Think of the best adverts on TV and in magazines. They tell stories with words or visuals. They tell stories or provide information that resonates with the viewer or reader. The best ads aren't so much about the company, but about the customer. What's in it for them?
Are you doing this with your blog posts, newsletters, videos?
It can be hard sometimes, after all, instictively we know ourselves better than our customers. It can be a tender trap to use your business blog as a diary-type of site.
"Butts in the Seats Before Dollars at the Concession Stand"
The seats in the stadium were going to be there whether people came or not. If we get butts in the seats, we'll sell more at the concession stand – and the sense of a crowd will be more electric of an experience than a sparse collective.
Ideally, we'd have a one or two of a few good things going for us:
A good team on the field (product as content)
Good food & drink (product as content)
A great user experience (service as content)
Build a community of common users (King Content serving Kingdom Community)
On a slow night (Tuesday?) — good luck. What did we do? Filled the seats with free tickets and promo items. Call it guilt, but some of those nights were our best sales-per-head.
Look, I didn't quite like giving seats away, but it's better than empty seats (and slow sales).And with a good experience, fans would return (and hopefully bring friends).
So whether it's a free white-paper, a sample of your presenting skills on a video, or a taste-on-a-toothpick peek inside your best work – without an audience, you're simply rehearsing.
Not everyone is going to listen or read what you have to say (or even go Lady Gaga over it). So what? But if you say nothing (empty seats), how are you going to have anyone take action (low sales at the concession).
Find Your Fans – attract them by "giving them value" and doing what it takes for them to return (and tell others). They might even find you first
Butts in the Seats Before Dollars at the Concession Stand.
Using images in your blog posts are important. If you find a good one, it can be a "gift to the reader" and make your post more noticeable.
But image seeker be aware: There are permissions and copyrights to be considered. And with a smart eye during your search, you'll be able to spot images you can use without worrying about a follow-up nasty gram.
I've heard some folks say that Creative Commons means we all own the copyright (wrong!)
I've watched some people go straight to Google Images and using something they find there (oops – missed a step)
I've seen hasty writers just take something from Flickr without giving proper attribution (give credit where credit si due – and did you have permission to use that image?)
This isn't to scare you (well, maybe a little), nor does it make things complicated. Finding images can still be simple:
Don't use Google Images (for this exercise, anyway). If you must (and why must you?), make sure to use "Advanced Image Search," and then choose "labeled for reuse"
Use Flickr Creative Commons. After you do the inital search, go to "Advanced Search," scroll towards bottom of page and find the Creative Commons section, choosing "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content."
Smile at the Camera-type. Just because it has a CC license, doesn't mean the person who put it on Flickr took the shot (or has permission). Just to be safe, I look for the camera-type the image was taken with. This appears on a image page, near the top right just under the user name.
Give Attribution. I use this format: "Photo on Flickr by <insert username>." I then hyperlink either the page of the image or the photostream of the user on to that text.
This isn't meant to be a complete how-to on placing images in your posts. What this will do is keep you in a better position of confidence in the images you do use.
The photo I initially wanted to use from my boat search was this one from Ben Heine. But I found it before the Advanced Search, and the copyright doesn't include CC permissions.
So a quick click and I found the image above (still an excellent image, yes?)
Companies large and small want to have a blog (or Facebook or Twitter), but don't want to be the one to do the work.
For a long time, I've felt that without the direct engagement or involvement with someone in the company doing the work, then they weren't looking for someone like me to coach them. I wasn't about to do the writing for them. Integrity, authenticity, transparency … all that would be missing from "the voice" of the content.
There's a story, I think it's in Seth Godin's Purple Cow, about the company who was delivering blocks of ice when refrigerators came out and started replacing the old ice boxes. Instead of of starting to deliver refrigerators, the company sold the trucks and closed their doors.
Late last year, I began writing for one person on their blog. Because I knew this person well enough, and we'd transcribed several conversations, we were able to deliver content that was pretty much their words. At the core, it was really copy editing.
Yesterday, I was with a new customer asking many questions about the nuances of their production, delivery, and future plans. While we won't publish the "secrets" – we were able to glean a few short pieces that would make for great Twitter or Facebook conversation in the future.
So, the purist in me still prefers to see somone from the company doing the actual engagement. But I would be ignorant to think this is going to happen all the time.
Getting to know the company – the people of the company, the voice of the company – may take some "job shadowing", but it allows the people of the business to do what they do best – conduct their business.
Am I giving in too easily? I don't think so. I believe it's pattern recognition. But what do you think? Is this line of thought supporting Ghost Writing or Copy Editing? Sell the trucks or deliver refrigerators?
Sincere apologies are a wonderful thing. But sometimes, apologies are not necessary.
In Age of Conversation 2.0, I wrote a story about how a minor-league baseball owner apologized to an Opening Day crowd – and by his aplogy, took the energy and enthusiasm away from the event.
The over-capacity crowd was electric and excited for the season to start. They were sitting on the grass down the foul lines, smiling in the long lines for a hot dog or beer — there was a buzz. Until… the owner made a public apology, from the mound, before the anthem even took place.
People didn’t recognize anything was wrong. But once they were told about it, they noticed everything.
On occasion, I still catch a glimpse of bloggers apologizing for a lapse in posting. I’ll suggest this: don’t aplogize — just dive in.
If we do this blogging thing well, most of the traffic will come in from a RSS aggregator, inbound links, or search results. This means readers will arrive on your site on a particular blog post — not so much from the front page.
I'd rather a conversation about the possibilities of what to write than a have a constant sales pitch coming from the keyboard of a small business blog.
While talking with a small retail business in an what we'll call "Oldtown" recently, I asked why she hadn't updated her blog in weeks. She said she didn't feel right about spouting off her specials and inventory all the time. Nice.
We talked about how she could point to other businesses and events in "Oldtown":
Introduce other retailers in the area (show Oldtown as a convenient shopping area)
Write about some of the food and drink options for shoppers (…and while you're here…)
Locate great parking tips (save them time, money, and headaches)
Promote special events or happenings in the neighborhood
If a small neighborhood business can become the resource and revitalizer in the community, both customer and neighboring business will become loyal fans and readers.
Whistle Stops are conversations, eye-openers, or tools representing the brain train discovered while traveling along the Conversphere. From business to education, life hacks to giving back, these are the posts and links that have in some way grabbed my attention this week!