Easy Steps to Amplify Your Blogging

Dr. Tony Karrer, CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, was one of the first people to highlight my writing outside of {grow} when he invited me to participate in the wonderful aggregation site B2B Marketing Zone.  Tony is an inspiring web entrepreneur and offers in this Community Week guest post today some new ideas to attract more attention to your blogging efforts …

I’ve been blogging since early 2006, so I know first-hand that it’s hard work — with often slow results — for both new and established writers to reach a sizable audience.

The good news is that I’ve found a really great way to effectively amplify your blogging, reach a new set of potential customers, build relationships with fellow bloggers, and create a useful and powerful library of relevant content for your industry.

Introducing Topic Hubs

The heart of this strategy is what I call “topic hubs.”  A topic hub aggregates a collection of information sources (web pages and RSS feeds) to form a new information hub around a particular topic.   An example that I created, the B2B Marketing Zone is a topic hub on … you guessed it … B2B Marketing.  It brings together more than 50 of the top bloggers including Mark’s efforts on  {grow}.

In the world of eLearning, a similar topic hub has been created with amazing results.   It has grown to be one of the Top eLearning Sites in the world, represents a significant referral source for my own blog and puts me at the center of the eLearning bloggers network.

But this same opportunity for amplified exposure exists for bloggers on any subject really.  For a topic hub to work, there simply needs to be a critical mass of content being created on roughly the same subject matter.  Generally, I’ve found you need 30+ bloggers all writing about the same industry, geography, niche, etc.  Looking at fellow blogger’s blog rolls might indicate those who could be included in a topic hub.

Once you’ve decided on the specific topic, you can create a hub using one of many different services such as Browse My Stuff (what I use), Individurls, MySyndicaat, Feedbite, Planetaki, Protopage, Netvibes, PageFlakes, or even community oriented solutions such as Ning and WordFrame.  Each of these solutions has different characteristics, but they all allow you to aggregate content from many sources and either manually or automatically curate it.

Blogger Relations

From there, you will need to contact the bloggers you want to feature on your topic hub. I recommend that you start with a couple of key bloggers and get them to agree to participate.  For the B2B Marketing Zone, Tom Pick, a well-known blogger in the space agreed to support the effort.  Once the first blogger agrees, convincing other bloggers becomes easy.  After all, you are offering them the opportunity to get additional visibility and traffic.

Doesn’t this take a lot of work?  It takes some, but not much more than what you probably are already doing to promote an individual blog by yourself.   It’s likely that you already know the essential bloggers in your space and are already connected to them through various social media platforms. You’ve probably already accomplished some of the leg work on creating relationships with bloggers you know and respect.

Results from Topic Hubs

By creating a topic hub that is associated with your blog and your company, you are going to get several interesting effects:

  • Get your name in front of B2B Searchers.
  • Provide a rich source of content without having to create it yourself.
  • Easily create a relationship with bloggers and other key influencers in your industry.
  • Build expertise and credibility with your audience through association with industry experts.
  • Be seen as an innovative company that is closely tied to the newest happenings in the industry.

The net effect of all of this is that you will greatly amplify your blogging.  You will expand your reach – especially with people already searching for your topic. You’ ll create a rich source of content without having to create it yourself, you’ll expand relationships with fellow bloggers, you will get a halo effect through association with industry experts, and you will put yourself at the center of the industry conversation.

I want to thank Mark for his input into this approach and the opportunity to contribute this guest post.

I certainly welcome your thoughts on this approach.  And if you happen to be a blogger participating in the B2B Marketing Zone (or would like to be), it would be great if you could weigh in on your experiences with this aggregation concept.

Dr. Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a Los Angeles Web Development firm, and is founder of Browse My Stuff, a social publishing solution that helps B2B marketers reach buyers and influencers.  He has 20 years’ experience as a CTO including at eHarmony and he has consulted with many Fortune 500 companies.   His well-known blogs include eLearning Technology and SoCal CTO, and is a frequent speaker at industry and academic events.

Is your company creating a social media ghost town?

This week we continue to put {grow} in the hands of the community by featuring Nashville marketer Laura Click and her ideas about why companies abandon their social efforts:

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark for lunch at popular Nashville spot called Urban Flats.  At the end of our meal, we were impressed to receive a card promoting the restaurant’s Twitter and Facebook profiles with our checks. Certainly, this was a great way to invite customers to connect with the restaurant online.

Recently, I visited Urban Flats again and received the same social media promo card. I decided to tweet about the great meal I had there with a friend. As a social media enthusiast, I was hoping to hear back from the restaurant. But, instead of a tweet, I heard crickets chirping.

A couple of days later, I checked out the restaurant’s twitter page and found they hadn’t updated it in months. What a shame. It’s like sending out invitations to a party at your house, but you’re not home when people show up.

The Urban Flats Twitter page is a prime example of a social media ghost town, and I’m quite confident this isn’t the only of its kind on the web. In fact, I think this is scenario is becoming more common as statistics show that only 21 percent of Twitter users are active on the site.

So, why do people let their Twitter profile, blog or Facebook page become a social media ghost town? Here some common reasons:

  • Lack of time. While social media may indeed be “free”, people rarely take into account the investment of time needed to tend to it. Although you don’t need to spend hours a day on social media sites, it’s important to carve out some time to get anything out of it. When people don’t take the time, the site falters.

 

  • Lack of content ideas. On many ghost town sites, you can practically smell the desperation as the posts begin to dwindle. “We have a patio!” or “We have great food!” It’s clear that many people just don’t know what to say, so they quit trying. Let’s use Urban Flats as an example – what could they share with their customers? Here are some ideas:
  1. Ask customers about their favorite flatbread or wine.
  2. Thank customers who tweet about the restaurant or check in via Foursquare or Gowalla.
  3. Create a recipe contest – the winner gets to name the flat bread and gets a free meal to go with it.
  4. Retweet posts from the shops nearby.
  5. Share articles about healthy eating, events in Nashville or urban renewal (something Urban Flats promotes).
  6. Search for people looking for restaurant suggestions in Nashville and suggest Urban Flats.
  7. Send menu updates, offer specials and promote events.
  8. Post photos of your staff members or share behind the scenes look at making the flatbreads.

 

  • Lack of success. Some people believe that merely having a social media presence will cause piles of money to show up on your doorstep. Clearly, this is not the case. While there may be a number of factors that contribute to an unsuccessful social media effort, businesses that don’t see immediate results tend to give up.
  • Lack of comfort. Believe it or not, social media doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If someone isn’t comfortable using social media or if it doesn’t match their personality, it shows. And, they often quit as a result.

A ghost town is a depressing place full of abandoned buildings, broken glass and tumbleweed. Don’t let your blog or profile become one. If you do, perhaps it’s time to consider if no social media presence is better than a ghost town.

Why do you think people abandon their social media efforts? Should they close down their blog or profiles if they quit updating it?

Laura Click is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a consulting group dedicated to helping small businesses grow. You can learn more about Laura by checking out her blog at www.lauraclick.com.

Social Interaction Designers are gunning for your website

Neicole Crepeau is more than an important contributor to our {grow} community. She’s also among the finest thinkers and writers on the social media scene. Today we’re extremely fortunate to have Neicole contribute an original new article for our “Community Week!”

There’s a new kid in town.  And if you don’t want your website shot down, you better get acquainted with him.

A confluence of changes in social media has created new ways websites can be used to encourage and leverage social interactions to accomplish business goals. Social interaction designers (also known as SxD) are the ones who will help companies incorporate these social elements into their websites.

Interaction or website design is the process of planning a website and developing the blueprint for it. Social interaction design is a sub-discipline of interaction design. Social interaction design originally focused on the design of social networks or communities and was highly theoretical. We’re on the verge of it becoming a more practical and mainstream part of website design—thanks to Twitter!

Twitter Drives a Widget
Like Facebook, Twitter opened up its system by providing an API for developers to access. Unlike Facebook, Twitter’s API made it possible for developers to build lots of different widgets and applications that displayed Twitter data, such as tweets, outside of Twitter itself.   The Twitter API was far more open than Facebook’s.  Most of the applications built for Facebook ran only inside Facebook or were glued to it. Twitter developers, on the other hand, created tons of tools and widgets for websites that could be used outside of Twitter.

Facebook Plugs In
Twitter’s developer network helped put a scare into Facebook. In April, Facebook upped the ante by releasing its Like button and other social plugins. Now, you can put widgets on your website that let people comment on your post while sharing it on Facebook, see which of their friends follow your page, etc. Facebook also made it easier for you to access users who liked your pages.

LinkedIn entered the game this year, as well. A social network that is notorious for being walled off, it now has an API and is encouraging programmers to develop against it and create widgets.

Decisions, decisions
Now, you have to decide where it makes sense to put all those Facebook plug-ins, Twitter widgets, and the few (but likely growing) set of LinkedIn controls. Where does it make sense to show tweets about your company? Where could you include the Recommend plug-in to encourage users to dig deeper in your site? How do you need to change your site to increase sharing?

Or…maybe you should hire a developer to create custom plug-ins for your website. Can you create new tools that make it easier and more likely for users to share your events or products?

Enter the social interaction designer
That’s where the social interaction designer comes in. Social interaction designers combine user experience principles with an understanding of social media and user motivations. It’s their job to figure out how to design your site to maximize sharing and engagement, in a way that really benefits your business.

Social interaction designers are few, right now, and the discipline is young. As time passes, they will modify standard design tools, such as personas, to incorporate social and mobile information. They’ll ask questions like on which social networks are your customers active and how active are they?

They’ll create new tools like community engagement maps to model the social landscape. Are your social accounts driving users to your site effectively? Are you and your business partners cross-promoting on social channels?

They’ll open new discussions around user goals and the barter economy of social networks. What do users want in the social environment? What can you trade?

Using all of those methods, social interaction designers will work with traditional designers to ensure your site is structured to encourage interaction and leverage it. We’ll help to ensure you’re providing real social value to your users so that they want to engage with you. We’ll help you incorporate social elements in a seamless and inviting way.

So the next time you go to redesign your website, think about social interaction design, and what social elements you can incorporate to help your business.

Neicole Crepeau is Director of Online Strategy at Coherent Interactive, Inc. She has over 25 years in the technology industry, doing content development, marketing, and user interface design. She blogs about social media, marketing, and social interaction design at Coherent Social Media. Follow her on Twitter @neicolec

Defy Gravity, Defy the Status Quo

Rebel Brown has been a long-time contributor to {grow} and today, her first book, Defy Gravity, is being published.  So it’s kind of a special day!  In today’s Community Week guest post, Rebel explains why she decided to write this important book …

I’ve been a consultant for more than 20 years, working with early stage startups, growth companies and for the past 10 years, turnarounds. Regardless of the size of business or their stage in their lifecycle, I saw the same thing limiting their growth. Gravity!  Gravity is what I call the weight holding them back, caused by status quo thinking and processes.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the way we’ve always done it.  That’s human nature.  We like the comfort and safety of the known and sure. Reaching out to embrace different ways of thinking and doing is not our first impulse, in business or in our personal lives.

Yet the way we’ve always done it is the reason for the mess we’re in. And if we’re not in a mess yet – just keep doing it the way you’ve always done it and you will be in a mess soon enough.   Our world, our markets and our lives change too quickly to rely on our past to define our present, or our future.

 

That’s why I wrote Defy Gravity.  I wanted to help people think differently about the beliefs and knowns in their businesses.  After 20 years consulting, I can tell you for sure that when we release status quo behaviors and patterns that create Gravity, we can find new opportunities for growth.

 

Defy Gravity is a guide to challenging your status quo and reevaluating your business, your value and your markets.  The book includes everything a reader needs to learn the basic principles of business flight for growth — from concepts and logic to tactical execution planning. Defy Gravity goes beyond most business strategy books to include questions, exercises, case studies and flight planning guides to help you create and execute your plan.

As I always tell my clients — I don’t know anything they don’t already know.  I just see their businesses differently. I’m objective and have Zero Gravity in my approaches and perspectives.  At least I that’s the way I am when I walk in their door!   When I work with a client long-term I have to guard against Gravity as well.   That’s how insidious Gravity is.  We all get too close to the situations we’re in. We get stuck in our status quo way of seeing and thinking – and we never even see it happening.

Defy Gravity is written as a thinking person’s guide to challenging their knowns in pursuit of high velocity growth.  It’s a new way of thinking and evaluating your business, its value, its opportunities and the Gravity that can hold you back.

Once you ditch your Gravity – the sky’s the limit.

Special note from Rebel to readers of {grow} — As my special Launch Day gift to you – I’m giving away the workbook for Defy Gravity FREE to anyone who buys the book today, September 14. Simply click here to get your free Workbook and gifts – TODAY ONLY.

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