Tag Archives: blog

4 Keys to deploying Social Media

Last Thursday the Churchill Club ran event on using Social Media for Sponsorship and Fundraising. It was a great evening with perspectives coming from Peter Williams (CEO Deloitte Digital), Jeremy Kann (General Manager, Sales & Commercial at Australian Grand Prix Corporation) and Vicki Kyriakakas (Communications Manager at Environment Victoria).

It was quite a wide ranging discussion, but the was some points on deploying Social Media solutions that I had the urge to share.

Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc) was very much seen as an emergent area where the community will determine where the value is – not the so-called “experts”.   So contrary to the general wisdom, the best idea was to start a Social Media activity, then seek to understand it rather than the other way round. Planning means you lag behind, not surf the wave.

Pete Williams of Deloitte recommended a four step process.

1. Start
Just Do It!. Get something going today. The barriers to entry are minimal – most social media is free to start using and very simple to understand.

2. Learn
Experiment with Social Media. There is no right or wrong way of using things, its completely up to you.  But trap your learnings so you can craft your strategy.

3. Amplify
When you think you have nailed some value, let the rest of your community know. They will either agree with you and get on board, or you will need to keep experimenting.

4. Let it run itself
Don’t don’t direct it, let the community find the value. A community manager is a good idea, but it should be a loose role, not formal because the community needs to self organise to survive.

The key to longevity in your Social Media strategy is seeing it as something your community can derive value from, rather than simply a marketing tool.

I thought this was a fairly handy process to keep in mind.

6 steps to Blog Heaven

The another day Amanda Gome rang me for some advice on how to run her business to have a chat about some future events. We got to talking about blogging and how difficult it was.  I was in the first group of Bloggists for Smartcompany (around 20 of us) of which there is now only a handful left.

I asserted that writing your first couple of blogs is easy because everyone has a couple of articles in them.  However then it gets really hard because you have to deliberately create something new rather than just empty on to the page what you already had.

Amanda agreed as she regularly gets approached by new bloggists and now she just can just tell when someone is only a “3 or 4 blogger”.

I reckoned the issue was caused by the fact that the average wanna-be bloggers aren’t generally trained as journalists or even writers by their nature.  So blogging seems like a great idea but becomes hard quickly.  You can see this issue everywhere as CEO’s are conned into marketing by using social media tools such as blogs, but they run out of steam quickly when the reality of being “creative” sets in.  I regularly run into corporate blogs that have lost steam after 3-4 posts.

Amanda pointed out that I am a non-writer who managed to get through the 4 blog barrier, so what was my secret?

So here it………….

How I write

  1. Pick a time -I’m a systems guy so I like to organise things.  Monday after lunch is the time I have programmed into my Google Calendar for writing.
  2. Get an idea –  Finding something to write on becomes easier as time goes  on.  However the cheats way is to find a prolific twitterer or two on your topic who will uncover new things to investigate and share.    For me Guy Kawasaki http://twitter.com/guykawasaki posts about twenty items a day on new things around entrepreneurship, technology and interesting ideas.  I can’t keep up with all of Guy’s posts.
  3. Make your point – Simply re-posting a web link doesn’t have value.  I like to think about how and why rather than report on the what.  I like to create a number of dot points on the topic.
  4. Remember an Anecdote – Nobody wants to read a report, everbody wants to hear a story.  Revolution in Russia?  Make it the backdrop to a lovestory (Dr Zhivago ).
  5. Put flesh on the bone – Write the article starting off with your anecdote which then leads into the points you want to make.
  6. Finish it off. – Nobody wants loose ends so I find it much tidier to link the point of the article back to the opening anecdote.

I developed this as a process when I almost burst my brain trying to write blog number 4. According to my records I have now written around 110 weekly blogs.  Not bad for technical guy that came close to failing English.

Skinning Cats on the Internet

After email and web browsing, the number one tool I use on the computer would have to be the standard office suite. You know; Word, Excel, Powerpoint. But if you have read any of the previous weeks blogs, you would also know that I have just moved over to a Linux based Netbook .   And in the world of Linux; Word, Excel and Power point don’t exist. So I had a problem to solve.

Being a good technologist, I had to come up with a conceptual framework first that dealt with the different ways I would need to generate documents. Answering questions like whom am I creating it with, sharing it with, in what content and in what format. Once I had figured that out I went looking for answers.

Bugger me though if I didn’t come up with more than one solution.

No. of Documents Creator Reader Final Format Solution Chosen
Single Me Private Individual PDF or Microsoft Office. Open Office
Single Me & Private Individual Me & Private Individual Web Google Docs
Many Me & Private Team Me & Private Team Web Wiki
Many Me Public Web Blog

Probably best then if I explain each solution I decided to use.

Open Office

Open Office is a full blown Open Source office suite that runs on Linux and Windows. It is now fully compatible with Microsoft Office, that has all the same functionality plus a bit extra. Therefore its the obvious choice for when I want to whip up a document, spreadsheet, drawing or presentation. A couple of other cool things about Open Office.

  1. Its Free – a saving of $200-$600 per user.

  2. You can get it in Linux, Windows & Mac flavours, so I can use the same product at home and at the office.

  3. The user interface now looks a hell of a lot like Microsoft Office (making a really low learning curve).

  4. Open Office natively stores its document in ODF format , the open standard, rather than Microsoft’s proprietary standards. So I am unlikely to get stuck with document I can’t read in a couple of years.

  5. Open Office can save documents in Microsoft’s proprietary formats if you need to (you know .doc, .xls, .ppt). This interoperability is seamless in all but the most complex documents.

  6. Open Office natively prints to PDF format , so you don’t have to purchase PDF generating software. Another cost saving.

  7. Did I say its free?

Google Docs
Sometimes though I realised I wanted to communicate something with one of my Flinders Pacific clients, but didn’t want to get caught up having to constantly resend a document that was changing. For instance when I arrange a dinner, I normally get harassed for the minutiae of what’s going on, “has so-and so got invited yet?” , “what did they say?”, “how many are coming now?” etc. things get worse too, if I create a spreadsheet but leave it on the wrong computer. The solution therefore was Googledocs . For small lists, I create a spreadsheet, then share it with the client. I can then update it from wherever I am, and the client is satisfied that they can get up to date information simply by checking on the internet.

Sometimes though its not just one document I am collaborating on but a whole suite. For instance the operations manual for the Churchill Club is a whole series of documents covering accounting, marketing and event management. These documents are always a work in progress as we add new bits as we run into them. In fact sometimes they’re just a couple of dot points. I say we as there is a small geographically dispersed team building and using them, however they are not for public consumption. Since there is a suite of documents, I decided a Wiki is a much better solution as its:

  • Native web format (html)

  • Searchable

  • Pages can be edited by anyone (just click the edit button at the bottom of each page).

  • Can be secured or made private (just turn on security and authorise users).

  • Natural environment for developing documents that are always changing

  • Lends itself to a team constantly editing, rather than two individuals going back and forth.

I chose dokuwiki as the wiki solution as its just too easy to deploy, it doesn’t even require a database back end, and it is designed for small team document collections.

Finally I decided that the blog format (web pages through a blogging engine) is best suited for the blogs I write for Smartcompany. I realised its just silly to write a document in say word format, the have it edited to be suitable to be printed as a web page. Why not make it a web page in the first place. So I set-up a WordPress Blog at http://wordpress.l2i.com.au. Its where I keep all my completed articles, and partially written ideas as drafts (note you won’t be able to see anything there that you can’t already see on Smartcompany).

So I have now solved my documentation problem and all the other major problems other than accounting software.  Next week I will cover off the new Accounting solution implemented and the benefits I have discovered from moving it off the desktop.

Blog Comment Badness

I decided to keep a record of all my Smartcompany.com.au blog postings at a website I setup called http://wordpress.l2i.com.au I used the free (that’s open source license) wordpress software on one of my servers, a quickly setup a site. No costs involved and took me around 5 minutes to get the basic site up and going.

All good, started pasting copies of all my articles in there, so I have a record of what I have talked about. This has been fairly useful to me as the archive is searchable, so I can quickly find out that the cool idea I have just had, was the same cool idea I had 6 months ago when I wrote about it.

Then something weird happened, I started to get some comments on my blog, that sounded strange. People that I had never heard of, started giving pointless feedback on my articles. Comments such as “thanks for the article”. Strange I thought. Then I noticed that many of these people have the same IP address. An IP address is a numerical notation for where someone connects to the internet from. These people weren’t trying to flog Viagra or Casino’s but it struck me as strange they were commenting on my archive. I have left a copy of spam comment here http://wordpress.l2i.com.au/?p=23#comments so you can see what I mean.

So I went back to the wordpress site, and discovered what they were really up to. The comments were known as “Comment Spam”. The authors make comments on your blog that appear to be innocuous, but what’s actually going on is that they have their name or other word, hyperlinked back to a website.

This takes advantage of Google and many others search engine’s ranking engine system. One of the ways a website gets a higher ranking for a search term is by getting lots of other websites, to link to it via a relevant linked piece of text.

So what’s happening is that the person making the comment on your blog is doing it for the sole purpose of creating a link back to their website. In effect getting a free ride from you.

Luckily the WordPress software I am using allows me to not only moderate (approve / delete) comments but also mark the comment make as a spammer. This reduces the number of spammers allowed to comment on my site. At this stage is seems effective.

Fingers crossed.