3 Places to Look for Ideas for Blog Posts

help written out on a keyboardVeteran and new bloggers alike will tell you the time comes when they experience writer’s block– times when the ideas aren’t flowing.  This really isn’t any different than what writers of fiction or non-fiction experience, and no reason for alarm.  Maybe we’re more surprised because of the immediacy of the medium, or a result of literally having the world at our fingertips with our web browsers and search engines; whatever the reason, blogger’s block happens.

So, what’s a blogger to do? Here are three suggestions of places to look when all of your usual sources of inspiration dry up:

1. The inbox of your email
True story.  This link was forwarded to me in the past hour, an article about Twitter in Time Magazine, “10 Ways Twitter Will Change American Business.”  My friend sent the link with the message, “For your reading enjoyment.”  And you know, I enjoyed the article.

It’s highly likely that when someone sends something for you to read, you’ll find a line or two which really resonates.  For example. for me, this line did. “For Twitter to be a part of a company’s efforts to communicate with customers, the customers must be willing to “follow” the company on Twitter.”  Since I send tweets out for Weber Media Partners, and we have our tweets coming into our blog through a great wordpress plug-in, WordTwit, it’s become a way for us to let people know what else we’re doing.  In our recent email newsletter, I included links to all the places where we have presences— facebook, linkedin, and delicious. This helps foster integrated marketing.

2. Daily Newspaper
Last night my husband was reading the Boston Globe from front to back.  At the end, he said, “This is why you read obituaries.” And then started reading me the article about “Maria A. Lopez, 97; elderly blogger attracted millions”  He knew his audience.  Of course, I was interested, even went to check out Ms. Lopez’s amis95.blogspot.com, after I heard that she was a Spanish grandmother who described herself as the world’s oldest blogger—and who “became a Web sensation as she mused on events current and past, and died May 20 at the age of 97.”  Her blog attracted a huge following, with more than 1.7 million hits. She said discovering the Internet and communicating with people all over the world changed her life. “It took 20 years off my life,” she once wrote.

3. The Magazine Recycle Bin at Your Local Library
I’ve developed a quirky kind of habit, I peruse the recycle bin at my library once a week (okay, sometimes two.) I find great old and new gems. This week there was the May 25th issue of Time Magazine with a great article about The Future of Work.  I forwarded this email to two of my blogger friends last night, “Another good article is from Time Magazine, May 25th, “The Way We’ll Work” Nice piece “Last Days of Cubicle Life” by Seth Godin in this series.

Sure, I can come up with more than three places to look for ideas for blog posts.  The truth of the matter was I was feeling slightly struck with blogger’s block today, and maybe wrote this more for myself than for readers.  But it’s all about the exchange of information, and if I helped pass along these stories and resources to you, and as a result you checked them out, then it’s been a good day.

Where do you look for ideas? Any you’d like to share?

Social Media: It's About More Than the Numbers

horse riding into the sunsetWhen I hear people espousing how many Facebook friends they have, or how many people are following them on Twitter, sometimes I feel like the Lone Blogger calling, “Hi-yo, Silver, away!” as my laptop and I gallop towards the setting sun. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel a little uneasy; like I’m back in High School, in the cafeteria before homeroom. (Sorry, that’s an other issue, one for a different audience.)

I admit, I check our blog analytics regularly, as well as the activity on our other social media sites. I’m a firm believer in monitoring, and having the knowledge about who you’re reaching, with what content, and how they’ve found your company. (Besides it’s very cool information!)

In their new book, The Online Communities Handbook: Building your Business and Brand on the Web, authors Anna Buss and Nancy Strauss write,

“…you can have ten thousand followers on Twitter, you can have five thousand friends on Facebook, you can have one million connections on LinkedIn through six degrees of separation—but often times that doesn’t translate into cold, hard cash.”

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What's Up with Advertising?

search advertisingThe March/April issue of Technology Review has an interesting article entitled “But Who’s Counting?” by Jason Pontin, which describes how the “general inability to agree on [online] audience numbers is stunting the growth of display advertising.”

The research firm, eMarketer, predicts that this year, advertisers will spend $25.7 billion of dollars for online advertising. The problem, Pontin writes, is that “the correlation between the size of Web audiences and their value to advertisers is not direct. Online advertising is complicated because it’s based upon ad impressions, the number of times a specific ad is served to a particular part of a website.” Pontin further suggests that the consequence of audience measurement problems is effecting the transfer of advertising from older media to new.

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Driving Smaller Businesses to Social Media

Yesterday, I conducted an independent Social Media study.  Granted it isn’t conclusive evidence since its focused primarily on one geographic area;  what’s commonly referred to as the North Shore of Massachusetts.

A Google Map could pinpoint its exact location; the backyard of one of my long-time friends, following their son’s graduation from high school. Okay, I was a guest at a party and hadn’t really intended to talk shop, but when you’re pleasantly immersed in Social Media for your work, it has this funny way of making its way into conversations.

My Social Media findings:

  • High school kids were cited as having influenced their parent’s decisions to have a Facebook page
  • Parents reported more consistent communication with their kids via text-messaging vs. talking on their cell phones.
  • Parents who are still gainfully employed stated they’re dabbling in LinkedIn to communicate with their business associates, and are joining groups as a way to stay connected. Parents who have lost their jobs or anticipating a possible lay-off, are using LinkedIn to find old co-workers and ramp up networking.
  • Men and women alike, indicated they’re taking cues from their companies about when and where to use social media and networking for work.

With all this data circulating, I sat down at my computer this morning to get back to real business.  And wouldn’t you know it, right there in my inbox was a Google alert with information about a more extensive survey than mine.  I think it’s only fair to share scientific evidence with you about social media and small businesses. Here it goes:

A recent independent survey conducted by AMI-Partners revealed that small businesses’ attitude towards social media is changing. Why the change of heart?

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The Customer Experience

The impressions made on a customer, whether the business provides products, services or environments, are largely based upon the experience. We have expectations. We should be waited on, greeted, our call should be returned, the product shouldn’t break, the facilities should be clean, the food good and hot.  We’re the customer. Right?

In their recent book, Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World, Merholz, Wilkens, Schauer, and Verba of Adaptive Path, suggest the experiences are based on six distinctly human qualities:

1. Motivations: Why they are engaged with your offering.
2. Expectations: Preconceptions they bring to know how some things work.
3. Perceptions: The ways in which your offerings affects their senses (see, hear, touch, smell, taste).
4. Abilities: How they are able to cognitively and physically interact with your offering.
5. Flow: How they engage with your offering over time.
6. Culture: The framework of codes (manners, language, rituals, behaviors, norms and systems of belief within which the person operates.

“When someone says they’ve had a good or bad experience, what they’re talking about is how a product, service or environment did or didn’t satisfactorily address these qualities.”

The authors suggest that what matters most to customers is the experience they have with your firm, and for that reason you should have an “Experience Strategy.”

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Social Media: A Strategic Approach to Authenticity

Celine Rogue has an interesting piece, “It’s Not About the Tools, It’s About the Strategy,” on the New York Times website.

Rogue writes that with so many choices of social media tools available many people are spending too much time obsessing about which ones to use, instead of developing strategies and plans.

Rogue offers five areas to keep in mind when focusing on
Social Media Strategy
:
1. Define your goals
2. Find your audience
3. Keep it simple
4. Stay authentic
5. Know when to stop

Her message about staying authentic is a good one for anyone who writes for online media, regardless of whether it’s a 140 character message or 500-1000 word post.

So what do we mean by authentic?
The Oxford English Dictionary describes it this way:
“Of authority, authoritative; entitled to obedience or respect.”

Yes, by all means we want our messages to have authority and be respected. But how can you be sure that’s what you’re doing if you don’t have an editor looking over your shoulder?

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Mirror Mirror on the Wall: Boston Globe Will You Fall?

Every morning for the past 20 plus years, I’ve started my day with the Boston Globe. The Globe’s future is at stake at this very moment, with The New York Times Company in on-going negotiations.

The City of Boston is not alone in our worries about losing our daily newspaper.  Mary Ojala, Editor, of Online Magazine writes in the May/June 2009 issue, “…the picture has worsened in the past 2 months. Scripps Howard closed the Rocky Mountain News, Hearst transformed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle PI) to a web-only publication, Gannett’s Detroit Free Press and MediaNews Group’s Detroit News both intend to print a home delivery paper only a few days a week, and Advance Publications, Inc. plans to shutter The Ann Arbor News, replaced it with a website.”

Ojala suggests we look on the bright side of life, and writes about the ways search engines change how news is found and displayed, and offers up an interesting list of ones to check out.

News Search Engines

Newssift
Groxis
Viewzi
Cluuz
WebKruz
Middlespot
Newsflashr
AllinOneNews
GlobalPost

As we await the outcome of the Boston Globe, I’ve been checking out the list of news search engines. Some are very good and believe me, I won’t have any problem using them–as an adjunct; but for the record, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to our print paper.

What about you? How do you feel about the demise of the print paper? And, are there other news search engines you use which aren’t on this list?