One Week As Class Moderator

I just finished my week as moderator and it was quite a bit more difficult than I had expected. Before the week had begun, I created a list of articles that I had planned to share over the course of the week. However, as the week progressed, I scratched my list and looked for more content that would hopefully hit a nerve amongst the other students in hopes of greater engagement. Participation and engagement felt low most of the week, which felt frustrating, but there was a good group of regular contributors to the community throughout the week.

Despite some difficulty starting conversations, I still enjoyed the assignment. It caused me to look at content a bit differently. Each morning, as I was looking for something I felt was worthy of sharing with the class, I had to think about what conversations could be started from the piece of content. Was it a cut and dry piece to which no one could add much insight? Or did the content raise some questions in which I could bring to the class? It made me recognize the importance of writing to engage rather than just inform or tell.

Some of the major points from the topics and questions that were raised during my week include:

  • whether or not 6 characters for a hashtag is ideal for optimal engagement
  • a unique way to spur user-generated content for your brand—will it work?
  • knowing when a blog just doesn’t make sense for your content strategy
  • earning yourself a free beer for engaging with a company—would this type of campaign work well in the US?
Ideal Character Length for Online Content

SumAll and Buffer share the ideal character length for nearly everything online. Photo via blog.sumall.com.

Some of the posts left questions unanswered. I think that since there aren’t many students regularly involved in the discussions each week, having a new post each day made it difficult to start worthwhile conversations surrounding a previous topic. Having additional opinions and insights from other students would’ve better helped the rest of us to come to some conclusions each day. Overall, I believe that this assignment provided a good glimpse into some responsibilities of creating and curating content that most people wouldn’t expect.

Two Reasons to Use a Content Calendar

Content can be overwhelming. There’s typically a lot of it, if a content manager is doing his or her job correctly, and it’s consistently being pushed out to the masses. When developing a content strategy, a lot of elements are involved like meta data, message architecture, keyword strategy and some sort of plan to attack search engine optimization. When just starting out, an element of a content strategy that is sometimes overlooked is a content calendar, also occasionally referred to as an editorial calendar.

Here are two reasons why a content calendar is a must for every content strategy:

1. It keeps you organized:

With so much content flowing in and out, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of it all if not for a content calendar. This is exceedingly helpful when there are multiple people contributing content. If it’s a blog with multiple bloggers, the content will be coming in from all over the place and it can’t just be published as soon as it comes in. A content strategist must make sure there’s an equal amount content coming out daily. There can’t be 10 posts on one day and none the next. All of this is far easier to keep track of when there’s a content calendar keeping track of these things all in one place. Many content management systems, like WordPress, have a function like this built right in. This is most likely because these services realize the extreme importance of a content calendar.

screenshot-1

 

2. It’s easier to keep strategy aligned:

Keeping the content strategy on track is extremely important because when brands sway away from their strategy, they often lose track of their brand voice as consistency, as well. A content calendar lays out your content and allows you to place it and distribute it in ways that make sense and will contribute to the message you’re trying to get across before you don’t have the ability to control it anymore. What I mean by that is, if you’re just pushing out content that you think aligns well with your brand message, you can’t identify any potential problems until all the content is already out there. With a content calendar, it’s easy to have foresight before the content is published to be sure the message you’re sending is strong and effective.

Content calendars can be helpful for a variety of different mediums, whether it be social media content, blog content, or any other types of content.

#ContentStratClass Moderation Week – A Pleasant Surprise!

I have to admit that I had some initial trepidation about, but was pleasantly surprised by the experience of moderating a week in #ContentStratClass.

That sense of pleasant surprise is not because I’m skeptical by nature (thank the news business for that)!

It’s not because I’m naïve enough to think my posts were so wonderful that classmates would clamor to respond and contribute to them.

It’s because I’ve had some less-than-satisfying moderation experiences in prior Syracuse University classes, and I know how hard a job online community moderation truly is.

You can do your research, come up with great content, post it enthusiastically and engagingly, and still get a lukewarm–or worse, “zeroed out” reception from your community. And despite your best efforts, much of that situation can be totally out of your control!

zero2

“Zero-ed out” – What it means-thefreedictionary.com

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case for me during my #ContentStratClass moderation week (Oct. 19-26). So, I was back to my happy state of class-participation satisfaction.

As directed, I introduced myself and began discussion on Sunday, October 19:

My first Moderation Week post - 10/20

My first Moderation Week post – 10/20

 

On Monday, October 20, I posted what I thought was a pretty interesting point of discussion…and was very surprised and pleased to have some immediate response! (Thank you, thank you, Melissa Lowery and Ben Glidden!)

To boot, I found out quite to my surprise that both Melissa and Ben have had agency experience (something we had in common).

Feeling buoyed, I continued the  discussion…delving deeper into my classmates’ thoughts on the topic. To my (relief) and further happy experience, I elicited some more responses, and took advantage of the situation to continue to engage my audience.

moder wk 2Then, after the mid-week point (HumpDay fatigue, maybe?) I saw responses taper off.

To offset that, I posted another piece, this time including an illustration of a sample process for content strategy operations, the topic of our weekly readings. I thought the imagery I found (even though it was a simplified process) might help me attract some added response from other class members who had yet to comment.

The week went fairly quickly, and because I had a family health situation going on ( my mom in the hospital), that made it a bit more difficult for me to check in, but I think that I persevered regardless of those circumstances.

oct 26I have a lot of admiration for community managers. From this experience, plus my previous ones in #CMgrClass, plus watching the work and process that goes into our instructors’ (Jenn Pedde and Kelly Lux) weekly online Twitter chat, #CmgrChat, I know how hard it is to engage people online and to keep communities of aligned interests active and engaged.

There are a jillion reasons why people can’t engage: disinterest, busy-ness, a heavy workload, personal issues, and the whatnot and diffused perspectives of 21st Century Life.

Still, a content strategist and planner or a community manager needs to keep trying to find ways to keep putting out the kind of information that will snag some attention and elicit some response–and importantly, provide some real value–to those you (hope/believe/pray) are still following you.

I’m very grateful to those who took the time to respond to me during my moderation week, for it truly made the experience gratifying.

I’ve been cognizant of how difficult it is to elicit response, so when I’ve been able, I’ve tried to be an active participant in others’ online moderation weeks.

In particular, the week after mine, I made a special effort to respond right away on the first day, to help another classmate benefit from the positive momentum that comes when someone responds to you online, and you make a connection, despite your lack of face-to-face interaction.

So that was my experience for Moderation Week! If anyone tells you it’s an easy thing, don’t believe them! It’s hard work, it’s intellectually engaging,  a little bit challenging, and for those who care that much, it also has a degree of emotional work.

I’m happy to have had the experience again, and I’m also happy that my week turned out to be a good moderating experience!

 

 

Content experts emphasize the growing importance of mobile, technology

As a panelist pointed out, content strategy isn’t something new. It’s not something like social media strategy that has emerged with the popularity of technology and online brands. Content strategy has been around for a long time, in its simplest form helping brands deliver their messages to consumers. But the oncoming importance of mobile and technology has certainly changed the ways content strategists thing and how brands are delivering content.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 2.49.07 PM

A panel of experts recently discussed this emergence of technology and mobile. On hand was:

Georgy Cohen

  • Associate creative director of content strategy at Oho Interactive, a digital agency that develops strategies for brands in higher education, travel and healthcare.
  • Co-founder of Meet Content, helping brands in higher education develop successful content.

Niketa Patel 

  • Managing Director in the Rebel Media Lab at  RebelMouse, a content curation platform that allows brands to bring content from all over the web to one landing page.
  • Formerly worked in social at CNN Money and ABC News.

The question about a mobile emphasis was greeted by Margot with a groan, as mobile has certainly given content strategists headaches, but Niketa chimed in, calling it “an incredibly exciting time to be working in content strategy.” She discussed the shift from telling stories in current media to telling stories on mobile and how those two things were different. On mobile, in order to reach an audience the content has to be short, concise and to-the-point. Niketa recommended deconstructing a story in order to tell it on mobile. Rather than just putting content from other media on mobile, it’s important to repurpose it, making it visual and something that the audience will actually want to consume.

But it’s also about the technology that’s helping make it easier to think “mobile-first” as Nikita said. She talked about BuzzFeed’s CMS and how there’s a mobile preview as well as a desktop preview before posting. It’s important for companies to adopt technology like this or they’ll never truly be putting mobile as a priority. For too long, brands have been putting mobile to the side and it’s finally come to a point when audiences are demanding mobile as a first option.

Margot brought up an interesting point about how it’s about more than the technology, it’s about the editorial process and culture that supports that technology. If the entire process doesn’t emphasize mobile-first, it can’t be successful. “In order for content to be mobile-friendly, I would argue that it doesn’t just have to be short… but it needs to be modular,” she said. “It needs to be in chunks, not blobs… And to do that, the back-end content management system needs to support that type of content creation.”

But is this really any different that what content strategy has been since its early days? Georgy argues that going back to the core principals of content strategy is all you need to be successful on mobile. You must continue to ask the question like:

  • What’s important?
  • Who are we talking to?
  • How are we reaching them?
  • What does the content need to achieve its goal?

This is the key. While the medium of content strategy has changed over the years, the core principals have stayed the same. Mobile is just another medium content strategists are finding ways to deliver messages on.

4 Steps to a Killer Blog Post

4 Steps to a Killer Blog Post

You’ve got this awesome idea for a blog post, right? Now all you have to do is write and publish the post then you’re going to get thousands of views and incredible engagement. Man, I wish it was that easy.

Actually, there’s quite a bit that goes into a blog post and it’s not just about the writing. It all revolves around having an excellent content strategy.

 

1. Develop Your Organization’s Content Strategy

First thing first. You need to make sure your content strategy for your organization, company, or personal blog is good to go. According to Margot Bloomstein, “content strategy is the practice of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content” (2012). Oh, and while developing your strategy, make sure you’re addressing the following:

  • Creation: What will it consist of? Why? Where will it come from? Who will be in charge?
  • Delivery: Where will your new content go? How are you going to post and share this with your users?
  • Governance: How are you going to update your content and keep it fresh? How are you going to evaluate its effectiveness?

2. Design Your Website to be Easy on the Eyes

The best content you’ve ever created is worthless if no one spends time on your site. So make sure your website is easy on the eyes and easily navigable. A mess of unrelated advertising, too many colors, and too many links (just to name a few) can easily distract the reader and get him or her lost within your site. When that happens they’re going to quickly click away. And no one wants that.

Great Blog Web Design

Keep it clean and easily navigable to keep your readers interested.

3. Write an Easily Scannable, Highly Engaging Blog Post

Yes, a well-written blog post is still critical for success. This is going to be what keeps your readers coming back for more. When writing a post, keep these ideas in mind:

  • Keep it short and scannable. Because we’re all short on time.
  • Mix up your content a bit. Words are awesome, but don’t forget about video, photos, graphics, polls, podcasts and more.
  • Keep it engaging. Pose a question or call-to-action (CTA) at the end of your post.

4. Follow-Up With Your Blog Post

Lastly, your new piece of content that you just published needs a bit of help to push it over the top. The proper distribution, search engine optimization (SEO), and following up with some analytics will ensure that you’re getting the most out of your posts. Come back to your content regularly and actively engage with those who post comments on the article and your social profiles. You can also refurbish any of your content that isn’t time sensitive. If that lengthy article you posted 6 months ago can easily be turned into a sweet graphic or video that can easily be consumed and shared, why wouldn’t you do it?

Share Blog Post on Social Networks

Great content will want be shared—make it easy for the user to do.

This will surely get you on your way to writing a killer blog post. Each of the 4 steps must all work together and none can stand alone. Start by focusing on your content strategy and when in doubt, always refer back to it. This will help to ensure you’re creating useful and usable content for your users that’ll stand out among the rest.

Think you have it down? What other steps do you take to create a killer blog post?

 

3 Reasons Why Your Blog Posts Blow

(Image courtesy of George Redgrave)

If the only comments on your blog are from spammers advertising the latest scams, there may be an opportunity to improve the quality of your blog posts. Only the blog and its postings should be doing the advertising. Fortunately, the very nature of a blog makes it an inexpensive, 24/7 online marketing campaign for a company or organization. Unfortunately, just as there are brilliant marketing campaigns, there are others that make you ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” Don’t let your blog become the latter.

5 Ws

Remember when we learned the Five Ws in school — who, what, where, when, and why? Just as these 5 questions are used to tell a story, they can also be used to create a better blog post:

  1. Who is your target audience for the blog post? Author Yvonne Lyons noted in “Blogging: 34 Things that You’re Doing Wrong” that you cannot create content, if you don’t know your audience,
  2. What is the story you are trying to share? In the “The Ultimate Guide to Blogging,” author Joe Pulizzi recommends creating useful and interesting content that moves the reader to respond. Such Calls to Action include commenting, sharing, or connecting through social media.
  3. Where does the blog post fit in terms of the content categories? A regular column may result out of frequent topics and/or posts.
  4. When do you share your content? The latest trending topic will not always apply to your brand so developing an editorial calendar will help you schedule relevant content continuously.
  5. Why are you sharing the blog post? If the post, doesn’t relate to your brand, then focus on one that does.

TL;DR ( Too Long; Didn’t Read)

(Image courtesy of Clint Hamada)

I’m sure that this phrase has appeared in the comments section of a few blogs that you visited. The fact that someone would rather respond to his/her fellow commenters than read your blog post is a bad sign—especially when the commenter clearly states that one issue is the post is too long. As Dotmarketing points out in their best practices piece “Writing for the Web,” a person tends not to read every word that appears in a blog post and instead scans it. Yes, the hours spent agonizing over writing the perfect post will most likely result in only a quick read through by the intended reader. So keep your post short (between 400 – 1000 words) to allow the reader to enjoy your post during a break. If a visitor is willing to take time out to scan your blog for a few minutes during their busy day, then honor his/her time.

Like, +1, RT

(Image courtesy of Melbourne Streets Avant-garde)

After following my earlier recommendations, you have created your best blog post yet. You post your masterpiece on your blog, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day.

Not so fast.

Remember your only previous commenter was some mother from Springfield who makes $77 an hour on the Internet.  I’m sure that she’s a lovely lady, but she’s not your target audience. You need to find your true audience.

  1. Help Google find your blog post.

Find out the most frequently used search terms that relates to your blog post and then incorporate these popular terms within your blog post title, content, and tags.

2.   Use social sites to spread the word.

The Ultimate Guide to Blogging,” author Joe Pulizzi suggests doing things like asking people on Twitter to help promote your blog. Another suggestion was to use social bookmarking sites like Digg to post your content, which will hopefully be shared by others.

3.  Post helpful comments on similar blogs.

A quality comment can help you develop relationships within the same community (fellow bloggers and commenters alike), generate traffic to your blog, and will hopefully create a new audience following.

My hope is that these tips will help get the word about your great organization or company. With so many blogs currently out there with new ones continuing to be added, it is getting harder to be seen on the Internet.  However, if you follow the 5 Ws, keep it short, and then spread the word, you can develop a faithful legend of followers and not just spammers.

Three Tips for Writing a Fantastic Blog Post

2312596915_dea8339cf2_zA blog can be a fantastic asset for a brand. Among other things, it allows the brand to control its own message, boost search engine optimization and helps craft an identity online. But a blog is useless unless its updated frequently and effectively. A blog post needs to capture the audience’s attention and hold it throughout the entire post. It also needs to deliver some sort of value to the brand, which is often easy to forget. It’s important to know company goals and values before embarking on a blogging journey so that you know what direction to take every post. But you can’t accomplish any of these things if your blog isn’t properly structured.

Here are three easy things you can do to help create a great blog post:

1. Think of a catchy title.

A catchy blog post title is the best way to capture your audiences attention. Your blog post can’t be great if no one is reading it, and no one is going to click on it if your title is boring. It’s the first thing people see, so it sets the tone of the entire post. The title shouldn’t be ambiguous. People should know what they’re in for the moment they click on the post. This makes it easy for the people who know what they’re searching for. This blog post, for example, is targeted at people writing blogs. Those blog writers are likely to search for ways to improve their blogs and when they see the title, they’ll know this post will help.

2. Link to other bloggers.

Why would I link to a competitors blog? Then all my traffic will also go to them and I wont be setting myself apart. While that type of thinking made sense at one time, in the world of online blogging, linking to other blogs is a great thing.  The Internet, and especially blogs, are all about an open exchange of ideas. If you’re not linking to other blogs, you’ll be seen as less reputable. It would be like writing an academic paper without sources.

3.  Don’t write a novel, but tell a story.

According to Anagard, the average Internet user’s attention span is just six seconds. Of course, that attention span will expand if you’re distributing great content, but it emphasizes the fact that audiences are no longer interested in long-form writing like they once were. Try to write in a concise way and get your point across in as few words as possible. But just because you’re not writing an extremely long post doesn’t mean you can’t still tell a story. The story is what is going to keep the reader hooked. Don’t sacrifice your story by using too few words.

 
Photo via P4BLoX