The Return of the Blog Roll

keep it rolling
Image by Rod Senna

Surely you have seen the many studies, articles and posts (see Gini’s take) — including a couple on this blog — over the past few months about corporate blogging’s decline. In thinking about the matter, I decided to reverse my personal decision to exclude a blog roll here.

The best way to support blogging is to highlight your favorite reads as often as possible. While I do this every hour during the business day on Twitter, these blogs seem to get shared the most on my feed. Of course, there are many great blogs out there, so feel free to add them in the comments. And you can always visit my blog roll on the first column to the right.

Here are the blogs:

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Posturing Wastes Corporate Content

Tree Pose!
Image by lululemon athletica

Sometimes moving to a conversational medium can be hard. Transitioning style — blogs, videos, social networks updates, etc. — to serve stakeholder groups can be extremely challenging. This is a legitimate challenge of moving from traditional to conversational marketing. But some marketers ignore the relational value of social content, and abuse these media to posture, positioning for influence and popularity rather than serving. Posturing wastes corporate content.

Fellow blogger Rich Becker recently discussed the Fifth Estate, and how the PR blogosphere doesn’t act responsibly. That’s because many PR 2.0/social media influencers, just like their predecessors, believe that PR and marketing is about posturing. They are more concerned about looking good and maintaining influence than building real relationships or discussing industry ethics (see Becker post). God forbid if they took time to talk about anything other than themselves.

Let’s be clear. Blogging and creating content for popularity can make you “influential” by certain algorithms. And influence is the paper tiger that PR 2.0 social media types trot into the boardroom to close the deal. But that won’t build customer loyalty.

Content needs to serve stakeholders. For all intents and purposes, it’s a product you are creating for them. The correct use of content is to serve people, make their lives better. That’s the whole gist of positioning content marketing as the Serve strategy in Welcome to The Fifth Estate. Applied, if PR 2.0 bloggers had guts they would take up serious ethics issues like Weiner/Twitter use & Motrin, rather than getting flabbergasted by the latest Apple iOS announcement. It would better serve their clients.

Yes, there are other benefits, including thought leadership, SEO and customer loyalty (for nonprofits; donor, volunteer or beneficiary). This is the gravy received for doing the job right. That means make your readers’ lives better and easier through the content you are creating for them.

Today on Gaping Void, Kathy Sierra had a stirring post, “Pixie Dust & the Mountain of Mediocrity” to this effect: “If people love what a product, book, service let’s them *do*, they will not shut up about it. The answer has always been there: to make the product, book, service that enables, empowers, MAKES USERS AWESOME. The rest nearly always takes care of itself.”

When Media Professor Stephen D. Cooper came up with the concept of the Fifth Estate, he meant bloggers could become as meaningful to communities as the traditional media, becoming their watchdog. The pen is a powerful, powerful tool. When it is used in service to help our families, friends, countrymen, and, yes, our customers, it becomes a great thing. However, content that supports personal branding and false influence falls into that bottomless chasm of marketing BS.

Avoid posturing, and start helping people out. In the end, this is the answer you’ve been looking for anyway.

4 Ways to Improve Content

Carré d'as
Image by Markaud

Sometimes blog content doesn’t resonate as well as one would like. It can be hard to pinpoint why. There’s an editorial mission in place, regular posts are published everyday, and you seem to be talking about what matters, but no one pays attention.

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re stuck. That’s when examining mechanics means the most. What are some ways to strengthen content to increase reader attention? Here are four ways to jump start your writing…

Slow Down Production, Focus on Quality

Audi R8 (DC Auto Show)

A current conversation amongst leading voices has reinvigorated the old quality versus quantity debate. Mitch Joel says dilution of content to achieve frequency (and therefore attention) doesn’t help. Richard Becker recently began compiling research of 250 blogs from the 2010 Fresh Content project. Becker’s research demonstrated that BOTH consistency and clarity were necessary for success.

Publishing crap content five times a week or twice a day won’t make your situation better. Half baked content gets one quarter of the attention that a fantastically well thought out blog post does. You do the math.

Ideally, a blog needs three posts a week to maintain enough presence to achieve a top ranking or become a leading vehicle for thought and conversation. Slow down production and refocus on creating outstanding content. You can always increase frequency once the blog is back on track.

Stop Talking About Yourself (or Your Organization)

It’s been said here before. It will be said again. No one cares about you. They care about themselves. Frankly, overusing first person pronouns makes you sound self promoting and egotistical, and if it’s an organization it reads like corporate messaging. In fact, the narcissistic compulsion to consistently talk about me, myself and I (or we, our and us) becomes a detriment to building readership.

Instead of waxing your own car, get right into what’s in it for the reader. If your opening paragraph mentions the first person more than once (if at all) and doesn’t have a clear thesis, know that it’s a failed post right out of the gate. Focus on the reader and what’s in it for THEM, not how smart you are.

And if you are hiding behind the personality argument, please, please consider what you are saying. Good writers know their personality comes through sans self talk. It’s called style. Do an intentional edit to weed out the first person as much as possible.

Increase Listening

Listen
Image by ky_olsen

If you are creating more content than you are reading, you have a huge issue. First of all, it’s highly likely you are out of touch with your stakeholders, and what interests them. Great content creators develop relevant, prescient information that speaks to the times and trends.

Secondly, because of the disconnect with the community you’re dictating to your readers and stakeholders what you think matters. That may be OK if your primary goal is journaling; however, this post seeks to increase traffic, not wax poetic.

Don’t treat your readers like “consumers” of bubble gum! They invest time and in some cases social capital to read and spread the word about your writing. Do your homework. Read your stakeholders’ conversations and content. Listen to them, understand what they care about so you can offer relevant content.

Create More Content That Works

Andrew Dumm, Winner (Men) 2008 MCM
Image by dbking

Sometimes an editorial mission can create too much latitude for the writer, and it becomes necessary to refocus on content that readers actually want. Go back through your Google Analytics data and see what’s been working. Focus on trends instead of individual posts. A combination of analytics on unique visits, time on page, and conversation (via PostRank) should reveal an interesting picture.

For example, in the past few months on this blog you like four types of posts; strategy-oriented pieces, online content best practices, timely event-centric pieces, and discussions about the ethics and issues surrounding the growing social media bubble. You don’t like pieces about the environment, causes or entrepreneurial leadership.

Take the findings to heart, and adjust your editorial mission as necessary. Wash, rinse, repeat.

How do you strengthen your content during down periods?

Related reading: Blogging Primer, 5 Tips for Blogging in the Post RSS Era

Tuesday Tune-Up: Interesting Reads

Rocky Mountain Sunrise

Some interesting reads this morning around the social web, which you may enjoy:

The New America Foundation breaks down three types of collaborative design for community technology, human centered, appropriate and participatory. Designing a product or service for communities requires thought towards outcomes, approach and research, amongst many other things. Creating social technology products for communities and lasting change really falls under the traditional guise of product marketing for those who may have geek nomenclature issues.

When people follow information blindly on the web, they fall down rabbit holes. Valeria Maltoni discusses the need for average citizens to dig deeper online, inspired by this weekend’s stellar New York Times article about DecorMyEyes.com. This article shows digital hucksterism at its best.

Lucy Bernholtz looks at two technologies that may reshape online giving. One is Kickstarter a seed funder that works for both nonprofits and traditional companies. The second is MissionMarkets, which is working towards a regulated exchange for equity investments in social enterprises.

Richard Becker takes Porsche to task for being the latest company to do the numbers race without looking at the quality of its social community. You’d think Porsche would have been faster on the pedal with both the #s and the community. Engineering, right?

There has been a lot of buzz about Jumo in the nonprofit space, a platform created by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Zoetica CEO Beth Kanter takes a look at the new service today on her blog. Steve McLaughlin breaks down the five Ws and tells readers why they should be excited.