Value for time – what content is worth your while?

In any shop it’s always been like this: you’d be looking for value for money. And nowadays big online and offline stores are trying to give you (the impression you’re getting) just that.

But what about the content we consume? We don’t pay for that as a rule – or do we?

Apart from the whole “you’re paying with information so advertisers can zoom in on your unspoken needs” on the basis that your (online) actions speak louder than your words.

(If it comes to that, I need to do more online because frankly, the image of my age group plus gender I get through the advertisements vying for my attention is depressing. Apparently, as a 40+ female, I’m supposed to hanker after skin peelings (no thanks!), to be overweight (not even close), and like knitted clothes (well – okay. But I blame at least one, white, romantic bordering on cute knitted spring vest that’s been hanging in my closet for 6 years now on early pregnancy hormones).)

Value for your time?

The biggest sum we pay is the time we spend. It’s a combination of click-through (time to open a page on any website) plus actual ‘dwell time’ on the page. Mark Schaefer mentioned just this week on his blog that:

  1. people still find time for long reads (long form articles)
  2. that these long texts actually get shared more often than short ones
  3. that people are more likely to view content shared by their friends.

From my own experience (that is one person, I know) I agree that long texts are more shareable.

If you’re to click on a link and wait for a page to open, you expect that whatever you find is going to be worth your while, right? So if, after viewing any kind of content, you wonder if you should share it, what exactly are your criteria? I would expect content to be any of the following:

  • funny
  • beautiful
  • cute
  • interesting

If that content ticks several boxes at once that gets us into the Owww, Wow, what? or Awesome! mode (severely funny may also do it, but that might also sound like Ewww – yuk!).

This is probably why sunsets and kittens and people doing silly things are right up there with the must-have long reads (whether that’s neurology, climate, poetry, or fiction. Personally, I’m just about to finish re-reading a very long text on paper, which is in fact a book by Terry Pratchett).

Delivering on a promise

More time spent, the more you expect some kind of reward for the trouble you’re taking. After all, you could be spending your time on something much more fun or useful (rewarding) than reading this stuff, right? That’s what I try to tell others whenever I feel their content just doesn’t deliver. And it can be such a small thing. Sometimes there are just two or three lines missing that would wrap the whole thing up nicely instead of leaving the reader hanging (in suspense, possibly. Or, perhaps, in some measure of anger). You don’t want anyone to end up feeling cheated. So you share stuff that is worthwhile in some way. Because if you waste your friends’ time, that doesn’t help your online street cred one bit.

So… do you keep your friends amused? Informed? Or awestruck by the beauty of nature? It truly doesn’t matter. Relevance (like for example beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.

More from me to be expected in between gardening in my garden, in my sub-rented bit of an allotment, and the nearby park and our windowsill greenhouse. The offline green stuff keeps growing!

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Content harvest: apples, pears, completely bananas?

Now that I’ve started adding a dash of gardening to my content, more and more ideas pop up. Let’s see if there are useful weeds among them 😉

One question that occurred to me was:

Is there something like harvesting content?

Content harvest: apples

I suppose it’s what you do in an organization with a lot of content creation going on in outlying regions. It’s also what you do when you’re scouring the internet looking for interesting bits of information you can then share through whatever means.

There are a few issues at harvest time of course.

  1. Some apples rot or get eaten while still on the tree. Unless you spray anything you don’t like into oblivion. But I’d like to eat apples, not chemical residues.
  2. Some apples fall before you get to them and get pecked by chickens and devoured by ants or other insects (one minuscule bite at a time).
  3. Other apples just seem to laugh at your efforts by not being worth picking. Even thought they started out looking quite promising, they haven’t ripened the way you’d like them to.

Once you’ve harvested your bits of content, you want to keep them dry and snug for a while to use when you’re ready.

So compare this with ideas for your blog. Sometimes you get plenty of ideas, sometimes it’s as though you get none at all. Jot down any idea when you have it and store it for later. In my case it really helps to get a few lines written so that later on, I won’t end up wondering why any specific idea seemed so interesting. You probably won’t use every single idea you had – some topics are too newsy to keep for a long time. But that’s fine, because you’ll have your ideas stacked all the way up to the ceiling and you’ll select anything you want to work on – when you’re ready to do so.

What do you do with all that content?

Well, that’s a bit of a luxury problem… one that anyone with a mature fruit tree will recognize.

  • Part of your ideas will be fine as they are. You’ll need to add very little to your initial idea.
  • Other ideas will need more work, especially if you left them for a while. You might end up with the content version of stuff like apple pies using your favorite content curation recipe.
  • Another part may have to go to your neighbors… you’ve got too much! This is when you consider sharing your ideas by going guest blogging – provided you also have the time and energy for that 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should you blog?

Would be that your reasons to blog may include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging impressions: two tips for (automatic) sharing

One lesson I learned from all the blogs I read before starting my own blog is this: Mind how you share. In this post I’ll give you two tips plus reasons why you might consider trying them out.

1. Check every sharing button on your blogMind how you share

This may sound silly but have you checked what happens if you click any of the sharing buttons on your blog? Serious bloggers have all manner of cool stuff added to their blog, like floating sharing bars, that make it easier to share their content – if it all works! You should be able to just share. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

However I wrote on this topic quite a while ago. My second tip is about something quite a few people don’t do – but they should!

2. Check your shared messages on social networks

If you’re on Twitter you may have noticed crappy tweets that stop mid-sentence because they were automatically shared to Twitter from another social network, like Facebook.

On the other hand, if you’re on Twitter and you share to Facebook automatically, you may end up with tweetlike stuff on your Facebook page. It’s why I added, tried, and then quickly removed my automatic sharing connection from WordPress to Facebook earlier.

Why share if you make it obvious that you don’t know, or don’t care, what your messages look like?

Using the Publicize option to share your blog posts

In case you’re not using it: on WordPress you have the option to connect several of your social network accounts to your blog. You can view and edit these messages just above the “Publish” button. Every time you publish, your message is shared to every account you’ve hooked up. Unless you uncheck the check boxes first. You can edit the message before you publish your post, but you can only send one message that’s identical for all networks.

A perfect tweet may well be a crappy Facebook update!

If you need your message to go out to several social networks:

  • Skip those #!#! hashtags (for Facebook)
  • Keep it short (for Twitter)
  • Check the result every now and then, say every 5-10 posts (This goes for IFTTT recipes too).

The good part of automatic sharing

I’m mostly so relieved to have pressed the “Publish” button at 10 PM on Friday I then shut down my laptop and call it a weekend. Which means that unless I use this publicize option I end up not sharing the results of my thinking and writing on social media until much later.

Having my automatic messages in place means:

  1. I can concentrate on writing my posts and, after I finish them,
  2. I have more time to read other blogs and to comment on them.
  3. When on social media, I can focus on the social bit 🙂

If you feel it’s too much hassle to get onto social media AND figure all this stuff out AND actually be active out there so you decide to not bother at all, that’s completely fine by me. I understand and appreciate not bumping into your ‘zombie’ Twitter account 😉

That’s it for this year! See you here next year. If you’d like to add your thoughts about sharing please do so in a comment – I promise I’ll respond to your contribution!

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