Personal Blog: http://nmc.itdevworks.com/
Bio: Creator of TweetPackage.com, I'm a tech industry veteran with 25 year in the industry. I've done technical writing, usability testing, user interface design, and product and program management work. Most recently I've been applying a research and marketing perspective to social media and blogging about that on my personal blog, http://nmc.itdevworks.com. I'm also a mother of four wonderful children and wife of a terrific man--who also happens to be a fantastic software developer.
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- Create a SlideShare presentation Take your detailed content and summarize it in the form of a presentation. Using PowerPoint or another application, create a deck and post it on SlideShare. You’ll need to create a SlideShare account for your business or blog. Be sure to include a footer on each page of your presentation, with your company or blog name. End the deck with a page containing the URL to your site. (See this post for more ideas of how to Create a SlideShare that Drives Traffic to your Website.) People favorite and download these presentations, and you can see statistics on how many views you’re getting. Promote your SlideShare presentation just as you would your blog post. You’ll find that some people who wouldn’t take the time to read a lengthy post are amenable to a presentation, which is perceived as shorter.
- Post it on YouTube You can put your content on YouTube, as well. If you’ve written how-to instructions, for example, consider videotaping the process—show people how to do something online, in the kitchen, etc. You can embed the video in your blog post as well as put it on YouTube, capturing those people who prefer video over the written word.Alternatively, if you create a SlideShare, you can use a tool such as WonderShare to convert the presentation to a video and post it. Again, you’ll need to create a YouTube account and you’ll want to “brand” your video to help drive traffic to your website. Promote the video just like other content.
- Put the video on your LinkedIn company page If you create a video, you can add it to your LinkedIn company page, in the Product/Services section. Consider it just another channel for distributing your content. This is a new feature of LinkedIn business pages.
- Make a downloadable PDF Blog posts are great, but if you’ve created a blog series, the user has to print each post to get your complete content. If you have a valuable set of content, consider creating a PDF of it. Here’s the PDF I did for my Six Steps series. The PDF presents all the information from the blog posts, but in a friendlier format with sidebars and pull-out quotes. It’s optimized for printing—and you can take advantage of this format to include additional information about your company or services. Keep in mind that business users may print the PDF and hand it or email it to their manager or others in their organization. Design it with this possibility in mind.
- Make it the basis of a talk If you have good content, why not use it as the basis for a presentation? If you have the opportunity to speak, look to your blog for topics that might be of interest. If you’ve already created a SlideShare presentation, it’s not hard to turn that into a talk. You’ll want to cut some of the content from the slides themselves and paste it into the Notes sections, leaving high-level bullet points that you can speak to. If you’ve created a more detailed PDF, be sure to give attendees the URL to download it.
- Specific–It contains specific instructions for actions to take, rather than a general discussion.
- Complete–It provides a full solution for the problem it addresses, so it doesn’t leave the reader hanging.
- Easy to use–The layout of the information and the text itself make it easy for the user to follow the instructions.
- You can create better headlines and tweets. Actionable posts give you great fodder for headlines. “What three steps will improve your affiliate strategy?” “How your marketing plan should change, based in light of the latest research” and so on.
- Actionable headlines will get a better click-through. Aren’t you more likely to click on headlines and tweets that suggest the content will give you concrete information?
- Your content is more likely to be shared, and you may get better SEO results, too. Your post actually answers a question or solves a specific problem. That’s the kind of content people share and also the kind of content they hope to get back in Search results.
- It positions you as an expert. Information that actually gives people specific instructions for how to do something is expert information. When you provide it, you are seen as more of an expert.
You work hard on your blog posts. So, the more you can leverage those creative ideas and carefully crafted words, the better! One way to do so is to repurpose your blog content for distribution through other channels, such as Slideshare and YouTube.
I did this with my series on how to develop a Social Media Strategy. It spanned six blog posts, overall. The core post was an overview, supported by five other posts that provided additional details. I’ve leveraged that series in many different ways, and to this day, I continue to find new methods of repurposing this high quality content.
If you’ve got a meaty post or series of posts, consider doing the same. The ideal candidate is probably a piece (or series) consisting of at least six to ten printed pages of content. How-to materials work well. However, you can also leverage reports or analysis, evaluations of tools or technologies, etc.
Write your blog post(s) as usual. After you’ve finalized the content, consider the following ways to reuse it:
Those are some of the many ways you can repurpose your blog posts, to get the most out of all the hard work you’ve put into them.
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This has been a challenging year for my oldest son. I have four kids. The eldest is in ninth grade–freshman year, when grades start to count for college admittance. My fifteen year old is exceptionally bright, but as we always tell him, being smart isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if you actually know the material if you can’t demonstrate that you know it. It doesn’t matter that you had a great idea, if you don’t actually complete the homework assignment. Just as it doesn’t matter if I have a great blog post in mind, if I never write it.
And it’s writing that has been the problem this year. For some reason, my son (I’ll call him C) has been hitting a wall when it comes to essays, just when he’s being required to write more essays. Perfectionism is a common trait for gifted students. It’s haunting him. C has to have the perfect thesis statement for his essay. By perfect, I mean every word has to be correct. He insists that that nailing the thesis is critical.
Once he has the perfect thesis, he has to have a complete outline. By complete, I mean he has to know exactly what every paragraph is going to be about and how he will transition from one point to another. His outline is almost what other kids would turn in as the final essay. Personally, if I outlined to that level of detail, I wouldn’t have any enthusiasm to write. Half the joy of writing is watching the content develop. If I’ve thought every element through before I even put pen to paper, I’ve already squeezed all the joy out of the piece. But that just me.
The problem with needing a perfect thesis and a complete, detailed outline is that it’s overwhelming. The sheer prospect of it tends to make him freeze up. We’ve had repeated days of C staring at his laptop, then off in space, tapping a key here or there, and never even finishing the thesis statement. We had an entire weekend (and I do mean ALL day Saturday and Sunday) where he was supposedly making good progress on his paper analyzing three poems, which was due on Monday. At 5:30 on Sunday I asked if he was almost done. “Sort of,” he said. “I think I’ve almost got my thesis for the first poem.”
You can imagine my frustration.
Usually, to get through these periods, I’ve had to sit with him and help him talk through his ideas. Playing Socrates, questioning, and often typing notes for him when he reached a conclusion. Sometimes, I’ve had him dictate while I type. That way, when he got lost, pausing for long minutes trying to find the perfect word or phrasing for a sentence, I could force him to move along. “We’ll come back to that. I noted what you’re trying to say. Later, you can come back and say it perfectly.”
One of the biggest messages I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to get across to him? Sometimes it’s best to just start writing (and that’s even for business bloggers).
Sometimes, the best approach is just to start typing, letting your thoughts meander gracelessly on the page. It’s funny how often those wandering words will suddenly start to coalesce, take shape, and become a clear thesis and narration seemingly on their own.
It’s anathema to him. This approach is so contrary his nature as to be utterly unpalatable. I’m not giving up, though. I spent much of the last 25 years doing techncial writing for a living. Most often, I would start with the introduction. My editors have told me that’s unusual for technical writers, who usually do the introduction last. Sometimes, I would write the introduction last. If I couldn’t get my head wrapped around something, I’d start writing the details until the topic became clearer. Sometimes, I outlined my articles. Sometimes I didn’t.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a writer is that there isn’t one approach to writing–even for a given individual. You may have a certain way of writing your posts for your business blog, a way that usually works for you. If you find one day that it’s not working though, don’t be afraid to try something else. If writer’s block hits, shake things up. Usually outline? Try just writing. Usually have a clear idea before you start writing, but only a vague notion this time? Start writing anyway. If you usually begin with the details, this time begin with the overview.
The more strategies you learn, the more flexbile you’ll be. You’ll find writer’s block easier to avoid–and you’ll become a better writer. I suppose at fifteen, this is a lesson my son has time to learn. Still, I’m hoping next year I can convince him to give the Kerouac style a shot, so he can add to his writing repetoire.
In my post, Leveraging Your Business Partners for a Better Blog, I explained some of the benefits of making your blog a venue for business partners. If your business model relies on partnering with other businesses, and those businesses don’t have blogs of their own, you have an excellent opportunity to expand your online presence and lower the cost of producing content, while also deepening relationships with your partners.
You’ll need to plan ahead in order to effectively implement this strategy though. Here are some suggestions:
Lower the bar
Plan how you’ll take posts from your partners and how often you will ask for posts. Try to keep the bar low. For example, you might let people send you Word files with your posts or just type them in email. You handle putting the content into your blog and formatting the content. Also, try not to make posting a burden for partners. Ideally, they shouldn’t need to write more than once every month or two.
Prepare a solicitation package
Take the time to create an email that invites your business partners to participate and explain some of the benefits of posting on your blog. Cover how often you will be asking for posts, how they will get the posts to you, and the kind of articles you’d want. Be sure to summarize the kind of value it can provide to their business.
Develop some simple guidelines for types partner posts
Keep in mind both your and your partner’s business goals—but especially what will interest your readers. Then suggest the kinds of posts partners should provide. Tell your business partners that the material can’t be too self-promotional, as that risks alienating readers. Suggest people include pictures, where possible, as it livens up the page. You might want to make specific suggestions each month to your partners, or take the time to brainstorm with them each month.
Create a consistent format for the partner bio’s and links
Decide whether the partner bio will go at the top or bottom of posts. Pick a formatting technique for the bio, such as italics or a different color of text, to help it stand out from the article. Make sure the bios are brief, but include the author’s name, a description of the partner business, and links to any social sites for the business and, of course, to their website. Collect all the bios via your solicitation package, so you can use them for every post from the partner.
Provide specific editorial guidelines
Provide suggestions for post length and style (first person, informal versus formal, and so on). Tell people that you will edit their posts. But always have the writer approve your changes. They own the post and you need to make sure they are comfortabl with the final copy.
Get commitments and create a calendar
Ask for commitments for posts and ensure they are delivered a week in advance of their scheduled post date. Create an editorial calendar, a month out, of upcoming posts. You may even want to distribute it in email both to keep people apprised of their dates, and to let partners see that other businesses are taking this opportunity.
Help partners benefit from the post
Notify people when their articles have been posted. You want these businesses to promote the blog post, too. So, supply them with suggested text and a link to the post that they can include on their website, in their newsletter, or on their social sites. Obviously, you should be promoting each article, too. Track both the number of page views of each partner post and the click-throughs on links in the bios. Then report that information to the business partner, so they can see the benefits they’re reaping by posting on your blog.
For good measure, send a monthly update to all of your business partners summarizing the partner posts on your blog and the total click-throughs and page views for each business partner. That way, the ones who aren’t taking advantage of your blog will start to think twice, and begin calling you about writing for your blog.
Once you put the processes in place, your weekly effort should be low–far less than producing your own original content. Moreover, you’ll get a wide variety of interesting articles and build a lot of goodwill in the process.
Studies tell us content remains king. Apple goes where the money is. Its decision to enter the market with a device explicitly focused on content delivery is just another indication that engaging content presented well will draw consumers.
The blog will continue to be a critical element in marketers’ social media strategies. And with the expected increase in businesses using social media, competition for readers is only going to grow. So what’s a blogger to do?
The Battle for Readers
The battle for readers is going to be won by the bloggers who provide the most useful and entertaining content. Our toolkit now includes video, podcasts, slideshows, and the original medium, text. Using these different media well and combining them effectively is one of the skills bloggers can use now, to improve their readership. Just as competing products can differentiate on ease-of-use, blogs can compete on how effectively and engagingly they present their information.
My guess is that tools like the iPad will encourage authors to integrate video more tightly with text and intermix the various media in more effective ways. Instead of putting a video on your blog, possibly with a text version below it, you can create abbreviated text punctuated with shorter video clips to illustrate the point.
The future holds more, though. For many years, I worked as a senior technical writer at Microsoft. I always had a strong bent towards usability and user experience, though. I was known for blurring the lines between assistance and UI. I see a similar blurring of content and tools, in the near future.
Creating a post with a checklist of SEO steps for websites? Don’t just offer the user a text list. Provide a tool the user can run against their web pages to get an assessment. For each item the user needs to correct, link to video and text instructions. If you also let users save their information to come back to at later time, you’re guaranteed a repeat visitor and another chance to promote yourself.
Blogging about how to develop a measurement plan for social media efforts?Describe the elements of good measurement plan, sure. But go one better. Provide an expert system that asks the user questions about common goals and strategies. Based on the answers, generate an initial strategy outline for them, along with relevant content from your blog post archives. Generate it as a PDF or a Word document they can save—and be sure to include links to your site and ebooks.
Which would you rather have: a video of how to do SEO, or an interactive tool that walks you through the process on your own site?
My Crystal Ball
If this seems far-fetched now, it won’t for long. It’s possible to build this kind of content tool, now. If you blog for a business, you might decide it’s worth hiring a developer or using internal development sources to create these kinds of blog tools. A site providing a good, free tool that solves a common problem for your target audience is a link that’s going to be referenced and shared. Not only will users share it among themselves, but other bloggers are likely to include links to your tool on their blogs, helping your search rankings. It also provides PR opportunities. Content tools can be well-worth the investment to develop them.
If you’re an independent blogger or a small business owner, you probably can’t afford to hire a developer. You’ll have to wait for WordPress and third party developers to build generalized tools and widgets to support this kind of content. Don’t worry. As the competition for readers grows, developers will see the opportunity to make money through innovative content tools. My crystal ball says it won’t be long before even the smallest bloggers can provide interactive content.
As someone who worked in usability and technical writing for many years, I’ve developed a mantra: make your content actionable. For technical writing, that means doing everything you can to make the Help or user assistance actually aid the user in completing whatever task they are trying to complete–going so far as to add interactive tools to the Help topics.
More and more, I’m applying this same principle to my blog posts. While there are plenty of posts that are meant just to be read and enjoyed, creating actionable posts serves to make them more useful for your readers–and make your readers more likely to share the post with others.
In this post, I’m going to define actionable blog posts, give you some ideas of the types of articles that can be made actionable, and explain some of the benefits. In a follow-up, I’ll talk about how to structure actionable posts.
What are actionable posts?
An actionable post is one that enables a reader to take concrete steps to solve a problem or reach a goal. Content that is actionable is:
Let’s say that you’re blogging about how to use a WordPress plug-in. To make the content actionable, you would be specific and complete, giving the user information such as: the name of the plug-in, what circumstances or scenarios it’s helpful for, where to download it from (with a link), how to install it (or a link to very good instructions), and how to use it, step-by-step. You’d probably break the post up into sections for downloading, installing, and using it. And you’d use the HTML ol element to create a numbered list with instructions.
What posts are good candidates?
Some posts are obvious candidates for actionable content. They are about how to improve your blog, your relationship with our kids, your marketing plan, etc. The whole post can be one big action plan.
Others are not so obvious. A lot of the posts that I do are presenting research results or analyzing industry information and trends. You might think that presenting research results or analysis aren’t good candidates for being actionable blog posts. Actually, they are. After all, while I like research for research’s sake, I find it even better if I can draw conclusions from the research about how to improve my business or life.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if your post could be made more useful:
Can I draw conclusions from the information I’ve provided?
You’ve distilled information from a study and presented it. Can you link that to your readers’ everyday lives or work? Maybe it was a study on mobile marketing trends or how viruses spread globally. Are there implications for what readers should do to improve their business, protect their health, etc.?
Are there specific actions I can suggest people take, to leverage this information?
Ask yourself what specific actions you can recommend people take, based on the information you’ve provided. Maybe your blog post is about taking life’s curve balls with a sense of humor. Can you provide specific suggestions for what to do in order to get in a humorous mood when life throws you a wild one? Or how to kick yourself mentally into funny mode? If your post is about how illness spreads through schools and the workplace, can you create a checklist for your readers of actions they can take to prevent illness?
Can I give people guidelines to help them make a decision based on this information?
Another way to make content actionable is to give people a set of questions they can ask themselves, to make a decision relevant to your post. For example, say you frequently do product reviews. For each review, add a new section “Is X for you?” In that section, put a bulleted list of questions the reader can answer to decide if the product is right for them.
“Is the Flip right for you?” might include questions like: Do you have a limited budget? Do you find you rarely video because you always forget your camera or it’s too cumbersome to lug around? Do you have to film a lot of events at night or in darkened areas? And so on.
Benefits of actionable posts
For your readers, the benefits of actionable posts are obvious: they can use them to make a real difference in their lives, now. There are some benefits for you, as well:
Actionable content is more valuable to your readers and is more valuable to you. So, next time you write a post, ask yourself, “Can I make this actionable?”
(You can follow me on Twitter: @neicolec)
Twitter will shortly be releasing its new Lists feature. As I blogged about, I have hopes this will help reignite Twitter’s growth. I think bloggers can play a key role in doing that. If businesses and bloggers see enough benefits from Lists and use them right, they can be an enabler of Twitter user-growth.
In this post, I discuss how to use Lists to create a cycle: visitors to your blog follow you (via a List) on Twitter, Twitterers see your tweets, which lead them back to your blog.
- Plan to share your lists outside of Twitter
- Add yourself to your List (if necessary)
- Name your List well
- Create Lists for your target audience
- Promote and share your lists in the right manner
Note, step 4 is the one that requires the most thought, but will determine your results. Start thinking about this now, before Lists are released.
1. Plan to share your Lists outside of Twitter
Everyone is planning on sharing their lists within Twitter. But don’t stop there. Plan on sharing the links to your lists on your blog.
Lists will be accessed via a URL like this: http://twitter.com/user_name/list_name. To promote the list on your website, you’ll just add a link with the URL. And you don’t have to stop there. Why not share them on Facebook, in email, and through your newsletter?
2. If necessary, include yourself in your Lists.
I haven’t been able to use Lists myself, yet. So I’m not certain on all the details of how they are being implemented. Specifically, I haven’t seen information about whether the List creator is automatically included in the List and/or whether their tweets are automatically included. (If you’re in the beta, please comment and let me know.)
If they aren’t, then make sure to add yourself to any Lists that you promote on your blog. (I’m assuming Twitter’s feature doesn’t prohibit this. If it does, they shot themselves in the foot.) That is part of the benefit that you get from creating and sharing lists–subscribers see your tweets, too.
3. Name your Lists well
You’ll give your Lists names, and those names will be part of the URL. Naming your Lists may not be as important as choosing your Twitter handle, but it is important. You want the name to be enticing but accurate. One key type of List I’m recommending is what I call a Twitter Solution (see #4). When you create a Twitter Solution, make sure your name reflects the goal or problem you are solving for your audience.
4. Create Lists for your target audience
The first use for Lists that most people will think of is creating a “Top X” List, such as My Top Social Media Picks or Top Sports Bloggers on Twitter. Sure, you will want to create some of those lists and promote them on your blog. In fact, you should always keep Lists in the back of your mind and use them if a List makes an appropriate accompaniment to a blog post. But keep in mind that there is a limit of 20 Lists per account, so you will want to use them only for your best posts.
Aside from posts, you want to think strategically. Take a marketing approach and think of Lists as a marketing tool. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my target audience?
- Does my audience fall into distinct segments with different needs or interests? If so, define each segment.
- What are their goals, as they relate to the topics I blog about?
- What kind of information helps them reach those goals?
- What kind of information is this type of person generally interested in?
- Who on Twitter regularly tweets that kind of information? What Twitter resources can be valuable to this audience segment, given their goals?
Now, using the answers to that last question, create one or more Lists for each audience segment, designed to meet their goals. That’s a Twitter Solution.
5. Promote your Lists in the right place and manner
Obviously, you’ll have to decide where to put your Lists on your site. But since your blog page is the place where most users will arrive or go, you will want to put your key Lists there. Put the List link in a visible location near relevant content. If you already have a Follow Me button, you’ve probably put it in a prominent location, and that’s the same location where you’ll likely want to put your Lists.
The point of creating these Lists is to provide a valuable resource to your audience, and gain some followers in the process. As discussed, you probably already have a Follow Me button on your site. But people are going to be more inclined to follow a List than a single individual. A List, promoted as a Twitter Solution to their goal, is a lot more appealing than just little old you. Sorry.
So, promote your List as a Twitter Solution. For example, If you’ve created a list for first time home buyers, don’t just say “Use my List.” Say something like:
“I’ve created a Twitter list chock-full of Twitter resources to help first time Seattle home buyers learn more about the home-buying process, and connect with local resources. Just click Seattle Home Buyers to join Twitter and use its many resources to find your perfect home.”
Or you might use a graphic (surely we’ll see badges for Lists, soon) to highlight your List.
That’s the basic strategy for using Lists to grow your blog. I hope you have fun with Lists–and are able to find some new followers through them. I’m a contributor to the Bloggers’ Bulletin. Watch my own blog for my next post, where I’ll give you some ideas for using Lists in unique ways.