Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blogging about Blogging: BIN 2011 Meta-Post #1

I (thankfully) had the opportunity to attend the Blog Indiana 2011 conference in Fisher, Indiana, today. A day full of interesting people and great speakers talking not only about blogging but about social media as a whole. So much that I learned and so much that I want to share!

But I walked away today with seven-and-a-half pages of notes. Considering one discussion today about the merits of a 200-word blog post over a 2,000-word blog post, it is right and fitting that I do not attempt to condense all that great information into a blog post. So I'll just try to boil down some of my key takeaways for you.

Measuring Social Media ROI Should Be More Like Naming a Child, Not Naming a Pet

The morning kicked off with Jay Baer's (@jaybaer) keynote address, "The Six-Step Process to Measuring Social Media." The focus of his presentation was on how corporations can measure the return on investment of their social media efforts — not so much a concern on this blog, but a definite concern of my boss. And her boss. And her boss's boss's boss.

Jay pointed out that, for his book, The Now Revolution (cowritten with Amber Naslund), they identified over 60 different metrics for measuring social media. You (individually or as a corporation) don't want to measure them all. His analogy was that, by the time the birth of your child comes around, you've already narrowed his or her name down to just a handful of possibilities, if not to a single, specific name. If you buy a pet, though, you look at it, get a feel for its personality, maybe play with it a little, and then you decide what to name it.

Measuring the ROI of a company's social media efforts should be more like naming your child, not your pet. You shouldn't jump into a social media campaign and start looking around at the metrics, see what kind of personality they have, and then decide which numbers you want to use to measure success. Instead, you should decide ahead of time which metrics you think will make the most sense for your situation — three or four of them — and stick with just those. After a quarter or two, review your choices and go from there.

There is a whole sea of online metrics available out there. You'll drown if you try to swim the whole thing at once.

The One with the Biggest Balls Wins

I was a little wary going to a presentation called "69 Things I Learned from My First Year of Blogging." I've been blogging since 2006, so I would think that someone who had only a fifth of my blogging experience couldn't tell me a lot that I didn't already know. I would have thought wrong.

The presenter was Kirsten (@RNTgirl), creator of the NSFW blog Results Not Typical Girl, which has achieved quite some success in only a year. She talked about a lot of the things she's done and tools she's used to achieve that success, but the thread that ran through everything she said was this: She had the balls to go out and do it and make it work.

I'm an introvert. One of the best things about social media — in my opinion, of course — is that it gives me and introverts like me an easy way to participate in the conversation. It lets us meet and communicate with people without all that awkwardness of actually having to meet and communicate with people. (FYI: I'm much more charming and witty on Twitter than I am in real life.) This is just how I am.

This is not how Kirsten is, though. Kirsten came up with ideas for her blog and pursued them, took risks both personal and professional, and put herself out there in ways that, for me, are the psychological equivalent of going to work wearing nothing but a bra. For a month.

Kirsten's got bigger balls than I do, and I admire and envy that.

She talked about a lot of tools, but the two that I'm most excited about looking into (and that you might be interested in, too) are
  • Zemanta, a browser extension that will automatically find, based on what you're writing in your blog post, related stories and copyright-free images that you can quickly drop into your post (and their attributions come along for the ride).
  • Fiverr, a website still in beta where people will do almost anything for $5. Seriously, almost anything. Kirsten revealed that the banner logo on her blog was created by someone she paid $5 to on Fiverr.

Social Media Works If You Work It

Randy Clark (@RandyClarkTKO) presented what was ostensibly called "Over One-Million-Dollar Contract from Social Media," but what he was really talking about was several social media success stories and how they happened. How they happened, as it turns out, ties in a lot with Kirsten and her big balls, only in this case, it was on a larger scale in a more corporate arena.

All of Randy's social media success stories — including a few $1 million+ accounts — had one underlying theme: Connecting people through social media. That connection, though, isn't a passive occurrence. These people made success happen by reaching out to others in the social media sphere, asking for and offering guest posts, trading in goods and services, connecting one client with another, and promoting others.

And sometimes getting someone to do something for you is so simple, yet so scary: You have to ask.

Legal Stuff {shudder}

Kenan Ferrell's (@KLFLegal) topic, "A Legal Primer for Bloggers," left me both more knowledgeable and more frightened. He had a lot of great (and scary) legal information to impart, and in the end he just ran out of time to give it all.

The easiest way to stay in safe legal waters, though, is to use a little common sense and a little precaution:*
  1. Create original material.
  2. If you're going to use content created by someone else, attribute it to that person in your post.
  3. Create original material.
  4. If you're going to use content created by someone else, ask for their permission to use it, even if you don't think you really need to.
  5. Create original material.
He also talked about some of the ways you can protect your own copyright, but, well, just read what's after the asterisk and go get your information from someone with a law degree instead of a music degree.

Another upshot is that Kenan Ferrell is running the social media campaign of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. We might be talking soon.

* This is by no means intended as legal guidance. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Taking legal advice from me is like letting your mother choose your girlfriend: Someone might be happy about it, but it probably won't be you.

Dear C-Suite: Here Are the Numbers You Ordered

Finally, Lorraine Ball (@RoundPeg) presented "Small Business, Big Reach," in which she revealed some interesting results from a study about how small businesses are using social media and how well it's working.

She's going to be publishing a white paper about it soon, so I won't go into the numbers — I'd only screw them up anyway. The most salient point, though, is that the numbers bear out what social media advocates have been trying to convince the C-Suite of for ages: The more time and money you spend on social media, the more you get out of it. In short, social media, if done right, isn't a waste of time and money.

And what's the best part about Blog Indiana 2011? There's more of it tomorrow! Erik Deckers (@edeckers) kicks it off in my arena at 9:15 with "Writing Secrets the Pros Use." I can't wait!
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