7 Ways To Prove You’re The Expert’s Expert

June 17, 2010

ExpertiseSo you know that your knowledge is second to none and that you’re the maven of [insert subject here]. But how do you communicate this to those new to your efforts, especially within the limited personal contact of the digital realm?

Although it’s true that working relationships built up in person have a natural trust associated with them, the social web offers more and more opportunities to develop such relationships on the basis of demonstrated knowledge. Additionally, your reach is much extended beyond your own region, making productive, beneficial  connections with the perfect associates more accessible than ever.

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All very well, but the original question was: how?

In this post we look at seven steps you can take to begin building  an online repository of your expertise, helping out others who can benefit from your knowledge, and connecting with those elusive contacts that may not have been available to you outside of social media.

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  • Write varied and unique content on your own website via a blog. Include practical advice for your readers and, once you have a good block of popular content, create a ‘Best Of’ section of your blog and link to it now and again from other platforms and blog posts. Check out our advice on creating alluring content to get started.
  • Search and answer relevant questions on LinkedIn, Answers.com, Yahoo! Answers, and any other site where people gather to search for the expert knowledge you have to impart. Niche sites for your specialist area may be more appropriate, if you find too many responses on the larger sites.
  • Speak or provide informed opinion at a relevant event. Twitter is full of individuals arranging ‘tweet-ups’, as well as dedicated sites like MeetUp offering specific categories, making it easy to find the right level and subject for your area of expertise. By finding these via social media, you can also connect with attendees before and after the event, whether you’ve met them in person or not.
  • Host a webinar via a site like Webex or GoToMeeting. Many offer a free trial so you can find your feet and select the site you prefer. This gives you a chance to offer some free advice to those with an interest in your field, gathering a community around your expert opinion and storing it online as a reference point for anyone that is unable to attend. A webinar can also be marketed more like an event, making it easier to spread on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Create a podcast or video guide. Recording is now simple enough that good quality output can be made from a PC or digital camera. As the spoken word and visual elements of these media offer a more human connection to your content, they bridge some of the distance we discussed early and can appear more authoritative. This simple guide from Best Internet Marketing can get you started in podcasting.
  • Request referrals and testimonials from those who have had the most positive experiences working with you. You can be recommended as an individual on LinkedIn, ask for a review on business listings like Google Maps or Yelp!, or simply post their enthusiastic comments on a specific section of your website for prospective customers to read.
  • Offer free consultations to show what you can do for a specific individual or business, without committing them to anything. The no cost aspect is a great way to attract new interest in your services, while the one-on-one nature helps to focus in on the exact needs of those you’re working with and communicate more clearly what you can help them achieve.

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How are you using the social web to demonstrate your expertise?

What difficulties have you found in standing out in a crowded environment such as LinkedIn Answers?

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Cartoon coutesy of Geek & Poke

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The Social Media World Cup

June 11, 2010

World Cup 2010 LogoThe 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa today – the first time the competition has ever graced the continent – promising a month of varied footballing styles and unrelenting competition grabbing the headlines.

Social media is frequently in the news these days too, with the big players defending their positions and fresh new talent popping up to challenge their dominance. This set us thinking: which national soccer teams would best represent the giants and minnows of the new media world?

To celebrate the beginning of this great tournament, here’s what we managed to come up with!

YouTube (Brazil) – Easy on the eye and always a serious player in the social media game, YouTube will still have to prove that it can bring home the gold this time around.

Facebook (Italy) – Current world champions despite scandals and controversy. Bold in the face of criticism, with a stoic defence that has seen off all challengers to date.

Twitter (Germany) – Often discounted by cynics but with solid structure and undeniable form, much like the saying about the Germans goes every 4 years: You can’t write them off!

Myspace (France) – Once proud champions now barely hanging on to past glories. With much of the original talent gone or fading, an injection of new blood is needed to restore form and pride.

LinkedIn (Argentina) – A potent mix of hard-nosed business and natural flair, yet often in the shadow of some of the more recent winners. Could be about to take their unique style to the next level.

Bebo (England) – An originator of the game, extremely popular domestically but rarely translating this to success on the international stage. Can they turn their long dry run around with a revitalized performance this year?

Foursquare (Spain) – Talented, flamboyant recent challengers hoping that success elsewhere will translate on the biggest stage this year.

Google Buzz (South Africa) – On home turf but lagging behind most of their competitors  despite resources. Can they turn it around for the fans?

Orkut (U.S.A) – Have been around long enough to be considered established now but have more recently failed to reach their early Noughties highs. Has their opportunity come and gone?

[EDIT: Here are a couple more from some keen-minded readers!]

Flickr (Portugal) – Flashy and well-supported but do very little to justify it! [Courtesy of Tom McKenna]

Plaxo (Slovenia)- Small and competent but few supporters and no chance of winning! [Courtesy of Malcolm Birkett]

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That’s our two cents worth, now it’s your turn!

Who will you be supporting over the next month at the World Cup?

Tell us your soccer-related stories and if you’ll be using your favored social media sites to keep up to date with all the action. Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter (hashtag #worldcup) as well.


Discontent With Your Content? 8 Tips to Improve Its Allure

June 10, 2010

Pied_Piper

We’ve all heard how crucial – royal, almost – content is to building a strong web presence, especially across social media, so I won’t retread the same old ground on that subject.

Instead, as part of our continuing series on balancing social media effectively to make the most of the time you spend, today we’ll look at some guidelines for making your content irresistible to both audience and search engine alike.

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  1. Prep your subject matter early, then revisit – Don’t just jump into an idea as you start writing the final post; note it down, expand upon it by brain storming or reading around the subect and adding to your own thoughts. Then leave it and come back when you’re ready to write. Do this for multiple subjects as you prep and you can line up a number of articles in one sitting. This Social Media Examiner article has excellent practical tips for this purpose.
  2. Define a take-away point for readers before you write – As with brain storming the subject, having a final summary thought that you want your audience to take from you article is key. It not only makes your content more memorable (and likely to be shared) but it helps to guide your final writing, keeping it on point of the final message.
  3. “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” – Okay, that’s four tips in one point… just call it value for your attention. Leo Burnett, an early advertising pioneer, had this to say in the early 1900’s and it rings just as true about your content today. Don’t over-complicate the topic and send people off confused, looking for a more understandable source to inform them. Even subjects that are inherently complex can be kept simple to read, assuming a certain level of existing knowledge within your audience. Someone writing about website coding, for example, can reasonably expect their audience to understand the basics if they search for an article on detailed programming. Simplicity also extends into the following concepts of good formatting and entertaining writing, as you won’t get too bogged down in difficult language or detail.
  4. Vary tone and type – Keep your audience coming back for more by alternating the types of content you post. A series of dry, technical posts, for example, could get monotonous and would benefit from being broken up by something more light-hearted like a poll or amusing takes on your specialist subject. Whether it’s something you create or simply sharing the work of someone else, be sure to offer your readers a variety of content to keep them engaged.
  5. Involve and engage your reader – Although you’re creating the content, using it to connect to readers across social media is a two way street. Find ways to make your articles interactive, by asking questions through the post and at the end for example, encouraging readers to reflect on their own perspective on the subject matter. You could also ask for links to other articles they’ve read or content they themselves have created, increasing the collaborative nature of your work and making links back to it more likely. Another technique is to leave ideas open-ended, prompting free discussion in your comments sections.
  6. Find your voice – This may take a number of posts but the more you write your own content, the more your ‘voice’ – your unique combination of style and passion for your subject – will shine through. Solicit plenty of feedback from family, friends, and colleagues of varied personalities to better understand how your content is received. Don’t force it too much, but think about your target audience and how best you can adapt your voice to keep them entertained and informed.
  7. Write first, keyword later – Although your content will naturally gravitate towards certain keywords and phrases of your subject, avoid getting bogged down with the need to include these terms initially. This will only interrupt your flow and make the task longer. Instead, return to your final draft once you’re finished and put on your search engine optimization (SEO) hat. With a list of your keywords (usually already compiled if you have a website) in hand, aim to sprinkle those that are appropriate equally around 10-15% of the content. This guide by SEOBook offers specific tips for blogger SEO.
  8. Follow up – Rather than simply posting your content and wishing it bon voyage, return regularly to review/reply to comments and add further thoughts or links on the subject. Chris Brogan’s article on 40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content provides some helpful pointers for this in the ‘Encore’ section.

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So in essence this boils down to preparing your topics before you dive into the content creation stage, having a clear direction in mind as you create it, using your own passion to make the subject matter memorable and engaging, and finally checking back to further the conversation surrounding what you have created.

Master these crucial areas and everything else will begin to fall into place. Happy creating!

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Have you been able to establish an effective routine for creating your content?

What tips would you offer others just starting out?


Balancing Social Media: Time Management For A Superior Web Presence

June 7, 2010

Time Ticks By: Managing your social media marketingTime Ticks: Managing your social media marketing scheduleLast week we started to look at how someone overwhelmed by the myriad social media options can begin to assess where best to spend their time. This week we’ll begin to put some meat on the bones of the options you’ve chosen to focus the most time on.

Before leaping into the task at hand, however, it’s a good idea to take stock of the time available for working on your social media marketing. Today, the question we’re focusing on is:

What time management techniques can I apply to ensure my social media efforts stay aligned to my objectives?

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  • First and foremost, define objectives for your chosen activity. Have these clear in your mind, or written down next to you, as you go into your work. Ask yourself every 5 or 10 minutes: “Is what I’m doing working towards my end goal?“. For example, if you’re writing a blog entry and reading around its subject the answer is yes, it’s providing fuel and motivation for your own content. If you’ve wandered into another subject area though, however relevant it may be to your business, it’s not contributing to the work at hand. Bookmark for later and get back on track!
  • Schedule time for specific work and avoid distractions from it during that period. Even with concrete goals in mind, there are so many online and real world distractions in our day that it’s no wonder we get pulled away. When this occurs, it takes time to refocus and get back on track, which can detract from the quality of work or, worse still, leave it unfinished and abandoned. The 9 Guiding Principles to Social Media Time Management provided by Amber at Altitude contains plenty of great tips for managing these disruptions, as well as tools to make your life easier to that end.
  • Equally important to scheduling a specific period of time is to find a routine that works for you. If your social media work can be tacked on to another daily activity that complements it then you should find it much easier to come back to regularly and get into the habit of doing so. For example, if you’ve identified building networks on Twitter as a  key objective, then monitoring conversations, sharing content, and communicating with others on that platform should naturally follow the morning plunge into your Inbox.
  • Once time is set aside and a routine established, another potential  challenge can crop up in the form of writer’s block. What’s the use of sitting down with this time if all you end up doing is struggling to think of content? That’s where noting down previous ideas as they come to you and setting up a content calendar comes into play. This excellent Social Media Examiner post on Quality Content sets a perfect plan for overcoming this particular hurdle.
  • Even with clearly defined objectives, some of the activities you’ll undertake towards developing your web presence will seem much less tangible than others. How can 45 minutes spent listening and responding on Facebook be explained away as ‘productive’, whether to yourself or your boss? This makes it important to set quantitative measures for your work, as Chris Brogan‘s Priotize Your Social Media Efforts post discusses. We’ll look at doing this in more detail later this week. In the meantime, what suggestions do you have for others to quantify the more nebulous side of social media?
  • Be aware of the various uses of social media and avoid letting your chosen platforms become a daily chore. You need to be motivated when you go about creating your own content, sharing that of others, and generally engaging with communities, regardless of the platform. As this Business Week article on Time Management in the Age of Social Media discusses,  these activities can easily become a sinkhole for your valuable time if not checked on occasion.

So it’s key to get yourself into a time bound routine that sees you well placed to immediately get going on your activity. Keep yourself on track by regularly referring back to your objectives and set up robust quantitative measures to ensure you’re activities are paying off.

Most of all, make the time you spend on social media something you look forward to and watch the productivity and results come naturally!

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What techniques do you use to keep the time you spend on social media productive?

Have you used other online platforms to better manage your web marketing? If so, which tools and how do you make them work for you?

Photo courtesy of Disco~Stu

Time Management in the Age of Social Media


Platform Overload? The Social Media Balancing Act

June 3, 2010

Platform Overload

Are you carrying too many platforms?

Simply dipping a cautious toe into the overflowing pool of social media and web platforms can be enough to overwhelm some users. With the scope of the large, established platforms and myriad niche sites for a given industry, knowing which to focus on and how to sync them all together are key areas for consideration before committing to offering content on each.

A well thought out strategy will help decide what you want to get from your social media efforts and how best to utilize time spend getting there. From today and through next week, we’ll be looking at the first questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge. Today:

How do you want to engage your target audience?

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For the most part, it is considered that an existing business or artist has already defined the type of people that are interested in their message. This was a requirement long before any new media was a consideration and will continue to be critical wherever technology takes us. The methods by which we connect to our audience, however, are ever fluid and the options far wider today than ever before.

Do you want to show your expertise on a particular subject and build trust in your authority on such matters? As often advocated by social media specialist Chris Brogan, people learn to rely on online opinions of those  demonstrating a clear, wide-ranging knowledge of their field. So if you can write well on your speciality and offer helpful thoughts/advice, then starting a blog will be the perfect way to showcase your expertise.

Another way to offer your expert advice in a non-sales pitch manner is to answer questions for people on sites such as LinkedIn or Answers. By searching for and solving requests relevant to your knowledge base, you not only establish your insight to the questioner but also to those following the responses and your activity in general. This positions you for future questions and, quite possibly, future business when a more in depth need arises.

For a more direct approach, the demographic information and targeted advertising of Facebook is often a cost-effective method to reach those in your field or region that may not be aware of you yet. In this case, maintaining an informative and resource rich Facebook page will be an important part of developing your web presence.

Otherwise, if the sheer jungle of Facebook seems too deep to penetrate initially, you may decide to spend more time exploring and becoming a part of the community on relevant niche sites. The message boards, forums, and comments sections of websites related to you are a great place to meet and network with others interested doing business or seeking assistance in your field. This also allows you to target the most appropriate sections of such communities by commenting on their articles and discussions. Furthermore, you often cut through the first step of searching for an engaged audience, as by their very nature  the concentration of your efforts on such sites is focused directly at the target market.

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How do you spread your time across the various social media?

Could your current schedule benefit from a review & exploration of new online avenues?



Three L’s? Once Again, They’re All Location

April 6, 2010
Where are you?

Where are you?

Coming into the New Year – and continuing through the SXSWi conference last month – location-based social networks and tools have been the hot topic amongst early adopters.

In addition to the early leaders Foursquare and Gowalla, fresh names such as Loopt and Brightkite have emerged to compete, along with the existing major platforms Twitter and Facebook adding or planning location-oriented updates. As much as “what are you doing?” was the key question a couple of years ago, “where are you doing it?” is the inquiry many new services are hoping we will be eager to answer in the coming months and years.

But is the focus on geolocation services simply the next fad to occupy the burgeoning ranks of social media enthusiasts? Though concerns around privacy and security have naturally arisen, there are various possibilities – particularly for small businesses – in being able to sync location details with existing and potential customers alike. Here we nod to some of the possibilities:

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  • Serendipity – How often have you found yourself in a new city…or even just  a new part of your own town…wishing you knew a great place to eat or grab a good coffee? If a potential customer has the ability to log into their mobile device and find your business near their location, you’ll want to make sure you have a presence on these services and some great reviews to lure in new business.
  • Save On the Go – Paper coupons can be a pain to obtain, plan, and hold onto until shopping day arrives. In much the same way as a hungry diner may decide where to eat based on location reviews, a shopper may simply tune into their local coupon offers right after they finish work. If that’s your store, 50 cents off a Coke may win you a full week’s shopping for a family.
  • Flash Mobs – Granted, you don’t want the kind of flash mob that’s full of teens aggravating one another (or do you?!), but what about an unexpected party arriving for a beer and staying for the night? If small groups are checking into your bar and posting it to a service like Foursquare, as the service (or those like it) expand then there exists the possibility for this to become the next text invite. Except now every one of their friends is invited to join. And you want the invite to be to your location.
  • Reward Loyalty– Sure, reward memberships are nothing new, but the ability to tie them into promotional e-mails, texts, and even hourly offer notices is a much more powerful tool than a cashier asking “do you have a club card?” Cards can be easily left at home or misplaced, but customers will generally carry their mobile devices to most locations. In a similar way to the potential of mobile coupons, if you can reward and update your customer regularly (and creatively)  enough when they’re in your area, you have the opportunity to become their preferred vendor. Hey, maybe then they’ll even write a great review of you for the new ones…..

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Of course, this only scratches the surface of some of the possibilities for location-based social marketing. Not all of these benefits will require giving away ones location to the public at large, which may aid in the uptake of certain new services. Others will require a careful sell to ensure users that their location information is as securely displayed as possible.

We will continue to examine the possibilities of these services as the trend develops into established businesses. If anything, we certainly believe that this one has legs and will spawn some exciting concepts that change the way we do business, offering great opportunities to early adopters.

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As a business, how can you envisage using location-based social networking?

As a consumer, would you consider offering your location – whether privately or to the public – as a means to get better deals?

What are your general feelings towards giving away more and more of our personal data to publicly read online services?


Listening Stations: Tune Into Your Fan’s Frequency

March 19, 2010
Listening_Stations

Are you tuned into the right stations?

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”, said Oliver Wendell Holmes. Whether global brand, small business owner, or artist, there’s plenty of wisdom to be gained in taking time out from broadcasting your message and instead tuning in to those talking about it.

In the past this was a much more costly, labor intensive effort to undertake, with consumer surveys, focus groups, and outside agencies often involved in obtaining a diluted form of opinion. Thankfully, social media and  increasingly active bases of internet consumer opinion have flipped the game on its head, making it easier than ever to tune into the frequency of your audience.

For musicians, Indie Survival Guide just released a quick and extremely useful tutorial on tracking your mentions online. An invaluable resource for musicians, certainly, but the overall advice holds true for other groups as well, particularly small businesses with limited resources to invest.

As a 3 point program, this boils down to:

  1. Define your key search terms. As with web design and SEO, this comes down to the key words surrounding your industry the name of your organization, and other pertinent terms.
  2. Choose and set up your listening stations. From Google Alerts to Twitter search and beyond, there are innumerable free options on the web for monitoring your mentions. We’ll be focusing on the best of these in a separate post next week.
  3. Track & follow up. Set up a routine to monitor your stations on a regular basis and, most importantly, follow up with those talking about you, whether positive or negative. A thank you for a good review or an attempt to reach out and resolve a negative opinion can both build bridges between you and your audience.

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When Chris Brogan encourages us to Grow Bigger Ears, it’s to recommend  developing a key part of the two-way street that is increasingly emerging as a natural part of online commerce and life. Our audience is going to be talking more and more whatever we do. It’s those that hear their message and respond effectively that will be the success stories of tomorrow.

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How do you listen to what your audience or customers are saying? What tools work best for you?

Have you any success stories resulting from listening online? We would love to hear them!