Blogging Is Easy….With the Right Approach

By Mark Evans - September 15th, 2014

I always find it interesting to read articles about how to discover ideas for blog posts, how to stay organized, or how to drive distribution.

It’s helpful advice but it tends to over-complicate blogging, which has much to do with writing content on interesting topics.

It’s really that simple.

The problem, however, is people tend to over-think how and why they blog. In the process, it becomes a multi-faceted approach overwhelmed by strategy, tactics and planning.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead, blogging should be something that happens naturally or, at least, happens by simply creating a measured approach.

When a blog is rumbling along, the ideas and posts flow. There’s no writer’s block or a lack of things to write about. It just seems easy.

How does that happen?

In some respects, it’s a matter of not trying too hard to make things happen. Yes, that may sound simplistic or unstructured but blogging shouldn’t forced or a lot of work.

Here are some tips for making blogging easy and, hopefully fun:

1. Keep a close eye for ideas wherever you go and whatever you read. Think about how something could be an interesting blog post by developing your own take on something, or reacting to someone else’s ideas or thinking.

2.blogging Allowed yourself to be inspired rather than thinking about blogging as something that happens by coming up with a long list of editorial possibilities. Sometimes, blog posts idea come out of nowhere when you’re not working. And often, these are the best posts because they materialize when you least expect them.

3. Keep a notebook for ideas, even if they are half-baked. Sometimes, a blog post idea takes time to completely emerge so its essence needs to be captured right away. Another approach is writing quick drafts in WordPress that may feature a headline and/or a few sentences.

4. Write a variety of blog posts, rather than the same kind of posts day after day. It’s like visiting Baskin Robbins, rather than eating vanilla ice cream all the time. It’s a more interesting way to write, and a better way to serve your audience.

5. Think about your “customers” (aka readers), and their interests. What are kind of things that they would read to be engaged, entertained or engaged. What kind of things would encourage them to invest a few minutes of day on your blog?

6. Spend as much time on the headlines as the blog post copy. A bad headline will cut a blog post off at the knees.

7. Use images and links to spice things up and offer more information. There’s nothing like a wall of text to quickly discourage someone from reading a blog post.

8. Answer questions that your customers are asking. To discover the questions being asked, talk with your employees – people in customer service, sales, marketing, etc.

9. Blog when the iron is hot. If an idea pops up at 5 a.m. or midnight, it’s a good sign to starting writing. It may not be the best blog post but sometimes an idea just needs to come out.

10. Don’t look at blogging as work, otherwise it becomes tough slogging and a drag to do. Blogging should be interesting. It should inspire, spark someone’s curiosity or educate.

Putting aside the mechanics of blogging (e.g. creating an editorial calendar, holding formal brainstorming sessions, etc.), what do you think the keys are to a good blog?

More: For advice on how to blog faster, check out Brad Blackman’s post on how to use a checklist or template.

Build Awareness through Social Media

By Mark Evans - September 12th, 2014

Donations-590x250With the popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and with the many causes that have flooded and leveraged social media to fundraise, it’s important that organizations ensure that they have raised awareness along with capital.

Social media offers the unique opportunity to know more about your charitable campaigns beyond the amount of dollars raised.

For instance, ALS’ wikipedia page views are up 18% since the Ice Bucket Challenge commenced. The Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t alone in this field, even though it has fully dominated most newsfeeds this summer.

Race for the Cure, The Big Dig, Charity Swear Box, amongst others have all raised funds successfully on social media. The hope beyond money is that the message of why these campaigns exist gets across to a large and engaged audience. Essentially, to go viral in some capacity.

Each campaign must monitor and measure their website analytics, where users are interacting with their website, Wikipedia and any other satellite websites where information of their cause is kept.

On top of all of this, you need to closely monitor social media activity. Every tweet, post and comment must be part of your measurement and determining success.

An interesting point to note is that the ALS Wikipedia page in other languages has generated an increase in traffic, proving that this sparked interest from around the world.

This is not to say that the money raised isn’t the real cause, but the real value lies in increasing awareness which can lead to ensuring spikes in fundraise don’t take nosedives in the future.

Social media has the power to get a message out to the large group of people and have it expand from there. This has to be part of the intention when crafting these online campaigns.

Once the Ice Bucket Challenge subsides, it’ll be fascinating to see how the next few campaigns handle the challenge. As well, will people have gotten the message of what the Ice Bucket Challenge was really about.

Filtered Feeds And The Future Of Social Advertising

By Sheldon Levine - September 11th, 2014

This post first appeared on the Social Media Week global blog.

What a Filtered Twitter Means for the Future of Social Media

Twitter users were outraged this week – shocking, we know – to learn that Twitter announced possible plans to switch to an algorithm-drive content feed. If adopted, using Twitter would feel more similar to the user experience on Facebook, which also uses an algorithm-driven feed to filter the content that appears on users’ homepages. The result would eliminate the aspect that many users believe to be Twitter’s greatest strength – a raw stream of information and opinions filtered only by which users choose to follow.

As GigaOm points out, users are not pleased:

Twitter1

 

The real question for social media users to ask, however, is not how this change may affect Twitter, but what it means for the future of social media? Facebook and Twitter, the behemoths of social media, have found an effective model for generating revenue from ad dollars, which means we better get used to seeing promoted content across all of our social feeds. The social media advertising industry in the U.S. is projected to be $8.4 billion in 2014 – and grow to $15 billion by 2018.

The Future of Social Advertising

Although we’re all accustomed to incessant and irrelevant Internet advertising by now, consumers will no longer have to suffer through months of banner ads trying to sell them dietary supplements or jeggings after one regrettable Google search. Today, advertisers are finally equipped to actually bring consumers content they desire, or will desire.

More data about consumers’ preferences and desires exists on social media today than ever before. But while advertisers previously lacked the ability to harness such information to deliver worthwhile content, Sysomos’ social technology has progressed to a level where marketers can dive deep into communities of users. This allows them to produce specifically tailored content from what they say, what their friends say and what is said to them – all in real-time. This new technology allows social advertisements to finally deliver to consumers the content they’re actively interested in, and even predict their preferences. It’s the right content, to the right person, at the right time.

So does Twitter’s move to filtered content signal the world’s pending takeover by advertisers? Maybe – but at least we’ll be too engaged on social media to notice.

Social Media Finds its Voice Against CeeLo

By Mark Evans - September 10th, 2014

CeeLo-Green-Deletes-Twitter-After-Rape-CommentsSocial media is vocal and when it is time to let a brand, user or celebrity (who can be labeled as both user and brand) know how it feels, it can become relentless.

As discussed many times in this blog, all digital marketers and celebrities need to not just be careful of what they post, but also really consider the message they are sending.

Recently, musician and television personality CeeLo Green used Twitter to share his controversial beliefs on rape. The comments won’t be repeated here but needless to say, Twitter responded in kind.

The response was fast and harsh causing CeeLo to remove the tweets and deactivate his account but not before screenshots of the conversation made the digital rounds.

The real consequence for CeeLo was after news of this story surfaced, TBS canceled his TV show after only 1 season. A great reminder that social media carries very drastic real world consequences.

So many great lessons for digital marketers and PR practitioners, but it’s unfortunate that it comes at the expense of such harsh and false comments.

While most would never post on this issue unless for very specific reasons, the lesson is that social media is always vigilant and always on guard. Just as important to take away from this is that the consequences do not end in the online world, they will continue to follow you around.

As always suggested on this blog, organizations should stay far away from these topics, regardless of how vehemently strong the stance might be. If for some reason they pertain to your cause than enter very carefully.

Watching Twitter opinions congregate, mobilize and attack is really one of the great sights to behold in this day and age. It never ceases to surprise, and we should all be curious as to where it will wield its power next.

Lots Of Hype Leading To Today’s Apple Announcement

By Sheldon Levine - September 9th, 2014

Tim Cooks Reveals New Apple ProductsSeptember is the new Christmas if you’re an Apple fanboy (or girl).

If you watch the world of tech you’re likely aware that Apple will be making a big announcement today. September has become the annual time when they show off and release the latest version of the iPhone to the world. A lot of people have been waiting a while for this announcement as the phones are supposed to get an all new design, probably get larger and will likely have a bunch of fancy new bells and whistles.

But the phone (or possibly phones if the rumours are true) isn’t the only thing that people are excited to hear about today. It is also rumoured that Apple will be unveiling their first piece of wearable technology, which is expected to be called the iWatch. As well, earlier this year Apple showed off iOS8, the software that the new phones will run, and they have a tendency to release new mobile operating systems on the same day or within a few days after these September announcement events.

There’s a lot to look forward today.

Since a lot of people have been anticipating this day for quite some time, we thought it would be fun to look at the hype leading up to today in the social media world using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software.

We started by casting a wide net and looking for mentions of Apple and a bunch it’s already popular and newly expected products like iPads, iPhones, the iWatch and iOS. Doing a search for mentions of these things over the past six month shows a whopping 538 million results. We found 2,504,900 blog posts, 3,973,049 online news articles, 13,136,384 forum postings and 518,580,160 tweets.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

If we look at those mentions over time, we can clearly see that there’s almost never a lull in talk about Apple and its products. We can see that there was a large spike in activity around the beginning of June when Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, took the stage at their WWDC (World Wide Develop Conference) to announce iOS8 to the world. The second spike we see around the beginning of August is a strange one. After we did bit a research into the spike it appeared to be a few days of a flurry of tweets that were promoting a game for iPhones and iPads called Big Business HD, but we’re not quite sure why (no offence to the game makers).

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Chart

We then looked into which countries seem to be the most interested in Apple and their products. Not surprising, the most mentions of Apple and Apple products came from the United States. They accounted for 33.1% of all mentions. The next closest countries were China with 12.6% of mentions and then the UK with 6%. However, you can also see that a lot of other countries are represented in the pie chart below as the world seems to be in love with Apple.

Sysomos MAP - Country Distribution

For a better idea of how world-wide the talk about Apple is we pulled up a geo location heat map of where tweets about Apple and their products are originating from. In this image we can see just how wide spread the talk is throughout the globe.

Sysomos MAP - Geo Location Heat Map of Tweets

All of this data shouldn’t be so surprising though. Everyone knows that people love Apple products (and love to talk about them as well). So we wanted to also know which of the upcoming announcements today people are most looking forward to.

Here we compared talk specifically about the iPhone 6, iWatch and iOS8 to see what people were going to be most excited to hear about today.

Looking at talk of these three things over the past six months we found that the iPhone 6 has been talked about the most coming in with 7,888,715 mentions. That’s not too surprising seeing that iPhones are big sellers and people are more worried about their phone than what operating system their running on that phone. That said though, iOS 8 came in second with 3,222,731 mentions over the past six months, which is still a significant amount of chatter. The iWatch only racked up 1,645,256 mentions showing that people are still excited to find out about it, but don’t seem as concerned with owning a wearable device as they are with a phone.

Sysomos MAP - Share of Voice Comparison

When we looked at the talk of these specific products over time, that spike in mentions when iOS 8 was announced in June becomes much more apparent. It’s also interesting to note how over the past month as we got closer to today talk about the new iPhone 6 that is likely going to be announced today has been steadily on the rise.

Sysomos MAP - Popularity Overtime Comparison

One other interesting thing we noted while comparing talk around the products was where they were talked about. The iPhone 6 dominated social conversations in each channel we looked at, except in blogs. On blogs, the iWatch seems to be of the most interest. A theory as to why this may have occurred is that bloggers have a bit more room to speculate over things that reporters that write for online news sources and on Twitter you just get the general public, who is more interested in the phones than anything else. But that’s just a theory. What do you think?

Sysomos MAP - Comparison by Source

Are you excited to hear what Apple announces today? Let us know what you’re most excited to hear about. Is it one of the three things we looked at? Or will it be “one more thing” that Apple will sneak in that no one was expecting?

Social Media’s Quiet Superstar: Slideshare

By Mark Evans - September 8th, 2014

Within the social media “party”, Slideshare is the cool, confident and level-headed kid.

Slideshare doesn’t make a scene, try to attract the spotlight or do things that piss off other people. It just quietly rumbles along, making friends and doing thing that make people happy such as getting rid of its freemium model.

SlideshareAs important, Slideshare does a great job of giving people a place to effectively share their presentations.

I met with a startup entrepreneur recently who talked about how much traffic it generates when it posts content on Slideshare.

When asked to explain, he said there simply isn’t as much competition for attention as Twitter and Facebook where everyone is yelling to be noticed.

So, what is Slideshare’s secret?

I think it boils down to how Slideshare is an easy and effective way to share content.

Its success, in many way, is driven by its focus. You don’t find a lot of bells and whistles on Slideshare or a continual expansion of features. Slideshare just does what it does without making much of a fuss.

It has been interesting to see how little has changed with Slideshare since it was acquired by LinkedIn for $119-million in 2012.

Aside from the decision to eliminate freemium, LinkedIn appears to have left Slideshare alone rather than suck it into the fold – something it has done with other acquisitions such as Connected (a social CRM service that was a personal favourite).

Maybe the folks at LinkedIn realize that you shouldn’t mess with a good thing, so they have left Slideshare alone – at least for now.

It’s a smart strategy because Slideshare has such a strong reputation as a valuable service. What’s particularly interesting is how Slideshare’s utility has expanded even though it hasn’t gone out of its way to add more features. In a pretty organic way, people have started to use Slideshare in different ways.

For marketers, Slideshare’s unassuming personality can make it a really effective tool to publish and share content. Since it’s not a place that features loud place to have conversations, a flurry of personal updates or engagement, it’s not as difficult to get noticed.

As important, Slideshare makes it easy to share and consume content, particularly the ability to embed presentations on other Websites.

For people who haven’t used Slideshare, it’s worth exploring how it can be used for marketing, sales and sharing interesting content.

Why do you think Slideshare is so successful? What are some of the ways that you use it?

 

New Twitter Rules After the Death of Robin Williams

By Mark Evans - September 5th, 2014

article-2723742-207FF52400000578-54_634x422In the wake of Robin William’s shocking suicide last month, social media exploded with memories, kind words and warm wishes for his friends and family. Unfortunately, some of the tweets directed at his children were less than kind and thoughtful.

In light of his daughter, Zelda, being the victim of the harsh and cruel attention by certain users, Twitter has changed its rules as to what it deems to be inappropriate .

The new rule allows the family of the deceased to have hateful or inappropriate material removed. The Williams family worked with Twitter to create this rule and, unfortunatel,y it is a necessary one.

How big of a topic was Williams’ death on Twitter? There were about 63,000 tweets a minute on August 11, showing the range and power of Twitter and how many users were deeply affected by his death.

The posts that led to the rule change involved users sending Zelda Williams Photoshopped images of her father’s corpse and his cause of death.

Twitter is a newsfeed first and foremost but it also doubles as a place to share, reflect and learn. Williams’ death illustrates both  aspects, but it was wise of Twitter to create new rules to protect the loved ones left to read all of the messages.

All users and organizations know you are at the mercy of whatever is posted. There’s not much you can do when reading about a trending topic. You can ignore, retort or hope that others will come to your aide and defend.

The reality is that Twitter and all social media is a free medium where opinion flows every second in real-time. You have to be willing to absolve everything shot your way, but in this case it was too sadistic and personal.

Twitter is best served as a great and powerful newsfeed and arena for discussion. These negative moments are going to happen but Twitter should be applauded by not hiding behind that fact.

Millions Talk About The #ALSIceBucketChallenge While Raising Millions

By Sheldon Levine - September 4th, 2014

Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and others take the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

Last week on on the blog Mark wrote about the virality of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. And viral it has been.

The Ice Bucket Challenge caught on and spread super quickly across social media this past month. And why not? It was fun (kind of), it raised awareness for a good cause, it gave people a fun way to spread the word that they were into and it raised a lot of money for a charity that wouldn’t have usually seen that much (according to Wikipedia ALS has raised over $100M across a variety of charities).

With it’s great numbers in terms of fund raising, we thought that it would be interesting to take a look at what kind of numbers the #ALSIceBucketChallenge put up in terms of social mentions.

Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, we looked for mentions of #ALSIceBucketChallenge, #IceBucketChallenge and “Ice Bucket Challenge” and found more than 21 million mentions between the beginning of August and yesterday. First, we found 51,537 blog mentions, 106,478 online news articles, 96,353 forum postings and 21,114,062 tweets that have talked about the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary

Interesting to note; on Twitter all of those tweets equal out to 25,875 tweets an hour about the Ice Bucket Challenge. As well, it’s interesting to see that both men and women are tweeting equally as much about the Ice Bucket Challenge with women slightly beating out the men.

Sysomos MAP - Twitter Activity Summary

A lot of the sharing has been done though videos posted to Facebook. Because we only have access to public status updates, we found 821,080 statuses mentioning the challenge (but we’re positive there’s A LOT more that aren’t public).

Sysomos MAP - Facebook Public Status Activity

But not all of the videos have been shared just through Facebook videos. When we looked at YouTube we found that 402,806 videos have been uploaded in that same time period that had been tagged with or mentioned the Ice Bucket Challenge in their title.

Sysomos MAP - Video Activity Summary

The Ice Bucket Challenge has also been extremely popular on Instagram. A search for the hashtag #ALSIceBucketChallenge showed over 2.4 million posts to the photo and short video network.

Sysomos MAP - Instagram Activity Summary

In addition to that, just #IceBucketChallenge also showed over 1.4 million more Instagram posts.

Sysomos MAP - Instagram Activity Summary

So, where are all of these mentions of the #ALSIceBucketChallenge coming from? It appears that almost half of all Ice Bucket Challenge mentions are coming from the USA. However, when we look at our geo location heat map of tweets about the challenge we can see that the charity phenomenon has really gone global.

Sysomos MAP - Country Distribution

Sysomos MAP - Geo Location Twitter Heat Map

If only we could achieve numbers like this for other charities as well (and I’m sure we’ll see many attempts in the near future).

BONUS: I took the #ALSIceBucketChallenge last week, so if you want, you can see the video here.

Did Canada Commit a Twitter Faux Pas?

By Mark Evans - September 3rd, 2014

canada-geography-tweet-russia.siCanada might have gained many followers with their recent tweet to Russia and its tongue in cheek nature, but did they do the right thing?

The tweet in question was a mocking jab at Russia equipped with a map  that outlined Russian territory and what was not Russian territory. The tweet was labelled as a geography lesson after Russian trooped crossed the ukraine border and later claimed they did so accidentally.

The tweet came from Canada’s official Twitter account, was posted by a delegate working out of Brussels and has been shared more than 10,000 times. 

Much of this stems from earlier events in March where Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula under much scrutiny and controversy.

Regardless of whether one respects Canada’s bold stance on the issue, and their forthright and direct communication on the subject, should they have done this?Twitter is many things to many people, brands and organizations. It can be a tool of diplomacy but might not be the best tool for antagonism.

While Canada’s Twitter account can be applauded on some level, could their message have been sent more professionally and earnestly? The answer is yes but clearly that was not their intention.

There’s no doubt they were trying to stoke the fires of an already explosive situation.

It would never be highly recommended for other nations to go down this route. Social media is a great tool to connect with citizens, less so to combat other nations or to mock them.

The reason being is that online actions have offline consequences. Canada opened itself to some kind of Twitter retaliation (not necessarily from Russia directly) and that’s unfortunate when the account should be devoted as a two-way communication pipeline to its citizens.

Diplomacy is an area of social media that is vital and proven. Canada has an exemplary record in social media, and let’s hope this was simply accidentally and not a reflection of  activity to come.

Can Social Media Work for Schools?

By Mark Evans - September 2nd, 2014

ClassroomWith this being the first day of the school year (where did summer go??!!), a growing number of students’ school supplies includes smartphones and tablets.

In theory, these devices are supposed to enhance the learning experience, particularly media-friendly tablets. But we all know that a lot of digital activity has nothing to do with education – at least the academic variety.

The reality is once you open the Pandora’s Box to technology, it’s impossible to close it.

Given this situation, an interesting question is what role, if any, does social media play in the education system?

This can be addressed in two ways:

1. How students communicate with each using social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

2. How schools communicate with key stakeholders – students, parents, trustees, etc. via social media.

For students, social media is simply part of how they communicate. For many students, social media has always been part of their lives.

The question is how social media should be used within schools. Should students be allowed to tweet, update and video during school given it can be a huge distraction and time-killer? Does it make sense to ban students from using social media during school hours? You could probably have an enthusiastic debate given the polarities.

For school administrators, social media has lots of potential to improve communications and make what they do more transparent and accessible.

Historically, the flow of information from schools has been pieces that paper that usually end up stuffed in backpacks before they arrive home.

It’s definitely old school and far from being effective, real-time or interactive.

Social media, however, can change the communications dynamic by making information easily flow.

The use of Facebook pages, for example, for schools and classes provides a completely new way to disseminate information and, as important, facilitate feedback, discussion and comments.

While students are all over social media, schools are probably getting their heads around how to leverage school media.

It’s early days for social media within the education system but if structured and rolled out properly, it could be lead to many improvements in how we teach and how students learn.

What do you think?