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!

4 issues surrounding Google Plus

There are a couple of issues surrounding Google Plus and its success or lack thereof. One of them seems to be that it’s hard to survey people because they get confused. Are they talking about their usage of Google Plus, or of any Google service? Offering everything as an integrated, wholistic Google universe can do that. Continue reading

Social business: dead, alive and kicking, or business as usual?

For the past few years, ‘social business’ has gotten a lot of attention from a number of people. Very enthousiastic people. For various reasons, not everyone shared their enthousiasm. Social business has been declared dead a couple of times, probably because the innovators’ initiative didn’t seem to get a lot of tangible results very soon.

social business concept

A few recent articles point out different aspects – and views – of the drive towards social business. Continue reading

Online conversations: is automation worth your while?

A while ago there were plenty of blogs, including my own, reporting on the ways (fake) Likes, fans and followers on social media were at the heart of a commercial industry. Bloggers and heavy users of social media tend to automate or streamline at least part of their interactions.

Can you automate part of your actions without appearing – or being – ‘fake’ in the human sense? Should you?

Levels of engagement in conversations

Visitors and commenters: to automate - or not?The level of engagement involved in an online conversation can differ enormously. Dealing with online conversations can cost you hours upon hours. ‘Likes’ don’t seem to get a lot of follow-up by companies. However try to check up once a week or so – getting zero response is discouraging.

Related posts: Twitter automation, and A Clone War.

The role of automation in online conversations

What actions can you safely automate?

  1. Standard replies like “Thank you for the follow!”, “Thanks for the RT”, “Thanks for the mention”. This category was hit by Twitter’s decision to make automated actions by tools like IFTTT difficult. Meanwhile tools like Commun.it still collect new followers and interactions and compose standard messages for you to send. My advice: edit them.
  2. Messages on repeat thanks to tools like Buffer, like “Read my post on subject X” for the umpteenth time. My main problem is with people who quote at me when they’re not even online 🙂

Automating your responses to questions

While it’s up to you to decide what to automate, here’s my tip:

Try not to fool people into thinking they have a personal and meaningful relation with you when they don’t.

Answering questions literally on autopilot is tricky and that’s why not many businesses are doing it (yet). I once asked a new follower who had sent an automated “Thanks for the follow” tweet if they’d had a busy week, and the response was something like “Busy week! Check my FB page…”

I can’t tell you how to do this type of automation on Twitter without IFTTT but it’s probably either down to your budget or your technical abilities. But that’s beside the point.

Questions indicate a sincere interest in a topic or in you. Personally I would say never automate this type of action. Not even to seem polite.

Comments – the life blood of conversations

This is what you can’t yet leave to an automation tool (unless you have a really big budget). You don’t need me to point out that all comments are not equal. I suppose you could automate replies to really short “Great Post!” comments but is saying “thanks” really that much of a time waster?

For the more relevant comments: if you’re used to putting yourself on the stage through blogging or on social media, don’t forget others are not. The important thing here is to have a heart 🙂

Using Twitter and Twitter tools for your (very) small business

How do you start on Twitter if you have (are) a small business? Over the past year or so I’ve tried a couple of Twitter tools you may find useful. In this post I’ll run through a few ways to optimize your use of them based on what I’ve learned.

To get the most from Twitter tools for your business, start on Twitter

Twitter Birds - Twitter and Twitter tools for small business

Chickadees – 1908, American Birds. [Click to view image on Flickr]

Focus your approach from the moment you start on Twitter:

  • On business. Private contacts can warp the results that some Twitter tools give you because they dig through your tweets and followers.
  • On getting relevant, local followers. Seek out potential allies and customers in your region who are genuinely interested in your branche – and share useful content.

Focus on getting the right followers on Twitter

Don’t worry about your follower numbers (yet). Instead, aim for a solid basis of relevant followers:

  1. Make sure your tweets are on-topic 80% of the time. People should follow you (back) for the right reasons, or they’ll add no value at all for your business.
  2. Put in the time to find potential followers. Search for relevant topics and use hashtags: #contentmarketing . Research those topics on different (week) days to get a general idea of who’s tweeting when.
  3. Follow 20-30 accounts every day for a couple of weeks.
    1. Why not follow more? Following a lot of people at once is like shouting you’re not interested in what they have to say. You don’t want the followers you get like this – the kind that don’t listen.
    2. If you do follow more accounts per day, do 2 batches a day. One in the morning, another in the late afternoon. Why? See A.
  4. Scan new relevant followers’ streams for tweets you can retweet. People appreciate useful content even if you didn’t create it – and content creators will like you for sharing their content.

Suppose you get about 50 new followers every week, after two months you’ll have enough followers to look like you’re taking your Twitter activity serious – and to move on to your next step.

A small selection of useful Twitter tools

Before you try out any Twitter tools, check your Twitter settings. Notably your time zone. This should be accurate.

Now you can turn to a couple of Twitter tools to find more, relevant, followers.

Note: Twitter tools have a limited view of what makes other Twitter accounts relevant. They check bios and tweets for key words, number of tweets sent, and retweets. Twitter tools don’t cancel out the need to use your brain.

Tweriod

Tweriod will analyze your Twitter followers and come up with the times when most of your followers are active on Twitter.

  • To get the correct times, your Twitter settings must be correct. Tweriod doesn’t tell you which of your followers are just reading, tweeting their own content, or sharing other people’s content – just how many of them are online.
  • The free version will analyze a limited number of followers. For that reason, most of your followers should be relevant to your business.

Commun.it

Once you set a few key terms, and perhaps your website’s URL, Commun.it will give you a good sense of

  1. whether your followers are tweeting about the topics that you’re interested in
  2. if they’re tweeting about your business (website).
  3. who the main ‘influencers’ are among your Twitter followers.

You can use this knowledge to:

  1. retweet content that matches your followers’ interests;
  2. quickly check which followers you want to thank for retweeting your own content by mentioning them in a #FF or #FollowFriday tweet to all your followers. This may lead to some of your followers to start following these accounts. #FF tweets are generally appreciated for that reason.

Tweepi

Tweepi will help you:

  1. Unfollow. There are always Twitter accounts that you tolerate if they don’t annoy you on a daily basis. However, every once in a while you should muck out your Twitter stable. I’ve used Tweepi a few times and it works great.
  2. Follow Twitter users. I don’t use this option because I tweet about a broad range of topics. Having a good, relevant follower basis should help you get the right suggestions.
  3. Do a few more things I haven’t used it for because I don’t mind reporting Twitter accounts for spamming 😉

Tip: never resort to brainlessly (un)following every suggested account in the list.

IFTTT, Buffer and Hootsuite

  1. If you have plenty of content to share on a regular basis, but don’t want to spam followers with messages you mistakenly scheduled at the same time, try Buffer. Schedule to share messages a couple of times a day, and just fill up your Buffer whenever you get a mail saying it’s empty.
  2. If you want to share message X four days from now at 11.02 AM precisely, Hootsuite offers the ‘social media control room’ you need.
  3. For this blog, I use automated sharing by WordPress the moment I publish a new post. Plus an IFTTT-recipe which takes the change (my new post) on my blog and produces a new tweet ready in my Buffer.

Other Twitter tools

Don’t get me wrong, there are good paid tools out there that do a lot of things for you. But if you’re not ready to sign up for anything that will cost you the standard “Only 9 $ a month” these are a few money-free tools to get you started. This way, you can quickly get an idea of what you have, and where to take your (very) small business from here.

Read more:

What other tools have you found useful? Share your thoughts about Twitter tools & followers and social networks in general in a comment. Or find me on Twitter 😉

Why relationships deserve your time even if you don’t have any

A while ago I happened to read Mark Schaefer’s reply to a comment on his blog. He stated that nowadays there seems to be less time to nurture client relationships since the first few contacts are online. What are the consequences of our online quests?

Marketing concerns: points of contact

Network: How Are Your Business Relationships

Network: How Are Your Business Relationships?
– Cartoon by HikingArtist.com

From a marketing point of view, relying on face-to-face contact means you’re missing part of the client’s route towards making a buying decision – and you may miss out on a sale without even knowing it.

A lot of effort from (social media) marketing is aimed at going where your customer has gone. When you find them you don’t want to annoy them with pointless ads in a place where they don’t want your darn ads.

Content marketing is a way to patch up the hole in the long road of relationship building caused by the people’s access to online information. You want to be found before your potential clients create a shortlist that hasn’t got your name on it.

‘Online’ and the impact on professional relationship building

If you leave aside the commercial impact of having fewer meet-ups, there’s also a ‘human’ aspect that you need to address. Research and experience give you a good idea of what goes on in your client’s market. But to know instantly what’s in your client’s head even without having talked to them recently, you need to have a fairly complete understanding of your client’s personality and experience. It’s hard to really care about people you don’t know, and you’re at your best if you do care about them:

  • if you care you want to know,
  • you don’t care if you don’t know,
  • … it’s a Matrix again I think – feel free to sketch one 😉

All this means just one thing:

Your relationships deserve your time, even if you don’t have any.

If you have a lot of clients you may be able to buy some marketing tool to support this kind of online/offline relationship building. But not everyone has a lot of clients or the access to such a tool (and tools can’t solve every issue). Fortunately you can look at what you would have done in an offline relationship – rather than viewing social media as a megaphone you shout your message down.

You do need to plan when you need to meet up and what you’ll share at what stage in the relationship. Another thing you want to know is if your online content has inspired the trust you want to inspire in your clients. And: what can you expect from them at what stage?

Invest time in your relationships. Risk really getting to know each other. There are probably worse things in life.

Read more:

How do you view the time and effort you invest in your (business) relationships?

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!