Creating a new blog

I posted the other day about the benefits of blogging.  Don’t be mistaken that it’s hard to get a blog going, because it’s not.  Here’s how my 12 year old son set up a blog in about 12 minutes over the weekend.  Seriously, if a 12 year old can do it, you can too.

-Go to blogger com.
-Make up a name for your blog (if it’s already taken, choose another).
-Choose a template.
-Get blogging.

If you want to get really fancy, you could choose a dedicated URL for your blog by visiting somewhere like 123-reg.co.uk and buying yourself a name, then pointing that name to the URL of your blog.  I’ve recently done this with my cycling blog, whose previous URL was http://philsroadbikingblog.blogspot.com (bit of a mouthful) to www.race-pace.net (shorter and punchier).  URL costs me £10 a year.

So, back to my son.  He wanted to sell a few books and things to friends at school.  So, we set up a blog.  Bought a URL for £5.99 and off he’s gone.  You can see the result of his work so far at www.epicprices.co.uk.  He’s even added some Google advertising on to earn a few pennies (that’s my boy) and is sharing the link in Facebook to give exposure to his friends.  It really is as simple as that.

So, whether big or small.  Have a think about what a blog could do for you.  You could be up and running in under twelve minutes.

You need the blog?

Small businesses. Got a product or service which is unique or some specialist knowledge? Yes?  Are you writing a blog? Yes (finish reading here).  No (read on).

Blogs are a powerful tool.

More powerful than most small businesses might imagine.  Google will love you. Google loves new content, which is unique, rich and gets better results for its searchers.  The more specialised your blog, the better.  So if your knowledge or product is quite specialised, you will get found more often and go higher up the search rankings.  The more you post, the more visits you get, the more quality visits you get, the better you begin to rank in the future.  Simples.

People trust authentic, well written blogs more than they do adverts. Sharing expertise, offering knowledge, solving problems is what it’s all about.  Don’t forget that the second most popular search platform on the planet is Youtube.  Creating Vlogs (video blogs) is another great way to drive traffic to your site and grab a high ranking.  If you look at a standard google search page nowadays, you’ve given the option of web, images, blogs and video, each one offering different results.  Use your unique photos and ensure they are tagged, that way people searching for images will also be drawn back to your site.

Getting Started

I’ve previously posted my top tips for bloggers, check it here.  One tool that I’ve used since then is Google Wonder Wheel.  A brilliant way to establish what the key search terms that people are using.  Here’s an example relating to road cycling.

The Power of the Wonder Wheel

In the search term you can see the term “road cyling blog” and the search results will appear underneath as normal (guess what at time of writing, my cycling blog is ranking #1 on Google – proves it works).  If you look at the left hand navigation, look underneath shopping and hit the link which says “Wonder Wheel”.

What this then reveals are the top alternative terms that people use to get that result.  As you can see, terms like “road cycling blogger” and “cycling training blog” appear.  The trick is to then use these terms in future blogposts.  Not all of them, couple at a time.

The more you click on each of the spokes, the further it drills down, so you can really get to the nitty gritty of your subject and the phrases people are using.  This is powerful stuff and will really help you to match your future content, to the search terms people are using.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Notwithstanding this post, which is a bit longer than I would normally write.  If you keep your blogs, short and snappy, with original content (don’t copy and paste someone elses, use your own knowledge and expertise) you’ll be surprised at what impact they can have.  Often large Corporate sites don’t have content which changes regularly, this is where you can steal their thunder by posting up to date news/reviews and thought leadership.

Another example.  Last week top bike brand Boardman launched a new range in London.  I got wind of this, quickly researched the new range and got a blogpost up.  For the first 3 days I was #1 on Google for anyone searching for the new model “Boardman Road Pro Air 2011“.  It’s dropped down to about #4 now as the big cycling sites with massive traffic kicked in, however I’m still there – front page on general search but #1 on blog search.

My point is.  Without a lot of effort, you can intelligently drive more traffic to your website, by blogging.  More traffic means more impressions, more impressions should lead to more conversions if your sales funnel is right.

11 Predictions for 2011

I’ve got the Mr. Sheen out on my crystal ball, given it a good clean, stared deeply into it and seen the future.  Saturdays lottery numbers are 7, 9, 22, 28, 35, 42 – buy a ticket now!

Seriously, thought I’d have a go at laying down some thoughts about where I think the world is moving for 2011.  In no particular order (and they may change as this is my first bash after thinking about this on the way home from work last night).

  1. Crowd-forcing. Inspired by Crowd-sourcing.  The crowd pulling together to pressurise/threaten brands through negative on-line chatter and peer pressure.
  2. Digi-paranoia. Fuelled by the Wikileaks scandal, people will become more paranoid about their on-line breadcrumb trail.  They’ll protect more of their digital assets, through pre-approving and using trusted platforms.
  3. Talent thaw. 2010 has been a tough year for finding good people, the hatches were well and truly buttoned down and movements frozen.  As confidence returns, we’ll start to see the talent market thaw.
  4. Life caching. As micro-moments continue to be recorded in the cloud by mobile devices, we’ll record/upload more data electronically than at any other time in mankind (despite paranoia trend, sheer qty of GB/TB on the web will make 2011 a record year).
  5. Friend Filtering. 2011 will be the year of quality over quantity.  New social media start-up Path hits this trend, limiting your network to just 50 key people.  Competitiveness for this new inner-circle will drive new behaviour and take us back to “Face Friends” who matter, rather than Facebook Friends by the thousand.”
  6. Centre-fall. De-volving from the middle, whether that be government or big business.  Applications in the cloud will allow businesses to challenge their conventions and methodologies of working.  The drive to competitiveness and the desire to see people take responsibility, will mean the hub will become less important than the spokes and rim.
  7. De-cluttering. Removing things that crowd out our thoughts/consume our time (see next point).  Prioritising those things that truly add value.  Marketeers need to take note as traditional methods of interruptive marketing are becoming less and less effective, particularly in B2B.
  8. Time poor war. Time continues to be the worlds most scarce commodity for the masses.  Time improvement tools just mean we are working more, not reducing work-time spent pursuing happiness or joy.  Generation X are kicking back against this as the last generation which may rescue the lost generation of “Y”‘s, before the values of deep friendship, downtime, family time are confined to words in wikipedia.  Hyper-tasking will be the new multi-tasking.
  9. Relevancy. Staying relevant in peoples lives.  Having just the right amount of interaction.  Choosing moments.  Keeping an acceptable proximity.
  10. Social Media Revolution. Wider business will take more notice of social media channels for conversations and relationship generation now all the glittery buzz is dying down.  It was never designed to be a transactional channel but a way of generating proximity, feedback and conversations with individuals.  As new business becomes harder (less public sector expenditure to cushion your overhead), new conversations and contacts will be key and more businesses will get moving with new conversation channels.
  11. Trust and Transparency. A continuing theme for me.  People are more willing to trust a strangers view than a big brand ad when it comes to products and services.  User generated content will continue to grow exponentially, more people will blog, leave content on sites like Tripadvisor and Reevoo, use electronic platforms to distribute buzz (+ or -).  2010 was the year we’ll all remember for Wikileaks.  Wikileak yourself or your business, compare that with the messages you send on your marketing materials and ask yourself are the two things consistent.

What are your thoughts? What would you add?

Go Social

Yesterday, I did a short talk at the Go Social Bootcamp in Manchester.  I called my talk “Social Media Sucks (or Bucks?)” to highlight that many leaders of large businesses don’t get social media as they can’t see what return on investment it gives. 

You can view the presentation here, it should show the main reasons why leaders should get involved.  Clearly, it’s missing a load of narrative, if you want to hear that, come hear me speak!

Social Media for Executives

Dont worry, this isn’t another 101 reasons for a business to be on Twitter, hopefully we’re getting over that one now, although I am still staggered at the number of small businesses that I meet who could benefit massively from micro-blogging.

Tonight’s article I want to focus on executives in business.  Why?   As usual, nothing gets real buy-in unless it comes from the top, is agreed by the top or understood by the top.  In many large businesses, the board is still dominated by Generation X Executive Directors.  As a result, there is a real danger of the business not staying relevant in the changing landscape of customer expectations.

To them, marketing means mailshots, sales means door-knocking and relationship managment means regular lunches or dinners with top customers.  That certainly did the business a decade ago, how things have changed.  Those things still matter, don’t get me wrong, but their priority has changed.

Social Media is something that all executives – in my view – should be practicing.  To keep an eye on their own organisation, their competitors and their customers.  A few examples: -

1)  I blogged recently about using the Linkedin company search tool to identify staffing movement in key competitors, this allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in your industry.

2) A blog in itself is a fantastic way to communicate to staff, customers and potential customers about your views.  A great to underpin your key messages, strategy or positioning.  it’s ideal if you run a larger business where it’s hard to get round the floor.

3)  Twitter is a fantastic tool for reputation management and connecting your message directly to the people who may use your products or services.  There’s no quicker way to establish what people think about your business reputation than to read it in real time.

The key question is always, how much time is this all going to take? The answer all depends on the importance of managing your network and personal reputation.  For me, around fifteen minutes a day.  5 mins at the start of the day to catch up on any major network changes or messages sent directly to me aswell as preparing any Twitter links to send out, 5 mins over lunch doing the same and 5  minutes at the back end of the day to catch up.   In my time at home, I probably invest about another hour a week in total keeping up to date with my overall network and writing blogs.

And what is the financial reward? Return on Engagement is the new Return on Investment.  Like networking of any type, if you think that an immediate financial gain is the only thing that justifies your time, then you’re probably one of those executives I described in paragraph 2.  Looking back on a couple of years worth of time invested in business social networking at a personal level, I would say: -

  1. I’ve recruited key staff into the business at no cost.
  2. I’ve never been asked to speak at so many conferences ahead of my competitors.
  3. I’ve never been asked to sit on so many judging panels, increasing regional and national profile for Brother.
  4. I’ve been able to position the business as one of the leading voices on B2B social media in the UK.
  5. My network of peer to peer contacts has never been so solid.  I was described recently by the Manchester Evening News as “one of the most connected people in the North West,” and feel I have a great list of C level people I know that I can call on for advice or help.
  6. I’ve learned a tonne of stuff.  Twitter particularly is a like a free news channel that you can personalise to your specific taste/requirement.
  7. Lot’s of people that I know on social media networks end up buying our products, simply because they know me.
  8. The brand reputation has never been stronger.
  9. People bring opportunities to you first because you’re accessible (they might not normally make it to you due to your Corporate layers of gatekeepers/filters).
  10. You meet some really interesting people and all sorts of outside work opportunities/collaborations/friendships come your way.

Don’t be scared. As you can see, I can clearly demonstrate sound business benefits.  To get the same, you have to get started, throw yourself open to your audience and get engaging.  Don’t have someone pretend to be you, be authentic and Do It Yourself.

Blogging Tips…

Last week I reached a bit of a milestone, I’d posted over 300 articles on this blog.  Speaking at a social media workshop I delivered later in the week, I devoted a specific section to blogging and how it can really help with your authority, help to drive organic search and drive customers to you.

It all sounds very easy doesn’t it?  The most common problem with people starting blogs is keeping it up, I started once and stopped after two or three posts, I just couldn’t think of things to say.  I had a six month or so blogiday and came back to it after some encouragement from someone.  I’m really glad I did as -since then – it’s become a really enjoyable hobby, has increased my personal reputation and drives lots of speaking opportunities (ve previously posted my top tips for new bloggers and these all still ring true).

It can be hard at times, the words or topics don’t always come easy, you have to work at it.  Sometimes, time is at a premium, so write two or three posts when you are in the mood and save a couple to drafts to just publish when you are time strapped.  One tip I do have though is to always keep your antenna up.  Whenever I now see a headline, hear a speech, observe something or do something, I’m always thinking about how that could be turned into a blog by adding my own opinion or observation to it, that is by far and away, the easiest way to get stimulation for your words.

If you can get over the 100 day hump, that is if you can stick at it and keep posting after three months, you’ll make it as a blogger and begin to see the advantages that your words can bring to your business.  I wrote another short post here to back up the point, give it a go!

Blogging is Flogging (in the end)

I was sent a message on Twitter yesterday by someone I’ve known for a few years, it said “Your Tweeting, Blogging, Flogging, etc.. is just super powered. Immense effort…” (thanks to Mediacloud for the generous comment).

I’d had breakfast with her “super powered” husband earlier that morning.  He’s an immensly clever psychologist called Steven Sylvester, you can find out more about him here, I’ve worked with him a number of times on organisational challenges and also in my own development.  Steven is looking to further expand the number of clients he works with and we naturally touched on social media platforms as a way of reaching out to them, he was curious to know what steps he should take, where the quick wins were.  He is self-employed, time is money.

The conversation and subsequent Tweet inspired me to write this blog, just as a pointer on some basics if you are small business and want to know where to focus your effort.  Social Media is easy if you fully understand the impact it can have, how to successfully deploy it and how much time to spend on it (relevant to all the other demands of your business).

My basic advice to Steven was: -

Twitter

  1. Tweet more regularly, aim for four to six per day.  Make them interesting.
  2. Start/participate in more conversations.
  3. Use Twitter to drive traffic to your blog/website.

Blogging

  1. Post regularly, at least every couple of days.  Doesn’t have to be a long blogpost, just interesting.
  2. Blog around relevant things in the news and give your perspective (it will assist in Google search).
  3. Invite comments on your blog (you will see who want’s to engage, which may lead to business).

Linkedin

  1. Use status updates differently to Twitter.  Say something different, consider it more of a weekly update.
  2. Join relevant groups and participate in relevant discussions to your business area.
  3. Actively encourage clients to write recommendations for you on Linkedin.

By doing these three things in each of these three platforms, I can guarantee that you will make more contacts.  If you break the golden rule, that is, by just going into sales broadcasting mode, you will quickly find it won’t work for you and your efforts will not yield much in terms of results.

The point is, that social media is all about management of reputation and building reputation, in the end, it should lead to sales, just in a different way than convention.  If you already network to get business, then just consider this an extension of the activity that you already put in.

Feedback

I’ve switched on the feedback option to the blog. I hadn’t on my previous blog, as I don’t have a huge amount of time to get involved in the conversations that can come as a result.  However, I do see the power in engaging the people that do visit (thank you by the way) to leave some opinion and perspective or share their experiences with others.  So, deep breath and here we go!

Twitter has taught me the power of unsolicited feedback.  It’s really shown me what a diverse world there is out there, how strangers are prepared to share and the power of the crowd.  So, please feel free to contribute (constructively) on anything you’ve read.  I’m particularly interested in your personal experiences or case studies.  I remember bumping into someone at a do about four months ago that said that they’d won a million pound contract off the back of a presentation I gave (implementing tips and advice), more of those please!

Why blog?

I’m often asked why a) I write this blog and b) how much time does it take me? The answers are: -

a) I enjoy it and it and it helps to increase my personal reputation which ultimately has a halo effect for the company I work for.

b) Around 5-10 mins max. per day.

Blogging can be excellent for businesses of all sizes, in the right circumstances. It all depends on who it is you’re speaking to an what your business actually does. The more specialist the better, as it’s a brilliant way of firing you up the search engine rankings and connecting buyers with you on long tail items. I write three blogs in total, this one (which generates media interviews, followers on Twitter and speaking opportunities) a cycling blog (which connects me with other people who share my hobby) and a hotel review blog (which gets me room upgrades when I travel – a real bonus). Each has a specific purpose and I keep the content focussed, so as not to get too random.

Almost every business could write an interesting blog, with the operative word being “interesting” or “educational”. If it isn’t, it’s a sales brochure or press release, which has the opposite effect of driving traffic away from you. To get started costs you nothing but you’re time. This platform, blogger.com, is free. All it takes is you’re time plus some thought and commitment from your side and – before long – you’ll be bringing some new visitors to your business. I’d thoroughly recommend it for anyone wanting to increase personal reputation or increase their business profile. The Golden Rule – Post Regularly and Don’t Stop once you’ve started.

Ssssh. Can you keep a secret?


The Worlds biggest secret is finally out. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the “i-Pad.” Launched today by Apple CEO – Steve Jobs – the i-Pad has created a huge buzz of anticipation, primarily as Apple have been keeping details of the product under such tight security.

So tight, that the army of bloggers, Twitterers and journalists have not been able to break any major news of the product pre-launch, debate was still hot this morning about the products name and Paddy Power were even accepting bets about it. Now that is very difficult to do. Think about the world as it stands today, hardly anything remains a secret. Someone is always ready to break news, take a photo or take their two minutes of fame if offered. Which makes what Apple have achieved even more impressive.

A business psychologist whom I’ve worked with, describes trust as “for all time”, that is, if I tell you a secret, it remains between the two of us, until either party expliciity say otherwise. Steve Jobs has clearly got a trusting bunch of people at Apple, as they have been watertight on this project and have not breached ranks. That is quite something and worthy of appreciation. How they’ve done it, I don’t know. By doing it, they’ve seen a massive buzz build about the product on and off-line, that is worth millions of marketing dollars on their own. Something that many other brands will be looking at with some jealousy.