Blogging: Creating a Window to Your World

From My Apartment Window in Tuscany by Foto Iervolino
From My Apartment Window in Tuscany by Foto Iervolino

When you’re ready to launch a blog, rather personal or professional, it’s important to think beyond just “what am I going to blog about?” Your blog is a window into your professional life and what people see and how they see it is up to you.

Have a strategy: Even if you’re creating a personal blog, have a sense of what you want to accomplish with it. Do you want your blog to be informational, to help you to define and explore your thoughts & ideas about working in public relations or maybe show your interest and expertise around a topic or issue?

Think about functionality: Think about what you want the experience to be for your readers. Making your blog easy on the eyes and simple to navigate is the first step. But remember that window analogy – what do you want your readers to see? Do you want to share photos? How about a Flickr widget. Also think about including things like a Twitter widget, recent comments, videos, etc. The possibilities are vast. It may seem like simply window dressing, but think about what a blog tell you about its author. And then, in turn, what you want people to know about you.

Create a schedule: Know how often you want to blog and stick to a schedule. Most blogging software will let you blog whenever and then schedule your posts, so you don’t have to necessarily blog on a schedule – hey! life comes up. I usually blog on the weekend and schedule posts to update during the week.

Develop a ethics & comment policy: This may seem silly, but it’s important that you think through what your policies are and how you will handle tough issues when they come up (not if, but when). You can check out my policies for this blog and feel free to borrow.

Include an “about me” section with a picture & bio. People connect with people and being the real and authentic you is an important part of blogging. You don’t need a boring headshot and overly-scripted bio. Be yourself!

Include a blogroll: I love the way WordPress lets you organize links. Being able to categorize them allows me to think through what topics I want to discuss and frame my blog appropriately. Regardless of your platform, however, don’t take your blogroll lightly. It’s important to think about what your choices reveal about what you want to say.

Just spend some time thinking about your blog and what role you want it to play in your professional life. By doing so, you’ll be able to design the best window into your world that you can before you invite people over.

I’d love to hear other tips. What lessons have you learned as a blogger along these lines?

Where Do You Find the Time? Social Media Time Management Tips

I’ve always been a multi-tasker. Admitedly, I get a lot done in a day. I don’t know how, sometimes. I really don’t. But the answer I always give is “get enough sleep.” I am only half-joking. I don’t pull all-nighters. Ever.

Now that I’m involved in social media, I get asked a lot how to manage it all. Over time, I’ve been able to integrate social media tools into my daily routine. In fact, social media tools have replaced other less productive forms of communication and networking for me.

But I thought I’d share some tips about social media time management – especially for those just trying to figure it all out.

  • It takes time to create a new habit. Know that for a few weeks, you’ll have to work to make social media a habit. If you don’t check your feed reader every day, it won’t come naturally. If you don’t think about twittering, it’s not going to be top-of-mind.
  • Visual reminders help. Put the link or the page to your feed reader where you can see it. I put mine on my toolbar. This is a visual reminder that you should give it a quick look. You can also make your feed reader your home page. iGoogle or a browser like Flock gives you a home page with all your social web stuff in one place.

  • Participate! Don’t just be a looky-loo. My sister recently got the point of Twitter when she followed a well-known graphic designer, he followed her back and even commented on her work. “I’m hooked,” she told me. For Twitter in particular, you have to add friends and followers beyond your circle of friends or it’ll never be of value (not that your friends are valuable…). If you’re involved in conversations, it’s hard to not remember to go back and check in now and then.
  • Create a “social media to do” list. What tools do you want to try (or do you have to try because I said so)? Having a list to focus on will keep you from being drawn into the social media time suck.
  • Blog on Sundays. Or whatever day works for you. I do most of my blogging on a single day and schedule my posts out over the week. Sunday is my day. Basically, whatever the tools are that you use (or want to use), block out time to focus.
  • Be selective. You don’t have to participate in everything! Pick a few that you really want to spend time with, maybe one or two that are important, but take less administration and then leave the rest. For me personally, this blog and Twitter are the most important. PROpenMic and Facebook are second level priority. LinkedIn gets attention about once a month, just to keep it current. I also spend time when I can exploring other tools.
  • Think about rules for your social networks. I don’t follow someone back on Twitter unless I think that what they have to say will be interesting. Usually I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt but I’ll unfollow those who just aren’t a good fit for me. I don’t friend everyone on Facebook (which for me, is mostly personal and family-oriented).

What tips would you add?

Toe-In-The-Water Strategy for Social Media

[this post originally appeared on my agency’s blog. As I phase that blog out, there are a few posts worth reposting, this is one.]

Social media means marketing departments, public relations people and CEOs have to let go. They have to let go of control. They have to let the conversation develop and dialogue take place.

And that. is. hard.

If your organization is not ready to open itself up to the world, but wants to dip its toe in the social media water, a couple of things will get your started.

Start monitoring conversation about your organization, key people, trends and issues. The two primary places for monitoring are Technorati and Google Blog Search.

Both services allow you to subscribe via RSS to a feed. I highly recommend Bloglines to manage your feeds. Lots of people would be just as adamant about Google Reader. The benefit to a feed reader is that you can view all your searches and commonly read blogs in one place, keeping your “favorites” folder more manageable.

Start an internal blog. You can define what “internal” means. In a pure sense it would mean internal to your organization. But you can also have an “internal” blog for members only or for your staff and board of directors.

Most blogging platforms allow you to let in or keep out who you want. WordPress is quickly becoming the Internet standard and has lots of great options for privacy. The Intranet Journal offers this how-to on creating an Intranet via WordPress.

The clear benefit to an internal blog is that there’s still a great deal of control, but you can test systems for posting, monitoring and responding with relative security. You can also foster a blog-friendly culture that will be more open to creating an external blog when the time is right.

CIO Magazine has seven reasons to create an internal blog here.

Understanding blogging culture and social media is an important part of getting started. You’ll find some great tips here at Marketing Profs (one of my favorite resources!). And Kami Huyse at Communication Overtones has two excellent posts to which I refer frequently on corporate blogging – here and here.

Need more toe-in-the-water strategies? Media Orchard offers a few additional tips here.

Take your time and be deliberate. It may be an instant medium, but when you’re participating on behalf of your organization, it’s important to have all your systems, policies and strategies in place before you dive in.

“Toes” via Flickr by Crawford 721.

Try Out Some New Tools (Or Just Better Understand the Basics)

Chris Brogan has written a social media starter pack post on his blog.

His categories are: Listening, Speaking, Community and Rich Media. This is a terrific way to breakdown the tools that are available when using and participating in social media.

Listening: In social media, as in life, listening is twice as important as speaking. Online, the tool for listening is a news reader. This type of software allows you to understand the conversation going on out there, and the best of them permits you to do a little more understanding of what you’re “hearing.”

Speaking: As Chris notes, there are a ton of ways to speak in social media. His suggestions are for improvement. I haven’t created an RSS feed for this blog with Feedburner, but I will! Great tip. Bottom line, be findable. If people are interested in speaking back – make sure they have lots of ways to do so.

Community: About social networking, this part of social media is tremendously important. Beyond MySpace and Facebook, Twitter, Ning and even Flickr or Digg are helping to build communities.

The last part, Rich Media, is the section I haven’t delved into as much as the others. Chris talks about some great tools for audio and video. Check out the post for more info.

My students will be creating a podcast Winter term in Advanced Writing, so I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this post for advice.

Now That You’re Graduated… Which Social Network Tool Should You Use?

The choices are numerous, and the opinions about which is best are diverse.

LinkedIn: Touted as the “grown-up” MySpace, I’ve struggled to find a useful purpose for LinkedIn except to just build my list of contacts. There has been a rare occasion that I’ve used LinkedIn because I lost an email address… so I guess that’s good.

Facebook: Not just for college kids anymore. I highly recommend making sure your Profile is up to date and you monitor your wall and news feed carefully. Lots of people are on Facebook now that it’s opened up to the general public. I read a great post here that got me thinking about how I could better use this resource.

MyRagan: The PR social network, I think it’s got a lot of value, particularly in the forums and message boards. I’m not as active on it as I was initially, but on occasional login I see that the forums and message boards are extremely active. The site boasts more than 7500 members.

Those seem to be the big three. Are there others you’re using?

Label it!

I love labels. I dig categories. Classifications? Groupings? You bet.

This is why I was so interested in Kami’s post about the seven categories of social media today on Communication Overtones. She has created seven neat categories to encompass everything from publishing platforms (Blogger, etc.) and social networks (MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn) to those with more “academic sounding” labels like democratized content networks (think Digg) and content distribution sites (like Head over to Kami’s blog to check out the list.

So I got to thinking about what tools I use and yep, most would cleanly fit in the categories that Kami has defined. The only thing that doesn’t fit is Stikkit.

Stikkit is definitely social – although it’s by invite only. It’s just as “media” as Twitter. So I’m not sure where I’d fit it in. Maybe it needs a new category like Social Collaboration Tools?

Early Adopters are Not the Majority

The Dells, the GMs and even the Marriotts are not the norm when it comes to corporate blogging. In fact, a small percentage of Fortune 500 companies have an external blog.

Todd Defren at PR Squared posted recently about his chat with Fortune 500 marketers asking very basic questions about blogging. The good news, he says, is that they are interested and engaged… even cautiously experimental.

Over at MicroPersuasion, Steve Rubel talks about the new Forester Research report from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff called Social Technographics. Their research uses the analogy of the participation ladder that looks a little something like this:

The majority of people are “inactives” (52%). This group does not read blogs, watch peer-generated video (YouTube, Google Video), listen to podcasts, use social networks (MySpace, Facebook), use RSS, tag Web pages, comment on blogs, publish or maintain a blog, upload video or publish a Web page.

Borrowing a phrase from the diffusion of innovations theory, as public relations PRos, we understand that innovators and early adopters are not the majority of consumers (or clients or stakeholders). The category breakdown looks like this: (from Wikipedia, which does a nice job with these descriptions).

  • innovators – venturesome, educated, multiple info sources, greater propensity to take risk (2.5% of people)
  • early adopters – social leaders, popular, educated (13.5%)
  • early majority – deliberate, many informal social contacts (34%)
  • late majority – skeptical, traditional, lower socio-economic status (34%)
  • laggards – neighbours and friends are main info sources, fear of debt (16%)

Early adopters are important for communicators to reach because of the “social leader” and “popular” ideas in the categories above. But the higher the costs (financial, social/reputational, opportunity), the longer it takes for an idea to diffuse. And really, participating in social media has a high cost.

As you think about recommending social media strategies to clients in the future, or how to participate in them yourself, consider these categories (both Li’s and the diffusion categories). Based on where your audiences are on the participation ladder, what strategies and tactics will you need to use?

Get in touch with your inner nerd

Erin Caldwell, a recent graduate and employee at Edelman attributes her hire at the agency in large part, to her PR blog. Here, at the Forward Blog (see the blogroll, it’s a great one for students!), she talks about the importance of understanding new media for new graduates.

At Allen Hall PR, our student-run PR agency at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, my AE, Michelle Pera, and I talked about blogging specifically – giving students a step by step to get started.

I credit Nedra at Spare Change for being my “seed blog.” I’m sure I was searching for social marketing for a presentation I was giving to the United Way Success by Six leadership team and came across her blog. She’s has a great blogroll. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve always been a little nerdy, but I know lots of students resist. I have students who vehemently swear that they don’t need to know computer basics – like formatting Office documents, creating a media list with a database or the basics of Web site publishing. I fear for them. I really do.

Find your “seed blog,” try Web 2.0 services like Stikkit or Pandora (my faves!)… as I like to preach: be active, be curious, be engaged!

What do you think? Is social media this important? Or can you be a tech-avoider and do just fine?

Thanks, Kami Huyse! A terrific corporate blogging primer

Communication Overtones: Corporate PR 101: A Primer for Companies Interested in Social Media

Kami presented to my class via teleconference this evening. Huge thanks to Kami for staying up late with us.

As students head into their careers, they’ll certainly face these issues and now have a clearer road map to follow.

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