Tips For Trending: Joining the Popular Conversation Without Spamming

June 21, 2010
Zombie Trends

Are you watching the trends?

We’ve all seen the spammers on Twitter, surrounding their garbage links with trending topics in the hope that someone will accidentally click or, better yet, be attracted to their message. It’s irrelevant and clutters up the stream for the real trends we’re examining.

But what about those of us seeking to combine a current topic of interest with our own subject matter, raising interest in both?

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There are plenty of ways to join the popular conversation without coming across as gimmicky or, worse, another merchant of spam. Here we offer some tips on walking the line of trending topics:

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  • Always map out the links between your own subject and the trend. There should be at least some foundation for your mentally connecting the two in the first place, but if it’s a stretch then don’t force the link as this will show up in your content.
  • If the trend is a pop culture subject, in most cases you should keep the connection light-hearted and fun, avoiding direct self-promotion. Think of it more as an opportunity to temporarily relax the tone of your content, in between more formal and/or promotional posts.
  • Offer insight into both sides of your content. Don’t just make a tenuous link to a trend to lure in a wider audience, then ignore what brought your new folks to you in the first place. Research the trend as well and link to other interesting sources that will add weight to your interest in the popular subject.
  • Following from that, whenever possible be passionate about the trend to which you’re connecting. When you create based on subjects that inspire you, it’s another way to deliver alluring content. Your passion will be translated to the content and further remove any suspicion of being a gimmick.
  • To strengthen the connection of your subjects, research the keywords and phrases associated with the trending topic. In much the same way you want to attract the search traffic for your own area of expertise, you need to give the search engines as much as possible to work with when people search content for the popular subject.
  • Further to the last point, research hashtags  being used on Twitter around the trending subject. There are usually a number surrounding any given and you should use only the relevant ones that resonate well with your content. Again, avoid any misleading tags or keywords when promoting your content, to avoid spam connotations and a frustrated audience. This helpful post explains the use of hashtags.
  • Only use this approach to content creation from time to time. Unless pop culture and news is your business, not everything you create around your own speciality should be connected to a trend. Overuse of this method again leads to suspicion of bandwagon jumping.

So, be passionate about the trends you connect your own work to and create your content in a way that respects both subjects, adding value to the variety of viewers your efforts will attract. Keep it relevant and light on the sales pitch (if any at all), then promote it the same way.

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What are your thoughts on connecting with trending topics?

How do you approach content creation differently when doing so? What works and what is still spam?

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Useful links for trending topics:

Digg

Twitter Trends & Search

Google Trends

Yahoo! Buzz


Cartoon courtesy of Scott Hampson

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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


Where Content Is King, Community Is Kingdom

February 25, 2010

Coronation

Where Content Is King, Community Is Kingdom

“Content is king” is a common tag line in and around the world of online media, due in no small part to the increasing ability for almost anyone with an internet connection to publish and broadcast their works. Amid such a critical mass of information competing for our attention, consistently well written and insightful content from trusted sources needs to win out in order for us to extract maximum value from our online efforts.

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Content is only the first step, however, in creating a successful online platform. In social networking especially – as well as for most online experiences in general – the community is equally important, providing a kingdom within which content can be challenged, adapted, and enhanced.

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The challenge as enthusiastic adopters of online media platforms, then, is to build and foster a group that engages with content and interacts, both with the platform itself and with each other. In doing so, we increase interest in our message, return visits to our platform, and create the opportunity to build long term relationships that can elicit advice, future collaborations, and, yes, even sales of our products and services.

Here we take a look at some starting points for building and engaging this desired community. Please feel encouraged to add your own thoughts and successful strategies to these in the comments. The more we share, the more we can all learn!

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  • Reach out to those you think may have an interest in your field. Commenting on the content of others, replying to Twitter posts, leaving Facebook wall messages, or simply e-mailing people directly to introduce your own content are all good places to start. In making the first move, you can both add to another community and begin a relationship that may develop your own. As a rule of thumb, give more than you receive, especially early on.
  • Ask open questions to your existing community and request that they invite others within their own following to join the discussion. Fostering lively debate and information exchange engages the mind and associates your platform with a two-way street approach, rather than simply broadcasting to an audience.
  • Utilize interactive devices like polls, creative competitions (such as photo contests), and  engaging applications (such as games or surveys) to offer your community a more varied way to interact within your platform.
  • When hosting your own platform, such as a website or blog, spread your content to more populous sites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and relevant message boards, to pull in a wider audience and attract new members to your community. Such sites can be viewed as outposts from which you can direct people to your hub site. As they have such established information sharing methods, they also make it easier for others to share your content with their own communities, accessing new those you may not have otherwise reached.
  • Allow conceptual space for your visitors to expand on your topics by leaving some of your content unfinished. Although this may go against the standard practice of beginning-middle-end, it’s a good habit to get into from time to time and allows others to contribute to the middle portion. From this position, you have the option to either leave the content open-ended for continued discussion, or cap it off with a summary comment or a follow up post.
  • Encourage discussion by presenting opposite sides of an argument or varied opinions within your own content. The majority can still drive at the point you would wish put across but the diversity of perspectives will prevent a one-sided, back-slapping session, provoking further thought and eliciting more points around which people can interact.

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What steps have you taken to increase interaction within your own online community?

How have you made your content a two-way street rather than simply broadcasting to your audience?