Isn't blogging just a conversation starter you type instead of talk? Something that's kind of natural - like writing an email or posting a Facebook status?
Wait, in what world did these things become natural? I've got to shake up my digital comfort zone and think like people who haven't spent their entire careers on one long anthropological online dig.
We’re getting a couple of team-sourced blogs up and running here at GSW. There’s a lot of interest, but also a lot of uncertainty.
The sponsors/editors worry:
- Will people really submit content?
- Will it be on brand?
- Will it be something people want to read?
The contributors worry:
- What’s the right way to do this?
- How will I fit it in my workflow? (i.e. how will I have time for this?)
- What topic should I talk about?
The truth is, they're totally understandable concerns. John Cass wrote an interesting article recently about the four operational models companies use to adopt social media. They largely focus on getting people like me (digital junkies) to use their habit for the good of the brand.
I'm trying to add a whole new model. One that's pretty uncomfortable at first.
I'll call it: Corral the conversation
Find the people in your organization who have great, shareworthy ideas and give them new kinds of tools to share them. Fast track the digital adoption process by making technology work like they work. Basically help your curious, chatty people climb onto a soapbox they wouldn’t have been inclined to build up on their own.
Yeah, that’s harder, right? But, it’s one of the few way to get past the early adopters and tap into that larger, smart conversation going on in your organization. To have your social media investment really be authentic to your organization.
Now the question makes sense. How do you train bloggers? How do you help people feel comfortable in an environment that is totally foreign to them?
First, pick the right people. Or, better, let them nominate themselves (that's right, people, a call to blog. Complete with job number!).
Good bloggers are energized by the conversation. They share three things in common:
- They’ve got a comfortable, recognizable voice. Both spoken and written.
- They’re naturally curious. They’re the ones who send you all the links to the new studies, the breakout creative, the industry trends.
- They’re good synthesizers. They read a couple of disparate things and draw a new conclusion. They tag their ideas with memorable phrases. They make it all accessible with analogy.
Ok, now you’ve got your core group. How do you make them successful?
I'm still thinking about that question: How do you train a blogger? I don't know the answer, but I know some things I recommend to writers to make it easier:
- Scribble an outline: Blogs are definitely a back-of-the-napkin kind of business. Just jot an idea down when it comes to you. It will be much easier to fill in the details later (vs. stopping everything to blog or trying to come up with an idea cold.)
- Call yourself: Blog writing is best when it sounds natural, like something you'd actually say. If you're having trouble writing that way, stop. Call your voicemail, turn on your iPhone's voice recorder - talk it out. Then go back later and type it up (Or try that nifty Dragon Dictation app)
- Take a POV: A lot of bloggers get caught up and trying to report on something. Covering every angle, citing sources, etc. It doesn't have to be that hard. Don't try to tell the whole story; just share a unique insight or POV on part of it. (Link to news story the media paid someone to write)
- Embrace the bullet point: Short is better (that's true even though I'm terrible at it!). Don't worry about big complex thoughts and compound sentences. Just give me the highlights.
The biggest opportunity, though, is probably for the editor. How can she use tools and technology to make blogging work the way people work:
- Make it doable: Set reasonable expectations. Start with two posts a month. And, do the proofreading for them.
- Use email: Wordpress, Drupal and other platforms now enbable post by email. How much better is that for contributors? Type your email with your pictures and bullets and bolding, send it to a custom email address, and (like magic) it's in the blog queue for publishing.
- Create a clear filter: Tell bloggers (and readers) what the blog is about. That crisp statement of purpose that helps them know what to write about (and what to save for the water cooler)
- Provide examples: Show, don't tell. It's a lot easier for most people to work from a pattern.
- Accept lots of formats: It's not all about words. A great picture, a podcast, a video - take them all!
- Share results: Bloggers want to connect with readers. To be read and be valued. Make sure to pass results back to them - how many people have visited the blog, where the content was shared, what posts were most popular.
We're trying a little of all those things. Keep an eye on our progress.
We've already launched one team blog.
There's another one coming on April 22.
And, one more soon after that.