Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blog Basics #1 - How to start a blog?

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Since I have been approached by many people - friends, relatives, acquaintances, etc asking on how can they start a blog, thought it would be better to write a post & redirect them to it rather than narrating the same story to each of them. But instead of writing the entire script at one go, believe it would be easier to share it across multipe posts highlighting the basics.

Now that it's a series of post that I shall be doing, this is what you can expect in the coming week(s) (I have a day job too).

1. Content Strategy (It has been covered in earlier post here)
2. Platform
3. Promotion
4. Monetization

Before going further, you might consider to read one of my earlier post which covered the 'Basics of Blogging' written as part of the #AtoZChallenge. That was a short post though given the challenge was to write daily. This post instead is a detailed one to let the readers understand each step to achieve their goal which is 'Starting a blog'

One of the biggest decision once you have decided your niche areas for blogging and/or content strategy is about choosing a blog platform. Remember, there are several options here and it depends how much premium you're ready to pay. (there are free ones too, which is where I start)

1. Free Services or Hosted Blog

If you are of the 'testing the waters' kind, it makes sense to use one of the free services to start your blog. Listed are 3 popular options that can be utilized:

1a. Blogger
Blogger started as one of the earliest forms of free blogging site, where they eliminated the need to setup exclusive softwares on your site. Instead, they offered to host your content on their site with the catch that your blog would come up as .blogspot.com. They have since move to map custom domain, but there are still certain restriction on the designs, plugins.

1b. Wordpress.com
Often, we have seen people getting confused between Wordpress.com & Wordpress.org. The significant difference is, Worpress.com is a hosted-blog service, where it offers space to its registered members & your name appears as .wordpress.com. Again, like Blogger, there are few designs & plugins available for use. But the biggest difference is, you cannot have a monetization services like Adsense on this free service.

1c. Tumblr
Tumblr, I would say is rather a splash page where you can either redirect your social feeds or post your own content on their site. It could be more like your online diary, where certain posts are made for public consumption where there is no certain content strategy.

2. Self-Hosted Blog

2a. Wordpress.org
Wordpress.org gives a download option of the very popular Wordpress blogging software. The software can be installed in your local machine as well as on the hosting server and helps you easily setup blogging capabilities on your OWN site. It also gives you access to innumerable themes, plugins which can be configured per your requirements.

2b. Blogging softwares
If you're a power user, it makes sense to install a blogging software on your host server and have a strong team who can design it specifically for your purpose. Remember, those were the early days of blogging and many amongst us used it when Worpress.org was not around. I do not have any personal favorites here though because I haven't used any.

Your turn

Which of the above or others are you using & what has been your experience. Do share you stories & enlighten the post, readers. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

RebelMouse Reviewed - My First Thoughts

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We had talked much about RebelMouse in one of the twitter chat few weeks back & had decided to give it a try. Since the guys are still in beta, I had registered and waited for their invitation, which I got it today morning.


As a big lover of social media tools and since it was setup Paul Berry (ex CTO Huffington Post), I pounced upon the opportunity to review it and here are my quick first thoughts:






Pros:
1. Easy registration, just link with your Twitter id
2. Clear interface where you get a visual treat of the twitter, facebook feed
3. Nice dashboard, allowing to link multiple social platforms - Twitter, Facebook
4. Choice of themes
5. Allows to add self-curated content - links, posts, images
6. Image Album creation
7. This is what I liked the most. 'Freezing' content - The ability to highlight content.


Cons:
1. Looks like Twylah look-alike


Verdict
Nice to see someone combining the power of Tumblr, Twylah, Scoop.it into one platform. I look forward to using it more often.


Here's my RebelMouse Page if you would like to follow.






In case you haven't heard about them yet, do visit them here. You can also read about Paul Berry's plans for RebelMouse in this interview with Gigaom.


Hope you have got an invite too. Please try and share your views about RebelMouse here & let the team know about it. Also share the link to your RebelMouse Page and I'll follow you.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to Create Content for your Blog

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andriuxuk via Flickr
As a blogger, one of the most common grouse I share with any of my fellow bloggers is to find fresh content for their blog. It's imperative for us to find & create content which is interesting and revs up the audience. We need to create content from the topic we love & would like to have the audience love them too. And believe me, it's not easy to be creative & generate content regularly.


In case you have just begun to write, do visit this post to understand the basics of blogging.


Then how do we do it?? I have list few tricks on the way I create content for my blog posts:


1. Google Reader


Google Reader, pull up feeds from the subscribed list & show the posts in a stream. I agree, there are various RSS reader tools, but I still love the simple interface of Google Reader. Since I read multiple blogs, it is difficult to keep a list of them & visit regularly. So, If I have liked a certain post, usually subscribe to their feed so that I stay updated with their content.


Reading to the various posts, and being updated helps me to think about the topics that would resonate with my audience.


2. Scoop.it


Scoop.it allows you to curate online content into a dynamic digital magazine. It also connects to various social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc allowing you to share the content you like. Similar to Google Reader, you need to subscribe to the user's posts to get them streamed on your page. 


Since, the users of Scoop.it also pull post for different places on the web, skimming Scoop.it has helped me to look for ideas from beyond the few chosen people that I follow on Google Reader. It just takes me about 30-45 odd minutes to go through the list & I have my ideas flowing.


3. Disqus


Disqus is a global comment system that improves discussion on websites and connects conversations across the web. I have installed 'Disqus' commenting system on my blog & while it has indeed brought some traffic, the best part is, it has encouraged people to comment & these comments are indeed helpful at times to produce post.


Let me tell you, comments, either on your post or other posts where you have shared yours, are a great place to have discussion, are at times greatest inspiration for your own content. Since, there would be people commenting on your post, you'll know what their challenges are & how certain content has got the audience interested. I remember one of the Klout post that I did a while back, to my surprise, it got comments within 5 minutes of being posted and the various discussions gave me inspiration to write more on certain challenges.


In addition to these three tools, I also use Twitter lists. The utilities of Twitter lists has already been covered at multiple places like this and so I'll refrain from covering here.


Also, I have started to use list.ly lately, though am yet to utilize its potential,  but I do see that it can be an excellent tool to make a 'list' and have it crowdsourced. It's a great idea from Nick Kellet & Shyam Subramanyan and I am looking forward to use it more often. You can find me on list.ly here.


Your Turn

How do you think that these post will be useful to you? I would like to hear your opinion, you know it counts. As I told, comments are a great source of inspiration and I love them coming from you. Also, you might even share your source of ideas/inspirations using the 'comments' below. They would be helpful to us - the bloggers. Remember, 'Sharing is Caring'.


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Sunday, June 03, 2012

5 Free Useful Twitter tools

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This is one article that I have been waiting to write for a long time. Since the time I started using Twitter, my list of following/followers have gone quite huge and initially I wondered how can someone manage such a large list. But then, I started using few tools which help me manage my content, recommend tweeps to follow, manage followers and engage. While there are good number of tools available out there and I also keep checking out newer ones like this one --> SeeSaw (am liking it so far), below are the few which I use quite religiously.

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite in a nutshell is a Social Media management tool. It provides a dashboard which can help you to track Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin accounts, RSS feeds. As far as Twitter is concerned, you can add multiple tabs to view lists or even get updates on a particular hashtag.

Hootsuite

The reason I chose this app was its ability to provide me a browser based interface which made it easier for me to access from any device, any where & still have the same tabs. In addition to it, it gave me the flexibility to schedule my tweets and also get analytics over the tweets that I had shared. In its PRO version, you can also add 'team members' which allows multiple entities to manage the same account.

2. BufferApp

This is the second tool that I use the most. BufferApp has helped me to share my content anytime of the day & through any device. As it is evident, once you use Twitter more, that there are particular times during the day that your content has the potential to attract higher number of click. BufferApp allows you define such time. Once you had done that, you can simply load your content to its list & they will be delivered during the time you have specified.

Buffer has helped me to automatically post my content at certain times. In fact, I have integrated my buffer account with ifttt & Google Reader. You might want to look at this post by Peter Trapasso to understand how bufferapp can be leveraged along with ifttt & Google Reader.

3. Commun.it

The basic principle of 'social media' is about being 'social'. I had always found it hard to cultivate any relationship over the web which I realised was because of the absence of engagement. I hardly engaged with my audience initially and it was only a one-way street where I just sent out information. Once that error was realised, I tried looking up for tools that will help me engage with my followers and I chanced upon a beta-invite for Commun.it. And, since that day, it has been my de-facto tool to manage my relationships.

Commun.it

Commun.it has helped me gain insights to my new followers, top engagements & based on your information sharing, it also recommends followers. It's a great tool to help you manage multiple relationship. Go ahead and use it!!!

4. SocialBro

A late entry to the block has been SocialBro. It allows you to manage, generate deep analytics about you Twitter account. The tool is available as a Chrome add-in or it can be downloaded as a desktop app on all the leading OS. 

SocialBro

One of the best use of the tool so far has been its ability to integrate the 'Best Time to Tweet' feature with BufferApp. Now I can just run the report & the results gets integrated with BufferApp, allowing me to tweet at times where my message has a better potential to be read.

5. Tweetchat

Ha!!! Now if you are a Twitter Chat addict like me, you need not look beyond 'TweetChat'. You can just specify a hash tag in the search space & you'll start viewing all the tweets which contain that particular hash tag. Login with you Twitter credentials and you can start conversing with tweeple directly from the tool without adding the hash tage (they add it on behalf of you).

TweetChat

I stumbled upon this tool during one of the twitter chat where I was unable to follow the conversation as Hootsuite was too slow and Tweetdeck too fast. In a particulary fast Twitter Chat, TweetChat allowed me to 'pause' the conversation, so I could look back few tweets & respond.

For someone who lives by Social Media, it is very important to bring out the message from the noise. These tools have indeed helped me manage the Twitter universe, since Twitter itself has been proved to be inadquate to provide such option. Hope, you find them equally useful.

Your turn:

What do you have to say about those tools and also let us know what tools you use to manage you daily activities. Looking forward to your comments.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Is Facebook Greedy??

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The Facebook IPO is just out & they have had a fairly good opening. And it has even trumped Google to become the second most valuable company on the Wall Street. But the news that just went viral was about the small charge Facebook is going to levy to 'highlight' post. They seem to have done a small test, but the first thought that really came up to my mind was, "Is Facebook greedy??"

We have observed now that Facebook is one of the most popular social platform with nearly 1 billion users and it earns revenues in billions from the numerous ads. With the recent design update, it gave users an option to highlight certain post, so that it does not get lost in other conversations. In one of the statement that Facebook has made, its seems that only 12% of your followers actually see your status update. But with an option to pay $1.80 fee per highlight, the update can remain at the top of your followers feed for a longer time. But was the move really necessary at a time they were going into IPO or was it just to have Facebook appear more lucrative in the run-up to IPO.

Since they have a fair earning already with the tons of ads on the platform or to say 90% of its revenue is from advertising and with enterprises trying to 'highlight' updates to ensure they stay on top of users feed, seems charging them is plain greedy. Not to say, the moves also has not gone down very well with the users.

Though they have experimented already in New Zealand, hope sense will prevail & it may not roll out in other countries. Else, I am afraid, it could benefit Google+ with user moving to its "still-free" offerings.

Your turn:

Do let me know if you think its a wise decision or should they wait for the IPO dust to settle down and then release updates or are they really greedy?? And if they do put charge to highlight an update, how will it effect your content strategies?? Are you ready to pay?? Share your views using comments below.



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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Top tips on SEO for your Blog

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Image Credit - Stuart Miles
SEO or search engine optimization is a way to increase the rankings of your content on the search engines. It helps in generating much required traffic & engagement by having your content getting listed at the top by the various search engines. Content on your blog is no different. It helps to follow certain rules while writing your blog post to have it discovered by search engines & rank it above other blog post. In addition to traffic & helps you generate $$ too.

Last week, over the #blogchat Twitter Chat, we had this interesting topic being discussed. Those 60 minutes were pure pearls of wisdom having Lee Odden (@LeeOdden) co-host it along with Mack Collier (@MackCollier). Guess, it was Lee's second time that he co-hosted #blogchat & this time especially to teach the lesser mortals about optimizing their blogs for search engines and social network. We were indeed thankful to Lee as he was away in Antwerp for a speaking event and it was 3 AM his time we started twitter chat.

Listing down few of the pearls from the event that I helped me learn on optimizing blog in addition to the Content Strategy tips:
  1. Optimization extends beyond keywords & links
  2. Blog SEO is a cycle: Plan, implement, monitor for editor opportunity & progress, measure, refine, repeat.
  3. Write on-topic, on-target - keywords will come up organically.
  4. Write blog content around a keyword.
  5. Ensure you have your keywords in the title & first paragraph
  6. 1-3 keywords for every 100 words
  7. Engage on Social Media - Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest (it drives 5% as much traffic as Twitter & Google)
  8. Share on Google+, remember they own Google Search
  9. Use "Permalink" on blog so title and keywords show up in URL
  10. Optimize to share, engage. More of each will push your search engine rankings
  11. Dish out Content regularly, ensure you have an editorial calendar

Pitfalls:
  1. Bloggers should be aware that Google is actually penalizing some forms of SEO now.
  2. Overuse of keywords in a post
  3. Search engines, Google or other, understand text - metadata, links and not images.

Tools:
  1. Google Adwords Keyword Tool 
  2. InboundWriter
  3. ScribeSEO

And do follow @LeeOdden & @MackCollier. They did a great job in driving this session.

Do you have any other interesting tip to share on SEO for blog. Share it with us using the comments section below. Would like to hear your tips.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Top 4 reasons to participate in Twitter Chat

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Twitter Chat
Twitter Chat
In the last few months, I seem to have caught up with the Twitter Chat bug. For someone who's is making foray into the social media marketing world, it is an apt form of communication and learning.

What is a Twitter Chat anyway?? 

When you have spent some time on twitter, you do come across situation where information is exchanged between individuals. Suppose you group these individuals, throw a topic and let the thoughts flow, there goes Twitter Chat :). In an ideal situation, it goes like:

1. Setup a date/time
2. Suggest a topic
3. Setup #hashtag, in order to help people follow the conversation
4. Send out invites

But end of the day, the biggest question that arises, how does it help ME??  I have been lucky enough to have exchanged ideas & befriended some of the great individuals in the Social Media world using twitter chat. Here are my top 5 reasons, you should be part of Twitter Chat:

1. Engagement

One of the clear advantage of being a part of tweet chat is the increased engagement. When a topic falls into your sweet spot, you are bound to get sucked into the discussion. Various chats encourage you to post questions, which gets answered by the panel or other participants. One of the best forms of engagement in real time.

2. Build Intelligence

For instance, the recent chat we had at #Toolschat on Kred. I have not yet adopted Kred since the great fiasco of Klout and there were participants with similar concerns over the scoring. Participating in the chat on that day, helped us build intelligence about Kred and also similar enterprises - PeerIndex and likes. We were able to uncover the pulse of the various users of Kred and guess it helped Kred to gather feedback informally, which may help in future investments.

3. Focused Followers

If you are in the game, where you fret on the number of followers, my advice, this is not the place. But in case you want to follow or get followed by key individuals in your space - do attend the chats, regularly. Here's a place where you get to interact with like-minded individuals and engage with them beyond the chat sessions.

4. Promotion

The above example of Kred, exemplifies the power of Twitter and Twitter chats. It's your time to be in the limelight. As an enterprise, you might want to sponsor a Twitter chat or be a guest panel on a day & tell the participants how your product(s) can help them. It will be a chance to educate potential customers about your products and one of the best methods to serve information and source feedback.

Well, we have IBM  coming to #GetRealChat on 5/1. Be there on Twitter at 9 PM EST and follow the hashtag.

As part of my regular activities, I participate in the following chats:


Let's engage there.

You might also want to check out the Mashable's 15 Essential Twitter Chats for SMM
 
Has Twitter Chat helped you?? Share how?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Facebook bought Instagram

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Facebook and Instagram
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram has come as a big surprise  and the thought that echoed everywhere was ‘Why did it buy Instagram??’, an application which would just cater to sharing photos, using multiple filters, through mobile. With multiple theories going around the blogosphere, the most notable was why would Zuckerburg spend $1 billion on this app just before the IPO.

Here are my thoughts on why Zuckerburg's Facebook picked up Instagram:

1. Kill Competition

It had been rumored that Twitter or Google had expressed interest in buying Instagram & were gathering resources for it. Facebook probably wanted to nip the competition in the bud and snapped it before any of them. The speed at Zuckerburg made the decision, having the negotiations done in a week, lends credibility to the story.

2. Valuation

Instagram, a baby of Kevin Systrom, was until now available on iOS devices & most recently Android to enhace photos, with its multiple filters saw its valuation increasing from about $100 million a year ago to $500 million recently. Similarly, its Android launch saw its user base increasing with almost 5 million downloads in 6 days. So it made sense for Facebook to pick up an commercially successful app just before its IPO & make itself a lucrative investment.

3. Engagement

Facebook had its own challenges in coming up with a mobile based app especially when most of its users like to share photos & messages. Having a mobile based app would have certainly helped them. Compared it to Instagram, it has been the most successful mobile based app to share photos where numerous users engaged over their photos. Facebook could leverage on the multiple filter abilities that Instragram provides & take user experience to a different level. A definite plus for them.

My opinion is that the buying of Instagram should accelerate the growth and engagement on Facebook, which can translate into more ads generating inorganic revenues for Facebook. Either way, it might be hard to justify the $1 billion investment, but it has indeed helped Facebook stump its competitor and by the time they wake up to develop their own capabilities, Facebook might have taken a huge market share.

Do you justify the $1 million payout irrespective of knowing that Facebook had deep pockets?? Share your thought using the comments section below.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

D is for Digital Marketing

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Ever since Internet became the heart of communication channels, companies are finding ways to leverage it for marketing benefits & that essentially is all about 'Digital Marketing'. The marketing world has seen a paradigm shift in their campaigns while moving from traditional channels to the digital space. 
The advent of search engines saw the marketer lapping up SEO, ad banners, PPC strategies as part of digital marketing, which promised that your brand pages lands at the top. And now even these  are being tweaked so that they suit the more prolific social channels rather than focusing on the entire internet space. The intent is clearly to be heard and reach out to more customers.

This blog post is part of the A to Z Challenge and I would be glad to see your comments on "Digital Marketing"

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Friday, April 06, 2012

Content Strategy - Top 5 Clues

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Courtesy: nokhoog_buchachon
The letter of the day is 'C' and for the guys in Social Media world, its stands for the dreaded 'Content Strategy'. As marketers & especially in the social media space, tt's the singlemost aspect in deciding the success of content going viral. A good content strategy should ensure that it is easy to be found & engaging.

For the content, that has essentially gone viral, on careful analysis, you might see a pattern. Ape it!!!

Hence, its essential to have a good content strategy at the heart of any campaigns so that you gather enough leads. Here are my top 5 clues to help you ace content strategy:

1. Define niche
Identify an area of expertise to talk about. Reader's come to your blog to learn something, but if cannot offer learning on the same subject over your posts, chances are, they are not coming back. Capture the trends in your domain & write about it, you'll always have the first-mover advantage.

2. Determine Audience
Based on the post you have written & the traffic that has been generate, analyze your audience. You should be able to know which part of the world reads more, shares more. Target this audience by ensuring that your post covers what they want.
 
3. Curate Relevant Content
It would be a difficult task to think about content day in & day out. So better curate content. Internet is flooded with noise, determine what you want. I use channels like Google Reader, Scoop.it to curate content for my blog.

4. Include Call-to-actions (CTA)
One of the most important aspect of any content strategy is to have a CTA. You need to be able to get the reader on what to do next after visiting your content. Asking them for opinion, to share or even getting them to download your ebook are good CTAs.

5. Social Sharing
The last one though has to be about sharing. Give your reader multiple opportunities to share your content. Pick up any one of the plug-in available over the web & have it on your page. Make it easy for the reader to share your content.

This are some of the tips that I have gathered by experience & am trying to master it.

My CTA for you is to share it, as I have put multiple social sharing links (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Stumbleupon, Buffer.it). You can also share your opinion using the comments section below.

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