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Maria Perez

I am director of news operations for ProfNet (http://www.profnet.com), a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. You can also find me on Twitter at @profnet

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How to attract members to your online community

Community bulletin boardAuthor Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

I recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and have been sharing highlights from a few of my favorites. [See also: "7 deadly social sins," "8 ways to master the list post," "40 content creation ideas for your blog" and "7 don'ts of online community management."]

In this session, four experts discussed their strategies for creating and building a community people will participate in — without spending a lot of money.

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We heard from Lynette Young, CEO of Purple Stripe Productions and founder of Women of Google+; Rob Ludlow, owner of a portfolio of websites that generate over 12 million pageviews a month, including BackYardChickens.com; David Risley, founder and CEO of PC Media; and Scott Fox, founder of the lifestyle entrepreneur coaching community ClickMillionaires.com.

Creating and Building a Community

Be remarkable. “Content is king, but engagement is queen,” said Ludlow. Think of what you can say that is remarkable, that people will comment on. Make sure any time you’re developing content, you’re passionate about it.

Look at your community as a cohesive whole. Risley suggests using a blog to build up the community. Most people overlook the importance of using an email list to get people on the site and interact on it, he added. Use an email newsletter to keep members up-to-date on what’s happening on the site. Otherwise, you’re just counting on them to remember to come back to the site.

Show your personality.  Letting a part of your personality show through is key to getting users to share your content, said Young. Share pieces of you that are not all work all the time. “That is so boring.”

Admit failure. “If content is king and engagement is queen, then trust is the emperor,” said Young. Openly admit failure and defeat online. People want to help. Sometimes, by showing the blemish, it shows you’re willing to not be perfect. As long as you can gracefully recover from that, they’ll respect you more.” Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Added Fox: “If plan A doesn’t work out, there are 25 more letters.”

Reaching your community, Bloggers
ATTRACTING TRAFFIC

Email users. According to Risley, email is the best way to get users on the site. For example, including a “Hot Forum Discussions” section in your weekly email can help pique users’ interest and get them back on the site. You can also see who hasn’t been active on the site in a while and send them an email reminding them of the site and updating the on any changes.

Reach out beyond your immediate circle. There are pieces of your community that have different interests than you do, which means they have different circles that aren’t connected to you. Give them information and knowledge they will want to share with those circles, and you will expand yours.

Try new things. It’s important to throw things at the wall and see what sticks, said Ludlow – but you have to monitor and see what really sticks, and then build on those.

CONTENT IDEAS THAT ATTRACT TRAFFIC

Get to know your community. You have to get to know your community, said Risley. That’s how you figure out the hot buttons. Then, when things get quiet, “light the spark that will open up debate and get people talking and engaging.”

Seek out user-generated content. “User-generated content is one of the sleeping giants of the industry,” said Fox. “And it makes your job so much easier.”

Ludlow agrees. “One of the best things about communities is user-generated content,” he said. Every three months, BackYardChickens.com hosts a design contest for chicken coops people have made. The people in his community love this, because they love to be recognized. In turn, they share on their social networks, which increases awareness of his website. In addition, because people have to register to post their chicken coops, Ludlow then has their email address and can continue to re-engage them.

Google+ iTunes appCrowdsource. Young likes to engage with her community. When she was considering choosing a charity her users could donate to, she asked her community to vote. In addition to getting the community involved, it also takes the onus off of her.

Incentivize members. Give members an incentive to submit content, like recipes. Motivate people to vote on the content, and then package and sell the content (as an e-book, a calendar, etc.). You’re not only generating content and motivating your audience, but you’re also selling that content and monetizing your efforts.

SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS

Look at your stats. Ludlow said that Pinterest is driving half as much traffic to his site as Facebook, yet he hasn’t even done anything on Pinterest. “That shows me I have to pay more attention to Pinterest,” he said.

Go where your audience is. “Yes, I’m a Google+ fangirl,” said Young. “But I don’t believe there’s any one type of place. It depends on the type of media that best engages your audience.” Find that out, and then use it. For example, does your audience respond to pictures? Then use Pinterest. “I don’t care so much about the platform as I do about sharing the content in the way your audience wants it.”

Ultimately, you have to remember your audience and why they’re there.

“You have to get your mindset away from it being a platform for you to being a platform for your community,” said Fox.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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7 Deadly Social Sins: Or how not to suck on social media

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

I recently attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and trade show for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites. [See also "40+ content creation story ideas for your blog" and "8 ways to master the list post."]

MORE on ProfNet
Whether you’re a reporter,
blogger, author or
other content creator,
you can send a ProfNet query
to experts worldwide or search
more than 50,000 expert profiles
by keyword, institution type and
geographic location.
All of ProfNet’s services
for writers are free.

The opening session, “7 Deadly Social Sins,” was presented by the entertaining Scott Stratten, a well-known speaker and expert on viral, social and authentic marketing (aka “unmarketing”). Here are a few highlights from his presentation:

“Social media is not about being everywhere. You just have to be great where you are.”

And being great on social media only really requires you to be average, added Stratten, “because everyone else sucks.”

Want to not suck at social media? Don’t commit these seven social sins:

1. Gluttony. Engagement is the biggest benefit of social media, said Stratten, so if you’re automating your feeds without engaging with your audience, you’re not being present. The shelf life of a tweet is about five minutes; if you don’t engage with someone who responds to your tweet, you lose the chance to have a conversation.

2. Pride. Posing questions like, “What’s your favorite product of ours?” or “Why do you love our company?” is not the right way to engage your audience. It’s not about you – it’s about them.

7 Deadly Social Media sinsAlso, don’t be the company that allows only positive comments. “You don’t make the rules,” said Stratten. Doing this will only cause people to make fun of you, and that’s the wrong way to get people to share.

3. Sloth. Social media has changed the timeline for responding. Whereas companies used to be able to say, “We will get back to you in 5-7 days,” response time is now measured in hours, if not minutes. “If you’re not going to monitor social media regularly, delete your account,” said Stratten. “If you don’t have the time, don’t do it. If you hate people, don’t do it. Don’t try to have a presence without being present.”

4. Greed. We’ve all seen the ads: “I will get you 1,000 followers for $50.” There’s no shortcut to being social. It’s not a numbers game – it’s an engagement game. If you want more fans, more readers, more shares, create better content.

5. Lust. Stratten reminded us of the cases of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (who accidentally tweeted sexually explicit pictures of himself) and the Red Cross employee who drunk tweeted on the Red Cross Twitter account instead of her own.

Never do anything on social media you wouldn’t want on a billboard that your mom, your priest, your kids will see, said Stratten. But if you do make a mistake, get in front of it. “When it hits the fan,” he said, “it’s not time to hide behind the fan.”

Stratten applauded the Red Cross for the way they handled the errant tweet.

 6. Envy. Stratten puts the “self-retweet” in this category. Don’t only retweet when someone compliments you. Don’t be selfish. Don’t “humble brag.”

7. Wrath. Social media has given people the power. You have to respond when there’s a complaint or a problem.

If it’s a troll, delete it immediately. But if it’s constructive criticism, don’t remove it – reply to it. “It’s a chance to be awesome,” said Stratten.

And if you do follow up with someone privately, make sure you close the loop publicly so it’s obvious you’ve addressed the problem.

Other tips:

  • Apathy is social media’s biggest enemy, said Stratten. For example, so many companies send out untargeted, uninteresting event invites on Facebook that people have become apathetic to all invites, making them irrelevant. “We’re breaking social,” one of the best things of recent years, he added.
  • Be passionate. Any great social site was drive by passion. Pinterest, for example, was successful because it tapped into people’s passions. But then business came and ruined it (e.g., “the ROI of a pin”).
  • Don’t forget mobile. You have to look at your apps through the eyes of your audience. If you make your audience work to see your content, you’ll lose them.
  • Don’t use technology for the sake of using technology. For example, QR codes have such great potential, but “we’re already breaking it,” said Stratten. QR codes on billboards on subway tracks (where there are no phone signals) are one way companies are misusing them. “Every time someone scans a QR code and it doesn’t work, we’re running it.”

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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40+ content creation, story ideas for your blog

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service that helps journalists find sources.

Blogworld2010

2010 was BlogWorld’s Year of the Woman. Photos: Blogworld 2010

Earlier this month, I attended BlogWorld & New Media Expo, a three-day conference and tradeshow for bloggers, podcasters, Web content creators and social media innovators. I was able to listen in on several of the content creation and blogging sessions, and will share highlights from a few of my favorites.

In this session, Rich Brooks, president of flyte new media, a Web design and Internet marketing company, shared nearly 50 ideas on how to find content for your blog:

Research

1. Google AdWorlds: Keyword Tool: Type in keywords (e.g., “gluten-free”) and you get a lot of content ideas in the keyword report.

2. Google Alerts: Set up a Google Alert for keywords in the area you cover.

3. Google Insights: Shows you top searches and rising searches (i.e., emerging trends). “When you’re first out of the gate to write about something, you’re the one who gets cited and gets the traffic,” explained Brooks.

MORE on ProfNet
Whether you’re a reporter,
blogger, author or
other content creator,
you can send a ProfNet query
to experts worldwide or search
more than 50,000 expert profiles
by keyword, institution type and
geographic location.
All of ProfNet’s services
for writers are free.

4. Google-related searches: See the bottom of any Google search.

5. Google Analytics: Shows you what keywords are most important.

6. Content Strategy Generator: A publicly available Google document that lets you input a keyword and pulls up articles, blog posts, etc., related to your keyword.

7. Social Mention:  It’s like Google Alerts, but for social media.

8. Wikipedia: Look up any topic and scroll down to the Table of Contents, References and See Also sections to generate ideas.

9. Review an industry book.

10. Do a product review.

Unanswered Questions, aka “The Sweet Spot”

11. Questions from customers: Create a Dear Abby-style column and answer the question there.

12. Quora: People pose questions regarding topics in your industry every day. You can use those questions as story ideas.

13. Yahoo! Answers: If you have a gardening blog, for example, check out the garden section of Yahoo! Answers to get story ideas.

14. LinkedIn Answers: “If you’re in business-to-business, you should be there,” said Brooks.

15. LinkedIn Groups: “This is where the best conversations take place,” said Brooks. Join the groups and see the conversations happening there.

16. Competitors’ FAQs: Go through the FAQs, take the questions there, and answer them with your own perspective.

17. Google suggested search: When you type in a phrase, you’ll get suggestions from Google on other searches that were done using the same words you type in.

18. YouTube suggested search: Same as with Google suggested search, but on YouTube.

19. Keyword + “discussion forums”: Type in any topic and add “discussion forums” at the end to see what people are talking about.

20. Keyword Questions: A “freemium” service via which you put in a keyword and get a list/report of the questions people are asking in your market. Tip: “Go broad, rather than narrow, with this one,” said Brooks.

21. Ask.coms Q&A section.

22: Focus.coms business-oriented Q&As.

23. Blog comments – both from your blog and others’.

24. Social Media Examiner Networking Clubs.

Inspiration

25. Get seasonal: Create content relevant to the season, e.g., “What the NBA finals can teach us about…”

26. Prismatic: Looks at what you talk about in social media and sends you a feed of content it thinks you might be interested in.

27: Twitter search: Put in keyword phrases and see what people are talking about.

28: WeFollow: Look at the categories you cover and it will tell you who are the most influential people in that category. See what they’re writing about.

29. AllTop: All the top headlines from popular topics around the Web.

30: Google Trends: Enter up to five topics and see how often they’ve been searched on Google over time. Hot Searches lets you see a snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind by viewing a stream of the fastest-rising search queries in the U.S.

31: OpenBook: Lets you do a live-search of Facebook member status updates in real-time.

32: Paper.li: See what people are writing about on the topics you cover.

33: EzineArticles: Search by keyword to see what people are writing about.

34: Amazon “See Inside/Table of Contents”: View the table of contents in any book in your industry to get ideas.

35:  Digg: The latest news headlines, videos and images.

36: SlideShare: “It’s like YouTube for PowerPoint,” said Brooks.

37: Your tweets, retweeted: what you said that people retweeted.

38. eBay: Type in keyword phrases and see what comes up.

39: Flickr

40: Know Your Meme, a website dedicated to memes.

41. Pinterest

42. StumbleUpon: discover new and interesting Web pages, photos and videos across the Web.

43. Delicious: a social bookmarking service.

44: Life – as in real life. Go for a walk. If you get an idea, make sure you write it down right away.

Leveraging Others

45. Invite a guest blogger – it’s good for you and for them.

46. Interview an expert.

Last Straws

If all those still don’t help you come up with ideas:

47. On Google, type in “blog ideas for…” (e.g., “blog ideas for lawyers”).

48: Fiverr.com: Hire someone to write a blog post for you for $5.

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.

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Tricks of the trade: Best online tools and apps for writers

Author Maria Perez is director of news operations at ProfNet, a free service for journalists in need of expert sources.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) recently held its annual Writers Conference, which featured more than 80 sessions covering a wide variety of topics, from how to write a book proposal to how to break into magazines.

One session, “Online Tools and Apps for Writers,” focused on the latest in online software and mobile apps for research and reporting, and all the ways these tools can improve your productivity and help you promote your work.

Here are some highlights from the session:

SAM GREENGARD, freelancer.

Sam Greengard, author

Sam Greengard

Sam Greengard, author of AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life,” has written for AARP The Magazine, American Way, Discover, Hemispheres, IndustryWeek, MSNBC/MSN Online, PM Network, Southwest Spirit, Wired and others.

As a freelancer, you need to be able to access your data anytime, anywhere, said Greengard. If you aren’t able to access all of your information digitally, you’ll wind up duplicating efforts, which will increase your inefficiency.

Greengard offered three areas to focus on to get to a paperless office:

1. Get rid of every notepad and every pen on your desk. You need to have everything digital, or you’ll be duplicating efforts, which decreases efficiency.

Some of the tools he recommends to get you paperless:

  • Microsoft OneNote or Mac Devonthink Pro, which capture Web pages, drag PDF/Word/Excel files from email. Devonthink also synchs to your iPhone/iPad so you can have that data with you anytime, anywhere.
  • Evernote, a cloud-based content storage service.
  • SOHO Notes, a digital note-taking application for Mac.

2. Equip your computer with the right software, such as Things, a task management program for Mac that lets you create project lists and offers an easy way to keep track of your emails.

Other software Greengard recommends:

  • Microsoft Office. Although Mac Pages is available for Macs, Greengard feels it’s robust enough, and you need something that lets you track changes in articles.
  • A PDF program, like Adobe Acrobat, which has signature capability for contracts.
  • Apps like DocScanner let you take a picture of a document and turn it into a PDF.

3. Make your data available. Like Greengard mentioned, it’s important for you to be able to access your data and documents no matter where you are. Some tools that can help:

  • Apps that give you access to your documents include iCloud, Dropbox, Box.com and Google Drive.
  • Programs like MailTags that let you tag your emails with keywords can help eliminate the cumbersome process of trying to find files or folders.

 

BILL PFLEGING, tech expert.

The Geek GapBill Pfleging is a computer and tech expert and a former director of Internet community for the Lycos Network. He is the co-author of The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don’t Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive.” He covers technology for the Woodstock Times.

Pfleging suggested the following tools to help writers increase their productivity:

  • Lifescribe pen records everything you write and transfers it into your computer. It also records audio in stereo. “It’s a very useful tool,” said Pfleging.
  • CamScanner turns your smartphone into a scanner. You can turn a scanned document into a PDF and email it to yourself or others.
  • WorldCard is a business-card reader. The app scans both sides of the card and turns it into usable text by saving it to your contacts.
  • magicJack is a device that plugs into a USB port on your computer and lets you make unlimited phone calls to almost any phone.
  • Google Voice  gives you one phone number that connects to all your phones. It’s a good tool “so you don’t lose contact and you don’t lose work,” said Pfleging.

 

COURT PASSANT, CBS News

 

Executive Director of Interactive at CBS Newspath

Court Passant

Court Passant is executive director of interactive at CBS News. He was previously executive producer of CBS News on Logo and is a veteran of CBS News, working on the overnight broadcast “Up to the Minute” and managing CBS Newspath.

One of Passant’s roles is to take CBS News into the digital era. He teaches correspondents and producers how to get the most out of their phones when covering news and writing stories. He also helps CBS News staff with their use of social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Passant said there are hundreds of apps that can help you cover a story or be used as multimedia in your projects. He recommended everyone experiment with the photo apps available for cellphones to bring pictures to a whole new level.

Some tips:

  • Every time you take a picture on your cellphone, the picture is “geotagged.” You can then load them to Picasa Web and create a map with all the pictures, or create a slideshow you can sell to publishers/editors.
  • Invite others to hang out with you on Google+ Hangout, a free way to hold video conferencing. It can also be recorded and played back later.
  • Ustream lets you broadcast live speeches, seminars, breaking news from your mobile phone. You can also interact via social media and live chat.

Other cool apps:

  • 360 Panorama to take panoramic pictures with your cellphone camera
  • iMovie for video editing
  • Audioboo to post and share audio
  • Steadicam, a camera-stabilizing mount for iPhone

 

You can read more from Maria Perez at her blog on ProfNet Connect.