social-network

Six Things Social Sites Can Do To Keep Me Engaged

I try to check out as many new platforms, tools and services as I can. The vast majority of the time the technology is good enough and the idea is good enough, but the enterprise ends up falling flat for me. I’ll play with it a little bit, explore the different elements, but ultimately I find myself pulling away and going back to other places on the web. In thinking about it further, I’ve come up with a check-list of six questions that go into determining if this is a place I should be spending my time:

1. Who’s there?

Just about every site lets you connect with or invite your friends from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Great idea, makes sense. Or at least did make sense. But now I start to ask the question, “If s/he is my friend on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, Quora and Facebook, why am I connecting with them here as well?”  There doesn’t seem to be any context, it’s just random friend tapping.  Sure, sites can benefit from the network effect, but the failure to add a layer of relevancy makes this a hollow exercise. Rather than trying to ramp up with volume, I’d rather see sites incorporate Klout or PeerIndex to say, “these are your friends from other social networks who are experts/influencers/interested in the topic that this site is all about.  Real world example: Why doesn’t GetGlue tell me “These are your Twitter friends who are really passionate about TV/Film/Books/Music.” That would end up making the GetGlue experience better because I’d either be following or inviting my existing friends who will actually use GetGlue.

2. How does it connect with my life online?

Every site allows me to push content to my Facebook or Twitter streams. But a good majority of the time I don’t want to do that. To paraphrase Jesse Eisenberg (as Mark Zuckerberg) “If I wanted to post on Facebook, I’d be on Facebook.”  Surely there must be other ways to connect your site to my online life. Many sites offer widgets and badges, but that’s rather low end. I don’t have an answer here, but I’d love to see someone come up with something beyond the basics we see now.

3. How does it connect with my life offline?

Here’s where Nike+ (and the new Speedo Pace Club) have done a great job. It’s not just about checking-in via a Location-Based Service, it’s about integrating what I do offline with an online experience. Also, it’s niche, but a passionate niche. I’m not going to see everyone of my Twitter friends in these, only the ones that are really into running or swimming or whatever. I think these type of sites have a real chance to grow and survive.

4. What’s in it for me?

So many of these young sites pump up the interaction with gamification, but have an incredibly small payoff.  How many digital badges and stickers am I going to collect? Why exactly do I want to be at the top of your leader board?  Foursquare works well here because I’ve received plenty of real world rewards for my efforts – free appetizers, 20% off merchandise, etc.  More sites need to figure out how they can reward their users in more tangible ways. I’m not going to run around telling all my friends they have to check out a site because they can earn a badge.

5. How are you connecting with me?

I get plenty of emails with news about the latest updates or metrics milestones from sites, but very few emails asking me about my user experience. I wish more sites would show an interest in me. Surely there must be a way to search my online web content and then communicate with me in a way that connects who I am with what your website is in a more meaningful way.

6. How are you surprising me?

Instead of another badge, how about something like, “For our first birthday, we teamed up with our friends at Ben & Jerry’s. Free ice cream for all our members, go print the coupon here!” That would be unexpected and quite welcome. I’m sure I could come up with a dozen “surprise and delights” in about 30 minutes.  Give me a reason to keep coming back, make me want to know what might happen next because of my connection with you.

Bootstrapping an online venture is tough, I get that, but don’t forget to think about your potential user as much as you think about the offering itself.



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Unique Social Media Promotion

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Social Media is creating many unique ways to market and promote companies – and causes. One of the coolest, recent ones:

Water.org is surrendering its Twitter account, @water, for an entire week to the user who racks up the most votes on its site.

To enter, you must be following @Water on Twitter. Then sign up to participate with a short message on why you’re right for the job. The public can vote until August 31 on who should get the keys to Water.org‘s Twitter car. The winner will control the Twitter account from September 5 to 11.

Considering @Water has more than 425,000 fans, the contest — called a “Twakeover” — is a pretty big deal.

“One of our core pieces of DNA is empowering people to make a change,” says Mike McCamon, Water.org’s Chief Community Officer. “The people in the developing world, we don’t just give them a well, they’re involved in it, it’s community driven.” Closer to home, Water.org encourages its audience to donate more than its money — the organization wants your voice and your social status, too. It was only fitting, says McCamon, to honor those efforts by donating Water.org’s own voice for a week.

Still, it’s a bit of a gamble. The contest could be spammed by someone looking to get more followers. The winner could go off on personal tangents. So McCamon and his team have drafted rules to prevent any cheating or reputation-busting tweets. “I want to protect ourselves from a Weiner moment,” McCamon says. The winner will send McCamon their tweets and he will either publish them unedited or withhold them altogether. You won’t see strings of profanity or offensive content.

But McCamon is confident that he won’t really have to do any policing. He trusts the Water.org community will choose someone passionate about water issues — someone who might do a better job talking about the issues than the company. “Every organization is looking to grow,” McCamon says. “In the [contest’s] top 10 there might even be people that would come work for Water.org. It allows the audience to self-select its ambassadors.”

So far the contest seems to be populated by people wanting to make a difference. Still, Water.org’s unfailing trust in its audience (and the Internet, for that matter) is a show of digital bravery. Even if the contest goes awry, the organization’s twakeover is an example of turning all those buzzy terms — brand loyalty, openness, empowerment, interaction, dialogue — and putting them into honest, unpredictable action.

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5 Tips to Attract New Readers to Your Articles

Attracting a new set of readers to your articles or other web content isn’t always an easy task.

Of course, you’re always looking to grow the size of your audience, but it can be tricky hard to pinpoint exactly what makes one article more interesting/exciting/entertaining than the next one.

Increasing the reach of your article writing requires a balance of focus on not only the quality of your content, but also your ability to promote articles after publication. And every step in the process is important, but today’s focus is on the first basic requirement – writing good content. Here are five steps you can use to create a good article:

1. Tell a Story – Create a central theme or hook for each of your articles. Craft a story that your audience can relate or connect to versus just plainly stating facts with little narrative. How you choose to present information to your audience can make a big difference. A well-written story will attract and influence more readers.

2. Speak to One Person – Write your article as if you are communicating directly to a single reader. Try to use “you” instead of “they”, “he”, “she”, etc. This creates a perception with the reader that you are speaking directly to them and not to just anyone out in cyberspace. And if it’s your first impression with a reader, it’s a great way to start building a future relationship with them.

3. Provide Original Information – Even though a portion of your information or data will undoubtedly come from other sources, present your story in a fresh and original way. Always put your own personal, unique insights and spin into everything that you write. Your originality is what will ultimately set you apart from other authors.

4. Draw Inspiration – Use business or personal experiences in your everyday life for your writing inspiration. Live in your niche, and try to write the ideas that come to you during personal experiences down right when they pop into your head. Then you’ll have them ready when it’s time to write.

5. Be Creative – Even if you discuss or share information on the same basic topic(s), tell a new story with every article you write. Get creative and break the mold. The more you incorporate your creativity into your articles, the more likely you’ll start to gain a wider and more engaged audience.

And remember, quality still matters, and having an original, interesting article is just one part of the equation. Your article needs to be built soundly with proper grammar and punctuation too.

Keep these quick tips in mind to attract new readers while writing your next set of quality, original articles or other web content.

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