Interviews as a time-saving part of your business content strategy

You may have noticed that bloggers like Mark Schaefer (@MarkWSchaefer) and Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology) interview subject matter experts on a regular basis. Interviewing experts has got some advantages to asking them to produce content for your blog:

  • You don’t ask much of their time – catch them at a congress if you want a video. Or ask them a specific question through any medium: e-mail, Twitter, or their own comments section.
  • Visiting your SMEs may give you some opportunities to get video footage. If you don’t have much time, pick up the phone and get a few short questions answered.
  • If there’s any writing to be done, you’re the one doing it. That’s an advantage if your SME is not used to writing for the audience you’re interested in.

Interviews can be a valuable part of your content strategy – if you decide to make the most of them.

Bits For Your Business Content Strategy

Bits of content for your business content strategy

SME interviews as part of your business content strategy

Remember those busy subject matter experts from my post about single versus multiple content creators? What if they’re your colleagues?

You could simply make a few phone calls or pick up your mini-cam and head over to wherever your SME is hanging out and interview them for the business blog or website. When you’re done, you tell them when you intend to publish.

Then publish and let your SME know, so that they can reply to any comments – if they want to. Or you can opt to have your SME post the video themselves in an online community. If you send them the video (or URL) via e-mail:

  1. Make sure your SME knows the procedure (see 2-5).
  2. Add instructions, starting with the publishing date. Inform your SME that if the video isn’t posted by [exact time on specified date] you will go ahead and post it yourself.
  3. Add a copy-paste text for them to use or edit.
  4. Check if it’s posted.
  5. If it’s not posted, post the video yourself and notify your SME. You can even invite them to reply. Add an example like “My personal favorite from this list is actually X.” This isn’t a must-do, but it can help.

How do interviews save you time?

The time-saving won’t work if you spend an entire day on an interview then share the results only once.

You may want to share the original interview soon after it takes place. But every interview can be ‘mined’ for later use. You can structure the content you’ve collected soon after the interview to have bits of content ready which you can integrate into new posts or save for a content emergency.

  • You quote from the interview.
  • Top tips from your SME for achieving a certain goal.
  • Mining the interview to get ideas for related topics.

Getting strategic about your interviews

On the other hand, if you do a series of interviews in which you ask one or more identical questions, you can:

  • collect the answers as you go.
  • share the answers to a specific question in yet another piece of content. Or two. (Or three.)

This means you make collecting data from multiple interviews part of your business content strategy. I’ll admit it sounds like research 😉

This approach will let you (re)share parts of your content much later in a different context following the principles of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

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Blogging impressions: this is when you stop talking about yourself

A while ago I blogged about the difference between a journal and a blog. This post centers around the question when you should or shouldn’t blog about yourself.

An offline journal is usually written by you, about you and your latest experiences, and for you – and maybe a few others. Old ship’s journals or logs are like that. “Sailed 14 hours straight today, ended up at a new undiscovered patch of ocean in the middle of nowhere, possibly near India.”

Image by Dennis Skley [Flickr]

Easter eggs image by Dennis Skley [Flickr]

In the online version, a lot of readers can read along and enjoy your jokes or sympathize with you on a bad hair day.

Blogging, like I wrote in my earlier post, means you focus on your readers. Ideally you start a conversation with your readers. So how much can you talk about you on your blog – and when should you stop? What are definite don’ts?

Private blog: when do you stop blogging about yourself?

Hey, I’m not telling you what you can’t do in a general sense. It’s your private blog or possibly journal, not mine. However:

  1. If you catch yourself ranting or whining, stop. Don’t whine or rant.
  2. If you do decide to whine or rant, tell your readers why. And then make sure they take away a couple of tips like:
    1. Boiling the Easter eggs before painting them is a good idea.
    2. Appearances can be deceptive. Just a few pitfalls I fell into which you should avoid: 1, 2, 3…. 24… (perfect list post).
    3. How I tried to make money sleeping and was swindled out of my life savings in just under a week. (Surprise: takeaway tips should tell readers how to hold on to their money.)
    4. What blogging might lead to – see my post about my experience with the side-effects of blogging.

The entertaining type of post beats whining by a streetlength. If you know an appropriate street, let me know in a comment 😉

Business blog: when do you stop blogging about your company?

Don’t blog about yourself. You might ask how you’re supposed to do that but seriously, your blog should be as little about you as possible. Focus on taking the picture, not on being in the picture.

A few further tips:

  • Don’t tell me your company and services are unique. Share thoughts and facts based on your personal experience to show the (possibly unique) value you can add, without getting up people’s noses.
  • Don’t lump your readers into a group they don’t identify with just because you see them as a market segment. Whenever you do this, you’re taking yourself as a starting point rather than your readers’ interests or your clients’ needs.

When can you talk about you?

Feel free to share your happy (business) moments:

  • Upload that picture of your kitten after it crawled into dad’s empty pajama’s – you’ll keep people going for a week. (I’m sure my parents still have that photograph in an album from the, what, 1970s?)
  • Let us know you just launched new product X and how hard you worked. Then snap out of it and tell us how that will help us. Blogging is about your readers, remember?

What do you think: so long as you mind how you do it, talking or blogging about yourself or your business isn’t such bad thing – or is it? What are your definite don’ts in blogging?

Blogging and social media – reasons (not) to connect outside your blog

When I was starting up my blog I read all the advice I could get on blogging. This way I ran into long-time professional bloggers who stated that ‘your blog is your home base’.Connecting: WordPress and LinkedIn

Social media should be treated as ‘outposts’. The one thing I didn’t read was how that was supposed to work. You share your blog posts on different social media – and then what? People show up? Depending on the social platform you’re using that may happen at some point. Or not.

The assumption made by professional bloggers – and which you need to take into account when you read their advice – is that:

  1. You’re trying to make money blogging. That means the following things:
  2. You want to give your subscribers extra, high quality content that will get them another step closer to buying your product or service. In order to distinguish between ‘starting-level’ readers and potential customers,
  3. You need email subscriptions so you have a ‘mailbox presence’ with more-than-casual readers. For this reason,
  4. Social media connections, followers, and friends are less valuable than email subscriptions. You do need social media to facilitate your readers, but not spend too much time on the ‘outposts’.

What to do if you don’t intend to sell stuff through your blog? Connecting on social media could give you valuable extras on top of the the usual options for comments on your blog. Indulging in ‘small talk’ isn’t really an option on a blog that’s mainly about business topics. But your reader may not be ready to go onto the personal medium that is email. Or you may not be prepared for that kind of thing yourself. (Do you need more emails?) Social media might just fill the gap nicely.

From blogging to connecting on social media

Start by mentioning your (favorite) social media accounts on your blog. Adding them to your ‘About’ page allows you to state which account you use for what purpose.

You’ll get the best value from any interactive media if you’re already a user. Because you know how it works and you already have some friends, fans, followers, or connections who may share at least part of your (professional) interests.

LinkedIn for B2B connections

For business to business contacts LinkedIn is at present a good option. It moves at a more leisurely pace than Twitter, which means you don’t need to send the same message over and over just to get over the noise. It does mean you need to share a bit about yourself on your profile.

Some marketing professionals consider that you should connect with anyone who asks to be connected with you. People outside the realm of marketing tend to keep LinkedIn for people they know professionally. This is not a 100% absolute rule though! The keyword here, like anywhere else, is trust.

Connecting with other bloggers starts on their blog

Why would you want to connect on LinkedIn if you’ve never even commented on someone’s blog? If you want to approach people on a two-way social platform like LinkedIn make sure these are people who have:

  • consistently liked your posts (not single-topic likers).
  • liked your About page.
  • commented in a way that shows a mindset, or values, that are not unlike your own. After all there may be a reason why they like your ‘family’ posts but not the posts that feature, say, hunting scenes (are they vegetarian cat-lovers? Who knows).

Taking the jump onto LinkedIn: state your business

When you ask a fellow blogger to connect with you, state your business. Why? Because you can (from your desk top). If you visit someone’s profile and invite them to connect:

  • alter the standard message to make it clear why you’re interested.
  • Your blog name may not match the name on your profile, so mention your About page and make sure that page points back to your LinkedIn profile.

When can you connect on LinkedIn if a fellow blogger doesn’t know you?

First let me repeat my earlier question: why would you want to, if you’ve never commented on their blog? But let’s say you don’t like commenting.

I’d say you should at least share a group and, more importantly, a discussion on LinkedIn. How do you make that happen?

  1. What you can do is start by joining a group the other person is a member of. The only good reason to do this is if you’re genuinely interested in the topic of the group. Take part in conversations. If the other person is actively posting in the group you can comment on their discussions.
  2. There has to be a basis for a connection. That basis may be tiny if you’re a thousand miles apart and unlikely to impact each other dramatically. But it still needs to be there. A discussion may help bridge the gap.
  3. Your fellow blogger may check your LinkedIn profile, so it needs to look professional. This isn’t your Facebook profile and your summary doesn’t need to look like it. It also doesn’t need to look like a blog post. LinkedIn holds your professional curriculum – no more, no less.

If you have a personal blog Facebook would probably make a better addition – and if you’re already very active there with (future) business connections it would also be a sensible place to start.

What’s your favorite way to connect with other bloggers? Add your thoughts about blogging buds, social media, LinkedIn groups and connections in a comment!

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!