Want to become a company blogger?

Here are the quick links to my Blogger’s Style Guide, which I’ve posted over on my Subs’ Standards blog as a series of 10 posts.  This is the ‘how-to’ that I give to my company bloggers when they start writing posts for their employer’s blog. It acts as a support document for those who know their subject well, but know little about blog writing or publishing in general.

Blogger’s Style Guide

  1. How is blogging different?
  2. What readers like / ideas for your posts
  3. How to structure long posts
  4. Short or long?
  5. What does SEO mean for writers?
  6. Links are good!
  7. Five tips on tone
  8. Comments and feedback
  9. Writing a good title
  10. Don’t fall foul of your boss – or the law!
Of course, what happens after the raw copy comes in is a whole ‘nother series about content and blogger wrangling.

I’m also finding that this is overlapping with my Content Strategy work so I’m hoping to add posts on #CSforum10 here on this blog soon for those interested in the Content Strategy Forum in Paris last month.But I’d rather do it in context of my ongoing content strategy audits rather than just report back on the event so need to sort some permissions first.

Five things I gained at SXSW 2010

Shuffleboard networking
Shuffleboard networking in Austin

After posting about the 12 things I learnt at SXSW 2010, here’s a more practical roundup of the things I came away with.

I gained…

* …some content strategy contacts
This was one of my main reasons for attending. Content strategy was a SXSW Interactive content buzzphrase this year. The content panels were packed out and the queen of content strategy Kristina Halvorson gave a talk that felt more like a keynote presentation. Content is messy and soaks up resource so it makes sense to apply some thinking to it ahead of where it usually gets chiselled in –ie,  right at the end. Anyhoo, there was an impromptu content strategy meetup, in a bar natch, to meet the early adopters. I now have at least two business cards in my biz-card-takehome-pile from people who I feel I can contact for help and advice. Also, Ruth Ward of Rewired PR and I are thinking of setting up a content strategy meetup in Birmingham for those looking to make the leap from web writing/editing, online PR/marketing, UX or IA into this growing field – as you can see on the link, all CS meetups are currently in the US. It’s an opportunity to bring Bham companies ahead of the curve.

* …a spontaneous urge to take up improv
Improv lessons for freelancers has inspired me to sign up for improv, which is not only a bit of fun, but also a confidence-booster when you’re being put on the spot in client-vendor relationships. Having been put on the spot in this session myself by some smart-arse on the front row, I realise I could do with learning to think and process on my feet a bit faster as well as learning the Whose Line Is it Anyway? art of the winning instant comeback.

* …the skill of shuffleboard networking
The great thing about SXSW is that it is more a festival than a conference. You can meet old friends and find new ones ridiculously easily. This year, one of the leading meet spots was at Buffalo Billiards over a game of table shuffleboard (see above). I think I had beginner’s luck with it and opened up some a can of Brummie whoop-ass on various delegates after randomly pairing up with the CEO/founder of TripLittle.

* …some potential work leads
It’s too early to say but I have a meeting lined up in April to do some blogging. And with a bit of luck, it might even lead to some international working. Watch this space. I also hope that all the chat about how digitally connected and determined we are in the West Midlands has fallen on fertile ground. With 25 of us out there shouting about the region, hopefully there will be some positive outcomes from the trip.

* …a haze of insight and context
It’s too early to assimilate all the things I heard and learnt over the five days at SXSW but it will feed into all the work that I do over the next 12 months. It feels kind of like doing an A’Level in a weekend and, at the moment, I’m post-exam with a blank mind, a whole lotta jet lag and the feeling of never wanting to work again.

SXSW Wordle spells ‘Content people want’

SXSW Wordle I took 16 pages of notes at SXSW Interactive festival this year. It’s hard to get your head around all the difference panels, talks, core conversations and notes-to-self but I think this Wordle shows something of what I was getting from and attending at South By in 2010.

It’s particularly interesting that the top three words are: ‘Content people want‘. I guess that’s the key and secret to online enterprises.

There is more to blog tomorrow ahead of the long plane ride home. PS. You can click on the link to see a larger version of the Wordle.

A dozen Twitter tips for 2010

The ‘cool, shiny new thing’ that sent marketers crazy in 2009 was Twitter. (This year, it’s mobile apps by the way.) Why? Because although Twitter launched in 2006, it exploded into the mainstream in late 2008/early 2009. And brands were champing to get a piece of that action.

Having just spent three days at Search Engine Strategies London, Twitter is still clocking up a lot of mentions from SEOs and businesses, etc, who worry about how best to involve with it. Well, you’ll see a rise in this engagement, especially now that it is being crawled by Google for real-time search results and because marketers are realising the value of a recommendation on Twitter.

So rather than regurgitate whole speeches, here’s what SEOs and marketing types from SES London are saying about Twitter for 2010 – at least in the sessions I attended:

1 Real-time search: be wary of the value of Twitter
230 million pieces of content are published per day by user. 40% of searches have a real-time component. Potential $40 billion market. But:

  • 90% content is created by 10% of the people (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • 74% of Twitter content is produced by 5% of the users.
  • Is 5% really representative of everybody?

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

2 How McDonald’s operate their Twitter

CoTweet allows people within organisations to use the same Twitter account – as used by McDonald’s.

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

3 Should you spend time and money on Twitter?

Who is my audience? Are they on Twitter, if not don’t spend (time) there.

Aaron Kahlow opening keynote: Is Social Media the Future of Search

4 Has Twitter peaked?

Twitter is not accelerating as fast now, it has peaked on the growth rates. The vast majority have less than 5 users.

Rand Fishkin, Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand

5 Can Twitter drive traffic and sales?

Social network profiles (including Google Profile) drive traffic. Active Twitter users, Dell, also reported in excess of $3m in sales in 2009. Its Twitter is essentially just a promo shop, eg, 15% off at any Dell Outlet – which leads to direct click-thu sales.

Rand Fishkin, Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand

6 What are the biggest problems for marketers using Twitter?

Analytics, KPIs, how does it impact the bottom line. Also, getting followers in the market you are going after.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting: I think Twitter is working, but I can’t prove it!

7 How many Twitter accounts to set up?

One brand Twitter stream can include: PR, service, sales, crisis, recruitment, product.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

8 What’s the ROI of Twitter?

ROI of Twitter = traffic to site, buzz, inbound links for SEO, reduced service costs, leads, sales. (All trackable ROI.)

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

9 Twitter – trend towards automation

Fact – individuals are adopting Twitter, but what about brands? Great thing about Twitter is that brands can connect one to one. But there is a trend of moving towards automation.

Mike Lewis, Business Tweeting

10 Check your bounce rate from Twitter traffic

When analysing your online stats, compare traffic from different sources. Eg, from blogs, it usually has high context, expectancy is there, users know what they want to see, and spend more time on site. Twitter – may generate high traffic but can also have a high bounce because it lacks space to create context.

Matthew Bailey, Introduction to Search Engine Optimisation

11 Twitter 101 for brands

  • Don’t overthink it, be personable
  • Share info/links
  • Listen
  • Use hashtags to organise and search
  • Twitterlists are useful if you are following hundreds and want to discover new people
  • Tweetdeck – organises your Twitter use
  • Scheduling tweets – Future Tweets – good for client use

Lisa Myers, Social Media 101

12 Tools for monitoring social media

Free Social Monitoring Tools:

  • www.socialmention.com
  • www.tweetbeep.com
  • www.tweepmeme.com
  • www.klout.com
  • www.blogpulse.com

Paid Monitoring Tools:

  • www.trackur.com
  • www.radian6.com

Lisa Myers, Social Media 101

Find your social media champions – but how?

Rand Fishkin, CEO & Co-Founder of SEOmoz.org, hit the nail on the head for me when he said: ‘Find a social champion!’

Speaking on Social Media Best Practices for Marketers Inside the Brand at Search Engines Strategies London marketing day on Monday, he said, ‘You need someone in the weeds, someone who gets it in the same way as the kids do who spend 5% of their lives on Facebook.’

This was is his favourite stat by the way: If you’re under 25 and live in US, 5% of all the time you spend alive is spent on Facebook.

Rand admitted it was illegal to hire by age, but also shrugged – by implication those deep in the weeds of internet culture will be recruited. [UPDATE: see comments for his further take on this.]

Which slightly annoys me, being deeper in the weeds than all my teen nieces put together and not half as deep in as many friends in their 30s and 40s.

Yet it is also true that it can be totally time-sucking for commercial digital or social media hirers to feedback to those who ‘don’t get it’. This goes back to an earlier post on my sub-editors’ blog called Journalist, train thyself! Online needs you… desperately! [Out of interest, training budget seemed to be on the up at the Search Engine Strategies conference, for some anyway.]

And when looking to hire or commission someone as an SEO writer, a breadth of online presence is definitely desirable (as well as on-the-job experience and SEO training).

Having a blog or a Twitter account or a Tumblr or a Posterous (ie not just a Facebook profile) is not just an indicator of ability and engagement, but shows a basic understanding of internet culture and who they will be writing for. After all, you can’t kid the kids.

The next question of course is how do you hunt out these social champions within your organisation?

It’s something I’m processing in my freelance blogging work right now.

10 expert tips on email marketing

Rough of an e-newsletterIf you’ve ever had the job of putting your marketing email, ezine or e-newsletter together – whether designing the format, writing the blurbs, testing different subject lines or segments, sending it out to subscribers, dealing with unsubscribes – 7 Proven Tactics to Increase Response for your Email Campaigns seemed the session to attend at Search Engine Strategies 2010 London.

Having spent much of last year producing a monthly email across nine segments for a major car insurance and breakdown company, I was interested to hear latest best practice and get some inspirattion. After all, we tracked KPIs, tweaked designs, improved clarity on calls to action buttons, yadda yadda blah blah, and saw a leap in click-throughs. But what else could we have done?

Tamara Gielen, Independent Email Marketing Consultant, who ran email programmes for eBay among others, had some ideas. She promised seven tactics in the presentation but instead, I counted 30. So there’s lots to know, too much to reproduce here.

Here are 10 bulletpoints.

  • Sell your email programme on the website – don’t just have a button asking them to subscribe to your email but clarify the offer on the button, eg, ‘train me to profit’, ‘be the first to know our special offers’, ‘free email tips’, and so on. Agencies may need to advise the client to do this if emails are outsourced.
  • Tell them why you are asking for their info on the sign-up form (perhaps add a ‘why are we asking this?’ button on the page). Be transparent, it builds trust.
  • Welcome your new subscribers – send a welcome email within 24 hours, when they are highly engaged. Let them know, ‘This is what we are going to be sending you.’ Ask them to do something (of benefit to them) and send them back to your site.
  • Listen to your unsubscribers – they will tell you what they don’t want. Maybe they don’t want to fully unsubscribe but are fed up of your monthly email outs. So give them the option of getting less emails on the unsubscribe page, eg once a week/month. Or just email seasonally, even just once a year, when they are likely to be shopping for your service or product. Better this, than losing them altogether.
  • Give ‘unsubscribe’ alternatives – eg if emails are unsuitable, ask them to sign up for an RSS feed, suggest a ‘follow us on Twitter’ option or to become a Facebook fan, would they like to sign up for the catalogue – offer alternative channels for you to communicate with them.
  • Use social networks to grow your list – eg, encouraging your customer to become a fan on Facebook means other people see that in their newsfeed. Why is that interesting? Make it interesting, eg, Papa John’s on Facebook offered a free pizza if you become a fan and won a million more subscribers to their email  as a result.
  • Allow subscribers to share your content via share buttons to help acquisition. First figure out where your audience is, eg, B2B is great for LinkedIn. B2C may be on Facebook, Twitter, etc. But remember people will only share links if there is something of value in the content.
  • Emails do not have to be weekly or monthly – use triggers, eg, a Birthday trigger, such as ‘Fiona, Birthday greetings from [brand], here’s a [discount/freebie/offer] to celebrate.’
  • Subject line length/content – include the most important message in first 4-5 words, ask questions, sell benefits, and include an urgency.
  • When should you send your email? – think about when your customers are likely to be browsing and when buying, eg, a retail email may do better at the weekend when people are free to click through and buy. But test your timings. Tamara sends hers at 9.30 on a Monday morning – because few send at this time (the bulk of emails is sent on Wednesdays/Thursdays). Stand outs from your competitors. Also she notes that many have a 9am start and are going through emails at this time – her email then pops up on top (she has 50% open rate by the way).

Images: © Maxpower/Flickr

Two simple ways to justify online spend to the boss

AVINASH_KAUSHIK
Avinash Kaushik gets ready to speak at SES London

There’s a lot of talk at Search Engine Strategies 2010 London about ‘doing it right’. SES London is a three-day conference and expo that brings together the superstars of SEO and SEM to reveal the latest ways they are dancing with the search engines, each side locked in a teeth-gritting tango and dancing each other across the floor in order to win the eyeballs and clicks of users, and present user targeted (marketed?) search results.

At least that’s how I understand it. You got love a metaphor.

But ‘doing it right’ –monitoring analytics, refining strategy, making informed decisions about whether to spend on SEO work (to boost presence in organic search results) or PPC (paid for results) – well, that takes resource and budget, aka time and money. There may be a lot of explaining here, by the way, as I get to grips with marketing buzzwords and attempt to translate it into words and concepts I understand, being from a journalistic background and thinking of B2B verticals as something smutty.

The ‘number one bitchfest’, as keynote speaker Avinash Kaushik put it today is : ‘I can’t get my company to pay for an analyst.’

And why don’t we get the love from our execs? Because they just don’t get it. It’s a rare CFO or purse-string holder that gets internet culture and what they should pay and where.

Without this, you don’t have an SEO strategy or, if the consultants at SES London are to be believed, a hope in hell of getting your brand/product seen.

So how do SEO’s thought leaders suggest you deal with this?

Here are two lovely anecdotes from their SES speeches:

Aaron Kahlow, Chairman & Founder, Online Marketing Summit

‘I was once asked, “If you had to, would you rather give up your laptop, mobile phone, social networks, etc, or would you rather cut off your left hand?”’

[short pause]

‘So I answered “my left hand”, right.’

And he said: ‘Gotcha! You didn’t say laptop, etc, – but you thought about it!’

Lesson: Tech is ubiquitous. Email is ubiquitous. Social networks are ubiquitous. Being disconnected is, for some, like having a left hand cut off. So try this question on your friends, colleagues, even the CFO – and convince your business people through their hesitation how important and embedded online has become.

Avinash Kaushik, Author, Blogger, Analytics Evangelist, Google

‘I can only blog at midnight. I have a job, I have two small kids so this is the only time I can blog. But my wife she loves me; she says, “Go to bed!”

‘Still I want to blog so I tell her, “I am kind of a big deal.” And she says, “Go to bed!”

‘Why? Because it is irrelevant to her. It is the same with executives.

‘So I hit her with data: last month I had 73,000 visits in 176 countries, even Somali pirates visit my blog. But still she doesn’t care. It’s not important to her and it’s not important to the executives.

‘The third time I quantified the goals of his blog (number of feed subscribers, conversion to speaking engagements, my about page which has tracking codes on all the links). I say, “Honey, you should let me blog because last month, I made $26,000 fake dollars!”

‘And she says, “Work harder”, because finally that number means something to her.’

Lesson: to transform your site, blog, etc, you need to compute the economic value to the financial people in your company. Talk to them in language that they understand.

That is all.

I am attending these keywords in 2010: SES, SXSWi and CSForum

Somehow I’ve lined up a conference a month for the next three months. Here are their taglines, blurbs and what I’m aiming to do at each one:

Search Engine Strategies 2010
London, UK, 15-19 February

Tagline: The Original Search Engine Marketing Event.

Blurb: Three days of sessions covering PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, linking building, duplicate content, video optimisation, usability and more!

Me: Blogging (right here) points of interests – particularly interested in conversion rate optimisation stuff for websites and emails (esp after being RAC ezine’s online editor last year), information architecture, business tweeting and happy hour cocktails. So I’ll try to throw up (!) some posts on these from the event.

SXSW Interactive
Austin, Texas, 12-16 March

Tagline: Tomorrow Happens Here.

Blurb: Five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable line up of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. Join us March 2010 for the panels, the parties, the 13th Annual Web Awards, the ScreenBurn at SXSW Arcade, the Film and Interactive Trade Show and Exhibition, Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator at SXSW and, of course, the inspirational experience that only SXSW can deliver.

Me: There for the margaritas, parties and crazy games naturally, but also to meet interesting contacts, learn best practice on content-related stuff and bring the skills back home. Also looking at finding some connections doing interesting stuff in the hotel/conference/travel line of work maybe. And generally promoting the digital side of the West Midlands region, which is part funding me to go on their digital mission. Should also be blogging a bit from the event as per last year. And hoping to hook up with the Tuttle 2 Texas crew somewhere around New Orleans for the last leg of their trip – more about what that’s about on the Tuttle2Texas Posterous. Oh and finally hoping to work out what distributed storytelling is all about from last year’s Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator MC and tech journo prof, Brad King.

Content Strategy Forum 2010
Paris, France, 15-16 April

Tagline: Vive la communication!

Blurb: Where business analysis meets user experience and content development – two exciting days of workshops, presentations and discussions led by leading experts and practitioners from the emerging field of Content Strategy. Whether you are already a content strategist, or looking to break into the field, this exceptional event will put you in touch with inspiring people and new ideas.

Me: Content strategy is what I’m most interested in right now and this is the only major conference featuring all the big names that doesn’t involve flying to the US. Looking to pick up skills in this area as I’ve just started working with the wonderful WTF! Fierce Festival to help get their content strategy ducks in a row in 2010. Also hope to finally meet Kristina Halvorson, content strategy queen. And will also be bringing an artist along to document Paris in an experiment of travel journalism for Tourist Vs Traveller – more of that in a future post.

That’s me sorted for the year, I think. Unless anyone knows of any interesting travel journalist conferences…

WTM and a new business model for travel journalism

wtm_30_yrs_cmykLater today I’m off to my fourth World Travel Market, held annually at London’s Excel every November. Around 50,000 travel industry people attend each year. In 2008, 187 countries and regions set out their stall, filling up 43,000 sq m of space. Last year there were stage shows featuring folk dancing from Kazakhstan, Thai massages on the Thailand stand, saki hour via Japan, Uri Geller breaking spoons with his mind on the Israel stand, and so on. This year, no doubt, there’ll be more of the same and on the same grand scale for although it’s a trade-only show, I think is the third largest show currently held in the UK, behind the Motor and Home Show.

This is the second vast conference I’ve attended this year. The first one was SXSW Interactive, a five-day event on all things interwebbie, in Austin, Texas – I tried to blog about my SXSWi but most of it remains in my head. Will see what stories WTM 2009 throws up.

If you’re going to WTM, and would like to meet, the best way to make contact with me is via Twitter: @fionacullinan. I’ll be checking it and tweeting from it throughout Monday and Tuesday.

My plan for Monday press day is:

  • 10-11 WTM Forecast Forum
  • 10.30 Maldives press conference
  • 12-1 Korea Tourism Org wine/buffet lunch (Novotel)
  • 1-2 Rezidor Hotel Group press reception
  • 3.30 US Travel Association
  • 4 Wandering!
  • 6 Sri Lanka press reception
  • Eve: Travtweetup, WTM Special

My plan for Tuesday seminar day is:

  • 11-12 Innovative Travel Marketing in a recession
  • 12 Irish stew on the Ireland stand
  • 12.30-1.30 Content matters
  • 2 Wandering again.
  • 4.30 Technology and Online Travel drinks reception
  • Eve: Travel Blog Camp.

Sometimes schedules go astray and I’m happy for this to happen in the accelerated serendipitous environment of a digital WTM. Because the other main reason I’m attending WTM is to put myself out there for blogging work, either corporate blogging or creating content for tourist boards and travel companies. I’ve been doing this for a large non-travel organisation on the subjects of innovation and entrepreneurship but would love to do it in the sector I’m passionate about and to combine it with my love of digital content.

WTM tip: find good writers
In the WTM PR manual there’s a tip sheet for companies to get the most out of WTM. Point 5 says this:

Get good writers and PR people onboard
It makes sense to get great story writers and PR people on board – preferably individuals who have previous experience working with travel products and who know your target media. The more professional in your approach, the more professional you will appear to the press.

Twice in the last year, I’ve been told by leading travel editors that there is no longer a freelance budget for travel articles. Well, it was hard enough to make a decent income from travel writing before. Now it seems impossible. The newspaper industry is still where PRs are concentrating their efforts and, increasingly, ‘influential’ travel bloggers – neither of which offers much of a business revenue model for the travel journalist.

A future travel journalist business model?
But I think PRs (and travel companies and travel journalists) are missing a trick. With traditional outlets shrinking, there is a market for creating content direct for the companies and tourist boards. They need someone (a digital journalist would make sense!) to tell their own stories and put them out there to be picked up directly by prospective clients, by editors and by search engines.

They need to, as WTM suggests, find good writers to tell these stories for them and put together a package of content that helps a prospect decide whether they want to visit that destination or book that tour – essentially, write, photograph and video the kind of things a travel journalist would research as a matter of course, adding value to their offering by being useful to the client. And why restrict this content to the occasional press article; why not magnify your offering by hosting them on your own travel sites. If they are good, other sites and blogs will link to them.

For more information on this, check out my comments on where travel journalists might progress to on Travel Blather’s post about paid for content and objectivity. It’s not that I’m giving up on ‘objective’ travel writing for print, just trying to find a new ways to work, because increasingly the old ways aren’t working.

Eh voila. C’est tout. Off to learn how to use a Flip camera now. See you at WTM.

SXSWi: Monday teh 16th

Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki looks over Accelerator winner Weardrobe/
Alltop founder Guy Kawasaki looks over Accelerator winner Weardrobe.

Spent all day in Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator where the cream of the internet start-ups compete via 2-min elevator pitches to be crowned winner in their category. Kind of a Crufts for online business.

Best in show were:

Innovative Web technologies – Ribbit

Social Networking Applications – Weardrobe

Online video realted technologies – Tubemogul

Online music-related technologies – Popcuts

Interviewed Weardrobe founder SuzanneZ – whose fashion social network community was predicted to be the NBT (next big thing) by Guy Kawasaki. She’s 24, beautiful and got out of banking just ahead of the financial meltdown to put her and partner’s Facebook for fashionistas out there. One to watch.

The male panel, which included Robert Scoble didn’t get it initially, but when they did, the sense of excitement about the project was obvious, as they joked: ‘How do we invest?’

Check out what the fuss is about at Weardrobe.