There are train tracks a few miles from my house. On most days I forget they are there, as they’re far enough away that I don’t see them daily, and rarely get stuck at a crossing. I do, however, occasionally hear the horn. When the conditions are just right I will hear the blast of the horn come through the trees, over the hills and across the tops of the houses into my office as I’m working in the early mornings. Rarely do I hear it when the fog is in, or even when there is cloud cover, but on the few clear mornings, the sound of that horn bounces through the atmosphere and reminds me of the tracks three miles away.
Success in social business is much like that train horn: conditions need to be right in order to be heard. Luckily, we can control some of those conditions more easily than we can change the weather. In order to get your voice through the filters and noise of the social internet there are a few things you can do to tip the conditions to your favour, much like the clear skies helping the train horn carry miles across the valley:
- Get the lay of the land; learn the valleys and peaks. Watch and see how everyone interacts to determine the etiquette in the space.
- Start small by just adding people you know to your networks.
- Don’t be a tourist for too long. Watch and listen, but begin sharing things you find interesting.
- Begin curating your networks to include people who share things relevant to your interests or business.
- Continue sharing things you find and start adding in your own expertise and ideas.
- Engage in conversation with your network to build deeper relationships.
- Continue curating your networks by adding your target audience. By this point you should have an established presence that will help show value to anyone who may look to follow you.
- Be active, slightly provocative, and consistent in your voice.
Now, when you sound your horn, the message will fly further than you may have ever expected. You’ve taken the right steps to tweak the conditions to your favour and build the atmosphere to support not only visibility of your message, but hopefully others sharing it as well with their own curated networks to amplify far beyond the rail crossing of you and your immediate followers.
I had a practical lesson in the benefits of blogging on Friday morning. During a routine skip-level conversation with my program director, I was able to impress upon him some answers to his questions by referring to a few blog posts I’d published that week and prior in the past few months. Even as I was pointing him to those entries did I realize the value of blogging: I had content available, on demand that I was able to quickly reuse to address a few questions in a relatively concise fashion. Not only did these posts immediately address his questions, but more so they showed that I was a step ahead of the game, that I’d already been thinking about the issue before he even asked. In this way, blogging for me has become a source of reusable self-generated content I can rely upon to either provide solutions or supplement larger strategy conversations and stands as testament to my expertise around my job and is now working its way to being a solid piece to my resume.
But that’s not how it started for me. In the beginning, my blog was like any other: a simple place to wax philosophic or rant a bit, to flex my creative writing muscle now and again, and to simply keep in practice with writing. When I first began to see how blogging on professional topics could be valuable (without really knowing how), I started with some opinion/editorial pieces here and there purely with the intent to voice my opinion. While I do watch traffic out of a data driven curiosity, I’ve not tracked visitors or clicks on my personal blog. Traffic was never the intent for me (and that shows based on the low volume of comments on my posts). But I kept posting for me, for a make-believe audience, and sometimes even for a small specific audience of readers whom I know will benefit without any mind to a return on my investment.
After I began posting more professionally related articles, I’ve found I’m referring back to them more and more often as others are coming on board and becoming more active in social business. I’ve also seen a few of what I’d consider my more boring technical posts pull in consistent visitors month to month. As a knowledge manager and social business program manager, the reuse of publicly available information in this clear and transparent fashion makes me very happy and proves to me the value of blogging.
So, what are the lessons and advice I can pull from my experiences to help you?
- Start now. Begin publishing short posts, find your voice and rhythm.
- Build a small archive of posts and try to have a few ideas in your pipeline, preferably a post or two ready to publish.
- Value will come from the breadth and depth of your combined posts. Blogging is not going to provide an immediate return on investment. The value seen from blogging is organic and cumulative.
- A consistent and expected frequency of posts will help grow your audience. On my professional blog I maintain a post-a-day frequency; here on my personal blog I strive to maintain a once-a-week frequency. Both work for the audiences of each blog.
- Keep at it, even if it seems like no one is reading. Five engaged and attentive readers are worth more than a thousand click-throughs. Appreciate those who find your content interesting enough to share on their own social channels.
- Culture changes are most often glacial in pace. Take every single “like”, “plus one”, and especially every comment as a sign of small success. Take those successes to heart and let them be your encouragement to continue blogging!
Sometimes my blog can be boring. This is one of those technical posts that likely won’t be relevant to anyone but me:
With Facebook’s EdgeRank implementation determining what you see on your news feed you may have noticed that some posts by your favourite pages aren’t showing up. Or, perhaps you want to aggregate your Facebook posts out to other social channels… in either of these cases, you can use RSS to feed that content into your favourite reader or aggregator. Here’s how:
1. First, you will need to find the Facebook page’s identification number. To do this, grab the url to the page (in my case this is facebook.com/waywardceltphotography).
2. With the Facbook page URL, go to findmyfacebookid.com and past the url into the given field and click “Find my Numeric ID”. This will generate a results page with an ID of form similar to: 419841248074808
3. Once you have the numeric ID, the rest is easy. Simply replace the <numeric_id> section in the URL below and use that url to add a subscription into your favourite RSS reader:
By example, my page’s RSS feed url would look like: http://www.facebook.com/feeds/page.php?format=atom10&id=419841248074808
With that URL, you can now keep tabs on all the posts published to the given Facebook page, or use that URL in an aggregator to push the content to other social channels.
image credit: By RRZEicons (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons