Posts tagged: blogs

Anti blogging cliques

Dear bloggers,

Please disable the “must be registered to comment” function of your blog. It pretty much guarantees that I won’t interact with you. And it throws me right off your site – off to engage with someone else. See, I have no problem with inputting my name and contact information in the contact form. I don’t even mind the annoying captcha box. But if I have to login and create a password for your site in order to comment, I won’t do it. And that means I read your post, had something brilliant to say about it, and then kept my thoughts to myself, walking away frustrated.

anti-discussion blog

Here’s the deal. Do you really think you’re so important that I want to be a member of your blog community? That I want to add your blog login information to my ridiculously long list of login authentications? And when it comes down to it, how secure is your community? Since most people use the same login information for their banks as they do for less secure sites, what happens when there’s a data breach?

When it comes down to it, people will only participate if it’s convenient, unobtrusive, and easy. Make it easy to comment and you’ll be surprised how many people start to engage with you. That’s what builds community, and that’s what makes it interesting. (Unless, of course, you’re looking for a place to exercise the art of the monologue, speaking into the void.)

The moral of the story is: Unless you’re a megalopolis of an online community that adds some huge value to entice me to join your exclusive community, disable the required registration function. I don’t want to be one of your clique-buddies. I just want join the discussion you started.

Posting on Postling

A discussion on LinkedIn clued me in to Postling, a free online service that helps people like me manage multiple social profile accounts. I registered my free account at Postling a few weeks ago and have used it on and off to tweet, blog, and engage on multiple sites. Here’s the nitty gritty of it.

Interface

Maybe it means that I’m getting old (or, shall we say, more sophisticated… wiser…), but I love the large print and text entry boxes in their site design. It’s inviting, clean, and highly user-friendly.

Ease of Use

Postling makes it easy-schmeasy to switch between different account for blogging, tweeting, and more. What Postling supports: WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, SquareSpace, Tumblr, Drupal, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr.

What they don’t support: Everything else. Of concern to me is Posterous, LinkedIn, link sharing sites like Digg and Delicious, and other photosharing sites like TwitPic and what-not.

If your primary accounts are in the the list of what Postling supports, you’ll likely be pleased with the functionality and ease of it all. Postling allows you to create separate brands and manage your accounts under those brands – perfect for someone like me who manages social media for several different companies. But it would be just as great for a stay at home mom who wants to manage her personal blog separately from her Etsy business, for example.

Click to publish and scheduled posting are great. And, might I add, you can schedule Twitter posts too. I can’t get over that! I just love to know that I can schedule an important tweet to publish while I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair or doing something else that keeps me offline. Love it.

The interface for blogging is similar to the major blog services – text editing and WYSIWYG. If HTML is your thing, you can hit the little “source” button to edit that way.

Did you know that it also has its own blog capability? Yep. It gives you your own Postling page with a blog and a sidebar that includes links to your other accounts.

Cons

So, it’s pretty. It’s clean. It’s easy to manage multiple accounts and brands. In fact, it’s so easy my mom could do it. (Not that she’s tried, but I’m pretty sure she could if she was into that kind of thing…)

But…

I can’t listen. I have to go to a blog reader or Twitter client to listen. So I go back and forth between Postling and Google Reader and TweetDeck. And let’s face it. It’s easier to participate and engage from TweetDeck directly – I mean I can retweet or reply to someone just by hovering over their picture. In Postling I’d have to type in their name. I know – I’m lazy. But convenience is big when you’re managing multiple accounts on multiple platforms.

Since social media is all about being, well, social, I need to be able to listen. After all, a one-sided conversation isn’t a conversation – it’s a monologue.

If there was a way to incorporate a feed reader, I’d have to call it perfect. And spend my days hovering – 24-7.

So I suppose my family should be happy that isn’t possible. Time will tell if I’ll continue to use it. I still spend time on my WordPress dashboards playing with plugins and widgets. So it doesn’t make sense to head over to Postling when I’m already in a dashboard I can post from. And it doesn’t make sense to leave TweetDeck.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s easy on the eyes. And easy to use. If you’re looking for a way to post to multiple sites simultaneously, or schedule your Tweets – Postling is perfect. Unfortunately it isn’t quite perfect for me. I spend more time listening than talking, which makes listening (or reading) paramount. So there it is. Postling is a great place to wax lyrical and switch voices as much as you’d like. But you’ll have to get your feedback and response (and your fodder) someplace else.

Nice start, Postling. You do what you do very well. Now if I could just get you expand your functionality a bit.

Update: From @Postling: Thanks, it’s coming soon! In the mean time, we do offer tracking of Twitter mentions and FB Wall Posts under the “tracking” tab.

I’ve enabled tracking in my Postling account, which apparently is free only for a limited time. It will eventually be a premium service (there has to be a revenue stream to make the investors happy, right?) Only problem I see is that tweet above from Postling appeared in my TweetDeck immediately. 10 minutes later it still hadn’t shown up on my Postling tracking page. Er, fellas?

Why businesses need blogs

Thanks to Social Media Examiner for pointing out the September study by McKinsey that polled global companies about their experience with Web2.0 (or Social media).

More than one-half of respondents (52%) said Web 2.0 tools increased marketing effectiveness, while 43% reported higher customer satisfaction and 38% reduced marketing costs.

Companies cannot simply adopt these technologies and expect their customers to use them en masse, however. Among firms reporting measurable benefits from Web 2.0, 74% said it was important to integrate the tools with other forms of customer interaction, and 52% said marketing the Web 2.0 initiatives themselves was a best practice.

Let’s take a look at how blogs, specifically, can be helpful.

  1. Internal communication with employees and staff. Blogs foster cross-functional knowledge sharing and collaboration between departments. They reinforce key company messages like vision and mission, and help the company turn its people into evangelists. The more the message is communicated, the more the staff will know how to communicate it to others.
  2. Customer-related purposes. Blogs are an ideal place to make yourself useful to customers, clients, and users. It’s a medium to share information about your product or service as well as complimentary products and services. For instance, a blog for a residential maid service might post articles on how to ensure your housekeeper is efficient, how to maintain a level of clean between service, and how to reduce clutter and organize well. It’s brilliant. Give your customers something useful and they’ll return to your site often. Any marketer knows that the more time a client spends in your store (and your website is your online real estate), the more money they’re likely to spend with you.
  3. Working with external partners/suppliers. What happens when you become known online as an authority in your industry (which is exactly what happens when you blog well)? You get attention. You get attention from resellers, industry publications, vendors, and all sorts of people and companies that you can partner with to raise your company’s brand.

The study above shows that 51% of companies polled worldwide are experiencing measurable return from their blog. We’ve just given 3 reasons why blogs are successful. In our experience we’ve seen blogs raise company websites to the number 1 link on popular search engines. We’ve seen blogs draw customer support for the brand and entice attention from industry experts. Does your company have a blog? If not, why not start one now?

Harnessing the power of Social Media

As blogging gradually eases its way to becoming an somewhat acceptable mode of journalism, PR agencies are taking note (finally, I might add). A great article over at AdWeek details how some of the greats of the advertising world are harnessing the power of social media. It seems that word of mouth is merging into word of QWERTY, albeit not so spontaneously.

I love the idea of going beyond banner ads into more ‘authentic’ media, but there’s a part of me that finds sponsored posts somewhat despicable. Granted, I’m one of those old-school bloggers, tied to the archaic ideas of authenticity and validity. Maybe if I were doing this for personal gain or a get rich quick scheme I’d be more receptive to someone paying me money to say they made the best widget in Widget-world. Maybe I missed the bandwagon. Am I the only one who reads a blog post giving a stellar review of an appliance, or a book, or the newfangled shiny cog in the machine and instantly recognizes it as fluff?

Sure! I love the idea of marketing peeps and advertisers jumping on the social media bandwagon. But I also think a level of authenticity is called for and sponsoring posts is the digital equivalent to infomercials or those annoying “paid advertising sections” of the magazine that look just like regular pages, only they’re poorly laid out and filled with… fluff (and small print whispering that it’s inauthentic).

Call it old school. Call it naive. But a good friend of mine once said “The truth is your best tool.” (Thanks, Jerry, from the The Change.) Jerry was right. I want agencies to clue in and ride the social media wave. But I want them to do it for real – not with astroturf but with the truth – the kind you can stand on when the rains come.

Social Media Myths

Joel Postman had a great article debunking social media myths. He tackles 5 social media myths that are pretty important overall, and comes to the following conclusions:

1. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Contrary to what some think, Twitter is not replacing email. Don’t jump to conclusions – the use of email may be in decline in some spheres, and its role may be in flux, but email is still a trusted form of communication.

2. The CEO has better things to do than blog. And yes, that’s the way it should be. While blogs can play an important role in a company’s PR and marketing strategy, they are not part of a CEO job description.

3. Age demographics in social media are dynamic. Facebook is greying, LinkedIn is getting younger, MySpace is getting younger too, and Twitter remarkably tends to remain the same. Don’t lump all social media into one category, and if your business is trying to use social media strategically, you may need to turn to a professional social media consultant for their mind-blowing guru skills in navigating the waters.

4. In social media, what you type matters. The use of emoticons (smiley faces ;) and such), spelling, grammar – it all reflects on you. And frankly, it takes a special kind of skill to convey meaning in 140 characters or less. Tight writing, imagination, and attention to detail are important.

5. Social media campaigns aren’t always ‘viral.’ In fact, they often aren’t viral. If you’re looking to start a viral campaign, try some spontaneity, mix it with a bit of amateurism, add a healthy dose of authenticity and you’re well on your way to making an admirable effort towards viral. Social media may well be the medium you use to deliver it, but registering a Twitter account and posting weekly isn’t going to do it for you.

Freelancer's best friend

Hat tip to Mitch at Six Degrees of Separation for his post on Social Media as threatening to freelance writers. He rounds it out nicely, giving some tips to freelancers about how to use social media to their favor. There’s an interesting dialogue out there with more than a handful of writers out there expressing elitist claims about how blogging has given even the least savvy writers access to readership.

Between blogs, wikis, and social media groups, anyone can have their say and the average reader has to sort through it to figure out what is fact and what is fiction (which is precisely why rumors float around about Obama being a radical muslim, Senate bills making gun ownership illegal, and hoaxes about non-existent crimes).

At the same time, social media is earth shattering in three very distinct ways:

  1. Open source digital media plays into the hand of the truly knowledgeable. It sets apart the experts in the field from the fake-it-till-you-make-it crowd. In the same way the Linux and open source software leveled the playing field for the “little guy” who wouldn’t have a chance against Microsoft’s Goliath, so social media opens up the playing field for the freelancers who really do have something original to offer. Of course, that doesn’t help a whit for the guy sitting on his couch watching daytime TV thinking freelancing may save him from ever having to do ‘real’ work.
  2. Socia media opens up the world of collaboration beyond what it would traditionally be. If I want to start a microfund in Zimbabwe I can find instant connections to people on the ground. If I want to read stellar short fiction about pet owners (riveting, right?), I can do that too. If I want to learn what’s on the mind of women in Iran, that’s online too. That means I can find the information I need, but it also means I can find the inspiration I want, and gain perspective from people around the world.
  3. I can be an expert. It doesn’t matter if my expertise is in Shostakovich’s influence on Russian socialist realism in the late 1930s or the Calivistic roots of the Industrial Revolution. I can be an expert and interact with other experts. I can prove my worth to would-be employers and run with the big dogs – if I can keep up with their research. A little time, some google-savvy-ness, and a few tidbits of SEO tools can keep me (or you) at the front of the pack.

I can see why social media might be threatening to some freelancers – it separates the wheat from the chaff. But assuming I’m whole grain, social media is the best way for me to promote myself. That goes for companies too – social media is the stomping ground where we find out what’s at our core. Social media has a knack for placing entities – individuals or companies – right where they belong. So how about you? Are you whole grain? Or chaff blown away by the wind? Or have you even made your way to the threshing floor?

Image Credit: Sandman1973
Image Credit: Sandman1973

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