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

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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

You’ve been asked to write a digital strategy. Now what?

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strategy4You work in a traditional business. You already make a little bit of digital revenue from a website. Now you’ve been asked to map out a digital strategy to increase your digital activity, and ultimately, revenue.

What do you say?

You’ve worked with websites for almost a decade so obviously you know everything there is to know. You don’t really like the web at all, if you were honest (but you definitely would not admit it). You think the web is a dull, unresponsive little thing. You hope it is a fad that will go away.

What do you do?

What you should do is to set about finding out how much you do not know. You probably won’t because you are not aware of what you do not know. You’ve managed to keep clear of new fangled things like Twitter (“what a silly name!”) and blogs (“no one ever comments on them anyway”). You think Facebook is for mooning teenagers and “online communities” means blasting out emails to an ever lengthening list of people.

What could you do?

You could give the web a try. You could sign up to some of these things with funny names that everyone is talking about. You might just find that, what you thought of as a dull, was actually quite interesting. More than that, you might just begin to glimpse the new world on the web. You might see how responsive it is, how you can network with people in very different ways and how you can conduct its rythmns and passions like a symphony.  

What would you do then?

You would experience happiness from the clarity. You would be relieved that you had not taken any irreversible decisions during your earlier ignorance. You would now be aware of how much you did not know. Now you are ready to research your community and find out what they really want and what they already use. You would begin to be in the position that you could write that digital strategy you had been asked to do several weeks earlier. You would do it rather well.

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: Waponi 

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

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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.

Research

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.

Categories

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.

Optimise

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.

Analyse

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

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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

What do big variances in the number of your RSS subscribers mean?

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rss-feedDo your RSS subscribers vary radically from one day to another? Does a sudden surge in subscribers indicate your blog posts are perfectly aligned with your community? Does a decline mean you are hopelessly mistaken in what you do ?

If your answer to the first is yes, the answers to the other questions are no and no.

Let me explain

I’ve only recently worked out how to manage my daily reading through RSS feeds. As a result, my former, half-hearted encouragement to sign up to my blog’s own RSS feed has been transformed. I have moved the RSS feed subscription icon to a far more prominent position.

Immediately subscriber numbers began to rise. Slowly, at first.

Then I wrote a post about six types of Tweets if you Twitter every day, my traffic shot up. At the same time, my subscribers doubled almost overnight.

Within a day or two, the subscribers numbers had halved. That’s it, halved!

What did it all mean?

At first, I told myself that there must have been a technical problem.

That was dumb.

My new habit of using RSS to suppply my daily reading has taught me just how easy it is to subscribe to AND unsubscribe from other people’s blogs. It also shows me that, however good one post might be, I just cannot sign up to every blog. If the next post is not for me, I quickly unsubscribe. I can only manage my reading if I keep the number of subscriptions to a minimum. Why would my blog perform any differently?

My blog’s post about Tweets obviously appealed.  People subscribed. But, presumably, the majority of new subscribers were those interested in Twitter. When my next post arrived through RSS - a more general one about not overlooking the social network your community is already in - it did not meet their expectations. Those who only wanted to read about Twitter unsubscribed.

Why the surprise?

I am not sure why I was surprised. I have spent the last two months exploring the ways Twitter can help you to develop skills to cultivate a community. Twitter teaches you that the more narrowly you can identify your community and cultivate it with appropriate and quality Tweets, the faster your community will grow.

And my Twitter community has never been so robust. The number of my Twitter followers used to vary widely. Now the numbers continue to rise steadily. And only one person in the last month has decided to stop following me. 

Like Twitter, like RSS feeds

My conclusion is this.

  • Do not be delighted or impressed by a sudden upswing in subscribers – they will only drop off.
  • Do not be put off if your subscribers suddenly decline – it does not mean your blog is no good.
  • Do realise that there is no short cut to a decent following on any social media.
  • Do focus your content on your community – the more you do so, the more your community will grow.
  • Do craft your content  for steady, robust growth rather than flashy leaps.

I will be using the number of my RSS subscribers in a far more sensitive manner from now on. No more rush for glory. Rather, I will look at it as a hypersensitive response mechanism influencing my posts from day to day.

By the way, my subscriber base has begun to go up again. Slowly, but surely!

 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: Pandemia

Don’t overlook the social network your community is already in!

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One morning, there’s just one in your email inbox.

The next day there’s three. And after that, they don’t stop coming.

So-and-so would like you to join them on Plaxo/Ning/Xing…

And suddenly, a social network you had never thought of, often never heard of, is frankly spamming your inbox.

The phenomenon is a product of what sociologists call “an extreme networker”, that is a person who is extremely good at meeting new contacts and keeping in touch. They join a network and invite almost everyone from their contact book to come with them. Extreme networkers usually get their way. So the rest follow and invite you to come.

Do we remember to use this spontaneity as we build our online communities?

  1. When you have identified your community and begun your research, don’t forget to ask them which social networks they already belong to. You are going to spend quite some time encouraging your community to get online. You do not want to be faced with the additional job of pushing your community to sign up to the social network you chose rather than their own before they even sign up to your group.
  2. Better still, see the presence of your chosen community in an existing social network as a opportunity. Still do you research. But follow your community and set up in their backyard. I’ve called this the “Trojan Horse” approach when looking how to get social networks started

What else have you learnt about your community from their existing social networks?

Six types of Tweets if you Twitter everyday

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I have so many people asking me how to write Tweets.  So I have provided a list of generic types using real Tweets by some of the social and new media people I follow.

This is a list of Tweets for those who want to use Twitter to develop skills to cultivate a community, a professional community at that. If you are using Twitter to communicate with your mates, it will not be relevant. 

And, remember, there is little point polishing your Tweets if you have not been selective about people to follow on Twitter and people not to follow on Twitter.

The information Tweet

@fruchter Seth Godin on sending a personal email. Common sense but worth the read. http://is.gd/fkst

Helping your community with knowledge is a core reason for people to follow you. I get RSS feeds of over 30 blogs but a Tweet with a link from someone you trust and respect, like social media expert Mike Fruchter, is a great way to have a really important post brought to your attention quickly.

(which can also be ) The wise Tweet

@jayrosen_nyu  If people on all sides think you’re unfair you could be doing something right. You could also be doing everything wrong.

Only a few people, such as NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen,  can do this one and get away with it – impart a phrase of wisdom that informs your community without a link to an article, picture or video.

The introduction Tweet

@psmith please welcome @jonslattery, former Press Gazette deputy editor and top blogger, to the halls of Twitter

Introducing new people to your community and explaining that person’s worth is really important. Jon Slattery has years of distinguished experience in traditional media and has now launched a blog. He is exactly the sort of person that anyone interested in an analysis of the changes taking place in traditional media should follow – exactly the sort of people who follow paidContent’s Patrick Smith.

The ReTweet

@tojulius RT @gerkmanaThinking of joining blog network? Read this first. http://tinyurl.com/8msuxo [I've been thinking of leaving network, lately]

How cool is this one! If you see a great Tweet, reTweet it, that is send it out to your own community with the letters RT or the word “reTweet” at the front. Remember to clearly indicate who wrote the original by adding the name (@gerkmana in my example). You not only show how useful you are to your community, as Julius Solaris, another social media expert, has done. You also show how you help others.

Update: thanks to William Murray for pointing out this omission!

The status Tweet

@jowyang I’m going to be trying some other technologies and tactics for a while, going to be on a Twitter hiatus.

Don’t forget. When you have a regular feed of good things for your community, it will miss you if you go offline for a while, particularly if you are a high-profile, social media guru like Jeremiah Owyang.

The question Tweet

@GeorgeHopkin Anyone know of a list of UK newspapers with Twitter accounts?

 Do feel free to ask a question but, 1, don’t ask too many times, and George Hopkin, the digital director for a UK regional newspaper company, doesn’t, and, 2, don’t get too spooked if nobody answers.

The blog post Tweet

@johnwelshJust rewritten my blog’s “About me” page http://is.gd/fc3a and a new “About you” page http://is.gd/fc5V (idea @Armano http://is.gd/dSOf).

It’s very bad form, well I certainly don’t like it, if you just use Twitter to blast out links to your blog – it’s using traditional push techniques to abuse social media. But if you do it, be clever. Here, I hope to remind my community of a good idea that they could use but give full credit to the originator David Armano and a link to the blog post.

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