Reflecting on Being Moderator

I wanted to just reflect on being moderator. It was a very interesting and fun week! I enjoyed being able to give some insight to the class. The highlight of being moderator was the ability to control the conversation. I could only imagine the feeling of having a blog or website with a huge following. Being able to lead the class in the week long discussion was awesome!

It was very cool to be able to voice my opinion and get the class thinking about topics that interested me, but it was frustrating at times. I wish there was more engagement overall. I felt that I posted interesting topics but that the minimal amount of students replied and interacted with my posts. I also felt that several students just were not interested in creating a conversation with my posts. Although this was hard at times, I was still motivated to create great content that was both relevant to the class and interesting to the students.

I did feel very rewarded knowing that the students that interacted daily were very appreciative and interested in the blog posts. I fully understand why some students were maybe not interested. I tried my best to interest every student though! I spent my fair share of time focusing on students who I knew were interested in joining the conversation.

One thing I learned was that keeping a conversation with people via a blog, or any online platform is very difficult. In fact, it is even more difficult to do EVERY SINGLE DAY! Some people have plans or strict schedules which just make it harder for those people to commit time each and every day to interacting with an online community.  Therefore, the overall job of interacting with students every day was very difficult.

Overall, I felt that I captured my audience’s attention regularly. As I reflect on this project, I wish we had to blog every other day. I feel that this would have enabled me to create a more effective strategy and overall weekly calendar that would have better interacted with the target audience.  I know that several larger companies plan a monthly schedule and in fact, dont even blog everyday!

Melissa, Ben, Elisia, Ari, Laurie, and Kelly all commented on some of my posts. (Not sure if I am supposed to include Kelly)

Overall, it was a very exciting week filled with lots of participation and engagement. I would be a moderator again later in the semester.

Is User Generated Content Taking Over?

With so many people writing their own blogs, tweeting the news, and spreading viral videos and images, I ask you – Is user generated content taking over?

questionmark

But before we dip deep into this, lets define user generated content

According to “UGC 101: Guide to User-Generated Content Marketing” user-generated content is defined as “anything on the web that users have had a hand in making.” To me, this feels like practically everything today!

Today, there are several ways to create user generated content. Here are some examples:

  • Blogs
  • Facebook posts
  • Reviews online
  • Videos
  • Forums
  • Podcasts

These are just a few of the several ways that content is created by users today.

Users create content in all different ways on several different platforms. It is especially interesting how brands and companies take user generated content and apply it to their content to help benefit the company. Brands have been creating hashtags that are unique to their brand to help create and curate user generated content.

LuluLemonTheSweatlife

Take this ad campaign from LuLuLemon for example. They created the #thesweatlife as a way to bring their “offline experience to the online community.” This hashtag was so effective that it drove users to send more than 7,000 photos via Instagram and Twitter and more than 40,000 unique visitors since launch.

If brands are smart, they can seriously cash in by curating user generated content. I can only imagine the increase in sales from having such an effective campaign.

So what can other brands do to replicate the success of LuLuLemon?

The answer is simple: Just ask your customers for help.

help_wanted

By asking your customers for help, they are likely going to support a brand they love. Some effective ways to ask are by creating contents which ask the customers to send in a photo using a specific hashtag. This can be effective in getting your brand to spread through word of mouth and also in getting new marketing materials and images from actual customers.

These contests don’t necessarily need to run through your website but can be promoted through other blogs or forums. This may even be effective in helping reach more users.

So I ask you…Where do you read your content from? Is the majority from other users? And if you are a business, what types of contents worked for you in creating the most user generated content? One thing is for sure… UGC is t

The What, How and Wow! of Excellent WebSite Content

There’s an old saying, “variety is the spice of life,” and when it comes to online content, there are many wonderful varieties to call upon to enliven and spice up a web site.

spicesContent forms other than copy blocks (words) can be used liberally on a web site, but must be be done in appropriate ways. The content must make sense, be relevant, and prove useful to web users.

As textbook author Kristina Halvorson writes in Content Strategy for the Web, a user wants “the content he needs, when and where he needs it.”

Textbook author/@halvorson via Twitter.com

Author/@halvorson via Twitter.com

The purpose of any content that’s added should help users do what they came to do, she says: gather information, make a decision, get help, or share relevant content.”

Five Great Samples – in Just One Site

In that context, one of the most effective users of content that I’ve seen is on the web site for Professor R. David Lankes at the School of Information Studies.

R. David Lankes/via Twitter.com

R. David Lankes/via Twitter.com

He has just debuted a new website, and it is attractive, clean, highly interactive, and very informative, entertaining, and useful. Lankes, known for his “New Librarianship” research and for his blog, “Virtual Blog, Real Dave,” engages consumers and allows them to interact in many different ways because of the variety of content he posts on his site.

Aside from great design, pretty photos, and intriguing words, Lankes’ uses truly meet the criteria of interesting, informative, relevant, and entertaining content. Take a look at these samples of his range:

Other References

PR Daily, from Ragan Communications, has an excellent list of “17 kinds of content people love to share” (hint: lists is one of them).

Professional-looking photos are of utmost importance for organizations that have the budget to produce them. However, small organizations or individuals who don’t have a significant amount to spend in that area can still obtain useful, relevant, interesting shots to include on the site (including by making them themselves, as I’ve done here for some.) Jennifer Kyrnin shares her ideas for using your own photos here.

As far as the range of content types you can use, Dr. Mani Sivasubramanian of SitePoint provides an excellent description and list of them, including some you may not typically consider.

Evaluate Each Piece

Content should not be added in just for its own sake, however. A few key things to remember when you’re thinking of adding content: first of all, is what is its purpose?

As content expert Halvorson writes, “every piece of content needs a job.” She says these jobs can consist of content that is meant to “persuade, inform, validate, instruct, or entertain.”

Her company’s web site, Brain Traffic, provides excellent advice and reading.

The key lessons to be learned about sprinkling “spicy” content into your website include the ability to prioritize your content, as Halvorson writes, in “Content Strategy For The Web“:

  • Requirements (legal or otherwise)
  • Reach (what are the audiences)
  • Relevance (importance and interest to users)
  • Richness (how valuable or unique it is)
  • Revenue ( how the content is likely to affect “site revenue-generating activities

Have you got some favorite examples of how content can enrich web presentations? Send us your thoughts and your example links here – we’d love to see them!

 

 

Content Strategy: Are You Taking It Down To The ‘Nitty Gritty’?

The #ContentStratClass of September 15 discussed elements of content strategy and the importance of narrowing that discussion down to the lowest denominators. These include thinking about the core reasons you want to communicate with customers, the basic messages you want to convey to your users and customers, and even getting right down to the “nitty gritty” of why you or your company or institution are even doing all of this communication to begin with.

The idea of a “concept strategy” sounds like a high-level intellectual exercise. What I found through our readings and class discussion is that the more you can break that task down to the core level, and look at the most basic elements of your interests, intents, and reasons, the better it is apt to help you streamline a sound, reflective, true, and useful set of guidelines on which to base an overall content strategy and plan.

Three Basic Questions

As Margot Bloomstein, our textbook author, noted in her slideshare, you must ask yourself key questions when starting on the path of defining a brand content strategy. These aren’t the highbrow concepts you might expect. They really boil right down to basics. “Do you know what you need to communicate?,” for example, she asks.

cardsorting exercise, Margot Bloomstein,

Cardsorting Exercise, The Secrets of Brand-Driven Content Strategy/Margot Bloomstein/Appropriate Inc.

Bloomstein introduces a cardsorting exercise to help organizations decide three key components of their message architecture–the goals and hierarchy they want to express in all their communications—and to help refine their messaging. These are:

  • Who we are
  • Who we’re not
  • Who we’d like to be

Defining Goals

In working to create a content strategy, you’ve got to determine your main goals. You can ask yourself, ‘Are you communicating to drive sales? Engage consumers? Persuade users?’

As necessary as defining goals for communication are defining core target audiences. You may have one or two initial ones; or you may have several. As an example, co-instructor Kelly Lux pointed out the different audiences the iSchool at SU has: prospective students; current students; alumni; friends of the school; donors.

Kelly Lux - 9/15 class – You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpYpc5em3-U&feature=youtu.be

Kelly lux on 9/15 calss – You Tube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpYpc5em3-U&feature=youtu.be

Lux said these need to be ranked in priority to decide which audiences–thus which communications efforts—are the most important. The way to do this is to determine what those audiences are doing for you, she said. In the case of the iSchool, prospective students are at the top of the list of critical audiences. That’s because they are the future customers of the school–the “new business” in need of being developed.

Shaping Personas

Creating personas are also a key element of a content strategy. Developing these help you guide and shape the tone, voice and the messaging of your content. Personas create “images” of your audience members, helping you address specific target groups for communications.

For the iSchool at SU, for example, personas might include: international graduate students; doctoral students; undergraduate students; distance MSLIS students; certificate program consumers; alumni of the early iSchool; recent alumni; mid-career library professionals.

Hierarchy of Messages

Another essential element of creating content strategies are developing the hierarchy of messages (message architecture). There are three or more levels of messaging needing to be defined, as discussed by co-instructors Lux and Jenn Pedde:

  • Primary messages – or what you want everyone who views your content to know about you; how you are distinguished
  • Secondary messages – these support your primary messages and provide differentiators
  • Details – the content which helps you provide proof of your higher=level statements.
  • Together, they tell the brand story and help provide a picture of what you create content around.

So as complex sounding as the idea of a content strategy development may be, it really begins at the most basic levels: thinking about what you want to say, how you want to appear to others, who you are talking to, and how you want to distinguish and different yourself. Those are basic questions–but not necessarily simple ones to answer.

Have you had to undertake content strategy planning for your organization? Did you know where to start and how to get everyone thinking about the most basic questions? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

Publishing is Hard: Make it Easier on Yourself

You’ve thrown yourself into the exciting industry of content marketing and social media. Hooray! But wait, that means you’re also now a publisher since publishing content is a big part of your new daily responsibilities. And here’s a secret for you—if you didn’t realize it yet, you soon will.

Publishing is hard.

Consistently creating quality, effective content takes a whole lot of work. And this work certainly doesn’t end after you click ‘publish.’ But no worries, it’s time to make it easier on yourself—starting now.

Content Creation

Keeping up with your content creation needs is tough. Photo: Dawolf, Flickr CC

Plan, Then Plan Some More

The more time spent on creating a cohesive content strategy for your web content in the beginning, the easier the entire process will be for you. Don’t forget to include the following elements into your planning. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list but is an excellent way to get started. Be sure to write all this down into a content strategy guide for yourself, as you’ll want to refer to it regularly!

  • Messaging
  • Brand tone and voice
  • Target audience and personas
  • Keywords
  • Distribution channels
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Metadata

Create an Editorial Workflow for You and Your Team

Now that you’ve got a pretty good sense of what your content will be about, who it’s for, and how you’re going to get it to them, it’s time to create some procedures, policies, and a workflow. This will help you to gain momentum and keep up with the complexities of frequently publishing content.

Developing an editorial calendar (Contently has an incredible guide to creating one), a customized content management system (CMS), and your newly developed content strategy guide is going to be what sets you apart from everyone else.

An editorial calendar will keep you and your team focused on creating the right content, for the right people, at the right time. And a CMS customized with page and post templates for your specific needs is a tool that will keep you and your team publishing efficiently. Margot Bloomstein, author of Content Strategy at Work, says it best. “Above all, make it easy for your internal users to produce, publish, and manage great content.”

Kanban Wall For Content

A workflow strategy will get you and your team regularly producing content. Photo: DeanoPower, Flickr CC

Don’t Publish Your Content in Just One Place

Most organizations don’t need to create content for only one channel; that’d be too easy. They have to share their content across several platforms in order to effectively reach their audience. If this is you (and I’m sure it is) make sure you’re not publishing your content in just one place. Instead, take your topic for a blog post and rework it to fit across other appropriate channels as well.

Can that blog post work well on the main website? Should it be a microsite? Or what about a digital magazine, email newsletter, podcast, video series, webinar, ebook, or infographic? And don’t forget about your social channels! You’ll be surprised how much additional content you can create when you’re thinking creatively about its form. Fortunately, Hubspot has lots of ideas for not letting your content go to waste, which is definitely worth checking out.

Like I said, publishing is hard. But the above strategies to plan a cohesive content strategy and develop a workflow will surely help you to create content more regularly and efficiently.

Do you have any strategies to add? What helps make your life as a content manager oh-so-much easier?