Archive for the ‘Web dos and donts’ Category

blogging

blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Oh Twitter. I went without you for 90 days (sort of). And now I’m back on and following all my old peeps and remembering just how hyped so many things are in your little echo chamber of a text land.

For instance, I saw a tweet with the headline from a recent Social Media Examiner piece, it read: “Research Shows Blogging A Top Focus For Marketers.” That’s great news for writers and bloggers alike. It means if you’ve been trying to make your living off of blogging, soon you might just be able to do it! Blogger for XYZ company could actually be a thing.

The crappy part about the Twitter echo chamber and a lot of online advice is people often forget to tell you how much damned work it is to get that blog up and running, get people reading it, get your company all on the same page of what’s actually going to go up and what’s going to be helpful. Big business gets it. But little mom and pop shop may very well just read the headline and think it’s time to get a blog!

And just like they got a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Pinterest page, an Instagram account, a Tumblr and a YouTube channel, it too will sit empty.

The long and short of it is, all this content creation stuff… you know, the fuel you need to fill your online pipeline… it’s a shit ton of work. Remember how much it took just to get your business off the ground? Yeah. A full and robust online presence is like doing that all over again.

So while it’s nice and fluffy to think a blog is going to solve all of your problems, get more traffic through your door and more money into your cash register, it’ll be about as successful as opening your store before you’ve even shopped for your product if you don’t approach it with a long-term vision.

But if you insist on doing it anyway…

  1. Decide how often you can blog WITHOUT taking away from your IGA, no not the grocery store, your income generating activities.
  2. Decide what you’re trying to accomplish by publishing and keeping up a blog. Are you educating your customers? Sharing company updates and news? If you can’t figure this out, please for the love of all things holy, don’t start a blog. If some brainiac told you it would get you to the top of Google, don’t start a blog. If you think it’ll make you look cool and with it, don’t start a blog.
  3. Before you start publishing, make an outline of posts and topics you can create for the first 4-5 posts.
  4. If you can afford it, hire an SEO person to do some research for you on some likely keywords you can target. Give him or her bonus points if they can teach you how to research these yourself over the long-term.
  5. DON’T pay a web designer to make you a website for $5,000. Just open a free Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, etc. site, grab a template and get going. If you want a custom template, spend $80 on one. That’s all you need.

One more thing… if nobody reads your blog, it’s ok. They don’t read mine either. The first month I wrote Spirit of the Wench, I had 1 unique visitor. Yep. 1. Just keep at it. Consistency is key.

Good luck!

There’s a common misconception that social media is a cheap or free way to get your message out there. Many of us thought that at first. After all, there aren’t many barriers to its use, most platforms and apps at least have a free version available. When you come from a land where the monetary bottom line counts the most, sure, the use of online social tools might look like your free ticket to even more eyeballs. Except… they’re not.

When I lived in corporate Calgary land as the Electronic Communications Advisor at ATCO, we ran a contest for the 2010 Olympics. It was also our first opportunity to play around with social media. We had a Facebook page, I got the Twitter account up and running and we signed up for some listening tools with Radian6. We didn’t have much lead up time to building our audience before we launched the contest. And guess what? The social media bits were a flop. Sure, it felt warm and fuzzy to be able to post about all of the kids we were sending to Vancouver for a day, but what did it really do in terms of contest submissions and at connecting with a larger audience? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

In a larger context, it was a huge success. It was the first toe dip in the online social water for a major Calgary company. And overall, the response from those we did connect with was positive. Having Radian6 in place during the campaign helped me garner a lot of the data I needed to show our management team the types of conversations that were happening online directly related to our brand. Not our competitors, not some other company, but US. Yes, in this context, big success. But… do you know the hours and the fight I put in over the years to get that in place? And during the campaign, all of the time setting up the profiles and condensing the information into something they’d understand? I’d look at tag clouds, rivers of information, growing keywords and I could see the trends and get a decent picture of what was going on. But then again, I lived it, ate it and breathed it. If it’s going to be of any use at all, you have to.

Social media is NOT cheap. And it’s not low-budget either. It works in two scenarios. You either need the dollars to buy someone’s time to invest in listening or you need your own time to invest. And depending on who you are or what your organization is, it might not be the right fit for you. Do the evaluation. Make the smart choice on whether your time is better spent navigating this world and ensuring all of your current processes are running as efficiently as possible, or if it’s time to amplify your message. You might have bigger fish to fry first.

Remember. You first. Your health and well-being. Then that of your company/nonprofit/organization, this includes the employees, volunteers, customers and so on. If you’re all good in the offline world, move forward into the online world. But never, ever, ever to the detriment of your day-to-day operations. The internet amplifies. And if you’ve got problems, it makes them worse (Note: There are scenarios where we’re forced into online conversations in a time of crisis, but that’s the exception to this post). Or if things are coming along swimmingly, more will come your way. That’s just how it works. And you’ll still need a plan and a team and resources in place. Real resources. Time and money to ensure things continue to go well and you’ve got the support you require to handle the growth.

So, not free. Not low-budget. And definitely not to be taken with a grain of salt.

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children's M...

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t put it on!

There are  plenty of tips and tricks and best practices out there. And they come from very well-meaning people who’ve likely had some rate of success with them. But here’s the thing, just like we tie our shoes differently, whip up our favourite guacamole with different ingredients, or communicate with our friends, relations and customers in different ways, so to should we each be finding our own way to flex our social media muscles.

So, tip #1: It’s good to try out new tactics and strategies, but if it just doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to abandon it. It doesn’t matter who the tip is coming from.

Social media users from any network are pretty savvy people. They can smell a fake from miles away. And they’ll be the first to notice  if you’re doing something that’s just not natural for you. So if the shoe don’t fit… go try on a different pair.

So… did you read my last rant post? Yeah, a mere two minutes after publishing, what should I check? Facebook. And what should I find? A tag pointing me toward my friend Reg’s post about his first ever podcast that has no name yet with Lonnie Taylor. And… it’s really interesting.

*foot in mouth*

At least I’ll admit it. :p

Now… go listen to it (and not just because they talk about me in it.)

Whether it’s on Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, Google or some other mobile check in platform, if you’re a business owner, there’s no way in hell you should ever be checking in to your own business. Why?

It’s lame.

You’re there everyday. Say hello to us, comment on our check ins. But quit stealing our thunder.

Check ins. Highly social. Very much a game. I fight other users for my dukedoms on Yelp. And it’s cool, cuz we’re on a level playing field. But the minute a business has its owner or one of the employees as the duke, mayor, whatever other “winner” of the game, I stop checking in. And when I stop checking in, I stop telling my friends where I’m frequenting the most. It’s cool to be the most “regular” of regulars at the shops I love. It’s shitty when I have to compete with business owners, employees and anyone else that has an ulterior motive. And frankly, as innocent as it may seem, I put it in the “black hat” social media tactic category.

So if you’re in the habit. Please stop. A better alternative? Become a player yourself. Check in to the businesses you love… but here’s the real kicker… make sure they’re ones you aren’t affiliated with. Then you’re one of us, we trust you and we’re all better off.