Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky, A Book Review

Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky really has something here. Because I have to say, I just plain love this book. I am a fan! In addition, this book ended up tying with Groundswell for being my favorite of the six books that we were assigned to read in my first Quinnipiac University social media class, Social Media Platforms (ICM 522).

Clay Shirky: Here comes everybody!
Clay Shirky: Here comes everybody! (Photo credit: ChimpLearnGood)

At the time, I started classes thinking I would only get a certification and nothing more. However, I ended up staying long enough to get my Master’s of Science in Communications in Interactive Media (social media). And a part of that decision can be traced directly back to reading this particular work.

Philosophy To Go

Furthermore, I really liked the philosophical and sociological aspects of his work. Essentially, what he ended up saying was – society is changing. It’s not just the Internet; it is happening to humans ourselves. We are in the process of becoming new, and different. Hence there is a seismic shift going on, in our society.

Of course, that is likely to just be the wealthiest slice of society. Because heartbreakingly poor people in Third World countries simply aren’t going to be adding to online or offline content any time soon. Or, if they are, it is far more likely to consist of content that is survival-based. Hence this would be items for sale, rather than the products of truly creative pursuits.

Amateurs vs. Professionals

In addition, I really love what he had to say about amateur participation. Because in Chapter 5, on page 154, Shirky persuasively writes:

“As more people come to expect that amateur participation is always an option, those expectations can change the culture.”

So here’s to amateur participation. Because it is here to stay and I suspect it will never, truly go away.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism

Professionalism? This post riffs on Be careful who you hire to manage your business’ Twitter account, a post on Social Media Today.

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism
Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv (Photo credit: Slava Murava Kiss)

In addition, in the original article, the author talks about, essentially, how to tell whether a Twitter feed is being handled professionally, or not. Hence following are their “5 Points to consider before hiring a service to manage your Twitter account.”

Check Their Twitter Stream

1. First of all, before you even look at the different tools for measuring a Tweeter’s level of influence (which can be misleading and in some cases manipulated) you firstly need to check the individual’s own Twitter stream.

  • What type of language do they use? – agreed. Because branding involves, among other things, speaking the language of your customers. Are you a hip hop record label? A travel agency catering to retirees? A diamond jeweler? All of these businesses have different customer demographics. Hence there is no “one size fits all” here. However, this does not mean people cannot adapt to communicate properly with everyone they do business with (after all, you need not hire a child to market to children), but the Social Media Specialist needs to get the message across so that the target readership is receptive.

Lazy Tweets

  • Do they spam their own followers by sending lazy Tweets for example? #FF @Tweeter1 @Tweeter2 etc. – I’m not so sure I call this spamming. I think, at times, it’s useful to do this. But overdoing it (and you’ll know it’s overkill if tweets like this – or quickie retweets – dominate the stream) is definitely not a good way to do business.
  • How do they use their own account? Is it professional or sloppy? Do they Tweet late into the night and have no professional boundaries. Do they over mix professional with personal Tweets. – agreed. And with useful tools such as HootSuite, you can schedule tweets. There’s no excuse for late night tweeting, and no need for it. If the stream is meant to engage internationally, it might be a good idea to split it up into more than one account, so that one stream is for North America and another for Asia.

Messaging

  • Are their own Tweets all over the place so you are not able to pick up a clear message. – this is a good point, and not just when it comes to Twitter. A clear message is key – for a robotics company where I worked, the message centered around sales. Messages promoted education and/or robots. NASA, for example, was only mentioned in the context of robotics, not in the context of space launches. There’s a lot of information out there. Consider it to be a bit like a garden – usually it needs weeding and thinning, as opposed to fertilizing.
  • Furthermore, do they acknowledge where they take their material from or just duplicate what they see their competitors do? – ah, this is big. It’s why the original source for this article is listed. And it is a big part of how the ‘net works, or at least is supposed to. You post a blog entry. A competitor sees it. If they riff on it and post it and give you a linkback. that’s good for you. And you thank them and do the same in reverse and yeah, they’re still a competitor, but you’ve got common ground and in some areas you can cooperate. Or they don’t acknowledge you, and everybody digs their heels in and the world becomes a slightly more miserable place. Hey, you make the call, but I prefer cooperation pretty much every time, myself.

Too Much Self-Promotion?

  • Do their Tweets make any sense to you or are they just full of self promotion they hold no real value other than grooming their own ego. – true, but I think sometimes this can come from Social Media marketing folk not being properly trained. If the marketing manager is unsure of how much promotion should be mixed in with information, the marketer might be similarly confused.
  • How much negativity comes across in their stream – not everything is or should be positive, but I do get this. The idea is, well, are you promoting to people who want to buy your company’s organic brownie mix, or do you just sound petulant and whiny? However, you can sometimes be too perky. But I think if there are errors in this area, they should probably fall on the side of more, rather than less, perk.

Which Business Accounts Do They Manage?

2. Ask to be given the name of one of the business accounts they manage, and go through this with a fine tooth comb. Keep an active eye on the account and monitor how they manage the business’ online profile.

  • How many Tweets are there and what type do they send? – it’s a quantity and a quality game on Twitter. You need to get across some seven views before people start to consider buying. And consider Twitter’s international, 24/7 appeal – people may be checking at 4 AM. This, by the way, goes against an earlier statement about the marketer not tweeting into the wee hours. No, they shouldn’t – but unfortunately, sometimes, that’s when the readers are online. After all, if you’re tweeting for people playing World of Warcraft, they’ll be on at 4 AM. As for quality, that goes along with the above statements as well – are the tweets worthwhile, or are they dull self-promotion?

Engagement

  • How do they engage with the client’s audience? – some of this is in the form of retweeting. Retweeting and replying have a place, as it is a give and take type of engagement. Is there professionalism behind the engagement?
  • And how is the call-to-action placed and worded? – this is fairly self-explanatory. There is a difference between what looks like a hard sell, and what has more of a friendly “Hey, check this out” vibe. Does the marketer know the difference?
  • In addition, do the articles relate to the client’s industry and audience? – this harkens back to my NASA example above. Content is necessary, of course, but irrelevant content is worse than no content at all. Because it’s better that the marketer pump out less content if it’s not relevant, yes?
  • Do they add any value? – the $64,000 question! Can you tell without having access to measurement tools?

References

3. Ask for a number of references and call them.

  • How has the business level of influence grown? For sure if they cannot achieve this for themselves, then they can’t do it for the client. – try objective measurements if you can get them, like Google rankings, bounce rate, etc.
  • What have been the benefits? – only your industry will have the specifics for this. Increased sales may or may not be the actual benefit. After all, sometimes social media is used for damage control. If that can happen more efficiently and inexpensively – that might be the benefit.
  • What difference has it made to your online brand? – again, this is a specific question.
  • How good is the level of communication? – hard to say what this means without context. After all, the car dealer and the online cancer support group will have different needs in this area.
  • What results has the business seen? – again, objective measurements are best, whatever you can get.

Metrics

4. Ask what Twitter measuring tools they use to provide their clients with monthly reports.

  • While there are some good free tools around they do not come close to paid analytical tools for managing Twitter accounts. – agreed, but sometimes that’s how things go, particularly if the Tweeter has worked for startups or nonprofits.
  • Ask what recommendations they have made to the client that have enabled the business to grow based on the findings. – these should be in whatever reports the Tweeter provides.

Time

5. Finally, ask how much time they intend to spend on your account over the week.

  • How will this time be managed with all their other projects? – this is a good question for any sort of a freelance or offsite working relationship.
  • What elements of account management does this breakdown in to? – again, this is not confined to social media; it’s a good question for any potential employee who’ll be working remotely, or not exclusively with you.
  • How will they keep you informed and up to date with relevant Tweets and conversations? – reports? Emails? What is manageable and relevant?

My Own Ideas

And now a few of my own when it comes to professionalism.

  • What do the tweets look like? Are they interesting? Relevant? Grammatically correct within the character limit? Or are they just slight variations on a theme?
  • Do all provided links work, or do they go to dead ends? And do the links have any sort of measurement behind them, even simple click metrics? Do they lead to generic pages, or to any custom pages for Twitter users?
  • What’s the follow/follower ratio? Does the person follow everyone, or are they, at least seemingly, a bit choosy in this area? We all know that junk follower accounts exist – does the Tweeter even follow those or seem to use auto-follow?
  • So how often does the person tweet? Daily? Monthly? A monthly Twitter stream is barely this side of useful. Tweets need not come every five seconds, but it is a fluid, evolving medium and needs more attention than that.
  • And finally, and this is a question for the person (and you may not get an accurate answer, by the way), does the Tweeter actually like what he or she is doing? Do they have a passion for it? Or is it, like, Time to make the doughnuts? I’m not saying that we can (or should) always love what we do. But plenty of people love doing this. Why not hire someone who does?

Finally, you can get a passionate Social Media person, to handle your Twitter stream, do your blogging, manage your online community, promote your Facebook page and more. And they will do it with professionalism and aplomb.
We really exist.

Book Review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

"Book

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a bit too cleverly named, but the premise is an interesting one. Essentially, what Gary Vaynerchuk is saying is, little bits of content and engagement which reach your potential customers are the setup for the big finish (which is not really a finish, actually) of a call to action and an attempt to make a sale.

The other major premise of the book is that all platforms have their own native quirks and idiosyncrasies. Therefore what is reliable on Pinterest, might fall flat on Facebook. What is killer on Tumblr might get a shrug on Instagram. And what is awesome on Twitter might bring the meh elsewhere.

Breaking Down What Went Wrong, and What Went Right

The most powerful part of this work was in the analysis and dissection of various real-life pieces of content on the various platforms. Why did something not work? Maybe the image was too generic or too small or too blurry. Or maybe the call to action was too generic and wishy-washy, or the link did not take the user directly to the page with the sales information or coupon. Or maybe there was no link or no logo, and the user was confused or annoyed.

While this book was assigned for my Community Management class, the truth is, I can also see it as applying to the User-Centered Design course at Quinnipiac. After all, a big part of good user-centric design is to not confuse or annoy the user. Vaynerchuk is looking to take that a step further, and surprise and delight the consumer.

Give people value. So give them what they want and need, or that at least makes them smile or informs them. In the meantime, show your humanity and your concern.

And work your tail off.

A terrific read. Everyone in this field should read this book.

Rating

5/5 Stars

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations
Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

For a Strategic Planning class at Quinnipiac University, we were required to read Ronald Smith’s Strategic Planning for Public Relations.

And so it was … okay.

In all honesty, I do not expect public relations textbooks to be laugh riots or thrill rides.

However, one area ended up being rather frustrating.

On page 95, Smith writes, “… goals are general and global while objectives are specific.” On pages 93 – 94, he writes, “Strategy is the organization’s overall plan.” And on pages 225 – 226, he says tactics are the visual elements of a public relations or marketing communications plan.

What Are You Saying, Mr. Smith?

First of all, to my mind, I saw great deal of overlap. Hence I feel that much of the book could have been better condensed. And essentially, I feel, the strategic planner or public relations expert wants to follow an organization’s general goals. For example, an organizational goal could be to get more exposure.

Plus they want to achieve this with special attention to specific objectives. Such as, they might want to increase awareness by 6% during calendar year 2017. And then add the nitty gritty of tactics. E. g. the strategic planner might believe they can accomplish this by tweeting every other day following a particular plan. And that seems more or less to be it. However, it did not take me over 400 pages to tell you that, now, did it?

However, in all fairness, there were some good parts in the book. Furthermore, the sections on SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and PEST (political, economic, social, and technological factors) analyses were very good. And you do not have to be in the public relations field in order to be able to use that information. But man, it could sure use some editing.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Stephen King On Writing although it turned out to be an optional work. I think the work was decent.

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing
Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

A lot of people seem to fall over themselves with praise for King. Me? Eh, not so much. I would say, though, that this is the best thing I have read from him.

Nuts and Bolts

One area that I feel he handles well: the question of how meticulous attention to detail needs to be. On Pages 105 – 106, he writes,

“For one thing, it is described in terms of a rough comparison, which is useful only if you and I see the world and measure the things in it with similar eyes. It’s easy to become careless when making rough comparisons, but the alternative is a prissy attention to detail that takes all the fun out of writing. What am I going to say, ‘on the table is a cage three feet, six inches in length, two feet in width, and fourteen inches high’? That’s not prose, that’s an instruction manual.”

Agreed, 100%. I see far too many fiction writers getting into far too much detail, and it’s maddening. Readers are intelligent (generally), and can follow basic instructions. However, the writer needs to provide the framework and then let the reader run with it. Otherwise, it’s an instruction manual, as Stephen King states.

And the corollary is also true – for writing which requires meticulous instructions and step by step information, woe be unto the writer who decides everybody knows what a flange is, or a balloon whisk, or EBITDA. Or any other term of art known more to insiders than to the general public.

Stephen King also exhorts would-be writers to read a lot and write a lot. Basic information, to be sure, but it makes good sense. Without practice or comparisons or even attempts to copy, none of us would learn how to properly craft prose.

What the Hell Did Adverbs Ever Do to You, Steve?

Here’s where we part ways.

King writes, on Page 124, “The adverb is not your friend.” On Page 195, he clarifies his statement:

“Skills in description, dialogue, and character development all boil down to seeing or hearing clearly and then transcribing what you see or hear with equal clarity (and without using a lot of tiresome, unnecessary adverbs).”

It’s funny how he makes the above statement with the use of the adverb clearly.

I see his point, and I’m not so sure that a lot of aspiring authors do. The gist of it? Make sure to choose your words well. A part of this is what editing is for, but it’s also to be able to best get across your point(s). You can write –

She waited nervously.

Or

She waited, drumming her fingers on the table until her brother told her to cut it out or he’d relieve her of the burden of having fingers.

The second example is more vivid. It shows, rather than tells. But sometimes you just want to cut to the chase. There’s nothing wrong with that. Adverbs, like passive voice and other parts of speech and turns of phrase, are legitimate writer tools. They can still be used.

In all, a decent work, albeit a bit redundant in parts. I didn’t want to read the memoir portions of the work although I can see where they would interest others.

I bet this guy is going places.

Review: 4/5 stars.

Social Media Balance

Social Media Balance

Social media balance is sometimes elusive. Yet much like everything else, social media needs to be balanced. Too much, and you’ll alienate your readers. And too little, and they’ll wonder if you’re still alive.

I’ll confine my comments to just blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are other outlets, but let’s just look at those three.

Too Much

social media balance
CHRISTMAS MUSIC (Photo credit: Zellaby)

During the 2012 Christmas season here in Boston, the oldies station began broadcasting all-day Christmas music early. How early? And it was, if I am recalling correctly, before Veterans’ Day. Egad, it was awful. And then of course other radio stations began their regular broadcast of holiday music. So it was very hard to get away from it all.

Now, lots of these songs are lovely. This is not me slamming religion – don’t misunderstand me. Rather, it was just … c’mon already! Because it was way too much!

It was not festive. Instead, it annoyed. And the same can be said of social media. If you’re a small outlet, a tiny company, a Mom and Pop operation, here’s a little secret. You don’t need to constantly tweet and update Facebook.

Reasons why you shouldn’t overdo it

  • You’ll oversaturate the people you’re trying to endear, and they’ll turn off to your message.
  • And you’ll burn out.
  • You’ll run out of things to say.

Not Enough

It continually amuses me when people say something like, “I have a blog.” And they’ll post

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr... social media balance
Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

their link. However, the last time they updated was 13 months ago, or more, or they’ve never updated. Or it’s a Twitter stream with three tweets, and the account is over a year old. Maybe they have a Facebook page with nearly nothing on it.

Given the number of abandoned accounts, and the number of deceased persons’ accounts on Facebook and the like, followers might be wondering. Have you gone to the great computer room in the sky?

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Underdo It

  • Your readers will leave you, big time. They may be loyal but today’s audiences are also pretty fickle. You’re no longer shiny and new. So they leave.
  • Google still indexes abandoned accounts, although the information is out of date. And it can sometimes end up making you look worse than not having a social media presence at all.
  • You show, essentially, that you no longer care about your subject matter. So why should anyone read what you write at all, if even you don’t believe in it?

Balance

It’s rather Zen, I suppose, to seek a balance here.

social media balance
zen (Photo credit: mkebbe)

But how do you get it?

The easiest way is to consider the people who you follow where you just love their updates. They don’t seem forced or rushed, and they seem to come in, just at the right time.

Don’t think of really big wigs in social media, like George Takei, Shama Hyder Kabani, Wil Wheaton, Guy Kawasaki, Ashton Kutcher,

Shama Kabani social media balance
Shama Kabani (Photo credit: bjmccray)

etc. Instead, consider your friends, colleagues, and neighbors, even if it’s people who aren’t making (or trying to make) a career out of social media.

Look at their Facebook walls and their Twitter streams and their blogs. What is it about those outlets that grabs you?

By the way, recognize that a person might be really good at one form of balance, but not at another. That’s not unexpected, as these are all rather different forms of media.

Reasons Why You Should Strike a Balance

  • Posting too much at the beginning can lead directly to posting pretty much nothing later on, so spread things out over time, and you can avoid both issues simultaneously.

Schedule Those Suckers

  • If you’re really inspired and have a lot to say, that’s great! But unless it’s time-sensitive, use the scheduling features of programs like HootSuite. Or try Facebook’s own post scheduling feature. WordPress and Blogger both allow you to save drafts and schedule them to publish when you want them to.
  • Spreading the wealth over time will assure your readers that you’re not just some flash in the pan. It will also assure them that you’re still among the living.
  • Too many posts means that many of them get lost in the shuffle. Too few means that they can loom large, and maybe seem more important than you think they should be. Spread the wealth, and you can avoid both problems.

One more thing about social media balance. While Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. should be mindful, it should also be kinda fun. Overdoing it means that you’re probably spending too much time online. While underdoing it probably means that it no longer interests you that much.

Consider what either of those scenarios means to you. Because social media balance matters.

Are You Promoting Your Writing With Social Media?

Promoting Writing With Social Media

Promoting Writing is important! So let’s say you’re an amateur writer. You know you should be promoting writing with social media. But how do you get started?

Not to worry; I’ve got you covered, whether you’re looking to sell your work or just get your unsellable fanfiction noticed.

My Background

I have my Masters’ degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University. I blog, tweet, and go to Facebook pretty much every day. And I did all of that for grades and now for work.

Promoting Writing With Social Media
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furthermore, I have been in the social media space for years, long before the term was even so much as coined. I go back to Usenet.

Getting Started

So it may be tempting to just plunge right in and start hyping your work on Facebook or Twitter or the like. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It seems so easy. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s free. But I want you to take a step backward because we are going to do some basic strategizing. It’s called the POST Strategy.

P is for Personas

A persona, or a buyer persona, is the person who would typically buy your work. This is demographics, generally including gender, age range, and race. It can include highest educational level attained. It can also include marital status or sexual identity, time zone, and sometimes household income.

I know you don’t have the bucks to hire a team to build a demographic profile. That’s okay. You’re more or less covered online, if you don’t mind some vagueness.

In 2013, Pew Research investigated who in America is reading. You can also pull related data, such as this study on gaming. Google, as is often the case, is your friend.

Once you’ve got your general demographics together, write a short thumbnail sketch of a biography of them. E. g.

Steve loves science fiction as he enjoys the escapism elements. He’s in his thirties and lives in a small town where he has a technical job. Unmarried, Steve wants to escape into the strange worlds that are a staple of science fiction. Because Steve is bi, and he’s in a small town where that might seem strange to his neighbors, he is semi-closeted. He wants to read about people like him or more or less like him. He enjoys action and adventure but doesn’t mind some romance in the storyline so long as it’s not dominant.

This is a description of your ideal reader. That person might be a lot like you. They might turn out not to be. Plus you might find more than one persona. That’s okay, too.

O is for Objectives

We’ve all got pie in the sky notions, where we want to be recognized for our art, published, get an agent, make a mint, and hobnob with the best writers we can think of. Or maybe that’s just me. But you’ve got to be realistic here.

What’s realistic? Breaking even, on a first novel, is probably not realistic. But selling at least one copy to someone you do not personally know? That’s a good, attainable goal. It may not sound like a lot, but you start this way.

And do some measuring, in order to know you met your objectives. Amazon shows sales data, and many places show read counts even if you aren’t publishing for $$ at this time. I personally use spreadsheets but I’ve got a data analysis background so this appeals to me. You don’t need to go nuts! You can get by with just vague ideas, such as to see that sales have gone up, or you haven’t broken 1,000 reads, that sort of thing.

S is for Strategy

What’s your plan? First of all, allow me to suggest one thing right off the top – get HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Buffer or some combination and learn how to use their scheduling features. Don’t be tweeting in the middle of the night. So schedule stuff. Trust me; scheduling will save your offline life.

T is for Technology

So now let’s start thinking about platforms. And do some more research (Pew is awesome!). Where is your buyer persona going online?

Our mythological buyer persona, Steve, is fairly young and male. I bet he likes Tumblr and Twitter. Plus he’s on Facebook because many people are. While he might be on Pinterest (it’s not 100% female), the likelihood is greater that he’s elsewhere.

So what’s your mission? To post your promotional links where Steve is. Maybe Betty. Or Lakeisha. Perhaps Hong. Or José. And change up to reach whoever your buyer persona is.

Want to know more about POST Strategy? Go to the source!

More Information

However, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to promoting writing. Because there’s a ton more to know! Where can you get started? I just so happen to have a book for that. And it also just so happens to be free. Ask me anything, here or on Wattpad in the comments for that book. Am I missing something? And do you want anything updated or clarified? I gladly take requests to update the Social Media Guide.

Now go out there and knock ’em dead!

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott, A Book Review

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that I had as required reading for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).

The Premise

World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland David Meerman Scott
World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland (Photo credit: Krishna De)

First of all, the premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system. Instead, it has instead evolved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.

And perhaps the most interesting part of the book consists of the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –

The New Rules

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

  • First of all, marketing is more than just advertising
  • In addition, public relations is for more than just a mainstream media audience
  • You are what you publish
  • And people want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Furthermore, marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web
  • In addition, public relations is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. Instead, it’s about your organization winning business
  • And the internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
  • Furthermore, companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • In addition, blogs, online video, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • And social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and connect with the people and companies they do business with
  • Finally, on the web, the lines between marketing and public relations have blurred

Because customers are talking back.  And companies and their marketing departments had better start listening.

Rating

Review: 5/5 stars.

CLUMPS of SEO

CLUMPS of SEO

CLUMPS is an ugly acronym and I apologize profusely for that. But if you want to build and promote a website and improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you should think in CLUMPS.

CLUMPS of SEO
A clump of day lilies

What are CLUMPS?

I will explain.

Content

C stands for Content, and Content is King. Don’t believe me? Try looking at a site – any site – and picture it instead as a framework with lorem ipsum written all over it. Kinda silly, eh?

How to Search Engine Optimization
How to Search Engine Optimization (Photo credit: SEOPlanter)

So, people need something to read. Or listen to. Or download. Maybe to play. Or discuss. Or purchase. And it could be any other of a number of things that they would want to do with a website. And they need it from you! So make up your mind as to what you want. Plan your content and work on it. Brainstorm what you want to cover, and keep records of that. This helps when the rubber really meets the road and you get writer’s block.

For Instance

For example, let’s say you want to create an episode guide for the old television show, Quantum Leap. The show aired 97 episodes. If you post a new episode every single day, you run out out of content in less than three and a half months. If you instead post twice per week, that covers 48 and a half weeks – almost a full year. Good, but what do you do after that?

So there are a few options. One is to post less frequently. Another is to churn up the content and repost it. However, what you could also branch out. Therefore, post about the actors’ work before and since the show aired. And cover convention appearances. Add photographs. Post or critique fan fiction. Open up the floor for discussions of the show’s philosophy. Maybe you can find a related show to write about, and compare it to the original. It doesn’t matter. Just, recognize that your content might have a finite end to it, so you’ll need to work on extending that.

Furthermore, it can also help to look around the online world. What do others say about your topic? Make a Google Alert for your topic or, better yet, make several, with variations. Follow the news and see what you can comment on. Don’t copy others’ work outright, but commenting on it, linking to it, and expanding on it are all fair game. Always, always, always link back! Speaking of links ….

Links

L stands for Links. You’ve got to get your link out there, and have it linked back to by other sites. Now is not the time to keep it to yourself.

This does not mean spamming! Rather, you need to launch a bit of a campaign. Find like-minded individuals and ask for them to link to you. Offer to link to them in return. Now, it’s better if you’re linked to by pages with good, large followings. How do you find these sites? One way is to do a search on the backlinks for your closest competition. Who’s linking to them? And target those sites.

And be patient! Rising in search results takes some time, although you can promote yourself by buying search, if you like, by using Google AdWords. But if you don’t have a budget to buy listings, don’t worry.You can still have good external visibility. What matters is not being number one. What does matter is getting onto somewhere on the top three pages of search results and then working from there. Of course, the higher the better. But the difference between page 100 and page 1000 of search results is a moot one.

Usability

U stands for Usability. If people cannot find what they are looking for, if your site is slow and unresponsive, or you’re just missing too many vital things, people may come, but they will not stay.

Case in point. I spent some time a few years ago investigating linking certain nursing job sites to various places where backlinks would be welcome. I did research, and of course nursing schools are a prime potential source of backlinks.

However, for some colleges, finding the link to either their nursing school or their placement office was akin to searching a hay field for sewing implements. I had, more than once, to resort to searching on Google rather than inside a particular school’s own pages, in order to find what I wanted. Sometimes, the pages were poorly named or written (e. g. placement office pages which didn’t have the word “jobs” anywhere in sight). Others had too many unrelated or poorly related or obscure keywords (e. g. referring to such an office as the painfully generic  “Student Services”).

It would have been far better to make sure that these pages were dense with correct words that people would use when searching, such as jobs, placement, careers, employment or internships.

Search Issues

Other sites had what I wanted but were painfully slow (that was often a server issue). Or the web developer was so in love with flash that the site has pretty scrolling pictures but it was hard to find where I was actually supposed to be clicking.

So look over your site. Or, better yet, have others do so. And find out from them what works, and what doesn’t. It’s not an occasion for them to tear you down or give you unstinting praise. Rather, it’s an occasion for you to learn what works, and what doesn’t.

Formal Checks

And for formal investigations, try using A/B testing methodologies. A/B testing means essentially serving up one version of a site to one person, and another version to another. And then you check their click behaviors. If these are people you know, talk to them. The difference between the “A” and the “B” versions of a page can be as small as a new color for the background or a different location for the logo versus a complete site overhaul. But it’s the smallest changes that are the easiest to process. Make small changes before you commit to larger ones.

This also goes into the idea of keywords. Keyword stuffing is, of course, a black hat strategy, and it’s the last thing you want to do. But white hat strategy isn’t just setting up a site for the benefit of search engines – it’s also setting it up for the benefit of people.

Metrics

M is for Metrics. If you’re going to do A/B testing, or if you care about whether anyone is visiting your site, you need to start looking at all of that. The best and easiest to use such analytical site is Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides all sorts of data, everything from which is the most popular page on your site to how long users are hanging around. Like many other things, take a little time and get to know the program but also allow it to gather some data. You aren’t going to get a terribly good picture of your site in a month. You need to let this percolate for a while.

Promotions

P is for Promotions. Again, I never advocate spamming. However, I do suggest that you put your link out there via your own Twitter stream, your own Facebook account, via Reddit and Stumbleupon, etc. For this hypothetical Quantum Leap site, you might want to find like-minded tweeters using a service like Triberr. You could look up science fiction, or television nostalgia, etc. and join tribes (groups of tweeters) with similar interests who would be likely to retweet your content. Use HootSuite or a Google Alert to run regular keyword searches on Twitter for various related terms. For people who are using those terms, they might have an affinity for what you’re doing. Perhaps you can follow them, and see if they will follow you back. And if they are reading your tweets, they are seeing your links. Look for reasonable hashtags and follow them, and start using them.

Check Your Metrics

But check Google Analytics after a while, and budget your time accordingly. If most of your time and effort are going into Twitter, but you get most of your readers from Facebook, you may need to rethink your Twitter strategy. Or, you could even try dropping it for a while, and only concentrating on Facebook.

Again, this is an exercise in patience. These things do take time, particularly if you have a shoestring budget and are essentially only using free services. For not paying, you will need to, instead, invest time.

Shiny New Stuff

S is for Shiny New Stuff. What I mean is, sites that stay the same, year in, year out, are just not that interesting. Plus, things change. Development proceeds at a far rapider pace than most of us know. Take a look at what’s out there, and see if making some changes will help.

For me, I started off creating a site completely from scratch, using HTML. I wanted to learn the language as well as possible, on my own. However, one area where I certainly needed help was in aesthetics. This went on for a couple of years as I had a site with good content, I was working on promotions and garnering linkbacks, and I was keeping it usable and was checking metrics.

I eventually moved the site to WordPress, and used their templates (the content, of course, is wholly my own). The site looks better and functions better. It also gives it a newer look. Plus WordPress fixes a lot of issues with key words. So long as your post is on point and mentions the keywords you want to tout, those key words will be in the page, and will be searchable by Google’s spiders.

Upshot

CLUMPS is still a lousy acronym. But I hope you’ll find it continues to hold true. The way to get your site out there, noticed and loved, is to make it as good a site as possible. Consider the sites you love. What they look like, how they work, what content they deliver and how they keep things fresh and interesting. Follow the metrics for your own site but take a leaf from those other sites’ pages. Not to out and out copy, of course, but rather to be inspired. And you can make your own quantum leap to better SEO.

CLUMPS of SEO
Quantum Leap

Content Nation by John Blossom, A Book Review

Content Nation by John Blossom

John Blossom wrote a rather interesting work. And so for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platform’s class (ICM 522), this book was assigned as required reading.

John Blossom, Author of Content Nation
John Blossom, Author of Content Nation (Photo credit: HowardGr)

Blossom sharply and compellingly puts forth his case. The Internet has become home to more and more content creators all the time.

And this constitutes a very good thing indeed.

As publishing becomes push-button fast and friendly, publishers stop being gatekeepers. Suddenly, anyone with an idea and a connection can potentially become a publisher.

Takeaways

One of his most interesting takeaways appears on page 136. Here he lays out Content Nation Enterprise Rule #1:

“Social media isn’t about technology; it’s about adapting to more effective patterns of communications being adopted by competitors.”

Hence for Blossom, the key benefits are –

  • Effective social media tools enable people to choose who they want to allow within their circle of communication (although that makes for silos and walled gardens these days!)
  • Effective social media tools make it easier to collect and organize communications from internal and external sources
  • and Effective social media tools make it easier to collaborate internally and externally. This is to build and update valuable knowledge more effectively.

And I have to say that I agree with this. So much of what we read about social media centers around the platforms. In addition, the technology seems to overrule everything else, including common sense. And while everyone loves something shiny and new, it matters very little if the content behind it, well, frankly, stinks. Hence Blossom essentially disagrees with Marshall McLuhan.  Therefore, the medium isn’t the message any more.

Instead, the message is the message.

And I think that is pretty powerful. Particularly in this day and age of constant content creation, promotion, distribution, and deconstruction. But you make the call, gentle reader. Feel free to contact me if you disagree, okay?

Rating

Review: 4/5 stars.