Sunday, March 7, 2010

Starting or Improving a Blog

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Every year we're inundated with statistics from sources like Technorati, Forrester and others that the number of blogs continues to grow. Whether you are an administrator of multiple blogs or looking to create your first one we can all rally around the idea that we want to make a blog the best it can be. There are a number of factors that go into making a blog great:
  • Content
  • Personality
  • Engagement with the community
  • Interaction points
  • Design
Before getting into all of this, the creation of the blog has to take place. The vast majority of people create their blogs on platforms that center around blogs, which include Blogger, Word Press, TypePad and others. Other people create their blogs on platforms that may not necessarily be 100% blog-centric, like Weebly or Wix. Still others, who are more experienced will code their blogs from scratch and use a separate hosting service.

Since this blog is hosted on Google's Blogger platform, as are millions of others, I will be talking about some of my favorite Blogger templates, widgets and plug-ins.

Google offers some basic templates for a blog upon its creation. These are standard templates that can get the job done, but can easily be replaced if you are looking for something a little more unique or aesthetically pleasing.

There are a number of fantastic resources out there that have pre-made Blogger templates and directions in how to apply them to your blog:
To help narrow down the the amount of templates you will be browsing through, you should first think about how many columns you would like on your blog. The post section of the blog counts as one column, each column after that is a side bar. Having only two columns will give you more room for larger widgets in the sidebar and potentially a cleaner look, but if you want to incorporate a number of widgets it means that most will be below the scroll. Three and four column widgets allow for more widgets to be above the scroll, but can limit the width of any widget you would want to include. You will have to weigh these factors and others when deciding what layout you want.

Keep in mind that you can try a template out and if you don't like it after uploading the code to your blog can always change to another.

The conversation about columns brings us to widgets, gadgets and plug-ins. Blogger offers some standard widgets that can be applied to your blog with a single click. These might include:
  • Post archive
  • Tags/Labels
  • Basic Text
  • HTML box
  • Slideshow
  • RSS feed
  • Followers
These are all very important to the success of a blog, but you should look beyond the Blogger offerings to find other extremely helpful options. Maybe you want a tag cloud instead of a list, or a video slide show, or box displaying your LinkedIn updates, or a stream of headlines from the New York Times. Without question, you should add "share" icons to your blog so readers can proliferate the posts on their social networks, as well as through e-mail and bookmarking tools.

Again, there are great sites and posts dedicated to showing you the best widgets and plug-ins for your blog:
Hopefully this will help provide some links to resources that can help you create or improve your blog. If you're having trouble installing a theme, widget, plug-in or anything else just shoot me a note and I'll see if I can help. I know there is a tremendous amount more we could talk about with regards to improving a blog so if you have notes that you would like to share with everybody please leave a comment.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Importance of Social Media Club

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Social Media Club (SMC) is a rapidly growing group that brings together professionals of all shapes, sizes and industries. SMC has organized chapters in over 150 cities around the world made up of thousands upon thousands of individuals, as indicated by their Twitter following of over 62,000.

When probing through reasons why SMC was created, I came upon the following language that really struck me:

"We are more than just USERS, we are the reason the tools exist – we are the people who communicate our thoughts and ideas near and far. Join us and let’s shape the future together!"

SMC isn't simply about networking, though that is a big aspect. The group is about shaping the future of communication, getting thought leaders together to think of the next wave of inspiration and connecting the dots for all those that primarily operate on a multitude of platforms.

For me, the best thing about Social Media Club is that it allows me to put a face to a name, blog, page, account or whatever else people are using. Social media communications are a fantastic way of forging new relationships and stregthening existing ones, but its hard to break through to a truly meaningful relationship without meeting somebody in person. Social Media Clubs have made that face-to-face interaction a little bit easier by organizing regular events and turning it into group interactions rather than that awkward first encounter alone as if you were on a blind date.

I'm a member of the Charlotte, NC social media club, but I know that I can join in on any meetup in another city should I be in town while an event is being held. Its a great virtual and real community that will continue to grow as social media does.

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that appreciates Social Media Club for what it offers. Anybody care to share?
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Don't Forget About Blogs

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With the meteoric rise of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, many corporate communications professionals tend to forget about the power of a blog. Blogging started well before Facebook and Twitter were present in the social media landscape so they aren't as flashy or fun these days. Blogs and even blog networks are more dispersed so the traffic numbers don't seem as impressive as social networks.

Facebook can publicly state that it has over 400 million users worldwide and Twitter can claim over 75 million users, but blogs typically define their traffic individually. Gizmodo, a very popular technology and gadget blog can very impressively make the case that they had 1,981,394 unique visitors last month. Though this is amazingly impressive, some markets don't grasp the importance of this number compared to the 400 million total users on Facebook.

A blog offers a concentrated, focused audience. Outreach performed to a blog, or the creation of a blog, can be much more effective than creating a Facebook fan page or Twitter account. A blog has more potential to become a conversation hub, a lasting community and a trusted source than social networking platforms. Blogs allow for more in-depth content because there is greater freedom to write lengthy posts or post a variety of content (text, video, slideshows, streaming video, live blogging plug-ins).

Don't get me wrong, there is immense value in social networks, especially when done well. I just want to make sure that blogs are forgotten in the equation because they may be a brands best option to meet their communications goals.

I know I can think of examples in my professional life where I have suggested a blog to a client, but it was shot down because it didn't have the "potential growth" that Facebook offered.

Do any of you have any examples of blogs being passed over or dismissed as a viable option?
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Make Your Facebook Fan Page Stand Out

Why would a brand or business create a facebook fan page? Most likely they are trying to increase awareness about the brand as a whole or a specific initiative. They may also want to improve brand loyalty and engagement with their target audience. Those are all good reasons to create a fan page, but having a good reason won't actually accomplish those goals.

Brands have to promote their fan pages across a number of platforms to even alert their target audience that the page exists. They also have to provide value or entertainment to the visitors so they continue to come back. It is this latter area where the brand should really work to make its page stand out from the plethora of other brands using a cookie cutter design and content formula for their fan pages.

A brand can either make their page stand out through the content they provide or the design/layout of the page. Each brand will know better than I will what qualifies as unique or valuable to their audience, so I won't even attempt to assert some universal answer that can be applied across all industries and goals.

There are a number of ways to enhance the design of a fan page. A brand shouldn't feel as though they are restricted to the use of fan page standards like a wall, photo sharing tab, video sharing tab, links tab and discussion board. Those are all great features, but brands should go to the next level.

One of the most important features a Facebook fan page offers is "FBML." This is Facebook's version of HTML language and allows users to add components that they might find on other platforms. The FBML feature gives users the freedom to add widgets of all varieties, links and a number of other things. Instead of simply adding links to other relevant pages in the FBML box, it might be nice to add hyperlinked photos using FBML tags so there is a visual association with the link that entices visitors to click through.

There are also a number of previously developed applications that can simply be plugged into a fan page. Brands shouldn't be afraid to browse through these and see if any will help them accomplish their goals while bringing some variety to their fan page.

There are some great Facebook developers and resources out there so if a brand is looking to create a page that is awe-inspiring it can definitely be done.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Making Changes and Moving On

Today is my last day at Sports Media Challenge (SMC). I've had an amazing time serving as the Director of New Media at SMC. I've been with the company for over 2.5 years and couldn't think of a better place to be in that time. The SMC team is talented and intelligent. They're a nimble group that can put together some of the best digital media campaigns I've seen.

I can't say enough about the quality of people I have worked with while at SMC. If you have any interest, they are absolutely worth following on Twitter:


Within my time at SMC I've worked to build out service offerings, bring Buzz Manager (a great online monitoring tool) to a new level and put together full scale digital media plans for fantastic clients. I'd like to think I left a positive impact on SMC and the work I've done can be continued.

Though my experience at SMC has been nothing but positive, I've been offered a great opportunity to continue my digital media work with Fleishman-Hillard. I will be working in the Carolina offices and am really excited to get started. Fleishman-Hillard has an amazing reputation for the work they do and the talent they have. I can't wait for the new challenge.
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Who? Why?

Social media often becomes a rat race. Who has the newest technology? Who has the most friends or followers? This blog is designed to slow it down a little and remind people that at its core, social media is about relationships and conversations.

Jake Rosen
Managing Supervisor, Fleishman-Hillard

The content on this site reflects my own opinions and not necessarily those of my employer.


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