Archives for posts with tag: blogs

Mrs. Halverson taught my fourth grade class. I fell in love with writing that year. And I am pretty sure it was because of the way she made writing and story telling come alive.

When I think back to the lessons I learned that year, three stand out that remain just as relevant now for me and my work. And because so many of us must write, blog, communicate and create content, these three things are great reminders for almost all of us grown-ups (who know a lot but sometimes forget the basics we learned in the first place.)

So, next time you need to create content or write something, take some tips from Mrs. Halverson and do these three things:

Start with a topic sentence

When you use a topic sentence to start each paragraph, it helps you write the rest of the paragraph. Here’s how you do it: Pick the one idea you want to get across in that paragraph. And then summarize it. That becomes the topic sentence. It is most convenient as the first sentence. Like the CEO of the paragraph, the topic sentence sets the tone, the direction and tasks of the other sentences in the paragraph.

A topic sentence helps readers, too. A good topic sentence directs the focus of a paragraph and signals what’s coming. It prepares the people reading your work for the information the rest of the paragraph gives. That means readers don’t have to work as hard to grasp the meaning. Why? Because all of the thoughts in a paragraph relate to each other and flow coherently from the main thought that started it.

(By the way, both of the paragraphs above start with a clear topic sentence that makes one point. And the rest of the sentences support that point with additional detail. Easier to write. Easier to read!)

Spot barks

Nothing is simpler in writing English than using this construction: subject/verb. Grass grows. Children play. Sun rises.

Even with an object that says what the subject did to (or with or about) something, it’s still joyfully simple. I cut the grass. The children played outside. The sun rose today.

When you get tangled up in a sentence and don’t know how to make it better, break it into more than one sentence. Then start each one with a subject followed by a verb. I promise you that doing this will let you make your point. It will also let your readers understand your point.

Here’s an example (with a topic sentence)

Fear hides sometimes. We dread change. We avoid new things. We form habits. And we like routines. We prefer what we know. Fear lurks in the unknown. We don’t always admit our fears. But our fears govern us, nonetheless. Sometimes we know it. Other times we don’t. Things that stay in the shadows stay scary.

Make it fun

Kids write stories for fun. They use their imaginations. They dream up amazing characters. And they love to tell people about their ideas. Remember that? Part of what made me love writing in Mrs. Halverson’s class was that it was just so darn fun.

We can all choose to reclaim some of that joy. Shake off some of the weight about writing that’s piled on top of many of us. Create like you can’t wait to show somebody. And have some fun.

Here’s another post about what to do when you get stuck for ideas.

Let me know if these three lessons help. I blog and Tweet about creating good content, among other things. So if you liked this post, please follow me for more ideas. I’m on Twitter here.

Blogging is hard work. And getting the tone of voice just right is part of that struggle. Without the right voice, readers won’t stick with you to take in your great content.

Here’s the challenge: You want to be authoritative, but not a know-it-all. You want to be upbeat, but not saccharine. You want to be specific, but not clinical. You want to be informative, but not scientific. You want to be clear, but not patronizing. And you want to show a sense of humor without sliding into a standup routine.

Here’s my trick: try writing as if you’re talking to a specific audience. Picture who you are delivering the information to. Make it visual. And make it personal.

Then craft your content. And do it with the tone you’d use in one of these seven situations…

1. to cheer on a friend,

2. to bargain for a deal,

3. to guide your kids,

4. to pick yourself up after a bad day,

5. to laugh a little at yourself,

6. to mentor a student, or

7. to help a stranger.

See if that doesn’t make it easier next time you need to post. I’d be interested to hear how this worked for you. Here’s more about writing for a specific audience with some examples.

The company Visual.ly has come up with many incredible tools. But its latest development (I have no stake — monetarily or otherwise) fascinates me as someone who devours all forms of media and data to stay on top of trends and advise clients who want to do the same.

Using the option to create infographics, anyone can see how a topic spread across Twitter in the past 30 days, as indicated by a #hashtag. This feature also shows the most influential Twitter accounts that used and spread the topic’s hashtag.

The implications for research into cultural and media trends are profound. We can see — admittedly though just one imperfect vehicle: a Twitter #hashtag — how information about a specific topic or news item ripples through a social media site with more than 300 million accounts and that handles 1.6 billion search queries each day.

I decided to look at the spread of news about Trayvon Martin by analyzing the use the hashtag #Trayvon. As media reports indicate, Trayvon, a 17-year old African-American teenager from Miami Gardens, Fla., was unarmed when fatally shot last month. George Zimmerman, the man who says he fired in self-defense, has not been arrested as of today. He has been described in different news reports as White and as Hispanic. And the case has sparked widespread outrage and protest. Trayvon’s school has been criticized for not announcing his death to the students until almost a month had passed. The police and prosecutor connected to the case have also been criticized their conduct. And the police chief has temporarily stepped down.

In this case, I input the hashtag #Trayvon in the Visual.ly tool and created an infographic. What appeared surprised me. I expected to see use of the hashtag swell after the shooting of Trayvon. Instead, there was just one reference. That appeared on Feb. 26 — the day of the shooting. And then, weeks went by before the hashtag #Trayvon was used again on Twitter. After that, it rose dramatically.

Many observers of this tragic death charge that the mainstream press delayed and downplayed coverage because of race. This infographic shows that a weeks-long lag in spreading awareness of Trayvon’s death is apparent also through a common social media marker: the Twitter hashtag. By examining this and blogging about it, I hope to illustrate a new way that those of us who care deeply about issues in society and the media can add dimension as we explore and analyze important current events that affect our communities and our relationships with each other. I also wish peace for the young man’s family, friends and community — and for calm as justice unfolds.

#Trayvon Twitter hashtag absent for weeks after his death Feb. 26

If you want to increase the influence you have through social media and attract more followers on Twitter, the best way is to be human: approachable, humble, informative, engaging and a little funny. In other words, don’t try to get more Twitter followers. Instead, try to find people whose work interests you, whose posts inform you and whose viewpoints make you reflect.

Through conversation, connections and the social sharing that happens in creating and posting solid content, ReTweeting and giving credit to others, followers will come.

My experience proves this. I signed up for an account on Twitter three years ago — almost to the day. But until about three months ago, I didn’t update very regularly. I didn’t hang out and learn or actively follow people who posted interesting things.

I really didn’t understand the community that Twitter involves.

I made a concerted effort to jump in and learn more near the end of last year. And I started blogging more regularly. I became more engaged through Twitter and other social media sites. I wanted to be able to apply the knowledge to better help my clients and increase the profile and credibility of my business.

But in the process, I also found empathetic guides who shared selflessly and helped me make other connections. They led me to other social media tools, sites and data. And they still help me. Through them, I have found bloggers I love, as well great Twitter chats, resources, books and other mentors.

The social media community is very welcoming — as long as you’re not a spammer, a plagiarizer, buying followers or ceaselessly selling your wares. It turns out that, by engaging, I also found followers. In three months, my followers grew from 200 to more than 800. For proof, have a look at this chart.

The yellow bars show my Tweets. The red line reflects my followers.

If you’re famous, you’ll get followers anyway. But, if you’re not, and you do want more followers, here’s some things I’ve learned. It’s best to:

  • create and share relevant, fresh content
  • say thanks and give credit
  • follow back most of the time (though I always check out a new follower’s Tweets first, and I never automatically follow because of the ‘bots)
  • be present and be yourself
  • know you’ll make some mistakes and feel like a newbie as you go
  • have fun

Others might have another route, but for me, this is the path I found to be the most productive.

So, that’s the secret: you get Twitter followers by jumping into social media with both feet and an open mind. And it turns out the people already doing this knew it all along.

If you liked this post, feel free to follow me. Chances are good that I’ll follow back and share interesting posts and content from some other great folks I’ve met through Twitter.

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See my entire social presence here: http://XeeMe.com/beckygaylord

“Oh, you’ve got to use…”

It’s easy to feel like you aren’t sure what to do, where or how, on social media. After all, the life cycle within the social media sphere can feel as if it’s shorter than that of a fruit fly. New lingo. New sites. New companies. New capabilities.

So, if your organization is mulling its social media strategy — putting one in place or changing the one you’ve got — keep this in mind:

There’s no one-size-fits-all set of rules.

The way to connect with audiences you want to start and maintain conversations with is to make sure your strategy matches the organization’s own style and culture. Social media is, ultimately, about relationships and brand. To be effective and authentic, your social media tactics must work in concert with those.

To my mind, there’s no one channel that all organizations have to use or approach they must take, especially if your group is a nonprofit or is focused on building communities. By definition, those are as unique as the people in them.

The one thing you must do? Customize your social media outreach.

By itself, that won’t guarantee success, which takes time, diligence and responsiveness that lead to trust and build credibility. To do that, you need to interact and converse with the audiences you want to reach.

But how your organization does that through social media can, and should, be framed to suit your organization’s goals for outreach. What does it want to do? Reach funders? Find clients? Build public or industry awareness?

Two examples

Consider two organizations I’ve conjured for this blog post: a fairly traditional law firm and a nonprofit focused on community development. Their audiences and messages would be very different, as would their cultures and brands.

Case # 1

For the law firm it’s better form to have someone else tout its work, social media marketer David Heyman notes, lest the firm look like an “ambulance chaser.” A Face Book page might not be one of the social media tools it would employ. Perhaps, instead, a blog would be the way to go. That would let the firm talk about fresh trends, or do’s and dont’s within scenarios that potential clients might need counsel in navigating, Heyman suggested.

The firm, of course, wouldn’t talk about clients or any specific cases in its posts. But, by using social media, it could show its expertise in action and through examples, enabling its authority to spread much more widely than if it were published in a printed newsletter. And the firm’s followers, who would’ve opted in to receive the blog or e-newsletter, would increase the impact by sharing it with some of their followers.

Lawyers do have constraints and rules for conduct, notes lawyer, blogger, podcaster, presenter and digital media strategist Whitney Hoffman. So, they need to be sensitive to concerns such as those that relate to promoting their business or attracting clients, Hoffman says.

Still, there are smart, tailored ways they can tap into the power of social media to increase their public profile and credibility and, indirectly, their business. (Thanks to Marjorie Clayman and Shonali Burke for helping me find the experts I quoted in this example!)

Case #2

The nonprofit whose work centers on community development, on the other hand, would seek to engage in active conversations with the audience it serves. It would use social media in much more direct ways to reach current and potential clients, as well as many others.

This group would want media, bloggers and the public to know about its work and its outcomes. Using social media tools successfully would drive more viewers to its website. It could also lead to more interviews or invitations for guest posts on related websites. The nonprofit group would also want to spread evidence of its expertise so it could increase opportunities to present at conferences or appear on panels.

Like all nonprofits, this one would need to raise funds. It probably believes that existing funders know all about the nonprofit’s programs and its track record. But that’s usually not the case. Funders need to see and hear, often, how a nonprofit they are supporting is using the money. That not only lets them know the money is being used well, it gives them some recognition, too, through association.

By putting those stories out through social media channels, it informs potential funders, too. The nonprofit’s social media outreach should make it easier for it to find more resources, from grants to respected board members to volunteers.

Goals for outreach shape the social media tools

It might be that, in setting up or refining a social media strategy, you bring in a consultant or adviser with that expertise. But even if you take that path, it’s a good idea, first, to think through the outcomes you want to achieve.

Once you are clear on what you want social media to help your organization do, it will be easier to sort out which tools and ways to do that. And then you can assess new ones, strategically, in terms of whether they’d let you meet the goals you’ve already set for a smart, customized approach to social media.

It makes keeping up with the latest social media developments less frantic because you don’t have to adopt every new tool. What you choose to add should make sense in terms of your brand and culture. It depends on what you want to say and achieve, and who you want to reach, why.

So, that’s my opinion. What do you think?