Why a Google Profile is essential


What do you link to on your Twitter or email signature? Do you link to your blog or your Linkedin profile? Or what about your work website or perhaps even your Facebook?

I used to link to my blog on Twitter and my work email. Then the blog went through a long period of neglect. I also began to think that the social media subject of the blog was too narrow to reflect what I did as a digital director.

So I replaced a link to my blog with a link to my company’s website. But my professional network is very diverse with many different type of people from non-traditional media backgrounds communicating with me in many different channels. A link to a corporate website just did not feel right.

A brief encounter

Finally I stumbled on my Google Profile. I’ve had one for months but never quite knew why I had one. One day Alex Wood began following me on Twitter. I went to check out his profile as I tend to block followers whom I deem mismatched, however great they might be. Alex had linked to his Google Profile which was not just full of detail but listed a variety of links to both social networks and different kinds of websites.

The benefits are clear. Five or six years ago, your email was good enough as a link. Three or four years ago, you might add something like Linkedin. But social media extends your network to so many different types of people on so many different channels that you have to find a way to cater for all of them. Or rather set yourself up on the web so they find you how they want to.

Take my own job

I’ve added corporate social responsibility to my job over the last two months. I’m using my social networks to find new contacts or revive old ones. NGOs and charities are pretty much up to speed with social media. We’re finding each other on Twitter, for example. Meanwhile my old mates in travel, an industry with a long history of CSR activity, are all on Facebook. The cosy past when a link to a company website after your email signature was good enough has come to an end.

So now both my Twitter, my work and private email are linked to my Google Profile.

What do you link to?

Photo: Paleontour

A list of counterintuitive behaviour that will improve your use of the web


counterintuitive-oneTraditional media people – journalists, marketers, editors – are just like other professionals. They do the same things in print and via emails year after year because of intuition.

Success came about by

  • hoarding the content
  • broadcasting to the users
  • expecting a response
  • trying to please everyone
  • assuming everything was read
  • not engaging with the competitors

The more you get to use the web, the more you realise it works the opposite way.

Can you think of  other web behaviour that is counterintuitive?

If you think your followers/community on Twitter would be interested in this post, show them your value by reTweeting it to them!

Photo credit: Payton Chung

Five more online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog


campaigns-2Earlier this week, I launched the first of my two part campaign to encourage people to master five online skills before they start a blog. I promised five more online skills. So here they are.

Once again, I make suggestions for both journalists who already write for websites but also for people who do not have access to a website.


In the previous post, I encouraged you to identify a community.

You still need to find out all you can about that it through research.

You might find that your chosen community is overwhelmed with good blogs. What it actually wants is a closed group on a social network where it can discuss business issues. Without research, you might overlook the social network your community is already in. Why set up a LinkedIn group, for example, if your community is obsessed with Facebook.

If you are a journalist, a few questions on your website is one way to collect information.

If you do not have a website, why not use a social network? Join LinkedIn and write up your profile. Then join a group in a sector closest to your potential blogging community. Participate in the discussion areas. Why not ask a few questions yourself?

You don’t need a blog to do research.


One of the key questions in the research of your community for your blog might be “what information do you need?”.

Once you have the results, you could write a list of subjects in which your community is interested.

Whooa! Don’t let it become too long. Just as your blog will attract more users the more closely it focuses on your community, so those users will be more likely to return if you can keep the content within a narrow range.

Why not try to keep it within ten core subject areas?

Whether you are a journalist of not, visit some blogs and notice how the best blogs use few categories.

You don’t need a blog to work out the core subject areas for your community.

RSS feeds

Bloggers are, by the nature of the media they use, more likely to be web-savvy. Many of them sign up for RSS rather than email subscriptions. Whether you understand RSS feeds or not, find out before you start your blog.

Sign up to Google Reader. Sign up to some RSS subscriptions. Learn to manage you daily reading through RSS feeds.

You don’t need a blog to make yourself familiar with RSS feeds.


Have you noticed how certain parts of this post have links, in bold,  to other posts on this blog ? If you click through, do you notice how the same words appear in the original post’s headline? You need to do the same.

If you are a journalist, you have started to put links between stories, one of the five online skills to master before you start a blog that I mentioned in part one of this campaign. Try to use the same words as the previous post’s headline. It’s awkward at first – perhaps you need to rewrite the previous post’s headline – but you will get used to it. Over time, you will begin to notice how you write headlines ready for use as links in future posts.

If you do not write for a website, sign up to Twitter as soon as possible. The discipline of writing meaningful messages in 140 characters will improve the brevity and directness of your writing – all good practice for your future blog.

You don’t need a blog to learn how to write so that your content is more easily found.


You’re going to be so proud of your blog when it takes off. But you are only going to be able to assess the success if you have learnt to understand the quantity and quality of your traffic. One way to do this is to get to know Alexa. It shows the traffic and ranking of any site.

If you are a journalist writing for a website, why not input your own site. Then input your competitors!

If you do not have a website you can access, why not log in your favourite site and see how it compares to others that you view.

You don’t need a blog to learn how to analyse traffic.

Are there an other online skills that you think are essential to acquire before starting a blog?

If you think your followers/community on Twitter would be interested in this post, show them your value by reTweeting it to them!

Photo credit: Leonard Low

Five online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog


scream-if-another-blog1 When did people mistake blogging as a platform from which to mouth off their opinions?

 As a result of being asked to read one too many this week, I am launching a new two-part campaign. Five online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog – community, commenting, connectivity, collaboration and content. The second part – Five more online skills you must master BEFORE you start a blog – will be published next.

Make sure you’ve mastered the Five Cs before you start a blog. When you do at last set up that blog, it will be so much better for the effort.

(I should know. I launched without a thought.)

If you are a journalist, you can use your website for practice.

If you aren’t a journalist and don’t have access to a website, I’ve added simple alternatives.

Don’t let me down.

1 Community

Have you identified a community for which to write? Can you refine your community even more? For example, if it is a blog for the commercial property sector, why not focus on agents. And why not those specialising in office rentals?

Go further still. Why not only the bosses?

Write for the commercial property sector and few of them will know your blog is for them (one post out of 10 might be of interest).

Write for the bosses of commercial property agencies specialising in office rentals and, by god, they will soon know that is worth coming back for more (since every post will be for them).

Now you’ve identified your target readers, use Twitter to help you develop skills to cultivate that community.

You don’t need a blog to spot a potential online community and start cultivating it.

2 Commenting

Your blog won’t attract comments unless you make the effort to comment on other blogs. Go and comment on newspaper websites and blogs in your sector. There are several ways to find blog about your chosen subject when starting from scratch.

Remember, the etiquette is to “join in the conversation”. So don’t barge in with a new argument. Use your experience and knowledge to take on the blogger’s subject.

When asked for a web address, leave the URL of an article from your website that adds something to the discussion. Don’t worry if the article is a few months old as long as it still brings something to the conversation.

Or, if you don’t have a website,  leave the URL of your LinkedIn profile if it shows you bring professional expertise to the debate.

You don’t need a blog to learn how to comment on websites.

3 Connectivity

You don’t look at the navigation when you book a flight online. You click from one page to another, ending in a successful conclusion by actions embedded in a page. 

The future readers of your blog will want to do the same, reading one post and clicking through to another. So, stop worrying about the navigation and start making links between your stories or other content on your site. Set yourself a goal of having made one link to a previous story by the second paragraph of every story you write.

If you don’t write for a website, go and comment on a blog that allows you to put in a link to another website. Better still, one that allows you to do so with simple HTML so you leave a word linked to a site (like this) rather than an ugly URL (like this http://johnwelsh.wordpress.com/about-you/).

You don’t need a blog to learn about connectivity between articles.

4 Collaboration

You would be amazed how much the web will help you with what you are doing. You can start with one question and receive so many responses that you soon have another idea for an article. But you will only receive that reward if you yourself have helped others.

Go and help people’s initiatives using collaboration to build communities. Add a name to someone building a list. Contribute to Wikipedia. Sign a petition.

You don’t need a blog to benefit from online collaboration.

5 Content

In print, only an editor gives his or her opinion in the leader. Everything else is supposed to be content that helps the reader. A blog should be no different.

Think what information might be useful for your community. Practise finding core information on other sites. Turn it into lists of tips.

If you are a journalist, try adding a list of tips with links to useful sites as the penultimate paragraph of  the stories you write online. 

If you don’t have a website, go and leave your tips on other people’s blogs or forums. See how people respond.

You don’t need a blog to learn how to create great online content.

In part two I will be writing about another five more online skills you must master before you start a blog. What skills do you think people need before setting up a blog?

If you think your followers/community on Twitter would be interested in this post, show them your value by reTweeting it to them!

 Photo credit:crosathorian

Guest post: eight tips to convert a social media relationship into a telephone conversation


telephone-keypad My second guest post is by Endaf Kerfoot, leader of LinkedIn’s Future of Social Media group (disclosure: and a colleague). 

Endaf is sales manager of an exhibition called Internet World and also contributes to the Internet World blog. He has expanded his professional network through this LinkedIn group, building up his social capital by encouraging quality discussions and posting useful links.

A high profile social media expert has just joined the group. Endaf wanted to contact the guy.  But, what is the etiquette? I suggested that the expert’s membership of the group explicitly acknowledged that first contact could be made through LinkedIn . Endaf did so.

I therefore asked him to give us some tips on how to develop a relationship on LinkedIn and then to convert it into a telephone conversation. 

The LinkedIn Future of Social Media group now has over 600 members from around the world. The success is a challenge, putting pressure on me to ensure that new discussions are worthy of the members, adding and linking to good quality news stories and encouraging leading social media commentators to get involved (here’s some tips on how to manage a LinkedIn group yourself).

What would happen if I were to try to contact one of the members, a leading social media guru? I took the plunge and emailed the guy. The end result was a perfectly business-like conversation where he gave me several contacts that will be useful for the group.

What are my tips?

  1. Whenever anyone signs up to your group or accepts your contact request, follow up with a welcome to the group. Here’s a great guide to LinkedIn etiquette.
  2. Make sure that there is a constant flow of high quality white papers or other relevant content posted.
  3. Encourage discussions and commenting. Do it yourself if necessary.
  4. Once you are ready to email directly, do not be overawed by someone’s reputation.
  5. Explain in an email why you are interested in connecting with them, who you are and what you have to offer.
  6. Be concise but make it clear why you want to talk. You need to be ready to do that “Elevator Pitch” (how would you tell someone what you do and how great you are – in the time it takes for a lift to travel between floors).
  7. Set up a call. So much of the initial groundwork has been done through social media that you don’t need an introduction.
  8. I invited the four contact suggested by the social media expert to my group, the process of expanding and improving my group then repeating itself ad infinitum.

Social media has to prove its ROI(return on investment). Proving that running a group can expand a business network is a key indication of success. Endaf might well have been doing this within a social media environment today. But, all businesses will be expanding their networks through social media as it expands beyond early adopters into business generally – what social media expert Peter Kim calls social business.

If you thought this post was useful, reTweet it to your community!

Photo: existentist

What to do when your social media is frustrating you


frustrationWe’ve all done it. We’ve been so frustrated by the lack of traditional response to our social media activity, we’ve gone back to our old ways.

  • We’ve written what we thought was the best-blog-post-ever and then no one read it.
  • We’ve encouraged someone to follow us on Twitter. When they didn’t, we emailed them directly.
  • We’ve made the most intelligent comment on a celebrity blog and the following 100 comments entirely ignore our stream of thought.
  • Worse still, the original high-profile author acknowledges specific people for their comments except you.
  • We use social media as a vehicle to blast out traditional marketing messages at work.


You cannot broadcast.

You cannot push.

You can only talk to your community when you have built one up.

So here are tips for what to do when your social media is frustrating you

  1. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there before. Your community will be forgiving for any one-off breaks in etiquette. If isn’t forgiving, it’s not worth having.
  2. Do something else for a while. You cannot become an expert in all of social media at one time. Instead, focus on one or two activities for a while, then move on to some others, then come back to the first. You will find how much better you are after a break.
  3. Do something for someone else. Have you ever reTweeted one of your follower’s Tweets? Have you ever pushed a link to another post other than your own? Have you helped explain something as simple as an RSS feed to a newcomer? Have you asked someone to guest post on your blog? You can only begin to expect back when you have given a lot.
  4. Do nothing. The web and the blogosphere are noisy places. But what is louder than a shout? A whisper.

Photo credit: misocrazy

What is a Tweetup and what does one feel like?


tweetupOK, first up. A Tweetup is a meeting between people with the who, where and when arranged on Twitter.

Sounds simple. But a key ingredient, to differentiate it from a mere meeting, is that the people concerned should only be acquainted online.

The Tweetup is when the digital turns into face-to-face, 140 characters into a meaningful conversation, a recognisable position on a blog into an ability to listen .

Who came to this Tweetup then?

I’ve just had one yesterday arranged by George Hopkin to which Ben LaMothe came too.

George is digital director for a UK regional newspaper company . Ben is an American doing postgraduate journalism in London.

They are part of the small community I follow on Twitter. I rely on George and Ben to keep me up to speed on issues concerning UK and US newspapers. And they both follow me.

We do not know each other through the blogosphere although both George and Ben have blogs.

Our exchange of ideas and any familiarity comes exclusively through Twitter.

What does a Tweetup feel like?

  • I’ve spent two decades interviewing people I did not know as a reporter. I still felt a little nervous going through the cafe door. What if I had nothing to say?
  • Both were deep in conversation when I arrived. I joined in immediately. We already know each other’s background so there was no need for cocktail party-style questions about “what do you do?”
  • The conversation stuck rigidly to the newspaper business.
  • But I have a problem in this environment. It is my digital footprint.
  • My primary community are my colleagues at work (magazines AND exhibitions, sales AND marketing, editorial AND digital). My blog has something for all of those. 
  • But for my secondary community, the wider world of social/new media, it must come across as a very unfocused blog – neither exclusively new media or social media, neither exclusively content or maketing. How clearly my lack of focus comes across to me when talking to George and Ben. 
  • They might be interested in the impact of new media on newspapers and journalism. But social media itself to develop communities? Not so much as me. Social media marketing to increase visitor attendance to exhibitions? Not at all.
  • Ironically it is a face-to-face experience that underlines the unfocused nature of my digital activity compared to others. Or to put it another way, what a width of topics I need to cover to do my job compared to others.

How will Tweetups develop?

As we grow online communities, we will cultivate networking between those who know each other and those who don’t. Actually, that’s one of the main points of social media – to get people out of their silos.

We just need to make sure people communicate only with those they are interested in. Down to the very last detail.

We need to understand exactly of which community they belong.

No New Year greetings.

Just straight to business.

Guest post: top ten tips on how to manage a Linkedin group

Guest post by Julius Solaris, a community manager and social media expert.
Julius blogs at Event Manager Blog and manages the Linkedin Event Planning and Management group, which boasts more than 5300 event professionals from around the world. I have always been impressed by his entreprise, by his ability to run his own buisness and his obvious commitment to creating, enlarging and cultivating his community. Here he guest posts for These Digital Times.


When Linkedin opened up groups a few months ago, I was quick enough to create one for event people (28th February 2008). Ten months later, the group now numbers over five thousand people. Here are few things I learnt in the process.

1. What is the group for?

I made that clear in the Group information page. The group info page helps in keeping naggers away and attract only motivated members. I made the joining criteria even more specific, when one month ago the group felt a stronger need to emphasise quality – more of that later. Try to be clear with what you want and what you don’t want.

2. Bulk approve, but ban misuses

Having a lot of members helps. If I told you at the beginning of this post that I managed a group of 20 people, that probably would have not captured your attention. Therefore, bulk approving is a must.

On the other hand, having great numbers brings a lot of spam and lowers the quality of the network.

Make sure you state repeatedly the objectives of the group with a featured post.

Delete discussion violating rules and warn the abuser.

If you still get annoyances, ban users who perpetrated misuses. You can definitely do without these trouble-makers. Don’t be afraid of losing members, it’s for the win.

3. Follow the input of the community

The group has been like a craiglist for event professionals for a while.

One shiny day, somebody protested about the format and complained about blatant self-promotion.

Apparently this was the feeling of several other members. I respected that and engaged in more severe management, pruning spam and applying more severe rules.

I also made that clear with sticky ‘featured’ posts as well as in the info’ page.

4. Delegate responsibility

In introducing the aforementioned shift towards more quality, I made clear that the community should have been active in reporting spam or abuses.

Since earning a living from a Linkedin Group is quite tough, the majority of us do this as a hobby. If this is your case, I strongly suggest you reinforce the concept that mere complaints are not acceptable in a community.

You complain when you pay for a service, you complain when you are giving something in exchange.

Members have to understand that they can only complain with themselves in a Linkedin Group. Managers are not held accountable if the community acts like customers instead of users.

I got a great response from one member in particular who gave me incredible support and helped me through the “cleaning” process.

5. Praise those who respond positively

Anne was the person who helped me along the way.

What I have just done with you now (telling you the name of a dedicated user), I did repeatedly in the group.

Rewarding positive behaviour is as important as banning negative uses.

6. Advertise your group wherever you are active in the web

A major differentiator of the LI Event Planning and Management Group is that it already had big numbers compared to other groups, way before Linkedin introduced Group search.

This was possible because I was actively promoting the group wherever possible.

I got 10 people registering everyday from my blog alone. I posted about it on twitter and talked about it in all the events I attended.

If you are not convinced about your group, close it right now and dedicate your effort to a new, better project.

If you feel your group is really worth joining, then make the world aware of that!

7. Monetize it

For a while I monetised my group. I worked together with an online event registration/ticketing service.

I made a newsletter to make the group aware of the sponsor and invited the members to have a look at the profile of the company.

The company sponsoring the group had immediate benefits from event planners registering to events using their registration platform.

 Usually groups work more to generate brand awareness rather than converting clicks and you should be aware of that when pitching to companies.

8. Empower members to meet offline

 During the aforementioned period, I got the sponsor to support group events across the world. We had more than 7 meetups and it was great fun.

I created a dedicated umbrella for all the events called http://www.spicynetworking.com

I also started a regular London Meetup for that.

9. Know where to address your efforts

While Linkedin had no discussion or news section facility, I created another group on Ning, another social networking provider, for members to interact. I manually invited thousands of people and got 500 members together.

When Linkedin allowed a bit of interaction, I had to let go and move on. I shut down the platform as of 1st of Jan 2009 and am very happy to focus my effort in one place.

10. Linkedin is not on your side so be creative

The platform as it is does not give you management tools such as newsletters, broadcasts, sticky posts in home page or whatever necessary for basic admin.

That is why you really need to be creative, I wrote my own newsletter, learned how to use external broadcasting services, customized a Ning, created a Meetup.

A lot of effort is required and results are not always immediate, so try to shake things up if it’s not working until you find your way.

What’s your experience?

by Julius Solaris

Five reasons to be interested in Facebook once more

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

It comes in waves. One day I am obsessed with Twitter. Another day it is back to FriendFeed. But, at the moment, it’s Facebook. I’ll try and tell you why.

Only a few months ago, I was asking on this blog what is the point of Facebook. I even asked a colleague to come and show me what turned her on. But to no avail. The interface was too busy. The pages did not make sense. Who were all these “friends”, anyway? And then…

And then, I began to get it. Here are my reasons.

  1. If you are new to social media, Facebook is a good way to get up to speed. Imagine yourself a social media virgin, once more, and forced to kick off with FriendFeed. I don’t think so! 
  2. Are you fearful of the divide between your professional and private life?  There is no quicker way to learn this division than through Facebook – just take a look at your “friends'” profiles and work out what you wouldn’t put up.
  3. If you don’t join Facebook, you cannot compare it to LinkedInSome might be really LinkedIn. Some might be rather more Facebook. Do you know which one is suitable? If you cannot compare the two, you are not going to learn which network is right for your community.
  4. Sign up to and play one of the games. No, it is not puerile. If you have never experienced a viral game this is your chance to do what spotty teenagers in Arizona are brought up on.
  5. Can you encourage your “friends” to join a group to which you can sensitively market them something? Many of my “friends” work in the travel industry – I used to be editor of a weekly newspaper for the travel industry. You might well be in a similar situation where your group is dominated by one type of worker. Is there a way to create a more professional group activity – I call this the “Trojan Horse”.

Are you still enjoying Facebook? Or are you really turned on by another social media activity?

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Three approaches to social networks and how to get them started


If you are looking at how to “garden”, that is foster, your online communities, you are probably also wondering how exactly to achieve it. I’ve come up with three different approaches that I call “Keep It In The Family”, “The Great Escape” and “The Trojan Horse”.

A Keep it in the family

model-aYou’ve established that you want to use social networking to align yourself with a particular group. It is probably rather a small network, leaders in a particular industry, for example, and limited in number to, say, 50 -100 people. Your community, despite individuals’ success, is none too sophisticated about, indeed nervous of, social media. What they do want is to be able to network in a safe and enclosed environment where they can exchange ideas with their peers. The solution is an off-the-shelf social networking bit of kit. Here are the pros and cons:

  • It’s closed, so secure – there is a guarantee to members that they will only network with those they know and not be approach by people they do not know
  • Unlike a web-hosted, downloadable social media application, you can, at least, put up your own advertising
  • It is going to take a lot of work to get it going and to keep it going
  • You are going to have to get involved in the build
  • It’s closed

 B The Great Escape

Forget all that and set up a group in LinkedIn (or Facebook, or MySpace) group, whatever is appropriate for your demographics. Take a look at this group, set up for the Future of Social Media Conference. At first, it was hard work getting started, with most discussions and comments generated by our own teams. Then the model-bconference took place within a vast social media bubbleand the LinkedIn group just took on a life of its own. Members now number 290 (as of this evening) and comments on discussion topics number anything up to nine or 10. It is not our group any more but everyone’s group. What are the pros and cons:

  • Setting up a LinkedIn group is free, easy and avoids getting dragged into build
  • The networking potential is enormous since you are immediately linked in to the provider’s existing networks.
  • You could even go in every day and invite all those names to your group that LinkedIn spews out with whom you might have something in common
  • You can brand it but you cannot place any advertising there
  • Take care not to try to market yourself to the group too hard and put everyone off
  • Note how Julius Solaris, founder of LinkedIn’s Event Planning & Management Group does this very subtly with sponsored meet-ups round the world

 C The Trojan Horse

OK, you have already set up or tried the above groups, you’ve got up to speed with how to garden a group model-cand it has really taken off, don’t stop there. Think of the demographics of your target audience. What social networks did they say they used when you surveyed them? Perhaps they are retail managers around 30 with Facebook profiles. They’ve used their profile for fun over the years (exactly the sort of thing that gets the “Keep It In The Family” sorts awake at night) but they have never used it professionally. Try setting up a group that is apprpriate for your demographics and tempt them in. Make their group your group.

UPDATE: Thanks to Keiley Yates for diagrams. Go here to see original, flipchart sketches.