I’m moving again, virtually. Here it is http://userexperience.robertjneal.com.

Blogging has become a major resource for organizations to reach out to their constituents. It has been incorporated into the overall interactive strategy for reaching out to the organization’s base, and rightly so. But many organizations are failing in this opportunity. Some are underachieving by, for example, not creating posts that are findable. Others are overachieving by, for instance, not keeping their content relevant and trying to saturate a keyword. I will provide some steps to making your blog a resource without turning it into a tool. Furthermore, I will elucidate why the constituent benefits, rather than how the organization benefits. This is important on the assumption that organizations should be at the service of their constituents rather than the opposite and is defended at the end of this post.

First, Lee Odden recommends creating a list of keywords to use as a target reference when blogging1,2. The reason to do this is not so that you can barrage your visitors with abused buzz/key words, and not to beat your competition by having more keyword density and focus. Rather the idea of keeping your content focused and relevant is (1) so you do not mislead your reader, that is to say you always stay within the realm of your blogs intended subject matter, (2) so you only attract relevant readers and do not have subscribers who really have no interest in your blog staying on and you do not have subscribers coming and going making your beautiful statistics look like a roller coaster, and (3) you’re not wasting your time or anyone else’s.

Scott McAndrew recommends participating in the larger blogger community3. This should not be to increase your exposure or get links back to your blog. Rather it is to (1) contribute to your peer group, (2) ask questions and inform yourself which in turn increases your expertise and value to the community, and (3) makes it easier for people to find relevant information. This last point seems like it could be about exposure, okay it is about exposure, kind of. The relevant difference is that the exposure should be about benefiting the readers, not the blogger. Comments on blogs should be acutely relevant and used conservatively.

Both Odden and McAndrew recommend submitting your blog to search engines and using trackbacks, pinging, etc. Again, these should be used to help the reader find relevant information and should not be used to spam a certain keyword, search engine, or aggregator.

Ankesh Kothari says that adding a picture is known to double traffic to a blog post4. Although he does not cite sources, adding relevant images can enhance the readability and usability of your post. For example, my previous post could have benefited greatly from screen shots with highlighted areas of the presidential campaign sites that I was critiquing. Instead, I obfuscated my intent and message by requiring the reader to visit the site and find the issues herself. I may very well go back and update that post.

These are just a few examples of how creating a blog well worth reading is really the core of strategy. In fact, I think you will find that it falls in line with whatever moral theory you subscribe to. Whether you agree with Kant that you should not only do what is right, but do it because it is right or if you are a consequentialist and believe in increasing overall benefit. For just a little extra effort, you greatly increase the benefit to your reader base and for the right reasons.

Now this may seem like a trivial point. It may seem like any suggestion for blogging or interactive strategy can be shown to be beneficial to the user instead of predominantly to the organization. But my assertion is that what will take you from being able to implement any of the thousand lists of best practices for your strategy to creating lists of your own is the user centric principles. Whether you formally define personas or simply regard the welfare of others as much as your own, you will see that your perspective is greatly enhanced by leaving egoism behind. Anyway, egoism is an inconsistent and selfish moral theory that should only plausibly be used by those interested solely in marketing.

  1. Odden, Lee Blog Optimization
  2. Odden, Lee 25 Tips for Marketing Your Blog
  3. McAndrew, Scott How to promote a blog for free
  4. Kothari, Ankesh How To Double The Popularity of Your Blog Posts

Homework: Find any of the hundreds of lists on how to promote your site or blog and determine what the best route is. Is it user centric or organization centric? Is it that simple? If no, why not? If yes, then perhaps this is the first step to having the ability to create your own list.

There has been a recent fervor of organizations trying to reach people via social networking sites. However, many of them seem to be missing the value that social networks provide. Sometimes the social networking sites themselves miss the point1. I want to point out some of the benefits of reaching out to people on the social networking sites and what types of technologies complement these benefits. For examples of falling short, I will use some of the presidential campaign sites.

Organizations are scared to miss the next big wave on the internet. And social networking sites, such as Facebook, are that wave. But just as many organizations continuously fail at providing solutions that actually have measurable results elsewhere on the web2, they are continually failing on social networking sites. For example, Wal-Mart got in the Facebook app craze just to make money and it turned out quite differently than they expected3. This is in large part due to an ignorance of what social networking is all about.

Instead of jumping on the band wagon for the sake of being there, organizations should ask themselves what they expect to get out of their efforts and ask if the social network has that to offer. One of the key benefits of social networking sites is that the people you want to reach go there to hang out. And if they like you, they’ll bring you along with them in the form of a badge or shout out on their profile. Think of the user’s profile as a t-shirt that you get to push new content to whenever you want. The user is wearing you on her sleeve, but you have to be respected to stay there. The best way to stay in with the people is to be worthy of respect. However, the common business practice is to trade some benefit for (ie buy) the pleasure of being on the user’s most intimate of areas. This will always produce suboptimal results and can sometimes backfire completely.

With social networking sites your organization is not just on the user’s profiles, but often on the user’s friends’ profiles. Your benefit of earning the respect of one person is that she shares you with all of her friends, but that means the cost of losing one person means you lose communication with all of her friends. It’s important to note that you reached all of these people on the web without them having to find you and visit your website. Furthermore, you can keep these people close without them ever visiting or revisiting your website. You have been introduced and your on your way to being a part of cosa nostra.

The benefit and responsibility with other push technologies is similar. For example, RSS allows you to keep your constituents current without expecting that they visit your site with any regularity. In fact, this is where many of the current presidential campaign sites have been quite presumptuous. Hillary Clinton’s blog4 expects me to hunt for her RSS feed, and the others are just as obscure. Only Ron Paul’s site5 lets you subscribe to the news section (and on the front page!), arguably more important than the campaign blogs. Whatever you choose to syndicate, make sure you are pushing it often enough and always at the highest quality to retain your constituents.

The presidential campaigns are making one good use of social networking sites. That is they are allowing communities to build themselves around the campaign rather than the campaign trying to build the community for them, but they are missing a crucial element. Instead of keeping all of your supporters in isolation, syndicate the news from Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Make all the supporters aware of the other supporters and invite them to engage. This can be accomplished simply by posting news or events from the social networking site to your home page. Did one of the supporters make a great post on MySpace? Let everyone else know about it. Don’t keep people confined to their social networks. Rather, leverage the evangelist supporter’s generated content to bring everyone together.

  • Allow people to keep current without having to visit your site
  • Push only relevant, respectful, and engaging content
  • Always treat people “never simply as a means, but also always as an end”6
  • Make sure what your medium delivers is in line with your goals and expectations

The sort of expectation for people to jump through hoops to find you and stay current with you or your organization is the opposite of what you need to do to successfully engage users on the internet. Instead, your organization should be something the user wants to be identified with and is proud to flaunt to his friends. Trying to buy your way into the user’s life only reduces your credibility because it shows that you cannot get in through your own reputation. Finally, once you have established a relationship with your user be sure to keep her and her friends engaged and proud to be a part of your message.

  1. Eisenberg, Bryan & Eisenberg Jeffrey Is Your Reputation Worth $15 Billion?
  2. Gorell, Robert How to Elf Yourself Out of Millions
  3. Gorell, Robert Can Wal-Mart’s Facebook Campaign Survive Transparency?
  4. HillaryClinton.com – Blog
  5. Ron Paul 2008 – Hope for America
  6. Kant, Immanuel Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
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