How to get around the content problem

My previous post was just a bookmark, but it tied very neatly into the challenge all my clients face: how to source good, compelling content.

You say you don’t have the time to generate content. The blunt response is: face it, your job just changed. You have to make the time because, as the current meme doing the rounds says, every company is now a media company. So you can very easily set up a Twitter account or a blog or a Facebook page, but then you do need to think of something to say.

I use the analogy of setting up a radio station. Imagine hiring (or constructing!) a building, setting up the studio, organising the huge launch party. Imagine you’ve got the microphone in front of you, and the mixing desk, and you press the big ‘On Air’ button… and then you suddenly realise you don’t actually know what you’re going to say. How mortifying.

It’s precisely those barriers to entry that made people take ‘the media’ seriously, whether print or broadcast. But now they’ve been removed, and you can create a Twitter account or a blog within minutes, for free. So there’s no barrier. So people don’t think it through.

Setting up a social media presence is not heavy lifting. But sourcing content – lots of it, on a daily or weekly basis – is.

So here are some ideas I put in front of people for helping with this.

Create a blog calendar

As  a copywriter I fully understand the fear of the blank page. It’s the same with blogging. So the way I get around that is to create a blog calendar. Think of all the events that you might be able to participate in, from exhibitions to seminars, from Father’s Day to Christmas. Then you can see what’s coming up and write about it, before, during and after. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to talk about, because it’s right there in front of you, and you get to ride that news wave too.

Have a comment strategy

You don’t have to write all your own posts. Sometimes it’s better to jump across to what someone else is saying, and comment on theirs instead. They love you for commenting, and you get a link back to your own blog. Instead of just broadcasting, you’re engaging and, in the process, learning too.

Retweet and reply

If you follow people on Twitter, just jump in occasionally and reply to them, or retweet them. Keep that feed going, and in the same action reinforce your willingness to engage online.

Use bookmarks

You can get an RSS feed from Delicious, so use it. Integrate it with a platform such as Twitterfeed to tweet whenever you bookmark something, or with Delicious’s own blog post feature so that you also post at the end of each day with the aggregation of what you bookmarked.

Or, use Posterous to get the same effect – posting to Delicious, Twitter, your other blogs and so on – and get a free blog to boot.

Set up a dashboard or aggregator

Use Google Reader or Netvibes to see what other people are saying. I guarantee you that, in following people, within seconds you’ll see something that piques your interest, and off you go.

Get the team involved

Don’t make it one person’s sole responsibility for writing blog posts or managing the Twitter account. Set up a rota so that everyone contributes. Build this into the blog calendar, together with your comment rota.

Next thing you know, instead of writing a post a day, you’re writing one a month. And when you’re not writing, you’re commenting, replying or retweeting. In other words, you’re being active and engaged, but with a lot less weight on your shoulders, because you’re sharing the burden.

Invite guests to blog

You have clients, colleagues, maybe even friends. Get them to contribute too. They’ll love the free publicity, you’ll be seen as a part of the community, and an interesting new perspective will be presented. Oh, and you might just strengthen your ties with that client in the process, which can never be a bad thing.

Make time

As I said at the beginning, your job just changed. If you want to be back home in time to watch Hollyoaks or whatever, then cut time from somewhere else.

And the bottom line? Set targets. Review them. When you hit them, it’s high fives all round and time to crack open the prosecco.

5 and a half ways to ensure you never run out of content

Content may be king, but it’s a cruel, merciless despot. Having a blog, a Facebook page or a YouTube channel for your business is like making a promise to your customers that you can never permanently fill. No matter how great that last post was, you need to keep feeding the beast. How can you possibly keep up? Here are five (and a half) easy way to keep your fans satisfied without letting social media take up too much of your time.

Content. Content, content, content. Content is king, but there are never enough kings around when you need them. It’s the perennial problem of all communications: just what, exactly, are you going to say? Jesse Stanchak offers some neat ways around this.

Trends

Quite simply, some charts that may be of interest. For example, note how Apple is supplanting Microsoft in search volume; that PR may be peeling upwards away from advertising and even marketing; the relative fortunes of Google+, Facebook and Twitter; social media may be levelling off; and, especially heartwarming for me, Star Wars is much more popular than Star Trek (mostly).

All charts are for all regions and years except the politics chart which is just for the UK over the past 12 months (because a lot can happen in 12 months!) Click each chart to go to the Google Trends page for more information, such as the news items that account some spikes (A, B, C etc).

● microsoft ● apple

● ed miliband ● david cameron ● nick clegg ● politics

● hp ● dell ● ibm ● hardware

● advertising ● marketing ● pr ● social media

● social media

● google+ ● facebook ● twitter

● star wars ● star trek

Visible Tweets – Twitter Visualisations. Now with added prettiness!

I’m always on the lookout for cool tools. This is one of them. Type in a search term and it shows you how the tweetcloud builds up. It’s not exactly what I was after. What I was after was a tweetcloud animator that takes a timeline and shows you how the terms in the cloud ‘bubble’ up and down, and move around. I expect it would be fascinating to see for the Murdoch timeline, given the rapidity with which such amazing events are unfolding. Still, Visible Tweets is quite a nice way of visualising tweets, say, at a conference etc.

50 best UK company Twitter feeds | BizGene

Social media has done a lot of companies a lot of good as well as seen the odd one or two go into meltdown. There are some excellent examples of very good practice out there and here we highlight – in no particular order – 50 of the best

Lists are a great way to get attention. Lists about Twitter are a really great way to get attention. But great lists are a really great… you get the idea.

Bizgene is fairly loose about the criteria for inclusion here, but I guess it’s a very subjective area anyway. Still, I’d recommend that you hop on over to bizgene and take a look. As well as the ‘must-haves’ (eg Dell, innocent etc) there are some interesting inclusions such as Paypal. Who’d have thought, eh?

Advertising, PR, sales, marketing: now you see it, now you don’t

People are visual, so it makes sense that they act on what they can see. But that’s not so hot when you need to deal with, um, concepts.

So, people ‘get’ advertising, because they know what an advert is. I don’t know what the figures are for the average number of adverts people are exposed to throughout their lives, but it’s a shockingly huge amount. We see them on broadcast, print and social media, and whether or not we mentally screen them out, we’re aware of them.

But they don’t, on the whole, understand PR. This is because PR is about placing articles or selling in stories in the media on a client’s behalf. If you don’t ‘get’ that then this might help: before I started in PR, I genuinely believed all those pieces with HP’S CEO’s name against them had been written by HP’s CEO. Then, when I discovered the unalloyed joy of writing bylines, and found myself one day writing one for HP’s CEO, I suddenly realised what was going on.

Advertising is bells and whistles, while PR is a sleek, black plane. Or, advertising is ‘look at me’ while PR is ‘look at them’. Or, advertising is Edwina Currie while PR is Peter Mandelson.

Likewise sales and marketing. Again, people get sales because they buy and sell things. In the same way they can ‘see’ adverts, they ‘see’ sales. But they don’t, I’ve found, understand marketing because they can’t see them. Markets might be big, or small. They might not exist at all. But they’re the environment you need to operate in, to sell effectively.

Increasingly, I’m finding that social media is about marketing. It’s about a lot of other things too – not least research, awareness, engagement, all those great things – but what I tend to find myself thinking about now is the market. Who are the client’s competitors? What are they doing? How can we measure ourselves against them? What does success look like? Generally, it looks like something you’ve done that is better than your competitors, from selling more things to getting more attention.

Sales is little regions of activity, while marketing is the tectonic plates that underpin all of this. Leave it too long and you’ll find the plates have shifted. Or, sales is Mount Etna while marketing is Pangea (not, repeat not, Pandora).

So I’m working in a double-blind area. It’s PR (Mandy in a Nighthawk) and marketing (a theoretical ancient unified landmass with a funny name). Would I prefer to work with my eyes wide open, in ‘real’ things such as advertising and sales?

Well, that depends.

What are the hours?