I’m going to start my blog with an article I wrote 2 years ago…
Here are my guidelines for creating and maintaining a successful blog presence.
- Personalized URL: Every blog must have a simple web address. Ideally a two-part blog name such as http://gigaom.com. If you don’t have your own domain, at the very least have a personalized URL of the form http://billgates.microsoft.com. It is important that you have a URL where your username is prepended to the company name. URLs of the form http://microsoft.com/billgates are far less effective than ones where the username is prepended.
- Viral: Make your blog viral. Viral is not where you don’t have a marketing budget, but you actually have to make your blog inherently viral. Viral Marketing is an art-form and a science. The essence(rooh) of viral marketing can be distilled down into one sentence: “A person to person interaction where the focus of the interaction is the product itself.” You can apply this to any successful viral web play, and find that it holds true. It is what I call an empirical rule. Examples: Paypal – send-me-money; Youtube: look-at-my-video; Hotmail: get-your-own-free-email, and the list goes on…There are proven strategies that you can learn from and embrace, e.g.
- Social Discovery: Facilitate groups. Let users with shared interests congregate. Enable crowds. Crowds are good. The more people that can align themselves around your content, the more they talk about it, and the more buzz they create: driving ever more increasing numbers of people with that interest back to your site. Youtube used this strategy very effectively to display more related videos thereby not only driving hordes of new users to their site but also to make their site extremely sticky! To name only a few: Facebook, MySpace, digg, and delicious are examples of companies that have used this strategy very effectively.
- Provide visible direct URLs to content which others can easily link to: Use a modular approach to your blog along with anchor tags. For example, if you are putting a chart, picture, or any other rich media type provide a visible URL that others can easily copy. This will allow other bloggers to be able to use your content on their site. More importantly it enables them to directly hyperlink to it from their site: driving traffic back to your blog!
- Controversy: This is a double-edged sword that can very quickly catapult your online presence. However if not done correctly it can just as easily be even more damaging. Radio shock-jocks have been around for a while. The most in-famous of them being Howard Stern. While Stern is regarded by most as vile, it has not prevented him from amassing a loyal following, more importantly a LARGE following. Paris Hilton, on the other hand, is another celebrity that continues to surround herself with controversy yet manages to keep her own reputation largely intact. Always remember: not all controversy is good.
- Know your audience:
- Keep it Real: put yourself in the shoes of your audience. (Dis)arm yourself at their knowledge and understanding level of the topic at hand, now write.
- Analytics: You must track usage. Whether you use Google Analytics or some other piece of software, it is essential that you know
- Who is reading what?
- Where they are sending your content,
- How they are using it, and
- Who they are bringing back (if anyone) to your blog; and
- Why the new user is coming to your blog.
Use web analytical tools that will tell you what are the most relevant portions of your blog. Remember a web-page is an artificial container of information. The soul(rooh) of relevance is at a level of granularity below that.
- Listen to your readers: Let users tell you what is of relevance to them – individually & in aggregate. Regularly read the comments that users leave on your blog. Utilize tools that will help you determine what your readers find to be of relevance.
- Sharing Tools: All successful websites – and large blogs – know the value of sharing tools.
- E-Mail: Virtually every content page that a visitor goes to has an “E-Mail this Page” kind of functionality. Right from large News websites to even shopping and auction sites like eBay don’t skimp on this functionality. Never under estimate the value of peer-to-peer recommendation. Look for ways and tools to make this sharing be even more effective, and perhaps focused!
- Print: As more and more of the world is going online don’t discount the value of this. Before the advent of GPS systems, we all knew Mapquest. Why? Because people would print out directions from Mapquest and carry them to their destination – infecting more & more people with Mapquest. Again a peer-to-peer interaction where the focus of the interaction was “how to get there?”
- Social Bookmarking: Has become such a rage that it has given birth to companies like AddThis and ShareThis whose entire product offering is around spreading your content to other communities.
- Community: Again a very powerful and compelling idea embraced by most successful blogs. Allow your users to make comments on your blog. It provides the beginnings of the glue required to build a community around your content. If done right, this community will align around your content, refer to it, link to it, and hopefully facilitate Social Discovery!
- Micro-sharing: As there is an information overload, seek out new tools that will allow micro-sharing. No one has time. This is a large-part-reason why micro-blogging services like Twitter are such a huge success. If you want your users to be able to share your blog with others, find ways that will allow them to only share the relevant portions: selective relevance to individual readers. Copy-paste is tedious and painful: requires repeatedly copying passages, launching e-mail program, inserting quotes etc. etc. Use tools that will allow users to share just the highlights. A finer level of granularity is a must.
- Collection & Archival tools: are another critical requirement. Given the dynamic nature of blogs, content is in a constant state of change Provide your users with tools that will not only allow them to archive (and refer) to your content in the future, but will also allow them to (clip and) collect interesting portions of your blog right here right now.
- Permalink: provides your users with a permanent URL to the content that they are looking at right now – the entire module.
- Page As-It-Was: is an idea whose time has come. Enable a user to be able to take a snapshot of your page as it is. This way groups of people (communities) can engage in a dialog around your content without having to worry that the page will change while they are in the midst of a discussion.
- Bookmark: Allow your audience to be able to bookmark easily. Social bookmarking has devolved to the point where a lot of bookmarks are added to a central repository. But sifting through one’s own bookmarks is a tedious process that not very many readers can, or do. Go back to the basics: provide automated browser based bookmarking functionality of “Bookmark this page”
- Enable blogging of your blog: Seek out and discover tools that will allow your readers to blog about your blog. At the end of the day: a significant portion of blogging is based upon people writing about what they read on other websites. Make it so that your blog is that ‘other site.’
- Use new gizmos, gadgets, and tools: Stay abreast with technology. Don’t be afraid to try new tools, and widgets, especially if it makes common sense. Trust your common sense. Neither clutter-up your blog, nor give-up easily on new widgets. After all consumers require a little bit of exposure to anything new. Did you know there was a time when the founders of Youtube were trolling on Craigslist trying to get anyone to use it, without much luck; and then it popped! And, boy did it pop! So be persistent with the tools that you like – especially those that deliver value to your readers and two, those that propagate your own blog.
- SEO: Don’t underestimate the value of Search Engine Optimization. Even though in the opinion of this author, this is an artificial industry (topic for another posting), yet it can, and it does do wonders for driving traffic to your blog.
- Be “Open”:
- Make it Personal: Share with your users what you are reading: show them what you find interesting on the WWW. Add link rolls showing your social bookmarks. Show your tag cloud of how you are organizing your information. If they are interested in your blog means they are interested in what you are reading. Share your discoveries on the WWW with them – enables Social discovery in a very big way. Solve the granularity problem and show them exactly what is of interest to you.
- No Popups: Don’t be afraid of losing visitors. When hyper-linking to other websites, don’t try to open them in a new (pop-up) window. Google doesn’t open search-results in a new window. They have a made a huge business out of providing you the fastest way to leave their site.
- Link to Relevant/Related content: Remember you cannot be ‘all things to everyone.’ So link to other relevant content and users of related content. Provide outbound links liberally, links that your reader will benefit from, at the same time don’t create links for the sake of hyper-linking.
Make sure to add these fundamental tools to your blog.
Provide them with quotable quotes that they can easily pick-up from your blog and/or link back to. Create Social Media Releases, whereby you create an article along with a video, if relevant, and package it present it in a format so that others can use it as-if-it-were-their-own. Don’t be hungry for attribution and/or traffic. The attributions and traffic will come with the larger distribution that you get out of it. It will increase your Reach and Retention by orders of magnitude.
Deliver mechanisms that will allow your readers to be able to Auto-Publish your content with minimal, if not zero, effort.
Make sure that the tools you use seamlessly integrate. Tools that ask your readers to install a software/browser plug-in, require them to sign-up should be shunned at all costs. Protect your readers from such tools. (Be your user).
Some of the ideas presented in this article straddle subject headings. I have described them under the one that made the most sense to my convoluted brain. As long as you can pick up on these ideas – no matter how you yourself decide to classify them – and make your blog more effective I am happy.
Appendix: List of Tools:
- Widgets: Slide, RockYou, Rooh.It, CitiesIveVisited
- Site Highlighter: Rooh.It
- Personal: Youtube, flickr, digg, delicious
- Mailing List & Forums: vBulletin, phpList, phpBB
- Micro-sharing: Twitter, Rooh.It
- Email, Print… Toolpanel: Rooh.It
- Sharing Buttons: ShareThis, AddThis
- Social Bookmarking: reddit, digg, delicious
- Blogging Software: WordPress, Blogger
- Auto-Publish Widget: Rooh.It
- Analytics: Webalizer, Rooh.It, Google, awStats
Rohit Chandra is a consummate Consumer Internet Entrepreneur and the visionary inventor of the Personalized URL (in use by about a Billion users on the web): any time you see a URL of the format http://john.blogger.com, with the username before the domain name, you are using his invention. In 1997 he founded the earliest Social Networking website called eCode.com(=openId+Facebook+LinkedIn), that had millions of users, and hundreds of corporate partners. He has been written up in more than 300 top-tier analyst and media articles: WSJ, NYTimes, Forrester, Jupiter, Business Week, etc.
Living life on his own terms, in the prime of youth, he took 5 years off to travel the world and visited nearly 50 countries. He now lives in Silicon Valley and hosts a unique Talk Radio Show on entrepreneurship called Sapne Salamat.