Category Archives: blogging

12 amazing reasons why In through the Outfield is back and better than ever

Neil InfieldApologies for the rather hyperbolic headline above, but according to social media experts a catchy headline is the number one way of getting visitors to your blog. And as I have been rather neglecting In through the Outfield in recent months, I think it needs a bit of a boost.

In fact according to , Alasdair Inglis from Grow, Your online content must be more like terrible journalism.

Use clever, attention catching headlines

Headlines are probably the single most important aspect of your post. You could write mind-blowing, world changing content but if you don’t write good headlines, no one’s going to click through and read them. Therefore they need to be attractive and intriguing enough to make readers check out your blog.

Here are some great tips to help create better headlines:

  • Go with numbers or numbered lists. There’s a reason why your Facebook feed is choking on articles like “11 sexist cats that look like Ryan Gosling”. Learn from sites like Buzzfeed and maybe one day your content can annoy the whole of the internet, too.
  • Use compelling, emotive adjectives. Whilst this isn’t your high school creative writing class, using more engaging words like: “amazing”, “beautiful”, “inspiring” etc will make your article sound much more interesting.
  • Make your headlines are intriguing, but not too vague. Upworthy do a great job of this, giving you just enough information to whet your appetite, whilst not giving away the payload.
  • Use keyword research. Make sure you know what the most searched terms are for what you’re writing about and make sure that they’re in your headline. If your target audience is searching for “How to write better headlines”, make sure that your blog post headline will show up on their search.

Right – now that we have got that important information out of the way, I can explain why I am back in the blogging saddle after my unplanned sabbatical. I am now commuting to work at the British Library from Eastbourne, which has extended my daily journey to over two hours each way. However this gives me plenty of time for reading, snoozing or even blogging, as I cruise through the beautiful Sussex countryside alongside the South Downs at the mercy of the Southern railway service.

Sunset over Fulking Escarpment

Sunset over Fulking Escarpment in the South Downs National Park, England (© Matt Gibson/Loop Images)

The other factor enabling me to revive my blog is of course technology. I spent many weeks researching the best computer to support my newly extended commute. I looked at getting a bigger and smarter phone than my current almost perfect Motorola Razr I (small in size, long in battery life). The new breed of smart phones are amazing, but unless you have fingers much smaller and more nimble than my clunking great ones, typing anything more than a short note is too painful. And although the recent ones have pocket-stretching sized screens, they are still too small to work on a blog post or effectively surf the web. But the real killer blow, is when you actually use any of their amazing features for more than a few minutes, their battery life disappears to almost nothing.

Next came a choice of tablets, of Apple or Android flavours. They have long battery life, bigger screens and are nice a light and compact to carry around. However, they don’t have keyboards, and as a touch-typer since my teens I can’t stand typing on a screen. It’s a bit like having to ride a moped once you have experienced a proper motorbike – there is just no going back. Admittedly you can buy a keyboard attachments, but the keys are incredibly cramped and obviously an after-thought, rather than designed-in. Also I need to run Word and Powerpoint from time to time, which meant the Microsoft Surface came closest to my rather demanding requirements. However their poor battery life put paid to that.

That left laptops, or Ultrabooks, as the small, thin and powerful ones are now known. However, when not typing or editing presentations I liked the idea of some light entertainment to help pass the time on train. And I have watched fellow commuters struggling to get a good viewing position on their laptops to watch the latest instalment of Game of Thrones. More research led to the new breed of ‘hybrid’ machines, and the appropriately named Yoga series from Lenovo.

I finally settled on the Yoga Pro 2, with its 3,200×1,800-pixel touch screen, claimed nine hour battery life, backlit full size keyboard, and flexible screen.

lenovo-laptop-convertible-yoga-2-pro-orange-front-1

I have already tested out what Lenovo call the Stand mode to view BBC shows downloaded from iPlayer. And it works really well, with the keyboard tucked behind out of the way. I’m not sure how often I would get to use the Tent mode, and I have to admit that it makes a pretty clunky tablet when folded flat. This isn’t helped by Windows 8, which still needs some work to compete with Android as a touch interface.

So there you have it, new technology combined with an something of an epically long commute (nothing compared to these hardy Scots) are the keys to getting this blog back on its feet again.

How Google’s Panda ate my blog

Panda

From Wikipedia

On 27 September this blog was a victim of Google’s Panda update.

Google Panda is a change to the search results algorithm that aims to lower the rank of “low-quality sites”.

Over the years I have found a helpful motivation to writing blog posts is to keep an eye on my visitor statistics. Once the graph starts to dip towards the X axis it is time to put up another story. Handily WordPress produces a nice little graph showing daily activity on the website.

So you can imagine I was more than a little surprised when on 27 September I noticed my hit rate had reduced from 800 a day to 80. After a few days I could see the numbers were not going back up to their previous level and so started to investigate why.

I still don’t have a definitive answer from Google Webmaster site about what caused the drop. My guess is that they became aware of the TypePad copy of this blog.

The history of why I ended up with two versions are too long and boring to go into, but it relates to being an early adopter of blogging at the British Library.

I was aware this duplication could potentially be a problem for Google, who are always on the look-out for people ‘scamming’ their way up the rankings. However, after five years I had assumed they weren’t bothered by my two sites… It seems I was wrong.

A bit of research on the Google Webmasters forum found quite a few other bloggers complaining about plummeting traffic on their pages. And the explanation offered was that the regular Panda index update had demoted their site in the search results.

So all this is a rather long winded explanation as to why my TypePad blog posts now consist of just a short introduction followed by a link to this WordPress site.Screenshot_1

In case the same thing happens to your site. Here is the official advice from Google:

What counts as a high-quality site?

Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find “high-quality” sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content. The recent “Panda” change tackles the difficult task of algorithmically assessing website quality. Taking a step back, we wanted to explain some of the ideas and research that drive the development of our algorithms.

Below are some questions that one could use to assess the “quality” of a page or an article. These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.

Of course, we aren’t disclosing the actual ranking signals used in our algorithms because we don’t want folks to game our search results; but if you want to step into Google’s mindset, the questions below provide some guidance on how we’ve been looking at the issue:

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Writing an algorithm to assess page or site quality is a much harder task, but we hope the questions above give some insight into how we try to write algorithms that distinguish higher-quality sites from lower-quality sites.

 

Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple

euan-sempleYesterday evening the British Library hosted a book launch for Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web by Euan Semple.

Instead of a speech, Euan was interviewed by Richard Sambrook a friend and college from their days together at the BBC.

Here are my notes from the evening followed by my selections from Euan’s book:

  • The development of the internet and social media present a unique opportunity for social change – Euan considers this a phase change in society.
  • Euan wanted to be part of that change for his children’s sake.
  • He felt that when he was at the BBC, the World Service was a role model for the rest of the organisation. There people rubbed along together from all departments and levels sharing information. Other parts of the BBC were much more hierarchical and stuck in their silos.
  • A lot of the use of early collaboration technologies were simple tools to help people find out answers to simple questions, such as ‘does anyone know a fixer in Poland’, or ‘how do you claim for petrol expenses’.
  • On a wider level introducing these collaborative tools helped to create a shared understanding of corporate issues.
  • Euan recognises that the control issues for social media for many organisations such as law firms are non-trivial, but he believes they will get there eventually.
  • Finding your own ‘authentic voice’ through blogging is so much more valuable than writing endless management reports written in “management bollocks”, to a set formula,  which no one actually reads.
  • Euan describes his idealised vision of future corporations as ephemeral meritocracies.
  • He wonders if it is unreasonable to expect people to be able to, or want to have their own voice. And thinks that education and corporate structures have led to many thinking they don’t. But he believes that ultimately everyone wants to have a say in their lives.
  • The barriers to social media are not about age, but about open versus closed approaches to the world.
  • He believes the internet and social media is the next big story after 18th century religion, early 20th century fascism and communism, and late 20th century capitalism.

The tweets from the event have been Storified here.

A more detailed summary from the Strange Attractor blog by Suw Charman-Anderson.

Book coverReview of Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do

The book comes in 45 Bite sized chapters, each with introductions and summaries. And in fact each chapter can be purchased individually in electronic format. Euan’s idea is to make it as easy as possible to spread the message to those who remain unconvinced by the benefits of social media.

An essential read for anyone with a connection to social media in the workplace (which means everyone), it is very wide ranging, quite philosophical at times, and always passionately personal.

Euan makes a strong case for the democratising benefits of adopting  social media and collaborative tools.

However, my experience of both successes and failures to introduce these technologies in various workplaces, makes me think that Euan is somewhat naïvely optimistic (an accusation he is aware of, and attempts to address several times in the book).

He ended the engaging question and answer session by saying he thinks it will take up to fifty years for the change to fully occur, and this strikes me as more realistic.

Here are my highlights from reading the book:

What is the book for? It is not a “how to” book nor, I hope, is it cyber-utopian vision of the future….I prefer to think of it as a collection of ideas that… can make the web more understandable and useful in the world of work.

Growing up onlineWe will only be able to take full advantage of the networked world if we grow up, think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives and our actions. I am not naïve. I know that, at least to begin with, truly thinking for yourself and saying what you think with any degree of authenticity is a big ask. It may never happen for many people. There may just be too much at stake and too much to take into account for a politician or someone in a corporate setting to really be authentic.

Don’t let the techies ruin the party…keep things out of the hands of technologists as much as possible. Some of them aren’t so bad, and some of them are re-inventing themselves…if there is a single biggest block to making social media happen encountered by my clients in large organizations it is with their IT department.

Ten steps to success with technology:

  1. Have a variety of tools rather than a single system.
  2. Don’t have a clear idea where you are headed.
  3. Follow the energy.
  4. Be strategically tactical.
  5. Keep moving, stay in touch, and head for the high ground.
  6. Build networks of people who care.
  7. Be obsessively interested.
  8. Use the tools to manage the tools. E.G. Blog about blogging in your organisation.
  9. Laugh when things go wrong.
  10. Unleash the Trojan Mice. Don’t do big things or spend loads of money. Set small, nimble things running and see where they head.

Anarchy versus controlSomeone once called me “an organizational anarchist” and I have to admit I was quite chuffed at the description and took it as a compliment…. What I am talking about here is not complete free reign for individuals … I am more interested in the possibility  of all of us taking full responsibility for ourselves and those around us – the ultimate in democracy.

How about moving democracy inside the firewall instead of outside it?

Bosses who don’t get itIf you can’t get support from your boss, see if you can get support from their peers. Find senior people who get what you are trying to do and enlist their support … Keep talking to them in their language about what you are doing and why – even if they occasionally glaze over!

Collaboration and trustThere is a lot of “collaboration software” out there that is really just the same stuff that failed to deliver data management, information management, knowledge management  and is now failing to deliver collaboration. In fact a lot of the tools labelled as collaboration tools actually work against effective collaboration.

Blurring work boundariesThe blurring of the inside and outside raises issues both for us as individuals and organizations we work for. For us it means that we have to take more responsibility for whatever lines we draw between work and non-work.

PR and marketing under threatI believe that marketing and PR are professions at real risk of disintermediation by the web. We will need people to do our marketing for us less and less as we use the tools in everyday work and start to have more effective conversations between ourselves and our customers.
Help your staff to become your best advocates. Give them the tools and the insights to become your ambassadors online.

The Return on Investment of social media – … I am becoming more robust about the ROI question and turning it back on those who ask it. What is the ROI of the way we do things now? … Where is the competitive advantage in preventing staff from using these tools to build and maintain the networks that develop their knowledge and their ability to get things done. Where is the competitive advantage in allowing your competitors to embrace these changes before you do and potentially re-inventing the industry you are so rigidly clinging to?

Online indiscretionsMuch has been made about recruitment teams searching Facebook and LinkedIn to find prospective candidates and the damage supposedly done by online indiscretions. In some ways this is an anachronistic attitude coming from people who don’t themselves engage online. People are becoming much more robust and open in their online lives. Besides, what is so awful about these supposed indiscretions? Rather than worrying about photos of potential recruits drunk at parties, I would be more worried about people who appeared to have something to hide. In fact I would be less likely to employ someone who hadn’t been indiscreet as a student!

Deal with management fearsOnline …You can’t hide behind your status or your pomposity. In fact being remote and pompous will severely inhibit your attempts at effective communication on the web.

So the answer is to help those who are disapproving or pompous in reaction to what is happening on the web. Don’t dismiss their reactions or sneer at them but make it easier for them to relax and say what they think. Show them the ropes and hold their hands rather than ridicule them as they discover  for themselves the fast changing world they have felt excluded from.

Develop guidelines-not rules, collaborativelyDon’t start with rules. Learn to use your tools, and see how people make them work before you cast too much in stone.

Use Trojan miceSet up small, unobtrusive, inexpensive, and autonomous tools and practices, set them running, and cajole and nudge them until they begin to work out where to go and why.

Don’t feed the TrollsThe best way to deal with trolls is to befriend them. Even the worst of them are human.

If your critics have shown the energy to engage, and can then be turned around to be supportive of you, then this sends a very strong signal to other dissenters.

Radical transparencyIn fact online I recommend that people assume that if you have written something on a computer then someone else will at some time be able to see it.

Does this mean you can’t write about anything? No, but it does mean you have to think harder bout what you are writing, where, and why.

Blogging as therapyBy writing about the workplace you become more thoughtful about your place in it and what it does for you.

My favourite quote in the book comes from Vint Cerf, one of the ‘fathers of the internet’. When asked by a journalist if the internet was a good or a bad thing, he replied, “It is just a thing. Whether good or bad depends on what you are doing with it.”

Euan ends the book with his final blog post at BBC after 21, years about the importance of love at work.

An Aga Saga blog – to write home about

aga-ladyI last blogged about Aga cookers way back in June 2008 (Aga goes Web 2.0). Well, they have finally seen the social media light (Blogging for fun and profit) and started a blog.

Rather painfully it is called The World According to Lady Aga, I’m guessing Lady Gaga is unlikely to take action, as she has against Moshi Monsters (Lady Gaga wins injunction against Lady Goo Goo) and the Icecreamists (Milking a story for all it’s worth). After all the AGA brand is nearly 60 years older than Lady G.

On the positive side, it does publish some interesting facts about the expensive cookers (AGA inventor was a Nobel Prize winner), as well as some tasty recipes. And, more importantly, it has a sense of humour, with AGA Characters: Retired Rock Chick, and AGA Characters: Yummy Mummy just two examples.

So the occasional post about new product launches or expansion into new territories can be easily forgiven.

Blogging for fun and profit

wordpressSorry for starting with such a cliché headline, but I am conducting a scientific blogging experiment, more of which later on.

This post (my 509th to be precise) is about why I blog, and why any start-up or small business should seriously consider blogging.

This evening I am giving a talk as part of our Web in Feb series of events. The title is Business Blog – Live, and I am looking forward to some lively debate about the whys and wherefores of blogging for business.

I have already posted up my slides on Slideshare and am happy to share some of my key points below:

typepad

Why do I blog?

  • By accident… the idea was to show a colleague how to blog
  • Because it works – 25% of traffic to the Business & IP Centre website – 200,000 hits in 4 years – comments and feedback
  • Because I enjoy it – writing about interest business ideas
  • It is easy… and free – well not quite, now I am paying $20 a year for an advert free WordPress
  • It is my memory of events and ideas – I want to be able to look back in a few years time
  • I believe it helps the reputation of the Centre… and hopefully mine too – only my readers can be the judge of that!

Blogger

Why you should blog

  • To build trust – ‘real’ people vs anonymous business – this is an increasing desire from customers
  • To build an audience – you can start before you business goes live – you might even attract some pre-launch orders
  • Increase SEO without the risk – Google loves blogs-hates cheaters so keep away from search engine optimisers with ‘magical’ properties
  • Drive traffic to your website – see Google above
  • Be seen as an expert in your field – requires insightful, quality content – but hopefully you will have this if you are starting a business
  • Reach a wider market – word of mouth referrals – one post might go viral

posterous-logo

  • With passion… and patience – wait at least six months for the numbers to come through
  • For your audience – you do know your potential customers likes and needs… don’t you?
  • Mainly about things related to your business – don’t stray too far off base
  • Headings must be ‘Ronsealed’ -
  • Regularly – a minimum of once a week
  • Content must be engaging / surprising / controversial / intriguing
  • Length must be ‘just right’ – somewhere between Stephen Fry’s blessays and Euan Semple’s The Obvious.
  • Leveraging your other social media channels – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, +Google
  • Using your web domain if possible – to maximise traffic to your website
  • Promote using contacts and ‘Blogroll’
  • Measure using built in tools or Google Analytics
  • Handling comments and spam – to moderate or tolerate comment trolls

Ah yes, back to my scientific experiment. I want to prove that even by picking a popular title for this blog post, it will still soar up the Google rankings the minute it is published. Time to find out!

The Web in Feb 2012 – coming soon

WebinFeb logoLast year we had a great Web in Feb month (The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening and What is the Business & IP Centre doing with social media?)

And we are anticipating another excellent month of events for 2012 to help you reach and grow your online audience.

Join us this February for our special workshops and events in the Business & IP Centre. Regardless of what stage of business, this will be your chance to interact with experts, entrepreneurs and potential clients.

During Web in Feb you can learn how to:

  • Protect your online and mobile technology
  • Get your site noticed on search engines
  • Sell your products effectively over the Internet
  • Manage your business on the web
  • Chose the right channels of communication through social media

Here is a summary what’s going on this February:

David_WarrilowAsk an Expert

Throughout February IP Lawyer, David Warrilow, will be running free, confidential, one-to-one advice clinics to help entrepreneurs and inventors understand the different options available when protecting a new online or mobile technology.

Use our hashtag #webinfeb to see what people are saying on Twitter?

The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening

Web in Feb logoAs part of the Inspiring Entrepreneurs series and in conjunction with Social Media Week, the British Library hosted The Power of Social Media last night, to show how small businesses can enhance social media to engage with their customers and reach new markets.

I am grateful to my colleague Michael Pattinson for writing this report on the evening:

The event was sold out and also streamed live at Southampton University and New York Public Library.  As befitting an event about social media, there was also a live blog at www.businesszone.co.uk as well as a live Twitter feed.

The guest speakers included Fraser Docherty, founder of Superjam, Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of Songkick.com, Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC technology correspondent and Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet.

The event was hosted by Matthew Rock of Real Business magazine.  He began by telling the audience how useful social media has been for his own business, Caspian Publishing.

FraserFirst up was Fraser Docherty of Superjam.  Fraser proved to be a very engaging and funny speaker.  He told us how he started making jam, based on his grandmother’s recipes when he was fourteen, selling it door to door and at farmers markets before securing a deal with Waitrose.  Social media and blogging provided him with a cheap and easy way to publicise his brand and communicate with his customers.

According to Fraser, one of his proudest achievements has been setting up a charity which runs tea parties for the elderly.  So far, there have been tea parties so far but he believes social media can help him create thousands of similar events around the country.

IanThe next speaker was Ian Hogarth who set up the website Songkick.com, which allows members of the public to match their music interests to the site and then receive alerts when their favourite bands are playing.  The site uses a “robot” which scours the Internet for concert and gig information.

Ian made the point that everything on the web is media and everything good on the web is social.  He said: “Good ideas spread faster than ever before – that’s an amazing thing for entrepreneurs, how the barriers of entry are changing.”

Ian talked of the importance of motivating and exciting your audience by emphasising the value of your product or service.  He also talked about how the internet had blurred the lines between product and marketing and how his product manager is effectively his marketing manager thanks to social media.

Ian had recently returned from a trip to LA and recommended that any start-ups using social media needed to spend some time in Silicon Valley because their ideas about social media were so advanced.

RoryNext up was the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.  Rory has witnessed first hand how social media, especially Twitter, has revolutionised news reporting.  He used an example of the earthquake in Qinghai province in China last year which was reported on Twitter before it appeared on any other news media.

Rory had some amusing anecdotes of the pitfalls of using social media – his advice:  don’t say anything on Twitter you wouldn’t say in normal conversation!  However, he brushed aside criticisms that social media is killing the art of conversation and social interaction saying that these same criticisms were made about the telephone and email.

Justine RobertsThe last speaker was Justine Roberts from Mumsnet, the massively popular website for mums (and the occasional dad) with a phenomenal 1.2 million visitors each month.

She emphasised how social media was so effective in providing a discussion forum which can be so much more effective in selling a product than traditional advertising.  She also talked of the potential dangers of going viral with silly publicity stunts which have a habit of backfiring but her main message was listen and engage, don’t stifle debate.  She also said that you should relinquish control and let yourself go!

A Q&A session followed and some interesting issues were raised by members of the audience such as online privacy and how do you protect your intellectual property.  The speakers all agreed that you can’t expect privacy as social media is a public space.  As far as Intellectual Property is concerned, you can’t stop people from copying your ideas, you just have to provide the best forum and the most recognisable brand.  As Justine Roberts said: “this is the internet, you can’t put up walls. We don’t stop our users recommending competitor websites.”

Other issues raised by questions included how social media can be used to help B2B companies and where social media is going in the future.  Rory Cellan-Jones felt that despite the dominance of Facebook, there was still room for vertical specialist social networks and that social media was blurring the lines between B2C and B2B.

You can read the live blog replay at http://www.businesszone.co.uk/topic/marketing-pr/live-blog-power-social-media/32776

The event was also filmed and highlights will be appearing on the BIPCTV YouTube channel shortly.

What is the Business & IP Centre doing with social media?

WebinFeb logoWe are just one day away from our Web in Feb month of Social Media activities, where you can;

* Navigate the world of social media and make it work for you
* Get your site noticed by Google
* Write a blog, record a podcast, set up a website
* Avoid the legal pitfalls of doing business online
* Translate the jargon and gain the confidence to use the web effectively.

Frances Taylor who manages our Social Media activities here in the Business & IP Centre has kindly agreed to be interviewed about what we have been up to.

What is the Business & IP Centre doing with social media?
We have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter as well as more niche social network sites like UnLtdWorld (for social enterprises) and Smarta (for entrepreneurs).

Over the last few years we have also had fun experimenting with video, podcasts, webcasts and wikis, to find new ways of helping our customers find business information and advice.  This week we’re looking into Quora, a new Q&A social network.

We have a full list of the sites we have a presence on.

How do you decide which social media channels to use?
Our target audience for the Business & IP Centre includes entrepreneurs and small businesses; we researched which social media channels they use and focused on these.  Entrepreneurs are increasingly using social media to network, promote their products and engage with their customers. To gain the most impact, we also focused on the bigger, more popular social networking sites, due to their potential reach.

To be honest, it has also been a case of experimenting and seeing what works. All the social media sites have proved useful to us in different ways:

–    Facebook has helped us to spread the word about our events programme and provides a group space for entrepreneurs to network. One of our proudest social media moments was when we advertised an event via Facebook and it filled within three hours.

–    LinkedIn is a place for quality business discussions and networking with other professionals.

–    YouTube has helped us to raise awareness of our ‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs’ events and take advantage of all the Library’s high-profile speakers, from Stelios to Lord Sugar.

–    Twitter has become one of the most important sites to the Centre.  As well as helping us to spread the word about our services, it helps us to stay in touch with our partners, case studies and customers and find out about all the latest issues. It’s the place to go for small business news.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your social media activity?
Social media is notoriously difficult to evaluate, however these are the things we aim to measure:

–    Number of followers/ people engaged with our brand
–    Number of quality conversations/ interactions
–    Qualitative examples of how we have engaged with customers via social media
–    Referrals to our website
–    Number of people that use our service as a result of social media sites
–    Time and resource spent to implement.

It’s important to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of your social media activity, particularly since it can be quite time consuming.

Do you have any tips for entrepreneurs looking to use social media for their business?
Definitely. I’d recommend the following:
–    Think carefully about who your target audience is, and then work out what social media sites they use, and what for.
–    You don’t have to be everywhere – it’s better to have a strong presence on one social network than to spread yourself too thinly.
–    A lot of social media sites revolve around sharing content and information.  Think about what content and expertise you have that you can share with others, from tips to video content and ‘behind the scenes’ photos.
–    Social media is all about interacting with others. Make sure that you spend time listening and engaging with everyone online, rather than just promoting yourself.
–    You can stay informed of the latest trends in social media and digital marketing through sites like Mashable and econsultancy.

Fifty thousand visits and counting -

The two and a half years since I became an ‘accidental blogger’ have flown by. And I find it amazing that over fifty thousand visits have now been made to the site, with the weekly number gradually increasing as time has gone by.

Today by chance WordPress (who host my blog) announced they have passed the two hundred million milestone for posts on their service, 200,000,000 Posts… and Counting. I suppose my 368 posts have played their part in this spectacular number.

Here are my top ten visited pages:

Home page – 27,827
The not so simple paper clip3,063
Design classics – the Bic Crystal ballpo1,989
British Standard for a cup of tea – BS 61,328
More interesting facts about paper clips 1,191
About Me
929
You can’t afford not to be green
796
Aga goes Web 2.0
523
Will Chat Roulette change the fabric of
518
Panaramio for the outside and inside vie
493

Site Summary – Visits
Total – 51,389
Average per Day – 151
Average Visit Length – 0:14
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Blogging with The British Library BLoggers

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be invited to a half day session with British Library bloggers and Social Media legend Euan Semple.

I suppose as the first permanent blogger at The British Library it was perhaps natural for them to invite me along. We currently have sixteen active bloggers in The British Library, but quite a few of our curators are planning to start blogs in the near future. Personally, I would like to see every subject expert within The British Library blogging passionately on their specialist topic.

I have known Euan for quite a few years, and have watched his reputation as a Social Media consultant grow. His experience is particularly relevant for The British Library as his expertise was forged in the comparably challenging environment of the BBC. As head of Knowledge Management, he was expected to invest in traditional large scale IT solutions such as document management systems. Instead he experimented with (mainly free) web based solutions. This somewhat anarchic approach did not always endear him to his bosses.

‘The project has encountered opposition from people who question whether the organisation should adopt technologies and processes that are so new and potentially disruptive to the existing structure.’ FT. com Encouraging information sharing, By Kate Mackenzie, January 24 2006

However, many of these new social media tools were avidly adopted by BBC staff and made a big impact on knowledge sharing within (and eventually outside) of the organisation.

The British Library is in a similar position now. Senior management realise the importance of social media, but are understandably nervous about the lack of control that comes with it.

Certainly for me, getting my blog started here was something of a challenge. Ironically, it was never my intention to create a permanent blog. My reason for starting was to show my colleague Steve Van Dulken how easy it was to start and maintain one. However, by the time I had managed to convince him to go ahead, I was already addicted.

Rather than wait the six months I was told it would take to set up a British Library TypePad account, I went ahead on my own using a free WordPress account.

I have picked up lots of useful tips during the three years I have been posting. In particular the importance of using titles with clear meanings (the ‘Ronseal‘ approach again). Also regular use of images and videos to liven up the page. Finally, lots of (relevant) links out to content, to attract Google rankings, and hopefully links back too.

I seem to have strayed somewhat away from the point of this post, so let’s get back on track.

Euan was a very relaxed and informal host of the morning, but it became clear early on that he has immense experience and knowledge. Particularly of the challenge of introducing social media activities into large organisations.

He recommended a baby steps approach, rather than attempting to implement an enormous project, using my new favourite phrase ‘Trojan mice’. Related to this is the principle of control versus influence with the knowledge that hyperlinks undermine hierarchies.

One discussion thread during the morning that really surprised me, given my blog challenges, was that some of my colleagues felt there was a pressure from above to blog. However, as Euan pointed out, no less a figure than Peter Drucker stated, ‘In the knowledge economy, everyone is a volunteer, but we have trained our managers to manage conscripts.’ Delphi’s IKMS event in San Diego, 1998.

According to Euan, seeing institutions engaging with the digital world can be like ‘watching your dad dancing at a disco’. Painfully embarrassing in other words.

One of the biggest challenges facing any institutional blogger is to find the balance of their individual view against their organisations viewpoint. And I am wondering where this post sits in regard to that invisible line.

Below is a list of some of the key topics we covered during the morning. In my view they are issues all institutional bloggers need to review and address:

–    How to generate new material. Any ‘forced’ content will be spotted by your readers.

–    How to keep your blog fresh and interesting. How to develop a feel for what your audience is looking for and write about subjects that pique their interest.

–    How to find your voice. Blogs work best when they express opinion and take a position on subjects. How do you make your blog sound authentic and have a personality.

–    How to balance the individual and the organisation. Given that blogging encourages an individual voice how do you balance that with the needs of the institution? How do you achieve a personal tone while writing for an organisation with a brand to protect?

–    How to attract an audience. How do you draw people to your blog? How do you discover and attract people who will find your blog interesting? How do you build a relationship with that audience?

–    How to encourage a conversation. Comments are often the lifeblood of a good blog. How do you make it more likely that people will comment on your posts? How do you keep the conversation going when they do? How do you handle negative comments?

–    How to use other social media tools to enhance your blogging. Blogs are just part of the social media ecosystem. How do you use Twitter to add value to your blog? How do you use Facebook to find and increase your audience? How do you use services like Posterous or Ping.fm to integrate your various activities?