Category Archives: Corporate Blogging News

Corporate Blogging News

Blog early, share late: research findings

Early birds catch the blogworms. Or so suggests research by blogging metrics maniac Dan Zarrella. You have the best chance of getting eyeballs to your posts if you get that content out before 10am US Eastern time. In a recent webinar hosted by Hubspot, Dan unleashed a torrent of findings from his surveys and research of over 170,000 blog posts.

This fine infographic does a great job of summing up general reading/feedback trends seen across the blogs studied:

Whether it’s views, links or comments, most activity happens early in the day. Saturday is a big day for commenting. Which could well be related to this activity on social networks:

Retweeting follows a similar path. It looks like most people read content early in the day, with little variance across the week. As we get nearer the weekend, people start getting social: whether that be retweeting on Twitter or sharing on Facebook (and getting around to commenting).

Judging by the success of this webinar, interest in blogging definitely isn’t on the wane, which makes me somewhat skeptical about a recent study suggesting that although corporate blogging isn’t exactly dead, it’s reached saturation point.

There was no evidence of this during Dan’s study of blogging, which had the Twittersphere ablaze for the full hour of the presentation. You’ll see there was particular interest in the tie-up between blogging and other social media: in particular those duelling siblings Twitter and Facebook. And that’s where blogging can really come into its own: as the content destination for inbound marketing tactics across Facebook and Twitter.

To my mind the Dan’s research also highlights a key difference between search- and social media marketing. For search marketing, attracting those indefatigable search bots that trawl the web for new content is a time-independent task. Just make sure you get content out in short order to win favor from the recency filter was the long and short of what I was told not so long ago by search experts here at IBM. The time of day really has little importance: algorithms aren’t more likely to read posts in the mornings.  Whereas this research from Dan bears a closer resemblance to the findings you might see around email marketing which is often deemed to be time-sensitive. Readership is near-synchronous and content is highly perishable. And if you are blogging outside the time-zone of your key audience, beware. Your content could well end up overlooked. As you may have noticed, I’m taking Dan’s messages to heart and working on getting this content out in a timely fashion. Right, now time for breakfast!

For further details on this study, check out the aforementioned post by Dan or listen to the On Demand recording of Dan Zarrella: Science of blogging

The role of the social media strategist

As always, some thought-provoking research is coming out of the Altimeter group around the maturing (and increasingly frustrating) role of the social media strategist. At the crux of Jeremiah Owyang’s report is the notion that the growing challenges of the social media strategist role could push him/her into a reactive corner, just responding to the increasingly demanding needs of the business (being little more than a ‘social media helpdesk’). Less strategy, more blind execution.

Here at IBM there are a number of strategists dotted around the organization (although with a strong cluster around the marketing function), and I’m sure most would agree with Jeremiah’s research. Indeed, brand social media strategist Steve Lazarus was one of those interviewed. So, what is it exactly that keeps us so busy? (I say ‘us’ as I hold a tangential role currently). I’d broadly categorize the functions performed as follows, with the caveat that the functions can vary depending on the position in the organization and personal aptitudes:

Role of the social media strategist

Training/education

Due to limitations in resource and product knowledge, it’s unrealistic to expect social media strategists to engage in all conversations across all channels. Adopting the ‘teach a man to fish’ maxim, it can make sense for the strategists to engage product experts across the organization and teach them how to become proficient in social media communications. This could take the form of education on the use of tools, the sharing of best practice and what’s worked in the past, discussing how to react to potential scenarios, the list goes on. In fact this post on Bloomberg BusinessWeek does a good job of listing ways of engaging employees. As a trainer and educator, the strategist moves into the role of a facilitator rather than a practitioner.

Analytics – monitoring, ROI and energizing practitioners

There are various components to analytics, each with its own specificities.

Strategists can monitor the social space for conversations around the brand. If there are any conversations requiring immediate attention (eg. a crisis looming), they can pull together the experts/execs that can respond. Monitoring also helps define the social landscape and strategy that makes most sense.

Analytics can also be employed to prove the ROI of social media efforts. This could be looking at increased share of voice on a given topic measuring traffic delivered to a campaign web page from Facebook and Twitter, or calculating the value of the traffic delivered to a blog ranking prominently for target terms on Google (obviating the need for paid advertising).

A further role of the strategist can be to feed analytics back into the organization to help energize practitioners. As an example, showing bloggers how much traffic their posts are attracting can help generate posts more frequently!

Process optimization and workflow

Social media touches many parts of the organization. You may have customer feedback that could help product development and should be forwarded to product management. Maybe there are support issues/discussions happening on external forums which require the input of the support team. Organizational processes should be put in place to deal with these kinds of scenarios. For instance interlocks need to be built between functions like marketing and support which traditionally have existed at opposite ends of the organization.

In addition, workflow tools need to be put in place to track individual conversations and issues to ensure these are dealt with effectively. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet recording each issue together with the response (when deemed necessary), but as these issues grow in number and complexity, more powerful tools will be required.

Web marketing integration

As Jeremiah points out in another part of his analysis, 2011 will see an increase in the integration of social elements into websites[

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/07/analysis-2011-corporate-social-strategy-will-focus-on-corporate-website-integration/

]. In its simplest form this could be the addition of Facebook Like or Tweet This buttons on web pages. Whilst some web marketers may be savvy to this, in many cases social media strategists can offer valuable insights on what conversations should be highlighted and the format used to display social elements (eg. a sidebar showing the latest 5 entries from a blog may be more effective than a mere button).

As the mobile space continues to become more important, consistency and tie-ups across mobile, web and social presences will also need to be managed effectively. For instance, adding QR codes on event web pages could help attendees transfer information from the PC to their smartphone.

Corporate sponsorship

With employees engaging more and more in social media on behalf of their company, someone needs to make sure the management/executive team are cool with this and hopefully promote this interactivity. A strategist may propose and promote an incentive program for employees. They may also gently advise the executive on where their involvement would make most sense. As one social media strategist here at IBM explained it, a major part of his role involved keeping the corporate forces out of employee social interactions (unless of course there are policy violations requiring intervention).

Social media campaign marketer

A strategist can help bolster campaigns undertaken by the marketing team. This could take the form of creating a social media kit around around a campaign that is then emailed to experts and evangelists across the organization. Or maybe a YouTube strategy developed in conjunction with an agency would make sense. The role in this instance is one of energizing employees and major stakeholders to supplement the work of the marketing team.

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These, to my mind, are the core functions of the social media strategist. In addition, a strategist will also have to juggle a number of managerial/administrative demands, as any manager in the organization has to perform: eg. collaborating with internal/external teams, reporting on performance, people management.

It’s worth pointing out that the role of the strategist can be significantly different to that of the social media evangelist. An evangelist tends to be much more hands-on: many in this role excel at using the different social media channels to get the message out. Whilst they may have considerable following on their Twitter account or blog, they may be less proficient at energizing others in the organization to get involved, or analyzing conversations and defining processes to deal with these.

As Jeremiah points out in his report, the role of the strategist is due to change in the near future. We may see something in the social space akin to what has happened to web marketing over the last ten years: a splintering of roles and responsibilities. Some may focus on developing processes and implementing tools to help the organization effectively deal with its social ecosystem. Others may extract value by focussing solely on integration between web and social.  Others could focus more exclusively on training.

On a positive note, this role is definitely not going away. There is a supply imbalance for the social media strategist skillset with more companies chasing the rare individuals who have the requisite skills and experience. Against this, the fact that social strategists are a rare commodity means that they are stretched in their roles and risk falling into becoming what Jeremiah calls the ‘Social Media Helpdesk’.

I can see two main ways the social media strategist can avoid this. One is to facilitate rather than execute. For example, spend time ‘persuading’ knowledgeable experts to blog, rather than blogging yourself. The other is to pick a specialty and follow this. eg. become a trainer and focus on this area. Teach the web marketing department how to integrate social aspects, rather than get buried in the weeds yourself.

Do you agree?

(The original post from Jeremiah)

What is the ideal blog template width?

Got caught up on a discussion around what screen resolutions most people use these days to view blogs. Made me dig into the trusty Google Analytics to see if I could discover anything for this very blog.

This is what I found:

Less than 10% of the audience use 1024×768 or less. Given that the majority of visitors are using around 1280, I’d suggest you can happily design a template at 1,000px with the sound knowledge that practically none of your audience will have a horizontal scroll. This is slightly wider than the advice from BloggingPro earlier this year.

Looking at some of the top blogs out there, Mashable weighs in at around 970px wide. Politico is a royal 1,000px and Robert Scoble’s blog sits at around 960px.

Any web designers out there know how this compares with regular websites?

Blog posting made easy: Windows Live Writer

If you’ve ever had a problem losing a blog post to an errant web-based WYSIWYG editor, or have struggled cutting and pasting from an MS Word document into a blog post, then you might want to take Windows Live Writer for a spin.

 

This small Windows desktop client plays nicely with all the major blog platforms out there and offers more formatting options than you may get with your standard blogging interface (eg. tables for starters). 

Go ahead and download Windows Live Writer or read my post over on IBM developerWorks for more information on this nifty little app.

Social chat for your blog with Wibiya: friend or foe?

I currently use the Wibiya toolbar on Caged Ether to handle all my social bookmarking and to add other cool features such as the ability to instantly talk about my posts here through networks like Twitter.

I noticed that they have recently added a social chat feature:

I found this intriguing, although not necessarily life-changing.

Advantages:

  • I can engage directly with readers and converse/share in a much more intimate form than the standard blog publishing/commenting system generally allows
  • Visitors can choose whatever network they prefer to login (currently the usual suspects  of Facebook/Twitter + a few others) yet regardless of network they can converse across the chat window
  • Chats can be public or private depending on the topic

Disadvantages:

  • You should be present to monitor the conversations – a potential time drag esp, exacerbated if you happen to be on a different time zone
  • Dealing with trolls and other undersirables who wonder into the chat room could be tricky if you can’t always man the chat room
  • Will anyone really want to stick around and chat, rather than just graze on your content and run?
  • It’s unclear whether the chats can be saved for perusal/analysis at a later time

This makes me think it’s too early to run out and proclaim this a killer app that will transform the world of online publishing. I can see where there could be real applications of this. Large news  sites could use this kind of service to interact more directly with their readership and could take opinions as quotes or at least as a measure of public sentiment). If you are running a big event with an active blog, this could serve as a community around which discussions can congeal.

Therein perhaps lies one of the problems with the Wibiya service. This toolbar tends to be used by smaller blogs (like this one) who may not have the manpower or application for such a service. But maybe Wibiya now has its sights targeted elsewhere.

Any thoughts? I’m afraid you’ll have to comment below: I’m not quite ready to pounce in with the Social Chat feature quite yet 😉

Blogging: the Google way (webcast with Karen Wickre)

The SES team in conjunction with Hubspot recently hosted an excellent presentation by Karen Wikre, Google’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications. Karen has been at Google for over 7 years and in that time has played a prominent part in bringing blogs into the center of Google’s communication strategy. In the presentation she goes into details of Google’s philosophy of using blogs for corporate communication, focusing on blogging announcements, but also covering other topics such as blog post frequency and the factors in the decision of whether or not to start a blog for a given product.

Read more

Blog implementation: do you risk the fear of success?

The BPI Institute website have an article covering the problems of successfully implementing a business process management  (BPM) solution. Don’t know what a BPM is? Don’t worry – I only have the faintest idea.

What was striking were the reasons for failure the piece lists:

  1. lack of understanding what BPM really is
  2. fear of failure
  3. fear of criticism/losing face
  4. unwillingness to change
  5. fear of success
  6. fear of reality
  7. belief that expensive tools are necessary to get started

It struck me that these apply to the implementation of many technologies, including setting up a corporate blog. For instance, the idea that no one will read your content (fear of failure) is a roadblock to many a blog being setup.

The fear of success really bemused me at first, until I dug further.

Read more

Your blog homepage: To excerpt or not to excerpt?

I manage a small coterie of blogs that on average receive about 20,000 page views per month. Somewhere between 16-19% of these visitors touch the homepage somewhere on their travels. The clear majority actually enter through the homepage. Bottom line: the homepage is pretty damned important.

This recently brought me onto an argument on what is the most effective way of displaying posts. Here I’m not talking about the intricacies of laying out the front page of your blog like a magazine or a photo gallery. Rather just talking the basics: what options do you have with the straight forward roller approach that originally was one of the key defining features of a blog and arguably still remains the most common blog format. It commonly looks something like this:

This opens up a big question: how much of each post do you show on the homepage?

Most blogging platforms, including WordPress, Blogger and the Lotus Connections platform we use here at IBM show the entire post on the homepage. However, you’ll also see many popular blogs abbreviating posts on the homepage with just an excerpt and a link to the individual post in its entirety, eg. Altimeter, Read Write Web and TechCrunch.

Which approach is better?

Here I my thoughts on the blog excerpting question:

Advantages of excerpting posts

  • Easy to scan many posts
  • Easy to track interest/engagement at the post level
  • Added Flexibility: decide on length of excerpt, inclusion of images
  • Works well for group blogs: you have a greater chance of seeing the multiplicity of views from different authors upfront

Advantages of listing full post on homepage

  • Remove an extra click between viewer and full blog post
  • Good for display of short posts (‘Read More…’ could link to only one more sentence)
  • Attracts more comments (visitors can often comment directly from the homepage)

As you can see, there is no clear-cut solution, but I favor the approach of displaying excerpts on the homepage with links to the full articles. Why? To appease the scanners. A homepage listing multiple excerpted posts makes it easy to move quickly through the content and see if you find something relevant. The caveat being if you are a blogger that tends to write short, pithy posts.

Am I over-fixating on a minor detail? Probably. As Mark Murnahan points out, content generally trumps structure. A well written, relevant piece will do well, whether or not it’s excerpted on the homepage. However, I would still contend that if you run a network of blogs and have to and have key objectives and targets to achieve (for instance average page views per article, number of comments per article) playing around with the homepage structure can have a dramatic effect.

How to excerpt with WordPress

If you are blogging using a standalone version of WordPress you can simply excerpt your homepage posts using the the_excerpt function within your homepage template. This will display the first 55 words and will strip out all images and HTML. If you want more control, you can use the Advanced Excerpt plugin which gives a lot more flexibility. I see the main advantages being the option to select which HTML tags to include and options over how much of the post to excerpt.