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A STweM health check c/o Chris Brogan’s ’50 steps to establishing a consistent social media practice’

cbNever one to let the loss of a moustache slow him down, the variably hirsuite Chris Brogan‘s tireless quest to interrogate the use value of social media and relentless desire to redistribute great ideas about how to use it effectively  has consistently impressed as I have explored the value of new media to STM publishing. He’s not someone to do things by halves so I was not surprised, although I was perhaps a little daunted by, his 50 step-program to transform your social media presence from whey-faced anonymity to ruddy-cheeked repute .

I thought I’d take the opportunity of reviewing his post by means of a critical analysis of STweM’s web presence along the lines he suggests. I reproduce the 50 steps from his original posting below, and have incorporated the original links to other posts on Chris Brogan’s blog. The comments in bold are mine.

50 Steps to Establishing a Consistent Social Media Practice

  1. If you’re blogging, make that a home base for all your other efforts. I have not been consistent in this regard, but am now trying to link back to STweM posts from Twitter and LinkedIn.
  2. Re-read the “passports” section of this post and use it to think about your blog promotion efforts. I may have registered with most of these, but do I actually use social bookmarking effectively? Probably not. At the moment I’m adding links to the STweM blogroll and promising myself that I’ll add them to StumbleUpon, digg and del.ic.ious ‘soon’. I fear tomorrow may never come, however. UPDATE 13th May 2009: I’m working on this! I’ve surprised myself.
  3. Pick 3 social networks to join based on where your customers might be. 3 might sound like too few, but it probably will be too many.  Check: Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, plus this blog, plus others. I now realize I don’t feature the STweM logo on my Twitter homepage, which I’ll need to fix. Also, the bit.ly links (flat text in my Twitter background c/o TwitBacks) to myother SM profiles aren’t resolving if you copy them into a browser. Another item for the snagging list.
  4. On those networks and on your “passport” accounts, make sure you link everything back to the blog. Isn’t this point 1 again?
  5. Get a second (maybe even a 3rd) person in the company to build accounts on these places. Nice to have backups, in case you get busy. That wouldn’t work as things are set up at the moment. However, I can see the benefit of creating a STweM account, or some sort of Wiley-branded divisional account as and when our official presences coalesce.
  6. Build an editorial calendar to think about your posting schedule and subject matter. This is a great idea. There’s no reason why we couldn’t use our corporate POP3 client’s (Outlook) calendar to this end.
  7. Subscribe to 50 or more blogs in a similar space as yours, including competitors, and any industry blogs. Wow. No, I fail on that count. My RSS feed is static at about 30 blogs at the moment. On the upside, only half of them are medical/publishing oriented. Reviewing the activity of other verticals to look at what they do well as a means of interrogating and informing your own strategic decision making is one of the most valuable lessons SM has taught me thus far.
  8. On all your presence points, be human, and write a human-sounding profile. Use a human-seeming profile picture. (Did I mention “human?”) Yes, I get the human voice thing. Although this does not equate to my developing a tolerance of ceaseless posts about coffee intakes and exercise regimes. Every time I see a post of that nature, I can’t help but ask myself ‘am I going to have to read about your beverage preferences for the rest of my working life?’. That’s an easy one to answer. And the answer is [clicking ‘unfollow’] “no”. Deploying ‘awesome’ in any context is also getting awarded an automatic unfollow. See? SM can make you grouchy too, it’s not all fail whales and rainbows.
  9. After you’ve written your first blog post, take some time to comment on some of those 50 blogs, but NOT about your first post. I don’t comment on the blogs I follow as much as I should. I have to say I find reading content via RSS a disincentive to leaving comments. The content is disconnected from its original setting and I suppose I too feel less connected to its author(s).
  10. Set up a few searches as explained in this postMaybe it’s just the name that’s put me off, but I haven’t set up ‘ego searches’ for STweM, or me. Yet. I suppose I can see the value in order to be better able to gauge the relative impact (if any) that your posts have, and to be able to begin to assess how your messaging is disseminated and received. Not to do so smacks of the arrogance of the broadcaster, and I have to overcome my innate disinclination towards self-aggrandizement.
  11. Make sure it’s easy for people to subscribe to your blog, via a reader and also via email. (Nearly 50% of my blog subscribers are receiving [chrisbrogan.com] in email). I’ve only half-done this. I set up a Feedburner RSS and put in a link (which doesn’t add a title to the feed for some reason), but didn’t bother installing the counter widget. I think WordPress thwarted me, but I also didn’t fancy having a widget up there that said ‘Feeds: 0’. If I don’t, I’ll never know. I’ll get round to it.
  12. Run periodic checks of your blog/site using Website Grader to see if you’re technically sound and findable. I was initially disinclined to do so on the basis that the #1 link for Website Grader is ‘Why Website Grader is a bad idea’, but I did it anyway. Yes, I probably would put my hand in the fire, too. The results (a miserable 40) flagged up in a really useful, end-oriented way what I was doing wrong (a feast of fail SEO-wise) and offers a raft of other productive suggestions as to what you can do to improve your site on the basis of the services that it scrapes that you do not currently feature in. On the bright side: I was rocked back to see that stwem.wordpress.com is rated in the top 29% of sites on the web by Alexa. All I can say is that the other 71% must be pretty shoddy.
  13. Use tagging and other metadata to improve your blog’s search features. Most newer blog software has this built in. If not, look for plugins. I don’t tag consistently, and should adopt the habit if only for the reason that it’s an easy thing to put right.
  14. For whatever reason, graphics in posts improve audience. Check out Flickr’s Creative Commons pool for how to use which kinds of graphics appropriately. Hmm. Twitter Grader gave me a ticking-off for having too many images in my posts. Who is right?
  15. Consider a nice clean theme for your blog’s design. There are many free themes for different blogs, and some inexpensive ones like Thesis that are worth every penny. I like STweM’s minimalism, although the logo could do with being put through the hot wash, on reflection.
  16. Outside of your blog, be sure to update/refresh the information on your social networks every two or three weeks. USE the networks more often, but refresh your profiles and other info. I have updated my Twitter bio on a couple of occasions, and I tweak my LI profile from time to time, but that’s about it.
  17. Seek out opportunities to guest post on more popular blogs in your space. Don’t be spammy and over-link to your own site/posts. Add value. If you didn’t see the benefit of this, you wouldn’t use SM. Just go easy on the loud pedal and resist the urge to direct sell.
  18. On social networks, look for ways to contribute, even when it’s not directly related to your company/product. Check.
  19. Continue building relationships outside of having a specific need. Don’t ONLY try to build relationships with customers, for example.  Check.
  20. Remember that social networks are a great place to look for hiring prospects, competitors, etc. Ditto
  21. To create consistent content, read daily, and not just for your industry. Skim, synthesize, and post. This maps pretty well on what I aspire to do. Not all of these tasks are of equivalent importance: yes, everything is a work in progress, but the thought, care and attention that you put into the synthesis is important. Without it, Twitter is chatter, and a blog becomes a conversation with yourself.
  22. Use notepad files to jot post ideas down when you don’t have a moment to write. Return frequently. If you depersonalize this to simply read ‘keep notes in a format that is amenable to you’, then yes, I keep Moleskine in business.
  23. Riff off other blog posts you like, and add some value beyond linking back to those original posts (and always link back to those posts). It’s hard not to do this. I find Twitter a great spur in this regard. In fact, 8 or 9 out of 10 STweM posts probably begin this way.
  24. Go to the grocery store news stand and find popular magazines. Convert their story titles to blog post titles for your field. (Hat tip Brian Clark, who taught me this). This is a personal preference, not a universal truth.
  25. Skim news aggregator sites like Reddit or Digg (or what’s appropriate to your industry), and create posts from there. A point recycled from above.
  26. Ask your audience what they need, what they’re struggling with. I’ve done 2 polls. Does that count? Probably not.
  27. Revisit a month of posts and see what you’ve covered the least. This is linked to the diarization requirement. Yes, it’s still a good idea. My STweM interests have a habit of transmogrifying organically by themselves, so I don’t need much of a push in this regard.
  28. Think about things your customers/stakeholders/prospects might need and write about that, even if it’s a bit off topic.  I try to do this when it occurs to me.
  29. Check your stats to see what people are searching for, and address it. No, I’m not cutting the mustard in this regard.
  30. Use these blog topics posts for inspiration. (Wow, I write on that a lot). I think this post is evidence in support of my asserting that yes, I do this.
  31. Look into creating additional materials like an ebook or online course from your best materials. Outre at the moment for STweM, but an interesting concept for the repurposing of content in general.
  32. Branch out your blogging into video and audio where appropriate. I’d like to do this. The back-office support would be an issue at the moment, but I can see the value in having a Wiley-Blackwell channel on icyou, for example.
  33. Look into building a community platform around your content platform. Yes, we’re looking into this in a couple of therapy areas.
  34. Invite your audience in to guest post where appropriate. Check.
  35. Add social bookmarking plugins like Add This to your blog to improve distribution. Check.
  36. Look for cross-promotional opportunities for like-minded blogs in your space. I don’t hunt these out proactively, but Twitter followers have introduced me to a a number of great publishing/medical blogs, most of which are listed in the blogroll to the right.
  37. Consider starting groups on your social networks (such as a Facebook group) to further discuss the space you’re covering. I have a personal presence on Facebook only because I boggle at the size of its community. To date, it is the least valuable of the SM spaces for professional use, certainly for STM publishing. Professional medical communities are gathering elsewhere.
  38. Remember to comment on other people’s blogs frequently, and show your participation in the communities where you have presence. One dish of fail to go, please.
  39. Occasionally produce PDF versions of your better posts and email them to customers and prospects to encourage growing your audience. On the basis that I know what I’d think if I received one from somebody else, there’s no way I’d do this. It’s like the equivalent of the bragging form letter in xmas cards.
  40. Consider a conversion engine like a free offer to help sort prospects from fans and audience. In case you were also wondering ‘what’s a conversation engine?’, here’s a link. And no, I don’t.
  41. Move towards measurements quickly, as these are often where companies decide their vote. Not an issue at present, but tools like this will help. Yvo Schapp, I salute you.
  42. Create a simple report on how you will report what you’re doing for upper management. I’m not commenting on the rest.
  43. Work out which numbers might matter. Comments received. Links in. Times bookmarked?
  44. Rank each blog post on effectiveness based on your own criteria. Review weekly and monthly.
  45. Figure out a “downstream” metric that drives real business value. Reduce costs to call center? Sales leads?
  46. Never count # of friends or # of followers as a valuable metric. It’s quality in that case.
  47. As soon as you can, find ways to tie your numbers to marketing and sales numbers where appropriate.
  48. Move to automate the numbers collection parts early. Keep the sentiment reporting parts human.
  49. Set 3 month goals to review progress with upper management. Determine if this is having any impact.
  50. Though these last 10 tips are about numbers, NEVER treat people like numbers in social media.

CONCLUSION

I’m going to pass STweM with a clean-ish bill of health. Not unlike its author, it could take care of itself a little better, but I’m not going to castigate it overly. Yes, as the above demonstrates, there is plenty of room for improvement, but it has a reasonably strong pulse.

For now, that will do.

3 thoughts on “A STweM health check c/o Chris Brogan’s ’50 steps to establishing a consistent social media practice’

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