Monday, June 15, 2009

Are you ready to start blogging yet? If not get reading some …

Are you considering writing a Blog? From a business perspective Blogs can be a goldmine if aligned correctly with your other communications and marketing initiatives. Easy to say, much harder to put into practice, first you have to ask yourself “why am I doing this and do I have something of value to say?" Social media commentators talk about the need of “establishing yourself as a thought leader”. This quite simply is demonstrating to your readers that you are an expert on a given topic and worth their time investment.

We can compare bloggers to traditional newspaper columnists because it’s the same principle. You attract readers because your opinion is some or all of the following; educational, thought provoking, inspirational, controversial, motivational or entertaining. If you don’t capture the attention of the readers first time they will move on, possibly to your direct competitor.

There’s plenty of theory and instruction by well seasoned professionals on how to write a great blog. Some basic concepts you have to consider include maintaining some consistency in your message, your writing style, publishing frequency and of course the topic. A great advantage with the self published Blog is you can inject some personality, be yourself. Always keep in mind you are representing your brand so don’t let that down by getting too personal or controversial and regretting it later. As with any form of publishing it is important to respect others and understand there are codes of conduct inclusive of civil laws and copyright that must be observed. Once you hit the publish button your private thoughts are in the public domain, and you may not only be answerable for what you say but accountable.

The more niche your area of expertise is the easier it is to gain a relevant “following”. Using social mediums like Twitter allows you to target “followers” or readers who have an interest in your area of knowledge and then point them to your blog or website. Any good marketing or communications initiative does require some advance thinking (Strategic Planning) so your time is invested effectively. I’ll be covering more on that at a later date

I read blogs to gain insight into what others are thinking and to alert me to new ideas or products. At last count I subscribe to about 15 Blogs using Google Reader. Technically Google Reader is a Web-based aggregator, capable of reading Atom and RSS feeds online or offline. In plain English it’s a tool for reading Blogs I select at a time that suits me without having to move from one site to another. There are lots of versions of these “RSS Readers” available so just pick one that suits you and subscribe to this or any other blog of your choice.

Here’s a couple of recommended thought leading bloggers to get you going if you have an interest in the Web 2.0 or Social Media environment.

Web Strategy by Jerimiah Owyang

Happy reading

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Should you auto DM new followers on Twitter?

I am writing this because I don’t yet have definitive answers myself. Should I auto DM my new Twitter followers or not?

I have two accounts; there is me as a person @craignetworker, and me as a business @mondaymorningnz and I was considering using the auto DM for the latter to let people know we offer free webinars on the subject of webinars for business.

I have chosen not to auto DM to date because most of the social media gurus I follow and respect most say not to. In fact some go as far as saying that they will un-follow or remove anyone that engages in this practice.

Does this mean I haven’t got value from auto DM’s I’ve received? The answer to that is yes, I have got value, I have followed links that have caught my attention and have learnt and gained valuable information as a result. After all isn’t that the whole idea of marketing, using every opportunity to gain someone’s attention and promote you?

It does come down to what you are using Twitter for. Is it to establish trust and build relationships, or is it to create profile for your business or service.

If you want to engage in long term trusted relationships then I would suggest no to auto DM’s, they come across as insincere and impersonal, because they are. The other down side of this practice is they make the DM inbox ineffective for communication. I get so many I just delete them without reading anymore and tend to focus on my @replies.

If you are looking to promote your brand then give auto DM a try using a product like TweetLater. But one caveat I would put on this is be sure to offer something of real value otherwise it is just spam and time wasting for all concerned.

Please let me know if you have a tried and tested theory on this subject. I would love the hear from you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Now you are on Twitter: What's next?

It amazes me how people seem to have such a love hate relationship with Twitter. I have spoken to some very tech savvy, web using, business folk who have flatly refused twitter as part of their marketing strategy. I suspect they will come around eventually.

The analogy I have taken to using lately is that Web 1.0 (or websites filled with static web pages) was a little like filling a library with books. Twitter (and it Web 2.0 cousins) is the equivalent of letting people into that same library and they are excitedly letting each other know what they are finding and where to look for it.

 It doesn’t surprise me too that so many people drop off after engaging with it – up to 40%. This from a business perspective should be a good thing as I would suspect that they are predominantly the time wasters who are just filling space with idle noise rather than contributing to any real thread of thought or conversation.  

I am experimenting with ways of using twitter for various clients, currently having the greatest impact on specialty subjects like wine presently.  More generalist areas such as business I am still unsure of the immediate benefit of Twitter as a tool. Having said that I have noticed increased traffic to our website and blog as a direct result of tweets – there I’ve just answered my own question.

It also has the benefit that randomness brings when the occasional news item or link flashes past that one picks up on. One thing that does rather alarm me is some people are using twitter to communicate. It still blows me away that people send emails and get twitchy if you haven’t replied within two minutes. I barely refer to the twitter DM’s (Direct Messages) any more as they are filled with impersonal auto responds from those I have chosen to follow.
As to where from here, we just need to catch up and find the right box for twitter to fit into, or at least wait until a better box is invented. A recent preview of the Google Wave platform managed to send chills of fear down my spine mingled with curious anticipation of the next generation of email meeting real time texting meeting Web 2.0 interactivity.  Now if only I could get this into 140 characters or less I would tweet it…

More reading about Google Wave here