If content is king, why do so many websites lack content?

I’ve been trying to write a post on the qualities of a good blog post, but then I realized the bigger problem with websites and their content was the overall shortage of website content.

For example, a couple years ago I created the static website content (“About,” “History,” “Services,” etc.) for a B2B company with specialty offerings within a big industry. Truly unique offerings – sorry I can’t tell you the industry because I don’t want to embarrass the former client. I can tell you that 2 years and 3 months after introducing the website and an integrated blog there are a total of 3 blog posts. The newest blog post dates to 2010.

Keep your blog and website content fresh

Keep your blog and website content fresh!

As a content writer and marketing strategist, I’m drooling at the chance to post some concise, informative, persuasive, slice of life stories, etc. to that blog. It seems so easy to me, especially since they have a very unique service line. Adding content is not on their radar, so the blog is collecting some serious cyber dust. Like so many organizations, they just took a big sigh of relief after updating their wretched website to a more modern, and yes, more informative website. And patted themselves on the back for having one of those new-fangled blogs for everyone to post away! I could offer more examples, but you get the point, organizations just aren’t taking advantage of their content management systems.

Why add new website or blog content?

Adding new information to a static page or simply making it more current is just good housekeeping. And apparently the search engines like that, too, and will reward you with improved search engine results pages (SERPs). Adding a new blog or a news post is better yet, especially if they offer your visitors some new information. Adding new news posts or blog posts on a regular basis gives website visitors something fresh with each visit – so they don’t think, “Been here, seen that.” Of course search engines love new pages even more than modified pages, so there’s that SEO thing again.

BTW, a new page on your website’s news or blog section creates a new entry point and a new destination for links from searches and other websites.  You probably knew that, but just in case . . .

Stop using content management systems if you won’t add new content

Sorry to admonish you. But if you are not actually going to add content (good content) on a regular basis, then don’t bother with a content management system (CMS), like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla. At least don’t include the blog window and then post a new item once a year!

How do you continually add content?

I’m glad I asked that question for you! More importantly, I’m glad you recognize the value of fresh content and want to do it right. This could be an entire post, but let’s keep it simple for now. Do 3 things.

  1. Type out the objective of your blog, and put it somewhere handy, like your laptop, your smart phone or your “soon to be” antique desktop computer. The objective should be strategic in nature, something like, “Our blog will offer news and insights that customers and prospects will appreciate, and thus, return to our website/blog and subscribe to our content.” Action words are nice, too, like, “We will inspire and encourage . . .” It simply reminds you why your blog (and your organization) exists.
  2. Create an editorial calendar. Also called a content marketing publishing schedule, it’s simply your planning tool for your website’s content. It’s also a commitment to making regular posts
  3. Publish. Publish. Publish. Enough said (for now anyway).

 


Business sector focused social network websites: the new wave?

Remember when the three television networks were known as the Big 3? ABC, CBS and NBC dominated the television broadcasting business for several decades. Then cable came around and pretty soon channels developed that focused on certain segments. MTV gave us continuous music videos. ESPN gave us not just one all sports channels but several. Then there’s the Food Network and so on. Something similar is occurring in the digital world, and you may like it.

Big 4 of social media may be vulnerable

What goes around comes around, only a lot faster. The Big 4 of social media may be vulnerable to losing their vaunted position as top social network leaders. The Big 4 of social media – as of this moment – are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Some say Twitter is growing, but not at near the same pace as Facebook, which could lead to its demise. Sometimes I think Facebook is getting “too big for its britches.” It keeps chugging along, innovating and even surpassing Google for most US visits. However, Facebook seems a bit reckless at times with our privacy and Facebook changes so much people get frustrated trying to keep up. My point? Like the old TV networks, the Big 4 of social media are vulnerable, and something different and better may be just around the corner.

Business sector focused social network websites

Business sector focused social network websites are springing up on the Internet, and doing what cable did to the broadcast networks, tightly segmenting their markets. As much as I like LinkedIn, I do sometimes get frustrated with its digital vastness. I keep track of professional service firms, accounting being one of them. Now there is an accounting-focused network site just for that industry. iShade.com is a free online professional network exclusively for the accounting profession. And SocialCPAs was apparently spawned on LinkedIn, but now has its own standalone blog site and presences on Twitter and Facebook. The appeal of these focused networking websites is their lack of unrelated clutter and focus on the business sector at hand.

Personal “small networking” sites, too

This is a fairly new trend and I’ll keep track of it and report again on it in a few weeks. On a more personal side, there is parallel trend for small networking sites for sharing pictures, videos and messages with purposely-small groups, like family and/or close friends. Site names like Path, GroupMe, Frenzy, Rally Up, Shizzlr, Huddl and Bubbla have been mentioned in the media. In fact, these sites may be laying the groundwork for the business sector focused websites. We’ll keep an eye on them, too, and keep you informed!


Content management, it’s in the eye of the beholder

The other day a professional service person (who acknowledged that he was just learning about online marketing in general) asked me what was meant by the term “content management.” Thinking with my writer-editor hat on, I promptly responded that content management was similar to editorial management. One creates an editorial plan or communication plan, determines topics and develops a schedule. The content is, of course, is intended to inform, advise and persuade target audiences. In essence, I described content management from a journalistic viewpoint. It’s not an incorrect description, but it occurred to me later that my description of content management probably wasn’t the best answer for this person.

Content Management System

A couple of explanations may have been better. As a student of online marketing, he may have been inquiring about content management in regard to content management systems (CMS).  If so, I should have talked a bit about the technology that exists to hold and distribute information. You know, the fact that a traditional and generally static HTML site is different than a website built with a database driven content management system. I could have mentioned the ongoing trend of creating dynamic sites that allow organizations to easily and continually add content and functionality (like an image gallery or a an ecommerce shopping cart).  I think many still people don’t understand the important technical differences between a Dreamweaver/HTML website and one built on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other CMS platform. Maybe that’s what he was asking.

Outbound Marketing

The other possibility is that my acquaintance was inquiring about content management marketing, also known as online marketing or inbound marketing. The folks at Hubspot do such a nice job of explaining the concept using the term inbound marketing in a simple sentence. They say, “Inbound marketing is marketing focused on getting found by customers.” This is opposed to outbound marketing, such as cold-calling, print advertising, television/radio advertising, direct mail and trade shows. In my own words, “Inbound marketing is making it easy for people looking for information and perhaps a solution, to find you and your solution via the Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines.” And when they find you, much of selling process has been completed. A qualified buyer has found a resource that they believe to be reliable and capable, and have made the first move.  Believe you me, it’s great to get that phone call or email from someone that has already qualified you and themselves! Maybe that’s what he wanted to better understand, this whole marketing concept that seems to taking the world by storm.

Moral to the story

So, what did I learn from all this? What’s the moral to the story? I think the lesson here is pretty basic. When asked a question, don’t assume you have to answer it right away and to the fullest extent possible. Even if your intentions are good, you may learn more if you leave a little silence and see if the other person has more to say. Or before you answer, try asking an intelligent, probing question or two. Then you might get the full story and really be able to help the other person. I know I’ve learned this lesson before, I guess sometimes you have to relearn old lessons!


LinkedIn a Safer Investment than Facebook?

Facebook has been abuzz lately with its likely public offering of stock. I wonder if LinkedIn might be a safer investment? The New York Times (1/28/2011) says that LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, filed a prospectus for an initial public offering on 1/27/2011, and that private shares of LinkedIn recently traded at an implied valuation of $2.51 billion on private exchanges. (Don’t know if there is a date for the actual offering yet.)

For comparison, the New York Times reported earlier this month that Facebook “has raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor in a transaction that values the company at $50 billion.” Fifty billion, are you kidding me? Of course, I said something similar just before Google went public a few years ago.

People can crunch the numbers and talk about the number of users, dollars earned per user, share of market, etc. Those things are important, of course, for those seriously sinking some money in the market. In this post I’m just making a personal opinion based on my personal use of both social media tools. Facebook is really robust and fun, but it really scares me to death in regard to security and privacy. I don’t trust Mr. Zuckerberg all that much, and the movie about him lends to that concern.

I enjoy keeping up with friends, family and business acquaintances with Facebook. It does not, however, seem all that safe to me. Every day I question my use of it. The privacy rules seem to change regularly and changes to the tool seem to be devised more to raise revenue than to thrill the users. Security issues have popped up lately – Zuckerberg’s own account was hacked a few days ago. A serious misstep or calamity could really hurt Facebook.

LinkedIn isn’t perfect either, I know. Maybe some of the same issues exist there, too. However, I do find it to be quite valuable as a business networking and learning tool. I like that it’s focused on business professionals only. Facebook, unless you have consumer product, just doesn’t seem to be very beneficial for B2B. LinkedIn has brought me some new contacts and business opportunities, and I feel reasonably safe in using it. The groups have some really good discussions and give one opportunities to soft sell their expertise. So, I’d go with what has been good to me.

So, if I had some “walkin’ around” money to invest, and the choices were Facebook and LinkedIn, I think LinkedIn might be the safer investment. Most of all, I hope that all these rumored public offerings for these and other social media companies don’t go the same way as the tech bubble (aka dot-com bubble) that occurred at the turn of the century.

What do you think? LinkedIn? Facebook? Some other social media company? It’s all too risky? Bet the farm?


Online Press Release Versus Social Media Press Release

What is the difference between an online press release and the social media press release? I searched for the definition of “online press release” and “social media press release,” and initially I did not find particularly clear answers. I will try to sort it out for myself, and you, as an interested reader. Hint: these concepts brought about a third, more interesting tool, the social media newsroom.

The Online News Release

Business Wire and its affiliate, Market Motive, recently presented a webinar on the “successful online press release.” It seemed to me that they generally describe the online press release as somewhat of a “new and improved” traditional news release. It has 3 main components: a headline, the body of the release, and a multimedia component.

The multimedia component is what makes it different. They say editors and news disseminators increasingly expect multimedia, such as photos, video, audio, logos, and other graphical materials. Notably, they say only about 10 percent of current press releases contain multimedia, and that can be the differentiator for those seeking to break through the clutter.

Other tips from Business Wire and Market Motive include:

  • Be sure to have keywords in the headline.
  • Be sure to include the organization’s name in the headline.
  • Headlines should be between two and twenty-two words to avoid rejection.
  • The body’s first 100 words should contain keywords, but don’t overload it; Google News will kick it out if there are more than 125 keywords.
  • Links are helpful in the body, but more than 100 keywords are too many.

The Social Media Press Release

Apparently the social media press release (aka social media release) is a different animal than the online release. Ian Capstick states, “A social media release can be broadly defined as a single page of web content designed to enable the content to be removed and used on blogs, wikis and other social channels.”

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is a champion of social media press release, and they describe it “as a format for making company news available to reporters, bloggers and the general public.” Additionally, they state that elements of the release, such as news, quotes, boilerplates and contact information, are separated into sections, with core news facts presented in concise paragraphs or listed in bullet format, making it easy to identify the news and copy-and-paste pieces of the release into an online article or blog post.

Interestingly, the mentioned, recent Business Wire presentation warned against “bullet point only” copy, as sometimes recommended. People and the search engines still expect paragraphs of copy stating the consumable news and related facts.

From my search results it seems that the social media press release has lost some of its buzz. Many of the search posts on the topic are a couple years old or so. What might have more buzz going for it is the “social media newsroom.”

Social Media Newsroom

The concept behind the social media newsroom is to group together all the information, press releases, visuals, video, background materials, story ideas, logos, links to other relevant sites and contact information for a company. It should be easily accessible and searchable. The social media newsroom sounds a bit like a traditional website “news section” on steroids. Social media newsrooms are certainly more inclusive than the social media release.

Each item in a social media newsroom should have its own URL address. The address can be used when the information is shared on social media sites and will appear in Google news with a clickable link. Those touting the social media newsroom recommend each company have one within their company site, or build a separate site to house it.

Blogging platforms are excellent choices for the social media newsroom. They allow for social media bookmarking (the practice of storing the address of a website pages in a browser or a social bookmarking site, such as Twitter, Yahoo! Buzz and digg) and are interactive (two-way exchange of information even if one is a computing device). Blogging tools, such as WordPress make excellent newsroom platforms, are easy to use and allow an organization to build and maintain a website with a social media newsroom.

Final Thoughts

I’m actually most excited about the social media newsroom. It seems more like a breakthrough business concept for those of us helping clients using public relations tools. Marketing and public relations agencies may want to build a social media newsroom to house that information for clients. I can see how they would be a significant value-add for smaller clients without significant resources. And the agency could quickly upload the content.

So colleagues, tell me what are you doing in this arena. Are you using some form of the online or social media press release? Do you have clients with a social media newsroom? Do you have a social media newsroom for yourself and/or for your clients’ use?


Social Media Makes my Head Hurt!

I participated in a social media learning workshop yesterday, “Social Media for the Creative Soul,” conducted by Brody Dorland, social media strategist and founder of Something Creative, Inc. The day before I led a group of fellow International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) entrepreneurs in a discussion on the “social media release,” a digital evolution of the traditional news release. I like to think I’m somewhat knowledgeable about social media, at least from the conceptual standpoint. And my hands are a bit dirty, having functional accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Yesterday, however, towards the end of what was really an informative session, my head began to ache. As Brody mentioned the last few new acronyms and social media tools, I began to hear an old Billy Joel song in my head, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The song’s machine gun-paced lyrics rattles off familiar names of pop culture dating from 1949 to 1989, then hits you with the similarly paced chorus. Remember these lyrics?

(“We didn’t invent the net” sung to “We didn’t start the fire” by Billy Joel)

Lyrics:

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

Chorus:
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Ending verse:

We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

Please consider my updated version of this song, referencing let’s say the last couple of years as social media has exploded onto the scene.
Lyrics:
Twitter, Facebook, SEO
Metrics, Analytics, Show me some dough

Flickr, YouTube, Google Reader
Aggregation, aggravation, blogosphere

Cyberspace, Permalinks, RSS feeds
Bing eats Yahoo, mash-ups, WordPress
Oh it’s just a hyper mess

Chorus:

We didn’t invent the net
It was Al Gore’s folly
And it just keeps us churning
We didn’t invent the net
But we try to tame it
And when we are gone
It will tweet on, and on, and on…