Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

Seven Tools to Put Your Blog on Steroids

Blogging is hard work. It takes time, effort and creativity.

But there are lots of ways to jump-start your blogging efforts – tools that make you more efficient, productive and creative, while driving distribution.

sevenHere are some of the most interesting tools that I have come across recently:

1. Atomic Reach: a free plug-in that uses an algorithm to analyze and score the spelling, grammar and quality of your writing. For some people, particularly writers, Atomic Reach can be challenging because it changes how you write. In time, however, you begin to understand how to use Atomic Reach, and, in the process, it will make you a better writer.

2. Buffer: After writing a blog post, it needs to be distributed. Buffer is a free and paid service that make it easy to publish updates on multiple social media platforms. It recently introduced a new feature that makes a snap to schedule posts to appear at particular times (e.g. now, tomorrow, next week), which is a great way to leverage distribution over time.

3. Title Experiments: It goes without saying that a good, interesting or eye-catching blog title is an effective way to get people to take a look. Title Experiments is a free plugin that lets you create different versions of the headline, and then promotes the one attracting the most clicks. It’s a great way to test your creativity and get a better feel for the headlines that work.

4. Flare: Along with Digg Digg, Flare is one of the most popular plugins to let people share your posts via share media. Flare can be configured to display particular social media networks, as well as placement in different places on the blog post.

5. PhotoPin: There are many places to discover royalty-free photos, but PhotoPin is one of the most user-friendly and content-rich. You can search by use (commercial vs. non-commercial) and by type (recent, relevant, interestingness).

6. Optimizilla: After discovering the right photo or image for a post, there’s a lot of value in making it the ideal size to save on load times and resources. Optimizilla is a user-friendly and free service to quickly reduce the size of photos and images without losing much in the way of quality.

7. WordPress SEO: Google keeps changes the rules of engagement for search but WordPress SEO (a free plugin) provides a solid SEO foundation for a blog. It’s easy to configure your post’s keyword, meta-description and title.

Blogging Is Easy….With the Right Approach

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.

Find a Happy Medium in Social Media

mediumEvery digital marketer and PR practitioner should be searching for social networks that can help to drive their brands, communicate their core business propositions and connect with fans.

This means looking beyond what is popular today – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – to discover what has a chance to be popular tomorrow. After all, there are corners of the digital world where your potential audience might be hiding.

The social network  I’m watching is called Medium, created by Evan Williams of Twitter. If you haven’t heard about Medium yet, there’s a good chance you will in the near future.

Medium is designed to be a new blogging platform that is more story oriented. It is positioned to be a good place to post anything from white papers to recipes to simple branded stories.

It’s a simple idea matched with a simple and clean design but Medium is an interesting vehicle for many digital marketing initiatives if done right.

Remember, content isn’t king…good content is king.

If you tell your story (or even better get your fans to tell your story) and use proper keywords and keyword density, you can have a great impact connecting with audiences and, as important, meet your search engine optimization objectives. Of course, this is secondary to readability.

The important thing about Medium is it’s a new avenue to tell your story, which means you need to see if it can help your digital brand grow.

Seven Tips for a Great Corporate Blog

Have a corporate blog? Want to make it as good as you can? Here are seven straightforward tips to improve your blog.

1. Focus on your customers

If you’re just promoting your products, your readers will quickly turn away. A blog is not meant to be an ad or an online brochure. Focus on what your customers are interested in. Offer them useful information about topics related to your company and industry. Every once in awhile, it’s fine to mention a new product, feature or company news — but only after you have everyone hooked.

2. Have a plan

Blog posts take time, and nothing puts a writer off the project than not having a topic. Create an editorial plan in advance so you can post regularly (weekly or, ideally, more often), and not be scrambling for ideas. By planning in advance, you can take advantage of seasonal topics (such as back to school!) and major corporate news and events.

3. Read the competition

Keep your eye on what competitors are doing on their blogs. Don’t copy them, but use any unanswered questions to develop ideas for blog posts. Keep an eye out for things such as style, use of images and other techniques to see if they seem effective with customers.

4. Develop a personality

Use the writing of your blog to develop a voice that your customers can relate to. If your sector allows it, consider a casual and fun approach. A blog with character is more fun to read and could attract loyal readers.

5. Keep at it

Regular posting creates loyal readers and drives search engine “juice”.

6. Break it up

In general, blog posts should be 300-400 words. If you do write longer posts, most readers will lose interest. Even if your content is on word count, keep the text easy to read by breaking things up with subheads, number or bullets. Most people skim content online so breaking text up into chunks will help them zero in on the info they’re looking for.

7. Review

There’s a saying: writing is rewriting. Don’t expect the writing to go easily and quickly. Review your work several times — even the next day — before you publish. Don’t be concerned if it takes several attempts and rewrites to get the post to just where you want it to be.

How Many Corporate Blogs is Too Many?

BlogsA recent trend among brands is the creation of multiple blogs, each specific to particular topics.

For digital managers and content strategists, is this a good idea?

Brands like Target and Apple have a variety of blogs that represent the company, which makes a lot of sense from a strategic standpoint.

Different products, services and target audiences need to reach a more narrow groups. As well, a Tumblr blog could make the most sense in certain cases, but it should not be the primary company blog.

In general, large brands or brands with a significant online presence should have more than one blog.

The best way to go about it is from the bottom floor. Determine your primary audiences, and then craft a content strategy for the parent blog. From this blog, brands can spin off  niche blogs aimed at specific customers or interests.

Each blog should have its own content strategist. While this usually means someone pulling double duty, it is the most effective way to ensure each blog has a distinct voice, personality and content.

The bottom line: brands can never have too many blogs as long as each has a distinct purpose and there are resources to manage them.



Five Great Ways to Kill Your Blog

BlogsAs content marketing gains more momentum, blogging seems to be regaining some of its lustre.

While blogs may not have the sex appeal as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, they are the work horses of social media that provide much-needed content, as well as delivering insight and information to target audiences.

The reality about blogging is it’s not easy. It involves people, ideas, creativity, planning and a constant commitment. Blogs are creatures that demand a lot of attention, and success is often a long-term proposition as opposed to overnight success.

In reviewing hundreds of blogs recently for a research project, it was interesting and troubling to see how many corporate blogs fail to perform well or properly.

Here’s a list of five pitfalls.

1. Infrequent blog posts. Posts that appear haphazardly don’t work because an important part of what makes a blog work is consistency. By giving people an expectation of when content is going to appear  it is easier attract and build an audience.

On many blogs, there is no rhyme or reason for when a post is published – sometimes it’s is once a week, sometimes once a month. This suggests there is no editorial plan and/or content is created only when resources become available.

2. Dead blogs. It’s bad enough to write posts on and off, it’s even worse to have a dormant blog. This not only suggests a company has given up on its blog but shows it doesn’t have the insight to place it on the sidelines rather than front and centre on the Website. Simply put, dead blog reflect badly on a brand.

3. Content that is all-corporate, all the time. Even the most interesting brands can’t write about their products and activities all the time. It’s like having  conversation with someone who just talks about themselves. It is always surprising to discover blogs that have a steady stream of inwardly looking posts that don’t meet the needs or interests of target audiences. If this is your blog, it’s time to change your stripes.

4. Not providing value-added insight or information: As much as a brand wants to talk about their products, a key part of blogging is showing your willingness and ability to talk about key issues, trends and developments that interest or impact your target audiences.

Blogs give brands the ability to stand out from the crowd by exposing people to new ideas, people and products. Some good examples are the Mint blog, which provides insight and ideas about personal finance, and the Kissmetrics blog, which delivers a steady flow of great marketing content.

5. Not linking to other sources: A key part of blogging is providing readers with easy access to other blogs or Websites where they can get more information or different perspectives. Rather than driving people away from your blog, this approach makes your blog more interesting by establishing it as a place where people can get lots of value. Linking to other Websites also helps to build  relationships within the industry ecosystem by showing you’re able and willing to acknowledge the efforts of other people or brands.

By not falling into any of the above traps, corporate blogs can be successful and, as important, serve their audiences.

For more insight into the blogging best practices, check out Paul Boag’s post, “10 Harsh Truths about Corporate Blogging”.

Corporate Blogging is Not About You

blogging blogsWhy is it that so many corporate blogs only feature content about their products?

What’s the purpose of this approach?

Why do so many companies believe this content is interesting?

Why would anyone read this kind of blog on a regular or even semi-regular basis?

In doing some research recently on several different sector, it was puzzling to see so many corporate blog embrace the me-me-me approach.

If it’s not about their products, it’s about a partner, events attended, awards or media coverage.

Frankly, these kind of blogs are uninspiring.

Sure, they might be easy to write, “safe” and generate a little search engine juice but they’re more corporate brochures than offering value-added content.

For corporate blogs to thrive, they need to be educational, entertaining or engaging. They need to offer a variety of content that offers information, inspiration and insight.

Most important, it can’t be all about the brand all the time.

Corporate blogs thrive when they feature a healthy content mix. It’s alright to talk about corporate developments but it needs to be balanced by non-corporate content.

This approach serves the company’s needs but, as important, the needs and interest of readers, including potential customers.

Truth be told, these kind of blogs are more challenging and consume more resources because they’re not just marketing and sales collateral being regurgitated.

The upside is these blogs are more interesting and user-friendly.



How is Blog “Success” Defined?

BlogsWhat makes a blog successful?

Is it all about the number of visitors? Is it the number of comments, tweets, shares or links?

It is an interesting question posed by venture capitalist and blogger Tomasz Tunguz, who wondered if there was a way to know the identify of blog readers to get more insight into how a blog content was resonating.

The thing about blog success is there are many ways to measure it given it depends on the goals and objectives.

For some blogs, it’s all about the number of visitors. The more, the merrier. Many of these blogs use advertising to drive revenue so more visitors means more cash.

For other blogs, success is about attracting the right kind of visitors as opposed to all kinds of visitors. These blogs are focused on specific targets, and they aim to deliver value-added content that will start to establish a business or personal relationship.

There are bloggers that base their success on thought leadership and domain expertise. A blog is an ideal platform to put new ideas into the spotlight.

And then are bloggers who see success as having a place to express themselves.

At the end of the day, blogging “success” can be defined in many different ways. While pageviews are the best known metric, it probably doesn’t apply to most bloggers.

The common denominator for blogging is doing it with passion and creating content that meets the needs of the blogger and the people they want to reach.


Is the Blog Comment Sexy Again?

blog commentLast week, Livefyre raised $15-million in venture capital from a blue-chip group of investors that includes U.S. Venture Partners, Greycroft Partners, Cue Ball, HillsVen Group, and ff Venture Capital. Among other things, the money will be used to let Livefyre continue its “aggressive growth”.

So what’s interesting about a $15-million financing at a time when many startups are attracting lots of venture capital?

For people interested in blogging, the Livefyre deal is interesting because, in some respects, it puts the comment back into the spotlight.

Remember, the blog comment? When blogging hit the mainstream five or six years ago, there was a flurry of comments. This was probably because the ability to react to content was new and exciting.

Since then, however, the blog comment has seemed to fade into the background. Many people find it easier to use Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to share content, rather than write a comment.

But Livefyre’s financing could suggest the blog comment has more value than we think. Within the company’s product portfolio is Livefyre Comments, which many bloggers have adopted as an alternative to WordPress’s native comment system or third-party services such as Disqus.

Livefyre Comments has gained a lot of traction because it lets commenters highlight their only content, while publishers get a new way to use social media to drive content distribution.

“Livefyre gives brands and publishers the power to bring visitors back to their sites and build communities around their content,” said Livefyre Founder and CEO Jordan Kretchmer. “Dozens of the world’s largest media companies utilize our platform to turn their pages into real-time streams of social content.”

The question is whether $15-million of venture capital for Livefyre suggests comments are poised to stage a renaissance because there are tangible benefits for both publishers and the people who take the time and effort to leave a blog comment.

In other words, Livefyre makes the comment a win-win proposition for everyone involved.

As someone who has blogged for a long time, anything that will encourage people to leave comments is a good thing. A big part of what makes blogging so rewarding is having people engaged and involved with your content, so here’s hoping comments are on the comeback trail.

What do you think? Do blog comments still have value? Can the comment thrive amid so much social competition?

Blogging: Quality vs. Quantity?

bloggingA few weeks ago, we had a meeting at corporate HQ about the blog and its editorial focus. This included an interesting discussion about the number of blog posts created each week.

Since the blog was launched in early-2009, we have published five posts a week on a consistent basis.

Given the amount of activity within the social media landscape and the blog’s role as a value-add resource, it has been the right approach to engage with people, while continuing to build our content portfolio.

For many companies, however, five posts a week isn’t possible due to a lack of resources, a lack of things to write about, or a decision to have a less active presence.

Given these contrasting approaches, it naturally raises the question of quality versus quantity. Is it better to blog more to have a steady flow of content, or should the focus be on quality, even if means writing less?

While it be easy to say one approach is better than the other, the reality is there is no definitive way to do corporate blogging.

For some companies, publishing four or five posts a week is a key component of their marketing and communication activities. It provides them with a platform to deliver thought leadership, ideas, commentary and corporate news.

On the other hand, some companies believe that less is better because there is only so much they want to say on a blog. Meanwhile, they might have other marketing and communication activities that consume resources.

Another consideration is the appetite of your target audiences and the reach you’re trying to achieve. If you have an engaged audience that see blogs as a primary or valuable resource, publishing multiple posts a week makes complete sense. If you’re target audiences are not big blog consumers, writing fewer posts makes sense.

At the end of the day, blogging is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Regardless of your approach, the key is consistency. If you’re going to blog four or five times a week, do it week in, week out. The same goes if you’re only doing one or two posts a week. As long as your readers know what to expect, either approach will work.