About Nick

Hey I'm Nick and while normally I love talking about myself--I'm a little stumped. I am a passionate about all things web-related. My philosophy: if you do business, you should also do your business on the web. I do everything I can to make that happen. My goal here is to share my knowledge and experiences so that others may benefit and be successful with their internet endeavors. I hope I write something you enjoy! Cheers -N

Would you ditch your website for a social media campaign?

My roster of clients has ranged from Ultra-Portable Device inventors to the fashion & beauty industry to physical therapy. The big question on everyone’s mind is really how to promote their business through social media channels.

About two years ago everyone was desperate to have some SEO value so they’d show up in search results. While still important, the focus has been shifted to generating excitement about your brand through a social network. ClickZ posted an article a few days back stating that ads on Facebook that contain social context are 68% more likely to be remembered by users. That is, when Heineken posts an ad on Facebook that links to one of their videos, when I ‘like’ or share the video, my network is 68% more likely to remember the Heineken brand (within the context of the video). Since word of mouth referrals generally hold more weight than search results or email campaigns, a social network would be the best place to cleverly advertise so your fans/users/potential customers will ‘like’ or share your content.

In theory, it may be more cost effective and powerful to focus all of your online marketing efforts on a social media campaign. Having a website is – or was – a standard or rite of passage, much like having a business card. Buy a domain name and have it redirect over to your Facebook page. You’ve undoubtedly seen brands that are using social media platforms for customer servicesales and other communication like all-important Rugby World Cup news.

If the value of a well executed social media strategy is higher than that of the website, why not just ditch the website?

Take a moment and evaluate why you have a website: for customer contacts, to showcase products and services, to provide a resource for customers to get assistance from your brand and what else? Facebook’s platform has a core purpose of allowing users to share information with their network. Is there a difference between what Facebook facilitates and what your website facilitates? For small or local businesses, trying to complete in search results is a painful and sometimes expensive ordeal – competing against companies and campaigns with a broader reach than your small town cause increases in the price for Pay-Per-Click advertising. Larger companies and campaigns also have multiple people guiding and monitoring the interactions and often small businesses cannot dedicate a staff member the same way. On social networking platforms you can even target ads at specific regions and demographics (based on social data stored on the platform). A fine-tuned Social Media presence could very well be the replacement of the website.

On the other hand, having a website for a small business is still a rite of passage. I have yet to find a client or business who has a social media presence and does not have a website. The baseline for establishing a brand online is still a unique URL for your products, services etc. That said, the challenge is now about keeping your website content as fresh and updated as your social media presence. Search engines are constantly crawling your website for new content, users want new content – so why keep it all to the social networks?

Facebook has a series of social plug-ins for your website. Plug and play code you can drop anywhere on your site and it will pull the latest from your Facebook page. Twitter also has a large number of third party plug-ins that allow you to post your latest tweets or even query their search API for trending topics.

I would recommend for small businesses to get their website to a self-sustaining point through social media. The website will have the baseline product and service descriptions, pricing etc – that’s great – but then add social plug-ins for the networks where you’re actively engaged with customers and fans. Keep your fans happy through the social networks – and at the same time your website will be updating with relevant content as your brand’s on the social network will be syndicated through your plugins to your website.

Facebook Launches “Universities”

Facebook in the last 12 hours launched Universities on Facebook, a page geared to encouraging interaction between people attending universities. The page also provides deals on goods and services from popular brands like Utrecht Art, NewEgg.com and Eddie Bauer. While some of the offers still need to be ironed out, the prospect of network-specific content starts to rise.

For a enterprise level Facebook Application I’m working on, I have been trying to use the Open Graph API to determine where a user’s network, current city or states (of interests) exist and then serving up content based on the the response. If you’ve seen anything from popular fast food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King you’ll know that not all goods, services and specials are offered nationwide. McRib is a good example: despite availability of ingredients, labor for processing etc, the McRib is only ever around for a short period of time and in certain markets. If a brand like McDonalds wants to promote the McRib on Facebook – they can but they have to add a ton of disclaimers saying ‘price and participation may vary.’

Facebook Ads can be targeted at a particular user group, why not target your custom applications’ content? At the end of the day, a lot of brands utilizing Facebook‘s platform, like Yelp, are trying to provide more accurate, socially relevant and locally available content. While I want to be the first to provide the service, we can all benefit from network-relevant content. Universities – and Facebook’s other programs attempt to target types of users with relevant content and best practices.

I ‘like’ Universities and I have a major take away from this campaign (albeit only a few hours old):

I can target the set-up of my content on a demographic and then through carefully planned code I can target sub-groups of my desired demographic.

I keep harping on Facebook campaigns, but what are some of the focuses of your Facebook campaigns? I know part of how we target the ASPNix Facebook content is to be informative, among other initiatives. What is the focus of your Facebook (or social media) campaign?

Facebook Places, Privacy and Bowling

Facebook Places launched last week. It has been dubbed a competitor to Foursquare and other location-based services, a compliment to existing Facebook features and another means for “over-sharers” to continue to broadcast their nonsense. PC World describes Facebook Places as “an obvious banshee cry to Foursquare and other location-based check-in services.”

Facebook’s purpose is to create a vehicle for sharing. Not just for you to share and broadcast about you, but to enable others you’re connected with to share their content. The main advantage in any of this share is the idea that connections (i.e. users) can experience each other’s shared content without being in physical proximity to one another. Facebook Places brings another level of location-free sharing: by actually enabling the sharing of physical locations.

There are some privacy concerns about friends tagging friends in posts and with the launch of Facebook Places, concerns arise around tagging. If you actually watch the video I linked a bit earlier, listen to the scenario the ABC’s Linsey Davis says:

Let’s say I happen to tell my boyfriend I’m working late tonight. And then I go out to the bar with some friends of mine. Someone someone unbeknownst to me can say ‘Hey guess what, Linsey Davis is at this bar.’

Let me digress for a moment: I will accept that different social networks allow an individual to reinvent themselves, their persona, personality etc. But one fact remains true throughout life: lying and deceit is bad and there are repercussions for involvement in bad things.

In Linsey’s scenario, and in may other nay-sayers about Facebook places, the idea that I can tag you in a check-in is something you may not consent to, you don’t want your boyfriend finding out you aren’t working late or that after working late you went to a bar. Sorry Linsey: fact of the matter is independent of Facebook people have the ability to see you at the bar, to call up your boyfriend and tell him where you are and who you’re with. If you step outside your home people can see you. Maybe later in the day, maybe later in the week, someone may say “hey have you seen [you] lately?” and the response may be “yeah I saw them outside of their home yesterday.” It may not seem like it but this is the same sharing interaction as Facebook Places.

Still, people will inevitably complain about privacy concerns and being automatically opted-in to such functionality. You know the real way to solve your Facebook privacy concerns regarding Facebook Places: talk to the person who is an arm’s-length from you, checking in and tagging you. It’s not Facebook’s fault if someone tags you and it is by bar easier to talk to someone you trust. By the way, someone has to be a friend of yours on Facebook in order for them to tag you, so it’s not like it’s some random paparazzi following you around reporting on your location. And communication with your friend(s) is far better than to gripe at Facebook about their privacy settings.

Enough on the negativity, how can you benefit from Facebook Places? Compared to other location based networks, Facebook Places lets you share your check-ins with your Facebook network. (Advantage over a group like Foursquare, who requires one-to-one friend invites/acceptance.) Claiming Facebook Places (as a business owner) is pretty simple, takes maybe a few hours for Facebook to send you a confirmation to then administer your Facebook Place. There’s even an API to allow read and writing to Facebook Places, which can be pulled just like all other Open Graph data. You’ll get to create promotions for your Facebook Places, similar to the game-like promotion activity offered by Foursquare.

But most importantly, I would wager that for small businesses that have a tight or non-existent budget for marketing, Facebook Places allows for them to have a mobile presence aside from a website or Facebook Business Page. I personally am still waiting for more local businesses (especially my clients) to jump on the idea that they don’t need a website, they just need a perfected Facebook Business Page and (now) a strong Facebook Places page.

Facebook is currently rolling out Places to the US markets, there are a few threads about it’s progress – it seems the west coast (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, et al) have already been deployed. I would estimate international availability for Facebook Places to be near the middle-to-end of September.

What I’m interested in now is how will non-brick-and-mortar businesses benefit from Facebook Places? Moreover: how does any business that doesn’t have a storefront or physical space to take advantage of location based services? My immediate reaction is: get out into your local community and make a temporary location centered around an event. Good example: if you are a business in Denver, Colorado go throw a party at Lucky Strike, create a check-in location (on Foursquare, etc) for the “Nick-is-Awesome, Inc. Party Hosted by Lucky Strike.” Check-ins warrant a free drink or hour of bowling care of “Nick-is-Awesome, Inc.” and any achievements earned by users get some kind of promotion. Keep in mind: using Facebook Places does mean your users will automatically have the visibility to their network – which means your brand will have visibility to their network – but don’t neglect other location-based services. Foursquare lets you create your own places, too – you can play location-based services against each other by promoting each one for different/same events. For our example: free drinks if you check-in via Facebook Places, free hour of Bowling if you check into the party via Foursquare, etc. As it turns out, claiming a Facebook Place is easy, if you have a ton of business documentation. Yielding Facebook Places as a great local business directory and Foursquare a great ad-hoc (and event-based) location based service for business.

Developer Preview for Chrome Web Store

Mashable just dropped a post about the Chrome Web Store and how Google’s just release a developer preview video of what people can expect they’ll have access to and what the purpose of the Web Store is supposed to represent.

For those of you who don’t know, the short story behind the whole movement is to take traditional desktop software and make it available through the browser, hosted online and eventually accessible anywhere.

These days, someone says ‘Apps’ and immediately ideas surrounding mobile apps crops up. The reality about mobile apps, they just provide easier access and simplified approaches to tasks you would normally do through a website or desktop software – naturally with the advantage of being with you at all times.

Think of the apps you use on a daily basis. Right now, for example, I’ve got Photoshop, Dreamweaver, an Instant Messaging client, spreadsheet software, a game, and a browser (with WordPress and YouTube rockin’). Of these pieces of software, only one is through a browser, everything else is dependent on a desktop. Granted the IM Client, Dreamweaver and maybe even my game could all be accessing the internet, but they are all software I’ve installed locally to access their features. The core drive behind the Chrome Web Store is to make this traditional desktop software available through a browser. When you open a new tab, you can click screenshots of your bookmarks (to go to those websites) or icons for applications such as photoshop (and access your files either stored remotely or locally).

If you saw the Mashable post on Facebook you may also notice that within a few minutes of the article posting, there were some 50 people commenting ‘No, I will not use or pay for apps through my browser’ – but not in so many words. The general public – and I’d like to think that Mashable’s audience is more tech savvy than the general public – has a hard time accepting certain change. Apps on mobile devices (that aren’t games) are simplified ways of accomplishing tasks you’d do on a desktop or through a website. Now we’re talking about doing the same approach but doing it independent of any mobile device and dependent on a browser.

How many of you host or support websites that are Software as a Service (SaaS)? Would you consider putting your application into the Chrome Web Store? You know if you dig down deep into documentation, there’s a lot of detail on using OpenID and OAuth to interact with Google’s Licensing services – licensing paired with Google Checkout?

Ok let’s back way up and give you some food for thought, look at all Google’s apps have to offer and integrate with: Open Social, OpenID/OAuth/Google Accounts, Google Checkout, Google Maps, Google Places, Google Base, YouTube, and there are so many more that you’ve probably never seen or thought about. Now think about what your SaaS does, or what your desktop-software does: do you think you have enough tools to let people, let your users, actually use your software through a browser? Use and license your material through an online resource that’s separate from your website?

Feel free to pursue the documentation yourself.

What’s Better For Business: Facebook or Twitter?

When examining a social network, you should remember to use the network the way it was intended. Despite the fact that deploying a Facebook Page, multiple Twitter accounts or even a managed LinkedIn profile can help you establish a reputation or a brand online, you must cater to your audience.

Think of it this way: LinkedIn is like a Rolodex, Facebook is a little black book and Twitter is a cocktail party. In short: LinkedIn is for business connections, Facebook is for amicable connections, Twitter is for ad hoc connections. Users don’t use Facebook as their primary tool to search for real estate listings; they don’t use LinkedIn to find friends to go to happy hour with; they don’t use Twitter to shop for groceries. Each tool has an appropriate purpose and appropriate audience.

In the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world, we preach about having quality content, and how, without quality content, no SEO campaign can be successful. A similar approach applies when promoting your business through social media networks. What is your quality content?

If our focus was promoting a creative agency, market your services – such as your branding, design for print and film and media – it doesn’t have to be your best work, but it does have to be high quality. Before you start promoting your business, you must acknowledge that people will search for your company online. At some point they’ll have seen or heard enough about your company to try and find your website. If your services are your quality content, have your general info, track record and reputation established in the actual content on your website. Once your website is clear on what you do (what your service offering is), you can begin to target an audience on social networks to promote your business.

What is it you are really trying to accomplish? Generate leads? Establish a reputation or customer loyalty? Share relevant industry information and opinion with (anyone)?

If you want to generate leads, demonstrate your expertise on LinkedIn: answer questions in topics relevant to your service offering. Create a company profile page and encourage employees or consultants to be linked to your page. Reach out to existing or former clients requesting recommendations of you or your staff. Establish your brand and expertise through the professional network.

If you want to take a strong stance and establish a social reputation online, create a Facebook Page for your business. using Facebook applications, connect your blog, Twitter, videos, photos, (the whole nine) and encourage your existing or past clients to be fans of your business profile. Start discussions around your industry perspectives, tag your clients, friends, etc in your posts: tags allow users’ to see themselves (or their pages) be mentioned and encourages them to offer a recommendation, referrals or references for the work you do. If customers have a problem with your product or service, there’s a chance they will post content to their Facebook profile. Perform regular searches for your company name, abbreviations or products offered to be sure to address any client or prospect complaints that may be circulating. LinkedIn is assumed to be completely professional, while Facebook is assumed to be more fun and where actions seldom result in long-term consequence is. Both require a degree of tact to manage your brand online: reputation management, albeit reactive at times, can appear proactive if you address customer concerns, suggestions and comments quickly.

If you want to share relevant industry information, perspectives, random ‘whatever’ with anyone on the internet, use Twitter. The 140 character limit requires you to be concise and engaging. You can put links in Twitter content, while they take some of your character allotment, they can help drive traffic to (anything). Twitter, as mentioned before, is a cocktail party: you can choose to follow, pay attention, subscribe to any conversation at the party. Likewise, you can be the center of attention one minute and suddenly everyone has migrated away to someone or something more interesting. Like with anything else, quality content is key.

Blogging In a Nutshell – Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this Blogging in a Nutshell series, we talked about types of content to create, when to post and how to start driving traffic to your content. While self-promotion of your content is perfectly acceptable, users are skeptical of someone promoting their own content. You have done a ton of work up until now to create, schedule and syndicate your content, isn’t it time the users started to promote your content too?

Fostering Discussion

The easiest part of blogging is creating content: you are the expert in your field, you are the mastermind behind your company’s products and services, all you have to do is write about what you already know. A more difficult task is driving traffic to your website, gaining popularity without your blog having an established reputation. The most difficult task is providing enough foundation for your users to start a discussion among themselves about your content.

Many journalists start out writing  or blogging wanting to change the world, tell a story, broadcast their ideas or opinions to a massive audience, or demonstrate something that they personally deem worthy. Many editors and publishers are focused on driving revenue from their magazine or blog. Getting users to return to your website to read or browse your content is the third major challenge in maintaining a blog. What was once a proximity-based discussion around newspapers and magazine articles can now happen between a greater sized audience without the discussion being limited people’s physical location. However, there must be a balance between making a point, driving revenue and fostering discussion.

Your content is your point: talk about your products and services, their benefit to your customers, their potential benefit to your prospects, how industry-related technology or government-sponsored legislature supports or challenges your company.

Your revenue is from your website and in generating leads: readers of your content may be presented with ads once they arrive on your website, opportunities to be sold on products or services presented by you or affiliates, viewers of your blog can be considered warm leads, readers of your blog can be considered hot leads, some viewers may even contact you directly – as a content owner or company representative – to learn more information about your company.

Your discussion can be brought on by many things: your content drives readers to think critically about something, your content provokes readers into a reaction (positive or negative), your content is shared on an individual level from your blog to a reader’s network (social, email or otherwise), the more interesting or provocative something is the more readers you’ll get to participate.

It is acceptable for users to have negative reaction to your content provided they participate in discussion explaining why. Typically a negative review of a product or service gets around to other people faster than a positive review. If readers are presented with an opportunity to express their reaction, talk through it and discuss their point of view with other readers, your discussion – albeit initially negative – has been accomplished. Remember, (however) that every second is a deadline: what is important content now, is important now, not a week from now. A user has the ability to dismiss your content without any consequence to them, find an alternate source or blog to read about – at which time your point, revenue and discussion are lost to that user. If your goal is fostering discussion or provoking reactions, timely quality content is a good means to start discussion.

If you missed previous parts, you can always go back to Part 1 and Part 2.

What If Facebook Started Its Own Web Search Engine?

A while back, Facebook’s number of weekly hits surpassed hits to Google. This has brought about discussion related to what (else) Facebook could accomplish if it put effort towards other market segments in addition to their social network. Could this milestone be a sign that Facebook, if they so desired, has the strength and means to enter into Google’s search market?

Bing’s search engine is what currently powers the web-based search results provided by Facebook. A big part of the reason why Google is successful is they go out of their way to provide exceptional service(s) for users. Facebook, in a way, already does this: users on Facebook who utilize the search function are most likely looking for Facebook-related material.

In an article from InsideFacebook.com around the same time, there’s a blip about how the recent redesign of Facebook’s layout creates a better opportunity for users to find what they want by searching, rather than combing through sub-links and multiple profiles. Moreover: Bing, being the web-search-engine powering Facebook, is now incorporating meta data from user statuses (which likely means tags as well) into search results. Facebook’s UI and interactions seem to change on a daily basis, but the 30,000+ servers used to support Facebook have changes rolling out constantly and by regions – it’s difficult to tell when everyone has the same search results or expected behavior from Facebook.

I believe the question we should try to answer would be: ‘What if someone tried to encroach on Google’s Market (related to Search)?‘ Facebook, as a social media application, is not the application to do it. Bing, however, powered Facebook meta-data, may be a better candidate to analyse for taking on some of Google’s market share (in search). That said, modify the focus of the question to be “What if Bing starts using Facebook data to power their search results, what will that mean for Google’s market related to search?” Zombies Oh My God: the Privacy Policy wars would wage on for years!

Facebook will not get into web-based search like Google and Bing. The key component of Facebook is the social network(s) that are available to users: Friends, family members, co-workers, etc. A recommendation on a service provider, restaurant, church or concert from a friend of family member (or someone you trust (within reason) who would be a connection on said social network) is more valuable than a web-search result. To Facebook’s advantage, said services and amenities often have Facebook Pages. A co-worker can recommend a service provider, through Facebook, linking to an appropriate page, also on Facebook and the user never leaves the social networking site. Also, it turns out if you are running Facebook Ad campaigns, if you link to a Facebook page, post or profile with your ad, cost-per-click rates are considerably less than linking off of Facebook.

Therefore, I would offer that Facebook may create a niche within search that allows users to search for service providers, amenities or what-have-you and each result is paired with meta-data from trusted members of your network. Ex. Searching for a restaurant or happy hour location yields a list of 5 local results, 3 of which have Facebook Pages, of which one of those Facebook Pages your best friend or sister is ‘a fan of.’ This yields instant credibility, as associated with someone you already trust, for a business or service provider.

Blogging In a Nutshell – Part 2

Last article we explored different types of content to create and how to schedule when blog posts go out. If you missed our little introduction, jump back a few days to learn about forming original content for your blog.

Driving Traffic

In business you know that if you have a good product you can create a brand, business, store front – the whole nine – around your product. Buzz is created by your store’s physical location and buzz around your product by word of mouth from passer-byes or customers. It is far more difficult to attain reputation or recognition by passer-byes without a physical location. An example of a passer-by on the internet would be someone who uses a search engine and finds upon your blog – even if by mistake -they read some of your content and have an opinion about it. Whether they share their opinion on your blog, another means online (sharing on social networks) or discuss it offline, all methods create some level of attention around your content.

Similar to traditional media: distribution or syndication is the top communication channel to generate traffic to your blog. There are several ways to go about attaining syndication or distribution. First and foremost, know that Associated Press is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, content provider in the world. (They are a non-profit co-op and depending on the size of your organization and network, they will require a fee to add your content to their regular postings and provide you with access to their content and photos.) While not a requirement to be syndicated by AP, if your content is relevant for them, it won’t hurt your chances of driving traffic.

The simplest ways to distribute your content are easy, cost effective and steps you should take any way to help build your brand (even if you do not write a blog). First, create a dynamic sitemap; most blogging platforms will do this for you. WordPress, for example, has a series of plug-ins available to automatically (and dynamically) publish a sitemap that can be consumed by Google (and other major search providers). Next, claim your blog on syndication sites like Technorati and Google Blog Search, it’s simple to set up an account and both services will pull your posts daily (or by an interval you can set) so your newest content will always be syndicated. Lastly, any social networks (anywhere) that exist to support your company, blog, content or articles approach them about referencing your material, or post quality comments to their content linking back to your material. While link exchanging is seen as a careless method to generate search engine optimization value, having related content will help readers genuinely interested in a topic to find your blog.

Using the Cell Phone as an Educational Device

Yesterday Rebecca Drazdowski posted an article about Cell Phones & Education for her Wilkes University course work. Typically cell phones in the classroom are regarded as a distraction, since the kids have control of the devices and their attention is down at their device instead of with the consciousness of the classroom. Is it possible to use the cell phone as a platform for online education? The cell phone is the one Internet device that most (students) have with them at all times, can it be a resource instead of a distraction? My thoughts: cell phones aren’t just for games, there’s a ton I learn from data gathered on my cell phone.

My initial reaction relates to how you may be considering delivering your content to users. Additionally, what would be the demographic for delivering cell phone -enabled, -powered -etc content? Does the device type matter? Are high-end iOS and Android powered devices or low end (and low cost) “dumb” phones are the target for education? In any media-delivery platform, audience is a key factor to consider.

In an original article written (elsewhere) in March, I focused on a scenario where students have to document flora and fauna with camera phones. Drazdowski’s interview covers a real life scenario where students are required to use their phones or portable devices to document their assignment, share it in a common photo pool online and all content generated while in the field is reviewed by the entire class when they reconvene in the classroom.

Another scenario would focus on a young professional cooking dinner.  They are trying to prep and plan dinner for themselves based on the ingredients that are lingering in their fridge. A practical application on a mobile platform would be to use an application or website to search for recipes that involve the aforementioned ingredients. When a recipe is chosen, the user has the ability to play a series of videos on how to prepare, cook and present the different elements of the meal. In this scenario, the application delivered through the mobile device would be a native application to the phone or through a website based application with a supported video output. This kind of application would be accessible to high-end cell phones or mobile devices.

Drazdowski’s examples highlight a classroom atmosphere – and rightly so – when people think of the term ‘education’ they generally react thinking of a classroom-type setting. In all reality, any website, application or communication through a cell phone or ultra-portable device does have the potential to educate the user about something. Given that point, the real question that’s on teacher’s, parents’ and students’ minds is regulation: how will the classroom be regulated or monitored through the mobile device? Drazdowski maintains her article each program needs careful scrutinizing around the effective use of the mobile device for the educational topic, how times for the mobile device will be managed (much like any other piece of educational equipment) and what legal implications are there around use of a personal cell phone for educational purposes.

I would also point out we need to consider presentation of the educational content. Would you consider taking or offering whole courses available through the cell phone or just supplements of information to textbook- or classroom-based style of learning? I would expect there may be some resistance to taking certain types of courses through a cell phone or mobile device. However, mobile expert Tomi Ahonen had noted in a keynote in the winter of 2007 that in Japan over $82 million work of books had already been purchased and displayed on mobile devices. Is this sufficient data to imply that the mobile device is a sufficient platform for delivering static educational information? The next challenge might be to make the educational information interactive: for the user of the content, or for the community built around interest in the same content. On the contrary: if the content is interactive, the students will be focused on their devices instead of group-discussion or participation. It seems there would be a need for community-shared-devices in the classroom for interacting with one another after the content creation phase is completed.

So let’s bring this back to your personal experience: what do you use your cell phone or mobile device for? What new things have you learned through the means of your cell phone? What apps, services or data aggregators do you find most useful for exploring new things?

Blogging In a Nutshell – Part 1

There are two primary objectives for blog articles: make a point and encourage discussion among readers. For business, there is a third overarching objective: self-promotion. The key to any blog you probably already know: original solid content. With original content your blog will draw an audience; that audience will revisit your blog which will foster discussion around your content. Over the next few days we will briefly discuss in detail how to form original content, followed briefly by means to drive traffic and finally how to foster discussion around your blog articles.

As you are already aware the key to blogging is having original content, good content that your target audience will want to read. Users are able to find the information they want and able to dismiss irrelevant content faster; users bore easier: with tons of resources at their disposal, users will spend 30 to 60 seconds skimming through headlines and initial paragraphs before abandoning your site. For example, at this point in the article, if the content you were looking for is not outlined or easy to find, attention spans are lost. The challenge is in creating and frequently providing content that will keep the attention of your audience. The solution is in planning. There are three types of articles your blog content should be focused on: multi-part series, weekly industry-relevant single posts and ad hoc one-off content.

Forming Original Content

A multi-part series, much like this one, will involve a tutorial, how-to or extended analysis of a technique, software or event. The series should actually be written all at once and broken into smaller consumable pieces after the initial composition. Most blogging software allows users to post-date their articles, which lends itself to a multi-part series very well. The content is already completed and by staggering out the launch dates, what was one longer article is now 5 articles and consumed as regular content for readers.

Each week, post something about what’s going on in your universe or in your industry, something your readers will relate to and already be reading about elsewhere. Weekly industry-relevant single posts are simply reviews, recaps, predictions or brief analysis of a current event or software launch pertinent to your audience. These types of posts are not time-sensitive. For instance a piece of industry news, such as software launch from Google, can be posted a day or two after the actual event takes place. In this example, the author should appropriately evaluate the software, any supporting information from Google’s regular media channels and if possible other bloggers’ reactions to the release of said software; these steps to establish content will allow a higher likelihood of generating solid content. Try to avoid just posting a link with one or two lines of your opinion. For these weekly-posts, try to put some more thought and opinion into your content.

Ad hoc posts should focus on at least one of two things: an account of “here and now” events or brief snippets of information sharing. Micro-blogging, while a concept not covered in detail here, is the act of sharing a link or references to another piece of information – more notably seen and experienced through the deployment of Twitter. Ad hoc posts are similar to micro-blogging: there is an event, an article or some piece of content not featured (or perhaps relevant) to your regular content; talk about it, feature it along with up to five sentences of your own opinion/insight/content. For example, if your blog is about web-based software and you want to feature an announcement about Microsoft’s Sync system, while not directly relevant to your usual topic of discussion an appropriate ad hoc post would: (1) link to the announcement with (2) a few short sentences about why the article is interesting to your audience.

The first key thing to remember is that you are creating solid original content. Your content will entice viewership and greater viewership means more opportunity for discussion. The second key point is having a variety of content. By having three types of posts – regular, one-off and right-now – the content provided to users varies in format enough to be interesting. All three types are essential: regular content users to depend on and expect large-scale content in digestible segments; weekly content allows users to count on and expect relevant regular content; ad hoc posts are the backbone for fresh content in their frequency and tangential relevance.

Scheduling Blog Content

The final challenge when focused on writing a blog is scheduling: when do you write content and when do you post content? Many blogging platforms have the advantage of being able to set the date and time for content to post (similar to full-blown newswires). This works to post content at a previous date and time as well as scheduling when a post will go live in the future. (Briefly: the only reason I would justify launching content at a previous date is to establish credibility during the initial launch of a blog – allowing for simulated longevity of content upon the blog’s launch; however this would demand future posts link and reference the pre-dated posts.) The latter scheduling concept is more pertinent: create content that will be posted at some date in the future. Newspapers used to have multi-editions per day: early morning, mid-morning afternoon, late afternoon and evening, sometimes more; Associated Press often posts out a flurry of articles at 1:00am each morning. Creating content now and planning for a story launch is a perfectly acceptable means of communication through your blog.

Goals for your blog, while not covered in detail here, should include the frequency of your posts. Before you launch your blog, you must have content. You should be prepared to launch your blog with three weeks’ worth of content: one set of content for the week prior to launch date, one set of content for the week of your launch and a final set of content for the week following your launch. At a minimum, the regular articles (the multi-part series or weekly-industry content) should be scheduled and finalized a week ahead of their launch. This way, if your new content is delayed a day or two your users are not affected. By writing content at least a week ahead of time, you allow yourself the flexibility to accommodate your real life. Real life happens: car breaks down, mother-in-law comes to town, and your dog ate your blog. While your readers’ real lives may affect how often they are able to read your content they have no empathy or mercy if your real life got in the way of their content. Your blog lives and dies by its content, no content means no life.

Next we talk about driving traffic to your blog.