Monday, 30 March 2009

LFCTV's use of Twitter update

I wrote about LFCTV's emergency on Twitter at the start of March with some praise for what they were doing and some suggestions for how they could improve.

Following Paul Rogers' comment on this blog and my own observations this month, I'd like to update you on how quickly they've developed their use of Twitter and increased the readership.

1. More conversation
I'd previously suggested that the LFCTV team used Twitter to do too much broadcasting and not enough interaction. No more do my @replies go unnoticed though. For example, one of the team tweeted that they were re-writing the managers' profiles on the official website. Alarmed, I replied asking for clarification that Senor Benitez's profile didn't need updating. I got a swift response, killing unwanted specualtion quickly!

2. More personality
They've continued to add personal thoughts and reflections on to Twitter, sometimes even pushing against the official-feel to the website news. For example, the light-hearted banter in the warm-up to the Man United game was realy good and the songs afterwards were even useful for my local pub. The reflection that Adam Pepper's goal should have been higher-up the top 10 list after a vote on the main website was also a nice touch that you can't communicate through a corporate voice.

3, Match news

4. Upcoming programmes
LFCTV had done this much better than I suggested, again with more humour and personality. For example, when two guests were late arriving for a recent show, we read all about it on Twitter, reminding us to go and watch the programme. Great use of multiple platforms.

5. Advertising Twitter
The team have done really well to increase the Twitter audience exponentially thanks to news stories, promotion on the TV channel, ads on the homepage flash screen and a logo at the footer of stories. All this has delivered over 15,000 followers - most of whom are followed back which is more good practice.

Well done LFCTV - innovating across all broadcast platforms. There's an awful lot that others could learn from their style.

And finally, thanks to Paul's complaints abotu leaving a comment on this blog, we've been able to change our moderation policy.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Blogging, Twitter and SEO

There is a raging - and not particularly interesting - debate about the value of Twitter for search engine optimisation. In short, people wonder if Twitter has any value for optimising your website because:
a) it depends on shortened URLs which don't build up link value and
b) Google places 'no follow' tags on Twitter links

The debate is dull because no-one knows how Google works (and those that do won't say) so people are groping in the dark.

However, I can report this:
a) that I have a wordpress plugin that reproduces my Tweet on my blog. I did this because I update Twitter more often than I blog
b) on some occassions, those Tweets have (unintentionally) added keywords to the page. As a result, people have searched for an unexpected combination of words which has revealed my blog at the head of a small part of the long tail.

For example, I recorded my concern about Conservative donations and mentioned large Tory donor Michael Ashcroft. A couple of days later I Twittered about Allen Stanford's arrest. My blog was therefore prominent on the search results for "Michael Ashcroft and Allen Stanford" to satisfy anyone looking for information about the two men.

I can't recommend this as a strategy per se: the volumes are too low to be able to research the keyword frequency. But there are circumstances where Twitter can help your SEO strategy.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Blogs: How can they be authentically provocative?

Rowland Manthorpe has asked:
"I do find it difficult to stimulate comments. I don't want to go all "look at me, I'm being provocative [six exclamation marks]", but at the moment I'm struggling to find an alternative strategy. Any ideas in that direction?"
As per my last post, I don't have all the right answers. But I do have some thoughts and would like some others.

On my own blog I've tried to be provocative in three ways:

1. Not pulling my punches.
If I don't like something, I say so - strongly and probably more strongly than I would in general conversation. So, for example, a dislike of comic relief becomes I hate Comic Relief. Of course the post-proper allows my to nuance the arguments but the point is made more strongly than 'on balance, Comic Relief is a little under-whelming and whilst I like the public effort, I'm disappointed that it doesn't increase charitable donations by more'.

2. Seeking out opposing views
To promote my post on Comic Relief, I found blogs that were talking about Comic Relief most of which were naturally supportive because they were tales of people who had done something positive to raise money. I expected people visiting my blog from those sites to be hostile and they were.

3. The hundred hits rule
I've not ever received a comment on a post with fewer than 100 hits. That's not to say that you need 200 hits to get 2 comments (that's partly because the 2nd comment should always be yours - replying to the first). Or that 300 hits get 3 comments. And blog posts with 1000 hits often have somewhere nearer to 20 comments.

I'm facing two particular challenges at the moment:
  1. Writing things that stimulates other people to write about the issue - critical to making your blog take-off
  2. Being provocative in a positive way. I set up my blog to be positive yet always write from a negative standpoint. More to be done.
However, I do always engage with commenters wherever possible so that when they start out negative, I can at least try to identify common ground and where we really disagree. See, for example, my exchange with Denis Cooper.

I'd be grateful for any other ideas on how to be provocative . . .

Monday, 23 March 2009

Blogging disclaimer

I should reiterate my blogging disclaimer.

I've been free and easy with dispensing "advise" about blogging as if I were some sort of "expert". It isn't - and I'm not. Blogging is a form of writing just like any other with certain attributes. Just like writing a good essay is different from writing a good newspaper article, writing a good blog is different again.

However, social media does not have the longevity of newspaper writing, the science of marketing books or the same rigour to marking essays. Because the medium is changing so quickly, there are no rules. Only things that have worked in the past.

I'm writing my own blog - and blogging about it - to show you what I learn, building on my professional experience of what I've learnt helping others. But the medium is developing so rapidly that no sooner have rules been written than they can be destroyed.

So my disclaimer is that:
a) I know no more than my own experience
b) Rules are only developed from experience. They should be violated in order to innovate and enjoy writing

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Matthew Taylor's blog: what's it all about?

Matthew Taylor was confronted by a former colleague who suggested that his blog was all "me, me, me". It's true that blogs are inherently self-centered. But Matthew being the sensitive person that he is and his accuser being the sort that's committed to proper examination of the evidence, I thought that I'd do a quick analysis of what hs blog is all about.

I put the last five posts into wordle to produce images of the main words. These are the subjects he's blogged about in the last few days:

Now of course that excludes common words so I repeated the exercise, including common words:

So whilst 'I' figures prominently, it's not that prominent.

The ippr hasn't yet demonstrated its commitment to social media as part of its mission to be at the "forefront of progressive debate" to "build a fairer, more democratic world" so it's not possible to do a comparison.

Thoughts on whether the ippr is well suited to critiquing social media engagement and whether it can fulfil its mission without engaging with people through social media can be made in the comments section below!

Matt Gee appointed Newscounter director

Matt Gee has been appointed as a director of Newscounter.

I'm really pleased that the shareholders have appointed Matt who I've met a few times over the last six months. He is very enthusiastic, very sharp and incredibly driven. He will bring valuable marketing expertise to the group and has significant experience to help us expanding Newscounter overseas.

Matt Gee says:
I have over 15 years’ experience in strategy, marketing and proposition
development roles, both on the client side (Channel 4, Five, Guardian Media
Group) as well as in the role of a consultant.

As a consultant I originally focused on the broadcast, film and telecoms sectors
providing board level advice to a range of clients including Discovery, ITV plc,
Warner Bros, RTE, Groupe Lagardere and UKTV. I have also advised a film finance house that successfully raised over £50m against a portfolio of Warner
Bros films. More recently I have spent increasing amounts of time working with
VCs, investment banks and start-ups.

In October 2008 I established an online business that aims to replicate the
success of moneysupermarket, with a focus on emerging markets.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The importance of news in blogging

A regular reader of this blog emailed me this weekend to ask:

"As Matthew said in his last entry, however, timing is everything. Unfortunately, at at the moment, my work isn't structured to be able to strike while the iron is hot. This makes it difficult to get engaged in a debate and then try to lead it. There do seem to be other "thought leadership" blogs that don't seem to engage in a debate. Are political blogs different I wonder? Anyway, these are some topics that we could pick up when hopefully we get around to meeting.

This is a really familiar challenge that lots of our clients face. I firmly believe, having done it myself and with the benefit of working for lots of others that the following is important:

- if you can't blog frequently, write posts that you have 'in the locker' which you can post (automatically if necessary) when you can see the diary is busy. You can quickly top and tail these to make then topical.
- when you want someone to read your post, you have to sell it to them. An important part of sales is timeliness - why read it now? If you could read it tomorrow, you would then (but end up not doing so). If you want readers, the post has to be timely. Even if it's a personal blog (I had a nice weekend) it should be too late to read it five days later.
- all blogs should engage in a debate. If you're not situated in a community of blogs then the chances are you are either to successful to need it or too unsuccessful to deserve it.

I suppose it is possible to not be in a newsworthy debate with a group of other blogs. But if you're not you need to:
- really understand what interests your audience
- know where they currently congregate and how to attract them to your post
- be able to draw them back to your blog again and again
- give them incentives to tell their friends about your blog

So if you're blogging for your friends or a limited group of people (your staff?) it might not be necessary for your blog to be newsworthy and part of a debate. But if you want to use it to:
- establish your expertise
- retain existing relationships (clients?)
- develop new relationships
- broaden your networks

then I believe our advice is important. Challenge me, if you disagree.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Pope backs Counterpoint

The popularity of Counterpoint is increasing. Word reaches Newscounter towers that even the Pope understands its significance.

"I hear that it was possible to access various excerpts of the news on the internet and to have got knowledge of the problem," he says.

"I learn from this that we in the Holy See must take notice of these news sources in the future."

Timing is important for blogging

Over the last week or so, I've learnt just how important it is to blog at the right time.

I've posted twice on my personal blog in response to recent news stories - this in reaction to Tom Harris MP and this on increasing anger in society. Neither post was as successful as it should have been because I didn't post at the right time.

This wasn't as complicated as posting at the right time of day (which people often ask about). Whilst this can be useful (first thing at the morning, as Americans are logging in etc) it's mostly of marginal benefit to really good bloggers. My mistake was to publish over a day late. What that meant was that:
1. Lots of people had already had their say so I had less to say
2. When I promoted my post on other blogs, the comment was lower down so got less click-throughs
3. When I promoted my post, I didn't influence other bloggers because they'd already written about it

If you're going to react to an issue, do so early and amend your post as you go. There will be more opportunities to promote it on other sites the longer the issue continues, but your comments will be more prominent and more influential.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

LFCTV use of Twitter

My favourite TV channel has joined Twitter. I was interested to see what they had to say, over and above the content of the website, TV channel and what I'd pick up through the fans websites. LFCTV is currently using Twitter really well.

I started following the channel the day before the Real Madrid game and it was interesting to read 'behind the scenes' glimpses of the club. It wasn't just that you could follow the flight into Madrid and found out that they drank too much that night - but that there was an insight into the operational side of the channel too.

When news broke of Rick Parry's departure, LFCTV were first to confirm that a statement would appear on the official website.

The good things about the use of Twitter are:
* additional content over and above the day to day
* regular but not over-intense use of the channel
* the variety of content from match news to channel operations
* the personal element which came through strongly in the post match reaction to the Middlesbrough defeat

However, there are a number of areas where they could be still more engaging:
* they recently Tweeted that they were off to interview Rafa Benitez. They could have asked for questions to put to Rafa. The incentive would be seeing your question put to Rafa live on LFCTV - certainly an incentive to pay the subscription
* they have started responding to questions but it is still too much broadcasting and limited interaction
* advertising upcoming programmes. Twitter gets boring if it's just a series of commercials but for particular programmes or interviews on the channel this could help demonstrate the commercial value of Twitter
* match news (rights permitting). Twitter updates from the academy games which aren't shown live would be particularly uesful.

Overall, the Newscounter verdict is: great start, the content, tone and style is great; Now try to interact more with the community and use it to add commercial value.
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