Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide


July 2011

Content is king – do you hate it?

What subject did you hate at school?

My sons hate ‘recount’.

Don’t know what that is? It’s when you turn up to school on Monday morning – or even worse, the first Monday after school holidays – and your teacher asks you to write a piece on “What I did on the weekend” or “What I did on my holidays”.

My boys loathe this style of diarised writing. They enjoyed their weekend; why put pen to paper to recount what’s over and done with? (Particularly when it just reminds you of the long school week ahead).

Your keyboard's waiting for your content!
Your keyboard's waiting for your content!

Sadly for my sons, they sometimes have to produce content. School isn’t all excursions and maths quizzes. And this mandatory content production is something more of us have to face in our working lives.

We’ve all heard the mantra, “content is king” and the explosion of social media and the digital age has certainly upped the appetite for content. It’s an insatiable appetite. And this means more people have to produce content as part of their job roles.

So I’m sure some middle managers, marketers, CEOs and sales people feel the same way as my sons. Many companies have now created corporate blogs, enewsletters and social media pages to maintain – as well as their official websites. It’s a big job to 1) come up with content ideas 2) research and draft your piece 3) load the content, which often includes formatting, SEO and acquiring images and 4) promote the darn thing.

Once upon a time, you could be a hairdresser, company CEO, dentist or fashion retailer without having to tweet about your day, blog about the future of your industry or come up with a creative Facebook post.

If producing content is part of your job, here’s some tips to make it a little easier:

  1. Write down a blog post or content idea, as soon as you have it. If you don’t have pen or paper handy, write it as a note on your phone. Because you will forget that idea and be very annoyed with yourself later. An app like Evernote might appeal to you.
  2. Have a content calendar. This will plan the next 3, 6 or 12 months of posts. Look ahead at what events your business will be involved with, what industry cycle you’re going through, what news announcements might be expected and so on. Then jot down a few ideas for how you might write about that.
  3. Read what others are writing: that provides ideas. You might respond to someone else’s blog. You might pick up a popular theme in an online forum and expand on that.

Done well, the content we produce can boost our business, attract and retain ‘customers’ and help secure our future. It’s worth it.

But try telling that to my sons.

How do you feel when you’re faced with the job of writing more content?


Wading through social streams

Sorting through your social media streams can be as frustrating as pushing through a shopping mall crammed with lolling teenagers when you’ve only got 30 minutes to shop.

As we spend more time on social networks, one of the inevitable consequences is that we’re connected to a greater numer of people online. And that means a greater number of people to keep up with. Or “crap to wade through” – choose your preferred term.

How can we manage it?

If you’re a keen Twitter user, you can easily find yourself following several thousand people. On Facebook, you may find your initial friends and family network has morphed into “anyone I briefly bumped into back in the 90s”.

It can easily become overwhelming and dispiriting, as you log onto a newsfeed that’s full of posts you’re not interested in, written by people you barely remember.

This is a common complaint and of course social networks themselves are aware of this;  which is why they’ve invented tools to help you sift and sort.

(If you’re a social media tragic, this might be second nature to you. This blog is more of a 101 post).

Here’s a few things I do to cope with the influx and ensure I don’t miss out on the posts from the people I consider important:

  • Use Twitter lists. Most of my lists are private, because I don’t want to share how I’ve categorised people. I have a list for Friends, Clients, Social Media and so on. I always check my Friends list on Twitter first, before I read the general stream. This helps me keep up with what my real-world friends are doing, and helps me to avoid diplomatic incidents. You may find that you only ever read tweets from people on a List. Read Twitter’s explanation of how to use Lists. Basically, a List helps you cut to the chase. You may have a List for clients too, or people you admire, members of your favourite sports team and so on.
  • Save Twitter hashtags to a stream. Read Twitter’s explanation of Hashtags   if you’re unsure. I have the #socadl stream saved as a column in Hootsuite. Again, it helps me to sift through Twitter quickly, because I can scan the pre-searched stream and see what comments have been made that are pertinent to the #socadl community. (And you may only have a hashtag stream for one day, when a conference hashtag is pertinent to you, for example. They’re easy to set up and remove).
  • Use Facebook ‘Hide’. On Facebook, there are a myriad of ways you can focus on what’s important to you, and block out the noise. Click on the X button to the right of any post for example, and you’ll see the option to hide the friends, pages, games or applications that annoy you. You’re still connected, they aren’t aware that you’ve hidden them, and you can check back on their profile or page – their posts just won’t be served up to you all the time.
  • Use Facebook friends lists (see pic below). You can sort your Facebook friends into lists, too. (Click on Friends to the left of your profile, see Create a List on the next page). Then, when you’re looking at your newstream on Facebook, you can choose to view certain Lists. Your ‘best friends’ list might have just three or four very special people on there, whose posts you absolutely don’t want to miss.

    Viewing Lists on Facebook
    Viewing Lists on Facebook
  • Use Google Circles. The newest sensation of course is GooglePlus, and much of its hype is based on its sorting and sifting abilities. You can create Circles there, another iteration of the list concept. You can name a Circle anything you like, and drag and drop your contacts into that Circle, and then view that Circle’s newstream only.
  • LinkedIn has a profile organiser  but as it’s available only to upgraded accounts, I haven’t had the chance to roadtest it yet. Have you tried it?
  • An RSS feed is of course one of the ultimate ways of organising your social media streams, in particular collating feeds from your favourite blogs into one place. Some social networks offer an RSS option; GooglePlus has an RSS option for example.

Further reading

Can we ever digitally organise our friends
Facebook’s Edgerank  (if you’re interested in what Facebook is doing behind the scenes to influence your newstream)

What are your favourite ways to sift through your social media updates?


7 annoying things about technology

A part of the unashamedly #firstworldproblem series.

iPad typing is frustrating
iPad typing is frustrating

Here’s a list of some everyday technology glitches that vex me:

  1. Putting the USB stick in the wrong way around – always. (How does that happen, when you’d think between two choices, there’s a greater chance of choosing the right way?)
  2. Scanning documents. The scan quickly leaps to 99% and then keeps you waiting three minutes for the final percentage to finish (Thanks for @catep36 for the reminder).
  3. Auto correct. It’s frustrating to type a tweet on your phone with a particularly long word within it, only to look back and see it’s been auto-corrected and makes no sense. Also, I’ve lost count of the number of people that tell me “I typed Prakky into my phone and it turned into Orally. Hee hee”. (Yes, we can adjust correction settings on smartphones or our desk tops, but it’ll still get you somehow).
  4. Typing on the iPad. I’ve been touch typing since age 12, but the flat shiny keyboard of the iPad has conquered me so far. I fumble over it. And then I encounter vexing point number 3) above.
  5. When strangers don’t mute the keys on their mobile phones and you have to endure a ‘beep beep’ with every key they type. This often happens while waiting for public transport or sharing an elevator with a stranger.
  6. When you quickly shut down your iPhone and accidentally take a screenshot of the last application open.
  7. Desktop printers. Apparently designed to last 6-12 months.

How about you? What aspects of technology annoy you? (And don’t just say ‘iTunes’).

GooglePlus: a little bit private, a little bit free-for-all

You may have heard. Google has a new social network. (Yes, another one. But this post won’t be a cynical retrospective … Let’s start afresh, hey Googs?)

It’s called GooglePlus, apparently because it’s a “plus” to all the services Google already provides to us. And we might consider it like the +1 that we’re often asked to bring along to parties (What’s in a name  is a great post on the topic).

As Google reminds us, the network is in Beta and ‘invite only’ while the testing community unearths bugs and things to be improved.

Time to reload and try another social network
Time to reload and try another social network

But one very common description for GooglePlus thus far is “It’s like Twitter and Facebook combined”.

There are several reasons why users have been saying that:

  • You can share posts publicly, as you can on Twitter or …
  • You can share posts only with ‘friends’ , like Facebook
  • Your posts can be reshared by others, like a retweet on Twitter
  • You can ‘follow’ people like you do on Twitter, without them having to add or accept you.
    Similarly, you can be added to someone else’s Circle without accepting a ‘friend request’
  • The GooglePlus Circles are a little like Twitter lists: you can create and name your own Circle, and categorise other GooglePlus users, placing them in to a Circle in a way that makes sense to you.  (Then you might check what the Circle has posted, only, in the same way that many people use Twitter lists to read the tweets of a selected few).
  • You can share a link which features a picture preview of the page you’re linking to, like Facebook.

There are a lot of posts online already that critique Google Plus and try to predict its future. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. I want to focus on this Twitter/Facebook nexus I’ve outlined above.

If you’re a long-time Facebook or Twitter user, you’re conditioned into how those platforms work. You’ll have to rewire that thinking to get the most from GooglePlus.

Because GooglePlus is a “little bit private, a little bit public”.

For dedicated Facebook and Twitter users, it’s second nature to know how your content is being shared.  That will take a little longer with GooglePlus, and some people have already experienced hiccups and have shared more than they expected. Although Facebook is often taken to task for its lack of privacy, many users have used their settings to create a largely private space. Many Facebook users feel comfortable enough there to post racy party photographs or complain about their boss, because they believe these posts are only for the eyes of their friends and family.

On GooglePlus, accidental public sharing could happen more easily. When you post to GooglePlus, you choose which Circles to publish to. And these Circles are often pre-chosen for you in your status update field, based on what you used in your last post.

One option is to make your post ‘public’. This means it’s available for the world to see. Including your boss. Including your ex. Including the media.

Accidentally include ‘public’ in a post – what happens then?

In FB this can’t happen quite so easily – in Twitter, you’re already in that environment where you expect it to happen and you always have this in the back of your mind. If you want something to be private, you just don’t tweet it, full stop.

You can ‘reshare’ someone else’s GooglePlus post. When I clicked onto one post to share it, a pop up appeared stating : “This post was originally shared with a limited audience – remember to be thoughtful about who you share it with”. What does that mean? Am I sharing someone’s post beyond what they originally requested?

When you share on G+, you do have an option to select ‘don’t reshare’. Not all users would be aware of this yet, it’s a very  subtle option in a drop down menu next to your status update. (You can also disallow comments, though I don’t know why someone would do that).

As I said at the outset, it’s early days for GooglePlus. The vibe is still largely positive. And it’s fun to note that we don’t always land onto a new platform and know what we’re doing, as Guy Kawasaki kindly shared:

“For days I’ve been posting to G+: no comments, no shares, no nothing. I’m wondering: How the hell can this be compared to some of the crap out there? Then I figured it out: I wasn’t posting to the general public. Oh Scobleizer, where were you when I needed you?”

Have you had a chance to try GooglePlus yet? What are your thoughts? If not – how do you feel about another social network opening up?

I’m a podcaster now?

A person who writes blogs is a blogger. A person who uses Twitter is a tweep or tweeter. You can be a YouTuber, too.

But what’s the name for a person who podcasts? I have no idea …

Today was my first podcast experience. (Some of you may have seen this on Twitter already, but I wanted to share this on my blog too – so my blog subscribers had the opportunity to listen to my on-air fumblings).

While @sarahsocialprco was overseas, I had the chance to jump into her @cjpodcast hotseat and have a great chat with @malchia and @jasonneave. We talk about Google+, Twitter promoted tweets, the attention we pay (or not) to television advertising, smartphones and much more. Enjoy!

@malchia organises these podcasts regularly, so if you have ideas for future chats, leave a comment below or catch him on Twitter.

An open letter to LinkedIn

 I’m sorry, LinkedIn.

I’ve tried to spend more time with you, but you’re just not pushing my buttons.

Sure, you’ve supplied a nice interface, with a simple clear design and a free online space for me to house my curriculum vitae. I think it’s also cool that I can connect to people I’ve worked with, plus past and future clients, to build a ‘career hub’. It’s also interesting to read the LinkedIn profiles of people I know, to see how their careers have progressed.

Michelle Prak on LinkedIn
Michelle Prak on LinkedIn

But when it comes to anything else, you’re less than compelling.

I struggle to visit you daily, unlike other platforms I frequent including Twitter and Facebook. When I occasionally remember, I will visit – but it feels as exciting as dragging myself to the dry cleaners.

I commend you for setting up groups, but often they’re quiet or they’re full of self-promoters.

I commend you for drawing in a news section. But I already get my news on so many other platforms.

When you enabled users to integrate their Twitter feed – that made things ugly.

Some other LinkedIn users swear that you’re cool. They say you’re a dynamic space that has helped them to boost their professional network. They’ve formed LinkedIn groups that meet up in real life. But for me – Twitter has done that dozens of times over.

I won’t shut down my LinkedIn profile, because as a personal ‘career website’ it’s very handy to have you ticking along in the background. But I seriously doubt you will ever ignite my passion.

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