IAN GREENLEIGH

Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

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Update: Book deal!

A lot has happened in my life since I started writing The Social Side Door. I married the love of my life. I visited the beautiful island nation of St. Maarten. I helped throw a successful conference, and buried myself in a million interesting projects at work.

And now I'm ridiculously happy to announce: I have a book deal. McGraw-Hill will be releasing The Social Side Door in Fall 2013. I'm excited to join the ranks of authors like Mack Collier, Guy Kawasaki, Ric Dragon, Mark Schaefer, and so many others I respect.

There are too many people to thank in this post, but I want to make sure to let my readers know that your support helped me get here. I'll still be posting excerpts from the book, but probably not as frequently.

Because I'm in no position to dole out writing advice this early in my career, I'll leave it to someone who inspires me:

And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that's unique. You have the ability to make art.

-Neil Gaiman, from a keynote address to The University of the Arts,  May 17, 2012.

Cheers.

The social proof imperative

Biker patches are social proof. Traditional endorsements are specific and direct; I ask for a quote from my best customers, or I pay a celebrity to pretend they like what I sell. Or when I’m looking for a job, I ask my former colleagues for references (this has been updated with the advent of LinkedIn recommendations, but it’s the same practice).

Endorsements can also be tacit and subtle, too. This is the kind of social proof that typically exists in the social Web, and it’s critical to opening up side doors. After all, an endorsement doesn’t have to be explicit.

Some of the social proof signals that people rely on for mental shortcuts—whether they admit it or not—include:

  • Number of social connections (Twitter followers, Facebook friends, etc.)
  • Mentions and links in social content (tweets, blog posts, comments, etc.)
  • Evidence of high traffic to blog or website
  • List and RSS subscribers
  • Klout score

All of these things are signals that convey information. Someone having a high number of Twitter followers or blog subscribers means, on the face of it, a lot of people care to listen to them. Social proof is the mechanism that kicks in once we see this, the feeling that we should give them our attention as well. If we were to evaluate whether or not to pay attention to someone by sifting through every social signal they emit, our social circle would necessarily be tiny.

Although they do make impressions on people, raw numbers aren’t the best indicators of importance. Subscribers, links, friends and followers can all be gamed. So can the algorithms that suck in disparate information and spit out Klout scores. The strongest signal when it comes to social proof is influence by association. This happens when someone that is already an influencer publicly engages with you. Maybe they retweet something you posted, mention you on their blog, or “love” your Instagram photo. In doing so, they pass on influence to you. Their audience is now aware of you, and aware of the fact that someone that influences them is taking the time to engage with you. If you’re on the influencer’s radar, so the mental math goes, you should be on their audience’s radar, too.

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How to use social media to get press coverage: An interview with Jaime Tardy

How to use social media to get press coverage Jaime Tardy has made a name for herself through the intelligent use of social media to attract the attention of the press. I saw her speak on the subject at Blogworld, and I knew she had more to say.

Do bloggers need to focus on SEO to be “findable” to members of the press?

I would say going after press is probably easier than being "findable", though if you are already using it as a strategy for your blog you should make sure to think about the press side of things.

Your first CNN appearance happened because of a guest post you wrote. How can people identify the blogs that reporters read to position themselves for similar opportunities?

Usually larger blogs are more likely to have members of the press. I never realized that some of the journalists I knew were reading these blogs until I went back and started to read the comments. Becoming more visible in general, like being on bigger blogs, will bring more opportunities your way.

When you interviewed David Heinemeier Hansson, founder of 37signals, he shared it on Twitter and sent a lot of people to your site, many of whom turned into subscribers. How do you recommend approaching busy people like David for an interview?

Just ask. I've asked a lot of very important people, and the vast majority have said yes. I specifically say that I can shorten the interview and work with their schedule. I also make sure to let them know how much I love their work, because it's much more than just an interview, I am a big fan of their work before I ask.

How can people use other social channels, like Twitter, to be more visible to the press?

You can start adding journalists to your feed. You can start to see what they talk about, and tweet about, and what they are looking for. That way if you do pitch to them you are more targeted. And you never know - one of them might see your site and love it.

So you've got interest from a reporter, and it looks like they’re going to include you in a story. What’s your most important next step?

If you have given them the story, you should ask when you can expect to see it. That's when you also what to see if there might be a link. Then you wait. Don't bug them, but after a reasonable amount of time (i.e., after it's supposed to be out) you can email them. Many times I found out articles came out because I looked at my Google analytics and saw traffic from it.

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How to make yourself indispensable with social media

Why should they line up for you?  

in·dis·pen·sa·ble/ˌindiˈspensəbəl/

Adjective:

Absolutely necessary or essential.

Who and what do you consider indispensable? Someone you turn to for advice when you’re not sure which path to take? The cup of coffee that delivers that rush of caffeine to start your day? Your iPhone?

Yes, you could technically survive without these people or things. But your life may be tougher, less fun, and even less fulfilling. That’s the thing about being indispensable: it’s always relative.

Social media can help make you or your company indispensable as a source of…

  • Knowledge
  • Connections
  • Expertise
  • Insight
  • Guidance
  • Perspective
  • Humor
  • Motivation
  • Energy

And a whole lot more. Strive to infuse a few complimentary qualities into your social engagement and content. Knowledge and insight, for instance, go hand in hand.  The best way to choose which qualities to add to the mix is to think about what comes naturally to you, and what people value in their interactions with you. Someone that’s great at introducing people might, then, choose to reflect this ability to connect in their social persona.

Selfish vs. self-interested

After chronicling my “social job search,” I found that what was resonating with people seemed to be a mix of guidance and motivation—something I didn’t expect, given my distaste for self-help books. But I ran with it, and it continued to work. This wasn’t a formula, or recipe—anyone that purports to possess a formula for “success” in any realm should be ignored. What I had found, however, were two truths that are as close to universal as truths get:

  1. People are self-interested. This is reflected in their content consumption and sharing.
  2. Content that benefits consumers will ultimately benefit its creators and distributors.

With few exceptions, the people that get the most out of social media are the ones that consistently deliver something of value to their audience. The most popular homemade videos on YouTube make people laugh. Or they help people. I recall being surprised at the number of views—often in the hundreds of thousands—of the videos I would watch when learning to shave with a straight blade razor. But should I have really been surprised? These videos solve problems that people have in their lives, no matter how small that problem may seem to an outsider. Sitting there with a face full of cuts and a new razor, I turned to these videos for help, as did hundreds of thousands with the same problem. In that moment, the problem loomed large, and the solution was in reach.

If we consume content that helps us in some way, what motivates us to share it? A study by The New York Times and Latitude Research asked this question, and found five general motivations for sharing, three of which are fundamentally self-interested.

  1. We share to bring valuable and entertaining content to others (mostly altruistic)
  2. We share to define ourselves to others, and to receive social validation (mostly self-interested)
  3. We share to strengthen and nourish our relationships with one another (mostly self-interested)
  4. We share for self-fulfillment—“We enjoy getting credit for it” (mostly self-interested)
  5. We share to advocate for causes we believe in, and less commonly, brands we want to support (mostly altruistic)

The lesson here is simple: to become indispensable, become a source of content that fulfills as many of these motivations as possible, as thoroughly as possible. A few examples:

  • @breakingnews has over 4 million Twitter followers because it provides news alerts before they become mainstream knowledge. It creates no original content of its own (besides the tweets), and links to a wide array of sources.
  • “Dad blogger” Ron Mattocks has earned high-profile speaking invitations, a book deal, guest columns, and media appearances, because his Clark Kent’s Lunchbox blog helps other dads be better parents.
  • Ex-accountant Therese Schwenkler saw a profound need for a source of “non-sucky” advice for young people like herself, so she decided to create it. Her blog The Unlost is a source of inspiration and guidance for thousands, and along the way she’s finding answers to her own questions.
  • Kate Spade New York realized that people wanted a “peek of what it’s like to work at Kate Spade, and an inside look in the fashion industry,” so they made it the focus of their blog. “I think there are a lot of women that aspire to live interesting lives, and they can experience that in a very authentic way through our blog,” says VP of eCommerce Johanna Murphy.

Self-interest can mutate into selfishness when value is promised and not delivered. Or when people ask for things before they’ve provided much of anything themselves. “Squeeze pages” that require personal information before any value is “dispensed.” A twitter stream that contains only self-promotion. Mass Facebook messages asking for votes from people the sender hasn’t interacted with in months or years. These don’t help anyone but the originator—there is no mutual benefit.

The indispensable person or company understands that their self-interest will be fulfilled only when they fulfill the self-interest of their audience first. Social media offers no shortcuts, but it offers a powerful set of tools for delivering and receiving value.

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Being three-dimensional in social media

I used to sell mobile apps and custom blogs to real estate agents. Unlike most decision-makers, their livelihood depended on having their direct contact information findable. Even getting in touch with the head broker of a 300-agent firm was easy; their cell numbers were right there on their websites. Lucky me, I thought. But when I called them, they’d give me short shrift. Many would hang up within seconds. I was competing for their attention against a sea of other salespeople, all of us vying for their attention in the same exact way. No matter how incredible my offer was, it wouldn’t be considered because they didn’t know me (or my company) from Adam, and I was one of 5-10 faceless salespeople that had called them that day, already.

Anyone in sales or marketing can relate to this problem. The solution? Use social to make yourself “three-dimensional” and open up a side door of access. People like to do business—at any scale—with people they know, like and trust. Cold calling and email blasts are numbers games with long odds. By creating a compelling social media presence, you’re humanizing yourself, establishing your expertise and engaging in a way that differentiates you from just another strange voice on the end of a phone call—you’re making yourself three-dimensional in the mind of the prospect. In my case, I started joining real estate marketing Twitter chats, building my Facebook and Twitter networks by posting interesting content, and blogging about solutions to some of the industry pain points I was hearing about. When I started calling again, I was no longer the anonymous salesguy. I was the guy that taught them that cool Twitter search trick, or whose blog they had subscribed to. I had earned their attention, and became the obvious choice whenever they needed something I was selling.

Like anyone with any control over vendor selection, I get a lot of phone and email pitches. And like anyone that values their time (and sanity), I screen most of them out. The pitches that I do pay attention to are different. They’re from people that have first taken a look at my social footprint, and that of my company, to equip themselves for a personalized approach and higher-level conversation. Often they’ll interact with me via social first to establish a rapport—they’ll comment on my blog posts, or retweet a few of my updates. They’ll also use social to enrich the standard phone and email exchanges, starting out by telling me their thoughts on our latest blog post, or sending me one-off, non-“salesy” emails sharing something they read that will likely interest me, too. These techniques work because they simultaneously help personalize the approach and build substantive relationships—two things that have always been extremely important to successful sales and marketing efforts, and are easier than ever thanks to social. So why don’t we see them more often?

Rules from another era

The rules and etiquette of access were written by Those Who Cannot Be Accessed, the tiny minority that has no problem getting through the front door. Once in, they’re asked to shut the door behind them, and they do. An open front door is now just a distraction from the important things they’re doing. After all, Those Who Cannot Be Accessed will always be let in. For others the door will never open, but most of them will still line up in case it does. Almost all of us are “others,” or we started out that way. We still play by the rules of access, not because we’re stupid, or because we lack creativity, but because they’re the only rules we know. And because the people we want to engage with have told us that, if the rules are followed, we may just get what we want. We’ll keep working on our cover letters, leaving messages, and smiling-and-dialing until then.

Here’s the secret: the rules haven’t been updated in a long time. They tell us nothing about social media, and social side doors are being created every single day for those that know this.

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Guest post on Convince & Convert

Guest blogging is one of the best ways to open the social side door. Yesterday, Jay Baer published a piece of mine called 5 Ways to Open the Social Side Door and Build Relationships.  Among the tips:

  1. Get there early.
  2. Show up in unexpected places.
  3. Write Rocket Content.
  4. Be three-dimensional.
  5. Understand ego capital.

My relationship with Jay developed as I applied a lot of the ideas in this book to my life. Ideas like the ones in yesterday's post. His readers seemed to really enjoy it. Lots of great comments, too. You should head over there now.

Social influence is earned (and learned)

Stop snoozing through social influence. Access is meaningless without influence. What will we do once we've gained access to effect the outcomes we desire? If we don’t know, or if we make the wrong choices after access, we risk losing everything we've worked for. It’s a question to ask long before being let in. Equally important is the fact that social  influence can be used to unlock doors we’ve finally reached, like Ali Baba’s magic words, “open sesame,” at the mouth of the cave of treasures. Influence helps us get there, and allows us to get things done when we’ve arrived.

Social media can be used to cultivate influence more easily than ever before. Gone are the days when only published authors and industry leaders can generate media coverage. It’s no longer necessary to know a company decision maker to be seriously considered as a vendor, or job candidate. Using our social content (tweets, blog posts, etc.) to establish expertise shows the people we want to influence that we know what we’re talking about. The following and activity we generate along the way as our ideas spread and our networks grow shows them that other people are listening to us, and many are like them (this idea is called “social proof”). Tweets are taking the place of long-form testimonials and references, and follower count, blog subscribers and Klout scores are being used—often mistakenly—as a proxy for the amount of cachet one has earned.

All of this has a powerful democratizing effect on the accumulation and distribution of influence. Influence is no longer reserved for the elite, or the longtime insider. The scope of who we trust to inform our views and decisions is massively wider than it once was, for both consumers and businesses. Companies are using crowdsourcing and direct consumer feedback to design their next product lines. People are getting their news from non-traditional outlets like Gawker, Slate and Salon. We’re ditching our cable boxes for the universe of content the Web offers us instantly.

This democratization of influence has led to a diffusion of power, and the number of entities we’re competing against for influence has grown just as fast as the social Web. The playing field between the average person and traditional media outlets may be leveling, but more and more players are entering the stadium every day.

One of the biggest mistakes in influence generation stems from the truism, “Content is king.” If content is king, why do so many great blogs go unread? Why do some of the cleverest tweets come from people with tiny followings? Because content needs a constantly-growing delivery network to spread and reach the people we want to influence. Expertise needs an audience if it’s ever to be converted into influence.

As my friend Brian Solis has written, the true king is context, not content. Spend too much time crafting content, and not enough time architecting the context in which it will thrive—your network—and your influence will stagnate.  Find the right balance, and your influence will soar.

One’s social footprint can certainly inhibit success, and employers are turning to social background checks to dig up inappropriate behavior when screening applicants. But more and more, just having a large and influential social footprint can open doors, and not just in job-seeking. Event promoters are now offering exclusive VIP admission—even full-ride travel and hotel stays—to those with enough social influence in their parties’ niche. Often these influencers are chosen based on their Klout scores, an algorithmically-generated ranking that approximates one’s social influence. In a comment on my blog, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez described his company’s perspective:

We see our data as a way to augment or balance the “human touch” that will always be needed to identify influencers.

Implicitly or explicitly, influencers are being regaled with gifts and access for one reason above all others. Brands are hoping they will use their influence to spread positive word of mouth about their products and services. Social influence is now monetizeable, exchangeable for what we’re really after. This is a power that we’re only beginning to realize we possess. Employers are already starting to ask applicants for their Twitter follower counts, and some job seekers are actually being screened out for not having “enough." Our social footprints are now our books of business, and are soon to be taken as seriously. Noah Kravitz found this out the hard way when his former employer, Phonedog.com, sued him for $340,000—their estimation of the total value of the 17,000 Twitter followers he had when he quit (supposedly “on good terms”). As of writing, the case is ongoing.  No matter the verdict, it’s a serious testament to the perceived value of social influence.

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The perils of infinite access (why doors close)

[box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]pen doors create inefficiency. Each person that walks through them requires attention in some form or another, a resource that’s easily exhausted. Lines are formed. Credentials are screened more closely. Contact information is pulled from websites. Access is constricted and streamlined by gatekeepers to make sure that people, requests and time are managed in a way that prevents total meltdown. People understand this intuitively—when everyone wants something finite, not everyone can get it. But they still want it.

The world relies on gatekeepers even more heavily during times of uncertainty and crisis. When more people are calling in favors, digging deeper into their contacts, and seeking the kinds of jobs they once balked at, the front door is reinforced to compensate. It’s rarely done cheerfully, or with disdain for those seeking entry. Front doors are narrowed and shut especially tight in light of facts like this one: the 12,511,000 recession-era college graduates in the United States are doing everything they can to walk through them, and they can’t all fit.  Eighty-three applicants for every graduate-level opening in the UK means that companies are forced to reevaluate every aspect of their hiring practices, down to the paper their rejection notices are printed on.

1,000,000. That’s the number of job applications Google receives per year for its 6,000 annual openings, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  Of course, anyone familiar with Google’s workplace culture and legacy of innovation would expect a ratio like this. But it’s not just bleeding-edge tech jobs that are generating amazing levels of interest. A Ford plant in Louisville received nearly 17,000 applicants for 1,800 new jobs, a ratio of 9.4 jobseekers for every opening. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the beginning of the recession, “the number of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.8,” while the ratio at the official end of the recession (June 2009) had risen to “6.1 unemployed persons per job opening.”

Success requires more and more gatekeeping to keep systems humming. A small business doesn’t need call centers to service customers; this is the agitating byproduct of a company’s successful scaling to a point where access needs to be limited or diverted to allow other areas of the business to operate without distraction. Similarly, actors that haven’t yet “made it” are eager for inquiries, and make sure their direct contact information is found easily. Working actors divert inquiries to publicists and agents, whose job, in part, is to guard access to their clients. You may be able to get a meeting with your county commissioner, but very few can get one with the governor. And it’s easy to forget that this is generally a good thing—we want people that have the capacity to make big decisions to be able to focus; we don’t want the yelling cat lady that ruins every town hall meeting to have weekly one-on-ones with Jack Welch.

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Instagram and the tiny moments of our lives

tiny moments [box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]

Memories replay before him All the tiny moments of his life Laying round in bed on a Saturday morning Two daughters and a wife Two daughters and a beautiful wife

-Drive-By Truckers, “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife”

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hether Instagram is worth $1 billion (the sum, in cash and stock, paid by Facebook for the photo sharing service) isn’t for me to decide. But 30 million users worldwide have decided that it adds value to their lives, and I’m one of them. Plenty of photo-sharing apps exist, so why has Instagram struck such a chord?

Tiny moments.

The different profiles and activities that comprise our social presence create an image of who we are. They provide access to different areas of our lives—the areas we choose to share with the world. Most of this information is conveyed by what we write, what we share, and the photos we post.

Photography is a visceral medium, and we are visual creatures. Photos require little explanation or contemplation—they convey information with remarkable efficiency. The rise of social media has proven just how much about ourselves and our experiences we want to share, but perhaps more interestingly, it has shown us how much we care about other people’s lives. Some of this interest is affection; some of it is fascination; and some of it might even be schadenfreude (I can’t be alone in occasionally looking up the classmates that use to call me a nerd to see how miserable they are now). We like to share and consume the tiny moments of our lives, and Instagram’s filters and ease of use made this an even more rewarding experience than it already was.  (Facebook’s success has a lot to do with our affinity for photos, but the unprocessed digital photos we encounter on Facebook aren’t usually very flattering or aesthetically pleasing).

Katie Couric’s use of Instagram is the perfect social side door story. A celebrity, an emerging social tool, and a level of intimacy that would have been hard to imagine a decade ago. Couric posts the tiny moments of her life. Some are happy moments: making goofy faces with Wendy Williams, a victory pose in the doorway of her new studio. Some are sad: a program from the funeral of her friend Charla Krupp. But they’re all tiny moments from the life of Katie Couric, and there’s something magical about them, which is why 11,248 people follow her. This number is just a fraction of the 416,252 Twitter followers Couric has gathered. Many of her photos have only a few comments, and some have none. If you wanted to say something to Katie Couric—and you wanted to make sure she reads it—which medium would you choose? Twitter, where she is mentioned more than 75 times a day, or Instagram, where the number is much, much smaller?

Some social side doors are wider than others. It’s all about context, saturation, and end goals.

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Secrets of the “blogging One Percenters”

The blogging One Percenters [box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]nly a tiny minority of bloggers will ever earn significant income as a direct result of their blogging, or generate the kind of exposure that gets them on CNN—they are the “blogging One Percenters,” meaning they have enjoyed exceedingly rare success. Chances are you won’t end up in that 1%, and neither will I. But you can do a lot with a little when it comes to blogging, and the One Percenters can help you get there.

Learn from them, get to know them, and look for opportunities to create mutual value.

The best part about building a network of influence that leads back to your blog—and you—is that the actions you take pay for themselves many times over even if they aren’t reciprocated. If you’re reading the best bloggers in your space, you’re constantly learning how to do your job better. Reading great work is rewarding in and of itself. You’re also gathering ideas to discuss, material to quote and reference, and you’re getting insight into what seems to be resonating with their audience, with which there is bound to be significant overlap if you’re truly in a similar niche. I’ll reiterate that common activity and engagement metrics shouldn’t be used to validate your efforts, but they can serve as indicators of which content seems to be hitting the mark. Start experimenting with emulating some of the best of what you read, the stuff that really seems to ignite dialogue in the comments, or spread like wildfire across the social web.

Emulate does not mean copy. In fact, the best thing you can do as an emerging  blogger is give proper credit where it is due. Even if a post is only loosely based on another’s idea, be sure to acknowledge this by letting your readers know and linking to the original. This isn’t just a goodwill exercise and the right thing to do, it’s a strategic must. Most bloggers have receive “pingback” alerts, which tell them when one of their posts or pages has been linked to, and where the link lives online. They’ll often follow the pingback trail to your blog, which can be the beginning or acceleration of a rewarding relationship. It’s a special thrill to learn that someone you truly admire has subscribed to your blog.

Finding the time to write can be difficult. I’ve been blogging for years, and the truth is, it doesn’t get any easier—but it does get more rewarding. Once you start to see your disparate efforts coalesce into results, blogging becomes something you can’t imagine not doing.

One of the secrets to building awareness and influence is that almost everyone wants more content, even the biggest names in your space. Of any tactic I’ve pursued to build social access and influence through blogging, guest posts are the most effective. The value created by a good guest post on someone else’s blog is pretty remarkable. Think about it: You get access to a new, larger audience. They get free content that drives traffic to their doorstep. But guest blogging is about relationships, and quality of content trails a distant second. Aspiring guest bloggers should be very familiar with the style and subject matter of the host blog. They should cultivate a rapport with the blogger by leaving interesting comments on their posts, sharing their work, and making themselves known. This is also a way for the host blogger to become familiar with the guest blogger’s writing style and area expertise. You’re ready, as a guest blogger, when you can be reasonably sure the host blogger will recognize your name in the “from” line of an email, and you have an idea that will fit right in with their content. Don’t make the mistake of reaching out without something specific in mind. And if they show interest in the content you propose, don’t waste an opportunity to get the terms right for your guest post. Make sure to discuss how your bio and byline will appear, where it will link to (a social profile, your blog, or both), and whether or not you’ll be able to cross-post it to your blog with a link back to the original. Most top bloggers are flexible on both of these items and happy to discuss them, as long as you give them clear input and don’t nitpick.

The mere fact that you are blogging means that you are positively differentiating yourself from the pack. Everyone wants fifty comments on every post, 10,000 subscribers and a healthy dose of ad revenue. Too many bloggers start comparing themselves to the best in the business right out of the gate. While it’s great to learn from the best, it’s not smart to expect the results they have from less work. It’s also not smart to write your blog off as a failure even if you are putting in the work, and it’s not getting the activity you’re after. If it never becomes anything more than a record of your thoughts, or a collection of your best work, it is still worth it—and you are still doing something valuable that most are not.

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Media gatekeepers: not dead yet

Still on air. [box title="Note"] This is an advance excerpt from The Social Media Side Door, my book about the ways social media has rewritten the rules of access and influence. Subscribe to receive more excerpts, tips, and side door strategies.[/box]

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]nformation gatekeepers are losing the war to control the stream. But they’re still powerful—and they still have their jobs. Let me be clear here that I’m not alleging any conspiracies; I’m not going to tell you that a powerful elite holds an iron grip on information to willfully disadvantage the masses, or to shape our reality. Certainly, our reality is shaped by what we see and hear, but this is a consequence of nature, and not an elaborate scheme for our minds and obedience.

Interestingly, the fact that you and I can access a vast, digital universe of conspiracy theories; the fact that a loony-bin conspiracy website, Infowars.com, ranks among the top 500 websites in the US, is a testament to how wide the cracks in the information barriers are getting.

But why did barriers exist in the first place? The gatekeepers have a few goals that are worth considering.

First, gatekeepers can serve as filters for truth and accuracy. By staunching the flow of bad information, and only releasing information after careful and thorough vetting, gatekeepers ostensibly make sure the inputs to our worldview, beliefs and resulting decisions are based on their controlled information output of “better” information.  This might be called “paternalism by filtering.”

Second, gatekeepers aim to steer the public’s collective focus toward what matters, versus things that are trivial, irrelevant or inconsequential. A classic example of this role is the media’s handling of John F. Kennedy’s sex life. As Alicia C. Shepard wrote in American Journalism Review:

“It used to be so simple back in the days when John F. Kennedy was president. What reporters covering the White House knew about his promiscuity never saw its way into print. It just wasn't considered relevant.”

Third, gatekeepers may control the flow of information in an attempt to shape outcomes. In other words, traditional media might actively try to push content that supports a particular agenda—a step beyond bias by omission, to bias by inclusion.

Media gatekeepers are now only able to control the flow of their information through their owned properties. Other stories, narratives and characters have an unprecedented ability to compete with the traditional players and, increasingly, they’re able to win. One story that’s particularly hard to bury: The data isn’t looking good for traditional media. In just six years, ad spending on newspapers has dropped 51.6% (2005-2011), and newspapers’ audience shrunk by 4% from 2010-2011. Television news saw mild growth in 2011—but the 4.5%, 3% and 1% increases in viewership for evening network news, evening local news, and cable news, respectively, aren’t the large reversals many were hoping for.

Publishing, too, is undergoing a rapid transformation. February, 2012 saw e-book sales beat out every other format in book sales for the first time ever. Amazon sold more e-books than both hardcover and softcover books combined in January, 2012. Both booksellers and publishers have had little choice but to embrace the trend, but for ailing retailers like Barnes and Noble, it may be too little, too late.

Everyone’s a critic

All of this means that the cost of entry into the media landscape for the average person has fallen dramatically. Want to be a singer? Post videos on YouTube and record your own MP3s. Want to be a writer? Start blogging and put together an e-book. Want to be a critic? Start critiquing the films you see and post them online. You’ll encounter very few filters along the way.

But there’s another side of gatekeeping that benefits those that are let through. Gatekeepers have audiences and resources. Once you’re through, you’re in front of a crowd that has been gathered for you, not by you. Gatekeepers have promotional budgets, ratings and sales targets to hit, and bosses to please. Letting you through is an investment. They might buy ads for you, or give you airtime, or book you high-profile gigs—expensive, time-consuming things that are extremely difficult for the average person to achieve on their own.

When you’re on your own, building an audience is the hardest part. There’s a saying that drives me nuts: “Content is king.” Oh that it were so! What about the millions of great authors, musicians and comedians you’ve never heard of, and never will? Their content is superb, and yet they toil in relative obscurity. Why? They devote most or all of their time to perfecting the content, and not enough time building an audience for it.

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How to better your life through blogging (the Embassy of You)

Build your own embassy

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his section isn’t, “How to get blog comments,” or, “How to make your posts go viral.” Google those things if you want, but be wary of what you read. When the how-to format meets blogging, the quality of advice often gets iffy.  Blog comments, “engagement,” subscribers, top-100 placement—they’re all means to an ill-defined end. These things are not the goal, only loose indicators that you’re on track toward something bigger. Everyone blogs to better their life in some way. Blogging can make a very real impact on that one, big goal, if you stay away from measuring your success in ways that have nothing to do with what you’re really after.

To make an impact, you need a central outpost that acts as the heart of your social media presence. Blogs are great for this. They are built for long-form content like blog posts, but can also be a great way to aggregate your tweets and YouTube videos, link to your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, and other digital footprints you’d like to showcase. Think of your blog as an embassy. If a stranger were to visit the Embassy of You, what would you want them to see? More importantly, what would they want to see?

Play to your strengths, and write about what you know. If you’re trying to prove to the world that you’re an expert in something, abide by the old writers’ saying, “Show, don’t tell.” Don’t simply tell people about your expertise. Anyone can do that. You need to show it. Write with authority about something you have passion for, and your expert self will steal the show. Most of the people you’re competing with will start by talking about themselves, playing up their status, telling the world how great they are at something—and little else.

Define your niche. Generalists usually don’t get very far, because they’re going toe-to-toe with millions of others that have been doing it longer, and probably better. Google likes niches, too. Unique content fares better in search results, so ask yourself what the people you’d like to influence are searching for.

Don’t be shy about featuring what others have said about you and your work. On the page of your blog that explains who you are, let others tell the story for you—they’re better at it. Pretend it’s the back of a book. Public praise by a third party is infinitely more impactful than self-congratulatory copy. Successful blogger Brian Clark put it this way: “What other people say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.” Some of the praise you feature will come naturally, even unexpectedly. But you’ll usually need to ask for it when you’ve done good work, so make a habit of it. Be sure to disclose that you plan on putting their words on your blog. Most will be flattered.

After putting in all that work, the last thing you want to do is sit back and wait, believing content is king. The concept of reciprocity should guide your efforts to promote your blog. Think about what actions you want people to take when they visit your blog; literally make a list of them. Then make a list of bloggers you respect, whose work you enjoy, and who you’d like to get to know better. Make sure to include bloggers that aren’t hugely popular yet; due to the volume of activity on their blogs (and perhaps, their egos), well-known bloggers are less likely to reciprocate.

Now the fun part. Take your list of people, visit their blogs, and start doing the things on your other list.  Comment on their blogs, subscribe to their newsletters, send thoughtful tweets in their direction. You’ll quickly find that people like people that validate their work in these ways, and they like people that share their passions. Many of them will take a moment to discover who you are by following the link in your Twitter profile, or the backlink in your blog comments. And then they’ll reciprocate by commenting, sharing your content, or something else similar to what you did for them.

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Early adoption and social adstock

Roger's Bell Curve

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he technology adoption lifecycle has been studied exhaustively ever since Everett Rogers developed his famous Rogers Bell Curve in 1962.  As more of a population adopts a technology, adoption becomes less expensive. However, as a communications technology edges closer to saturation, other costs emerge for its early users. Increased activity volume requires more attention and follow-up.  The exclusivity that once appealed to early users—and the related benefits of being in an elite circle—all but disappears. As more people start using the medium, access is given to anyone and everyone. This is when gatekeeping kicks in as a set of tools and practices that preserve the value of the medium, while reducing the costs associated with being accessed more easily.

Most decision makers aren’t actually early adopters, and they’re usually not even in the early majority of users when looking at total adoption. But they can be considered early users within their peer group. Executives, for instance, actually tend to lag behind the general population in personal social media use. Of Fortune 500 CEOs, only about 14 are active on Twitter—less than 3%.  Among US internet users in general, that rate jumps 333% to 13% of the population.  Let’s consider one CEO’s use of social. Brian J. Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, has tweeted 1,680 times as of this writing. More than 14,000 people follow him, and he’s mentioned about five times per day.  This relatively manageable level of inbound activity allows him to respond to “regular” people, like librarian Adam Haigh, who tweeted that he enjoyed Dunn’s article in Harvard Business Review.  But what happens when that number goes up to 10 or 20 mentions per day, let alone 112 (the average number of emails received by corporate users daily)?  Being accessed becomes burdensome when the number is big enough.

Advertising adstock is a way of talking about advertising’s influence on what we buy. At its most basic level, repeated exposure to advertising rapidly increases awareness, until the rate of awareness-building slows, and then plateaus, due to saturation.  A similar effect can be found in social media, but on more than just influence. Let’s call it social media decay. Social media decay occurs both on the individual and systemic levels. When a user first ventures into social media, every event seems significant. Friend requests, Twitter mentions, LinkedIn messages, blog comments—these are all events that excite for hours due to their relative infrequency at early stages of social media use. There is also the pay-off aspect; the effort we’ve been putting into building a blog readership, or growing our Twitter networks, is starting to yield a return. My first few blog posts received almost zero interactions. Then, on my fourth or fifth, out of the ether, a blog comment appeared. I remember how it felt—like it was all uphill from there. This one positive interaction resonated throughout my entire day, and I could barely wait to write another post and see what would happen next. You’ll see this degree of excitement lead to a lot of sad exchanges with spammers on early-stage blogs. An automated spam-bot will leave a generic, barely legible comment like this one from “Dentist Barry,” pulled from the spam filter on my blog:

 Hello your  website is  great .I  am with your side that you are  making your horizontical knowledge.I  would love to know  more of your  site.Will come back!

And the new bloggers, bless their souls, will approve the comment, and leave enthusiastic replies:

 So glad you liked it, Barry! Thanks for your kind words, and I hope you like my next post, too!

But the real comments and social interactions keep you going, making you hungry for more.

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Understanding the gatekeepers (updated)

The gatekeepers

Trailing not far behind the introduction of a successful new communications technology are the human and technological gatekeepers. Human gatekeepers include receptionists, executive assistants, recruiters, bureaucrats, budget managers, script readers—anyone who has the power to slow, stop, or accelerate access to someone or something. These gatekeepers are used to taking messages that they’ll never actually relay, used to deciding whether inquiries are worth the attention of the people they work for, and, above all else, used to saying “no” and “not interested.” Their ultimate charter as gatekeepers is to keep the people who are paid to focus on important things from having to make hundreds of tiny decisions every day that threaten to derail productivity. It’s easy to see this work from a cynic’s perspective. After all, these are people who are paid to stop others from getting through. But the reality is more nuanced. Great work requires sustained concentration and the ability to devote high-level resources to the projects and tasks that merit this attention. Everything else can be more efficiently dealt with by subordinates or no one at all. Making those calls is a necessary role, and probably thankless.

While it still plays a big part in society and business, human gatekeeping needs to be supplemented or replaced by technological gatekeeping in order for organizations to scale. Some technological gatekeeping is put in place to hide or remove public information. The CEO’s direct line can’t be listed on the company website, and his or her e-mail address shouldn’t be something easily guessed, like firstname.lastname@companyname.com.

[Not in the book: When I interviewed Clay Shirky, he told me about one of Seth Godin's early books, E-Mail Addresses of The Rich and Famous, published in 1994. Godin's guide, said Shirky, was an early technological side door of the digital era. The book must have been extremely useful to early adopters, but practically obsolete to those that waited just a little too long. Reviewing the book, Businessweek helpfully explained that "listing an Internet address such as 'jayvee@well.sf.ca.us' on your business card has become de rigueur in many computer-related industries."]

The Radicati Group finds that while the average number of business e-mails received per day is tracking upward, the average number of spam e-mails received is plateauing, thanks in part to automated filtering. This gatekeeping comes at a significant cost, however, as the same report found that medium-size to large companies are each spending millions fighting spam.

Social media is giving a voice to some of the smallest populations on the planet, most of which have few dedicated media providers printing or broadcasting in their native languages or covering topics of direct interest to them. IndigenousTweets.com indexes data about tweets and Twitter users in nearly 150 “indigenous and minority languages” from around the world. The site’s profile for the Asturian language, a native language for some in the Asturias region of Spain, lists 738 users and 191,539 individual tweets. These Twitter users hail from some of the most marginalized and disenfranchised groups in the world, and yet they have found a way to connect and engage in the new media landscape, the most remarkable feature of which is the absence of barriers. In the words of Kevin Scannel, the professor who leads the effort:

[Social media has] allowed sometimes-scattered communities to connect and use their languages online in a natural way. Social media have also been important in engaging young people, who are the most important demographic in language revitalization efforts. Together we’re breaking down the idea that only global languages like English and French have a place online!

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The First 3,000 Telephones (updated)

 

Mr. Watson, come here! I want to see you!

-Alexander Graham Bell, March 10, 1876 (the world’s first phone call)

inviting coworkers

-Jack Dorsey, March 21, 2006 (the world’s first tweet)

Shortly after a new communications medium arrives, side doors of access are created by the confluence of low adoption and technological immaturity. These side doors do not last forever. The excitement and the mutual opportunity that initially pass through them eventually become costly—and sometimes a liability. The fortunate few who discover these doors get in early and make out like bandits before the rest of the world finds out. Side doors soon become crowded and unreliable, while the people who originally left them open see no choice but to seal them against the oncoming crowds.

Social media has created an incredible array of side doors, and all of them remain open—if you know where to look. Right now, social media is the telephone before there were secretaries and voice mail. It’s e-mail before spam and autoreplies. History tells us that this degree of access is not sustainable, and side doors don’t stay open. Sometime soon, we’ll be telling “remember-when” stories. It’s up to you: do you want to be the storyteller, recalling how good the social media side doors were for you, or do you want to be the audience, wishing you had known—and acted?

One year after Bell invented the telephone, the world had 3,000 working telephones. Think about the calls placed to and from those first 3,000 telephones, the excitement with which they were placed and received, and the elite circle that one instantly entered just by placing one of them. A person could connect with those who were all but unreachable by other means, an exclusive channel of access that opened up for these early adopters alone—a technological side door.

The normal rules of polite society would, of course, apply to early telephone communication—no foul language, no harassment or violations of privacy. But outside these limitations, one would have free rein to explore a brand-new communications channel. The voices on the other end were no doubt tinged with the excitement of early adoption. Most calls were between familiar parties, and the tele- phone was a new way for existing contacts to connect. For the most part, it helped maintain and build relationships, not start them.

Doubters, Evangelists, and Opportunists

There were certainly a lot of doubters of the telephone’s potential. Among them was Western Union, which dismissed the technology in an 1876 internal memo: “The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” On the other end of the spectrum, there were early evangelists, who trumpeted the telephone’s invention without much evidence of its eventual success—some of history’s lucky guessers. In between the two extremes were the early adopters, who focused on the telephone’s utility at the time and stayed out of the predictions business.

This is where we find the opportunists throughout history. They’re busy putting the technology of the day to work for them. Whoever made the world’s first sales call was among this group. I imagine this person taking a deep breath as the operator connected him to his intended prospect. The recipient answers, expecting a familiar voice, only to find a stranger on the other end. An exchange of greetings and then the moment of truth. Does the prospect hang up or cut the conversation short? Or does the prospect sit and listen to what the stranger has to say? I suspect it’s the latter. The recipient has no concept of phone solicitation. It probably hasn’t yet dawned on the listener that this new network could even be used to conduct business between people or firms. To the prospect, the person on the other end of the call is not a nuisance but a member of a limited circle in which having access to a connected telephone is the sole qualification. And people do business with those in their circle, even if the circle was entered through a side door.

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With noise in the numbers, how can brands find social signal strength?

When people talk about social data, they usually focus on two dimensions that are relatively easy to measure and articulate—volume and source growth. More data coming from more places. But something else is happening with a lot of social data that makes it difficult to draw conclusions from on its own—noise is increasingly making it difficult to achieve true signal strength. A lot of companies may be experiencing this without even realizing it.

Let’s say I’m a corporate user of the average listening tool, and I’m trying to trend some of the standard social metrics over time. Specifically, I’m looking at number of mentions, follower/fan/subscriber numbers, and sentiment for Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Mentions

Imagine that hundreds or thousands of tweets and blog posts mention my brand every week, and that number went up this week. In raw form, what does that number tell me? On the surface, it tells me we’re doing something right…right? Not necessarily. How many of the accounts that tweeted it are actually human, controlled by humans and followed by other humans? Estimates of the prevalence of Twitter spam accounts are difficult to come by, but some are as high as 48% and even 57%. It’s clear that spam mentions shouldn’t factor into your assessment of your brand’s social performance, but that’s just the tip of iceberg. Redundancy matters, too. If two accounts for the same entity tweet the same positive thing about your brand, for instance, that doesn’t mean you have two advocates. The best you can hope for is that different sets of real people follow them, and that same message thus reaches more people.

Within that spike of activity, you notice that blog mentions of your brand have gone up. You dig a little deeper and see that the blogs are actually saying the same exact thing—down to the letter. It’s scraped content that has been duplicated over and over across the web, usually without the original author’s permission. Maybe a keyword in the text triggered it, or maybe your own content has been added to a feed that disseminates it into hundreds of nearly-identical (and totally useless) scraping sites across the web. If only one of these mentions is original content, and 100 of them are scraped content, the raw data tells you that your presence on blogs has increased a hundred times over. It hasn’t. In fact, if it’s your content, you’re likely being hurt because duplicate can hurt your search rankings.

Sentiment

Now let’s talk sentiment. Most tools out there today for assessing sentiment from unstructured social data aren’t very accurate, but that’s not a problem with the data itself. One of the biggest problems is that most companies want to know the sentiment of people toward their brand and products, and raw, unstructured social data is full of data from non-people, like automated RSS feeds. For example, if my company puts out a press release—which of course will contain a lot of positive text—and it’s picked up by 10 different automatic Twitter or blog feeds that post things from the various press release wires out there, this tells me absolutely nothing about how people feel about my brand. If an actual human reads the release and posts something negative about it, my aggregate sentiment data is going to reflect something completely false: that positive sentiment is 10 times higher than negative sentiment.

Followers/fans/subscribers

On to follower/fan/subscriber numbers. Would you rather have100 followers/fans/subscribers that never interact with you in any way, or one follower that does? The only thing those 100 followers can do for you is provide a tiny amount of social proof by making you look more important to people that use follower count as a proxy for importance. But if your single follower actually pays attention to you, responds to your calls to action, or shares your content with their followers on occasion, he or she is way more valuable to your brand—and you’ll have to earn it.

What’s a brand to do?

Tom Foremski outlines the problem well:

“Accurate data on social media users is essential. It’s the foundation of all successful social media marketing and advertising campaigns: the precise targeting of related groups of users with their interests.”

The best solution to this problem has three parts.

  1. Raw, unstructured social data needs to be processed, filtered and cleaned up before it means much of anything
  2. Once signal is separated from noise, it should be paired with reliable data from other sources to create a more accurate, holistic view of your customers. For example, you can match your social data to your CRM records
  3. Look for direct results, not proxies. Are visitors from Facebook converting at higher or lower rates than other visitors? How much did revenue increase after a product change was made based on your analysis of social feedback?

None of these things are particularly easy. All of them are totally worth it.

 

Hyperbole, incredulity and social media extremist syndrome

Tweets, Facebook updates and news headlines are strikingly similar in two ways:

  1. They convey limited information at breakneck speed
  2. Their value is entirely contextual

Social updates are short by design. They each tell part of a larger story. Their accuracy and usability depends on the credibility of the person creating them, and the content they reference and link to. People get this, mostly. But no one can read the piece behind every link, or separately assess the authority of the people sharing it with them.

Headlines work the same way. We can’t get the full story from them alone. We can’t truly say whether we agree or disagree with an article if we’ve only read its headline. The article and author behind the headline give it almost all of its value.

But we take shortcuts, because it’s impossible to fully evaluate every piece of content aimed our way. If I trust The Economist, I’m not going to be as skeptical of its articles as I would be of the “news-repurposing turbine” that is HuffPo. If my friend is an amazing cook, the opinions she tweets about food will carry more weight than tweets from my culinarily-challenged college roommate. And if enough people point to a headline, people start to think the headline tells more of the story than it actually does. It’s human nature.

When the conversation is about something as complex as social, that effect is amplified. How do headlines like these shape our understanding of social’s value?

Together, these headlines appeared in thousands of tweets, Facebook and Google Plus posts. The research and reporting behind them is actually pretty solid and nuanced. But headlines and nuance don’t mix well. As a result, the conversation has a difficult time evolving past the narrowly-defined, shortsighted understanding of social’s value.

Traffic, conversion, followers, likes, mentions (we might as well add pins to the list now)—all good things to celebrate, monitor, analyze and even worry about. There’s a whole other universe of value to unlock. We get there by trying our damnedest to answer questions like:

  • What do my customers actually care about?
  • What are they getting out of sharing their data with me?
  • How can we build social experiences without building barriers?
  • How can better data move “influencer engagement” past sending people free stuff, and hoping that they’ll blog about it?

One of the unfortunate realities of the conversation about social is its tendency to swing between hyperbole and incredulity. It’s just like political coverage in this way:

Hyperbole

  • Fake SM headline: Drop everything and get on [new social network or tool] now—or you’ll be sorry
  • Fake political headline: [Candidate name] is unstoppable

 Incredulity

  • Fake SM headline: What’s so great about [new social network or tool]?
  • Fake political headline: [Candidate name] wins [state name], but does she really have a chance?

If there’s one thing we in new media love talking about—and writing about—it’s how different “our” new media is from “their” old media, how much better we are. In a lot of ways, we are better. But on this point, whether we’re really less prone to sensationalism and superficial exploration of topics that deserve deeper digging, I think we’re far from proving it. Let’s change that.

Treading water and the state of social media reporting

This one's going to be short. Here we go...

Social professionals don't get to decide that ROI isn't important. Our clients and bosses decide that, and it's usually coming from the right place. We can joke among ourselves about ROI-crazed executives and managers, but I think we all know that it's pretty cool that our companies are putting any money into social--into us--at all. Of course they want to know what they're getting for it.

That's one end of the ROI attitude spectrum, the scoffers. I'm not going to devote this post to proving that social ROI can be calculated--that's something they'll need to do for themselves (before someone higher up asks for it).

At the other end of the ROI attitude spectrum are the obsessed. They believe in social ROI, as they should. But the way they think about it is neither sustainable nor scalable. To them, ROI is something that justifies what they're doing. Sometimes it's even a defensive calculation, as in, "I can't believe they're shrinking the social budget--just look at this ROI!" Most of the ROI-obsessed rarely have to play that card, because they've always got their finger on the number, which figures into all of their reporting, etc. But why tread water when you can swim? Both will keep you from sinking, but swimming gets you somewhere.

Reporting is good. ROI is good. They both have so much more to offer. Truth is, if we obsess on reporting-as-justification we only get a sliver of the ROI we could see if we used reporting as a basis for optimization. That's right, improvement.

Social is the most dynamic, interesting development to hit business in the last few decades, and we're using numbers in a static, one-dimensional quest for approval. Imagine if we decide to devote 10% of our reporting to justification, and the other 90% to improving what we do, and delivering more ROI than before.

Who would disapprove of that? Let’s stop treading water and see where swimming takes us.

This post started as a comment on Brian Solis' blog. 

Social media and champagne problems

Champagne problem:

n. A choice between two positive or ideal things; a problem that actually demonstrates one's good fortune.

It’s hard to think of something that I would write about here, but not on my company’s blog. Let me assure you that this is a champagne problem, not a case of low standards. But it still feels like I’m letting someone down by not updating this more often; perhaps that someone is you.

The truth is that social media exaggerates our sense of self-importance. I admit that I feel a tinge of guilt when thinking about the dearth of content on this blog, as if you’re sitting there twiddling your thumbs, just waiting for my next burst of genius. Ha.

At the beginning of 2011, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to consistently update this blog with quality content, because in reality, that would be at the expense of quality content for my employer. Here’s the math I used:

  • I like when people read my writing
  • My employer benefits (inbound contacts, 3rd party coverage, etc.) when I post on their blog, and also when I guest post on 3rd party blogs
  • Tons of people read Bazaarblog and blogs like Convince and Convert, SME and MarketingProfs
  • This blog’s audience is far, far more…intimate
  • So, it makes more sense for me to write original content for other blogs

Add to that the book I’m trying to write and the wedding I’m trying to plan, and tons of fresh posts here just aren’t in the cards.  Instead, here’s a roundup of some of what I've been writing about lately elsewhere.

Two ways to get more blog content from colleagues

Getting content shouldn't be like pulling teeth. Managing is different than creating. But social media is so new, so amorphous, management and creation are usually conflated out of necessity. Companies hire social media managers to manage and create content. They’re the ones doing the listening and the talking, the posting and the writing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these dual responsibility sets. In fact, managing social media from concept to execution across every channel gives the social media manager a tremendous amount of room to do things their way, and in many cases, to be recognized as the public face of a company’s social presence.

But when it comes to blogging, many social media managers find themselves struggling to keep up with demand for content. Their successes fuel this demand, which feels great, until other projects suffer as a result. Shortly after I first started at Bazaarvoice, I wrote Un-silo your social. At that point, keeping up with the “content curve” was already a challenge, and I laid out the things I had learned about getting others within the company to contribute content. Well, more than a year later, I’m still racing against the curve, but I’m catching up. So, in this post I’m going to update the list of content-sourcing tips with two things I’ve learned since then.

1. People must be able to write blog posts instead of some of the other work on their plate, not in addition to it. Unless their boss has bought-in and told them they can devote some of their time to blogging, they won’t do it. It’s not that they don’t want to; they just have priorities that will always trump blogging…unless you work with their superiors to change that. Show the bosses how a well-written blog post from someone in their department benefits them and their work. When it’s them asking for it, not you, you’ll get your content.

2. Merchandize, merchandize, merchandize. Promote the hell out of the internal contributions you do get. Make sure everyone sees that colleagues they know are writing and receiving public credit and praise for their efforts. They’ll want some of that action, too. In fact, if you do this part right they’ll start competing with each other to contribute the best content, the most often. When people realize that blogging is an amazing way to showcase their expertise to an audience beyond their immediate coworkers, they’ll write to get the spotlight to shine on them. It’s your job to make sure it does.

 

 

© 2016 Ian Greenleigh