wrong jobs, or none at all.

Get your LinkedIn profile in shape using these 16 tips which I’ve grouped for your convenience:

LinkedIn profile basics

  1. Picture: professional looks are best, but anything which isn’t either downright unprofessional or 5 years old is acceptable, at least until you get something better. Dig out an online picture of you that’s more or less professional.
  2. Fill out your headline. This may contain your job title, or otherwise should contain one or two keywords which characterize what branche or task you’re interested in.
  3. Fill out your postal code, or that of the most relevant city for your profession if you don’t mind the commute or having to move. Your profile will mention a general area based on your information.
  4. Add some contact details. Decide which of them you want to show to your connections, and which you want to be publicly visible (in my case that’s at least my Twitter handle and this blog).

Job experience

  1. Summary: people use their summary in different ways – sometimes to describe what their current job entails, or to describe what they are like as a professional, or to describe the business they own. If you’re not sure, leave it for later.
  2. Use your resume and your description of your tasks and responsibilities. If you’re a student, or you’re in your first job, you may find your resume looking rather empty. Or if you’ve worked at company X for the past 18 years you may look like a boring person who would like to stay in your current job indefinitely. Compensate by describing separate tasks in light of:
    1. skills,
    2. professional attitude, and
    3. experience they demand from you or that you have acquired as a result. Don’t overdo it. If anyone calls your manager or mentor they should be able to confirm your story.
  3. Add team projects. Projects show up twice: underneath the job they’re connected to, plus in a separate projects section. Adding projects is also a great way to find out if there are people you might connect with on LinkedIn – after all, you worked with them at some point so you know them professionally. That is always the best (possibly the only good) reason to connect.
  4. For writing folk: add a separate section for your publications.

Skills and languages

  1. Skills: this part of your profile is just a list, but it makes you more visible (search results) and others can endorse you on those skills if they think you actually have them. Be specific, because you might get endorsed for knowing about “art”.
  2. When can you mention a language among your skills? If you teach it, if you’re a translator, or if you’ve spent over a year in a country speaking the language daily so you’re practically a native speaker – and you’d like to get a job that requires knowledge of this particular language because it sets you apart from the competition. Don’t forget to list it among your languages too.
  3. Languages: overview of all the languages you know. Add your proficiency level. Some people throw all their languages in with their skills which leads to my receiving endorsement messages like “Does Dave know about English?” 😉

Courses

  1. Independent coursework: this is where you list courses that are not tied to a study or a job. This section is important if you’re interested in a career switch or if you’re just someone who likes to keep up to date all round.
  2. Don’t add ALL of your courses though, unless it’s not that much of a list. If you’re looking for a specialized job, select courses that are relevant for that kind of job. If you’re not sure what kind of job you’d like, add a mix of job-focused courses and the courses you enjoyed the most.
  3. While you’re pondering your selection, ask yourself why you enjoyed specific courses.
    1. Was it the type of activity?
    2. The team work vs. having sole responsibility for the task?
    3. Was it the topic? Try to find out, because this is what you are about. Write it down as a start for your LinkedIn summary.

Volunteering & Causes

  1. Add any not-for-profit activities in this section. If you feel these activities don’t ‘count’ when you’re looking for a job, consider this:
    1. You have used and developed people skills, project skills, or your creativity.
    2. It shows what you value in life and can spice up a resume that seems a bit too single-mindedly careerdriven!
    3. If you’re in a very technical or specialistic job, this is also a great way to show you have other interests that require different skills and even a different mindset from what people might expect.
    4. You may get asked about your activities – which gives a nice informal flavor to an interview!
  2. For these reasons, describe your voluntary work just like any job or project. If you’ve done certain tasks for years, say so – it shows you can stick to a job even if you didn’t have one at the time.

I hope I’ve given you enough to get started until my next post (Wednesday). If you have any questions about your LinkedIn career – if I’ve left anything out which you need at this stage, leave me a comment to read and reply to!

How to start your career on LinkedIn

Last week I read a post about LinkedIn that got quite a few comments. One of them was “this is all very interesting but I’d like tips that will help me get started”. I recently updated my profile so I decided I’d think up some tips that might actually help rather than frustrate your career without your even noticing. Today’s post is the short-cut for hasty people – if you want to know more, read my next (Friday) post.

How to best invest your time and effort on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not where you’d start your social media ‘career’ today. Instead, you’re on Facebook or Twitter and at some point you’re told you need to be on LinkedIn for your career – or, at least, to make sure you don’t miss out on job opportunities because you’re not there.

My advice is to take the professional approach from day one. I have been on LinkedIn for over 4 years and all I can say is it probably pays to start even before you finish your education – in stead of switching careers 2 or 3 times beforehand, like I did 😉

Your career on LinkedIn: start here

Get your profile sorted first. To show you just how much this matters, I’ve written a separate post about it. If you want to get started today, but you don’t want to share your unfinished profile with the whole world just yet, sign up and then check out your settings – profile – Edit your public profile.

LinkedIn settings: Edit your public profile

In the next screen you can opt to share only the bits you’re happy about, or hide your profile altogether with this useful menu in the column on the right:

LinkedIn Profile Visibility

Here you can review your public profile and hide anything you feel is not up to scratch. If that leaves you with a minimalistic profile you know which parts you need to tackle at once.

Continue to work on the other parts and share those after extra thought and editing. After all it’s important information – based on this, a recruiter or a potential client may decide whether or not to contact you. They may check for your name elsewhere but let’s assume they’re human and therefore either too lazy or too busy.

Don’t forget to change your settings back when you’re done!

Tips to turn your profile into a career on LinkedIn

Try any or all of these actions. If you’re on LinkedIn but don’t have a clue how you should do any of it, just ask – I’ll write a post or two on individual actions I’ve listed here. My comments section below is open for business 😀

  1. Follow a couple of businesses you wouldn’t mind working for (as an employee or a business owner).
  2. Seek out recruiters who match your standards for social media usage. Some hide their networks from their connections, some don’t. Decide which kind you’re comfortable with.
  3. Connect with fellow students who basically face the same questions and consider teaming up to get the LinkedIn part of your lives up and running together.
  4. Find some active groups that are relevant to your professional interests. This way you keep up to date about your field of expertise, and these groups are shown on your profile (unless you hide them).
  5. Connect with a couple of teachers/professors. Criteria: depth/breadth of expertise, network, they teach your favorite topics, or you just get along with them well.

If you’re thinking of starting on LinkedIn and/or getting serious about your career, you’re welcome to share your thoughts – I promise to reply to any non-spammy comment 🙂

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!

4 steps to turn your business (more) social-minded

Sure, social business has to do with content, and with content marketing. It’s an aspect I’m definitely interested in. But content – or a perceived lack of it – is not the root cause of resistance to social business. It’s this:

Social business means change.

If you try to change today’s organizations there are some common hurdles involving IT, organizational structure and ultimately psychology. In this post I’ll give you 4 simple steps to start edging towards social anyway, knowing you’ll tackle each hurdle – when you’re ready.

First let’s take a quick glance at each of the 3 hurdles I’m talking about:

  • Firstly, every change turns into an IT project. Any change to an existing process means redesigning the process  – and then checking how soon the software that’s supposed to help you do your job can be adjusted accordingly. Until that happens, your precious software will enforce its own logic on your daily work.
  • Secondly, new activities need to compete with the existing ones. The teams and people who have already gained a foothold inside your organization tend to take up all of the available space, budget, and time reserved for meetings. Anything new is perceived as yet another task when everybody is already pressed for time.
  • Finally, new concepts need to ‘conquer’ established practices.

4 steps towards a social business

The whole target-mindedness in marketing departments is a major issue for anyone who would like to suggest a different way of doing things. Social business advocates are not the first to run into this brick wall.

The predominant force within established (marketing) departments is to nail every new idea down by claiming it – and any available budget – immediately, then:

  • put it into a corner,
  • put one person on it and
  • consider the subject covered.

Do correct me if I’m wrong by being too cynical. I realize I’ve read a lot of Dilbert 😉

4 key steps towards a social business

Here are a few things you can do to get started. It’s important to start with at least a bit of awareness, then try integrating ‘social’ into single tasks before taking it further.

1. Conquer the psychological hurdle – step by step

Let employees (including you) get social with the instruction to learn as much as they can to find ways to use social media in their (daily) work. Use this as a conversation starter in workshops to raise awareness of the differences between private and business communication online. Find out for what business purposes employees (including you) in different roles could use social media. And importantly, translate employee experiences into stuff that improves your team’s and company’s performance.

2. Integrate social media into one or two daily tasks

Anything new will only stand a chance if it’s integrated (as a first step, mind you) into some aspect of daily work.

After you figure out (see #1) how social media can add value for you and your team by making some aspect of your daily work easier, better, possibly faster you still need to determing at what exact point and in what way you will use social media as a natural part of the process.

3. Find a new use for old (and new) habits

It doesn’t take much of your time to share stuff you’ve already found, read and reviewed. By sharing interesting articles you:

  • give more people the chance to pick up on important developments.
  • deliver hand-picked content
  • show them that your team has access to content, knows what’s relevant, … contains professionals who know what’s happening.

3. Evaluate with care

After at least a month, have a first ‘light’ evaluation. Have you needed to tweak the initial idea? Does your method seem to work? If so, you’re ready for a one-month (minimum!) trial to see if you can truly integrate ‘social’ into your daily routine. When that month is over it’s time to evaluate the process (your social routine) rather than the results. That comes next and may take a couple of months.

And what about IT?

As far as I’m concerned, software for anything comes in after you’ve figured out what exactly you want to do without it but can’t. It’s no use implementing some great and costly tool that’ll pin your daily workflow to it like an unfortunate butterfly before you even know what your workflow would look like in your new social business.

That’s it for social business this year – if you want to add your thoughts you’re welcome to do so in a comment, and I still promise to reply to every non-spammy contribution 🙂

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 🙂

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!

Why social media is everyone’s business

The art of combining ‘social’ and ‘business’ isn’t everyone’s cup of tea

If you’re in marketing, the hard part about ‘social business’ or ‘social marketing’ is if you think it’s a load of cat crap. Many marketers seem to think it’s a great development. This means the smell of cat crap is coming from your own flower bed. Not nice.

On the plus side, if you do decide to give it a try, there’s a motherload of advice hanging out there on the internet waiting for you.

Social media outside the marketing team

But what if you’re in the kind of job that’s usually taken up by people who don’t like the sound of the word “business” or “marketing”? In that case the amount of available information shrinks. That may be an advantage – if you’re able and willing to filter out all the noise the social media marketers are making.

Even if you get over yourself and the marketing stuff, the organization you work in probably never realized that you might be interested, or able to contribute in some way to the company’s online presence.

Social media

Water droplets on the grass

  1. Your manager may not agree with your taking on this new role. Or his/her manager may not.
  2. Your targets don’t mention anything remotely like “representing our company by becoming a valued blogger on subject X” – especially if subject X is unlikely to add visibly to the company’s financial results.
  3. Your manager thinks it’s a great idea, but you don’t have time during working hours so you end up representing your company on your own time. Right up until you burn out.

Where do you find the feeling that your presence on social media is valued by the company you work for? Or if that’s not going to happen, how will you make social media work for you?

By introducing personal branding on social media. Social branding.

There, I’ve said it. Yukkk. Why should you want that?

Social media is your business

If you’re on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn (or… you name it), social media is already a big or small part of your life. It may not yet feel like being part of a business thing. So how is this your business?

Anything you do tells people who’ve connected with you something about YOU, the brand. Don’t believe me?

Let’s face it, does everybody out there really know you, the person, warts and all, on a Sunday morning after going to bed late and your kids waking you up at 6 in the morning (sometimes you’re lucky if it gets as late as 6 AM), watching the latest politically-correct version of some mind-numbing cartoon series for the under-9-year-olds? Well, some people probably put that photo on Instagram too 🙂 But even if you do, how many people know the “you” that lives behind the pictures you publish?

You’re a brand to someone out there, no matter what you do or don’t do.

  • If you’re LinkedIn profile sucks, that’s you to a recruiter. “This guy/gel hasn’t updated her profile in two years – obviously NOT looking for a job”.

In case this made you wonder about YOUR LinkedIn profile, check what information is actually visible to other people while you’re logged on. What seemed fine 4 years ago when you had a steady job may not be enough to attract recruiters or customers, if you’re starting a business. You can waste a lot of time on updating your profile if no-one except you can see it.

Go to Settings – [Profile] – Helpful links – Edit your Public Profile to check and change the visibility of your profile.

  • If your tweets have so many typos you need more than 140 characters to fit them all in, that’s you to anyone who follows you, or who finds you through a typo in their search – or through searching for your name after someone mentioned you to them.
  • If you blog about your kids, dogs and flower bed (with cat crap), you’re branding yourself. Not according to some major strategy, but still.

With every activity you’re giving people a piece of a puzzle which they use to construct an image of you, your family, your company…

So while you’re branding yourself on social media, you might as well do it right.

Start by revising your main social media profiles. After you’ve done that, if you have a manager, go to him/her and ask for input, especially if you (want to) mention your company in those profiles.

I have yet to run into a manager who wants the company to look bad by letting employees have unprofessional profiles on LinkedIn. Use that knowledge to your advantage 😉

And then? On to the next step… and the next.

If you want to add ideas on the subject of making social media everyone’s business, please leave your comment below – I will reply to any (non-spammy) contribution!