In the last few posts, I’ve been writing about my Social Media class and the semester project we’ve been doing. To recap, students create a social media content strategy for our department’s social media (the details of the assignment are on the previous post). They then use this plan to create content for the department. They create content 3 times, each time they are creating content for a certain time period. The content is presented to the class and then goes through an editorial process (i.e.., I grade them and make any needed mods) if needed before being published.
With the semester winding down, I want to share some of the work the students have been doing!
Articles such as Why Academics Should Blog by McGuire at Huffington Post, say that people should blog for a number of reasons as “the point of academia is to expand knowledge,” and the hard to accept but admittedly true: “because some of your ideas are dumb.”
Of course, there are other reasons too, like promoting your ideas and that your blog is part of / and builds your reputation. The authors of the research article wonder if this is in fact true – why do academics blog? By investigating 100 academic blogs via content analysis , the authors produce an interesting look inside the real reasons why academics blog.
This got me thinking about why I blog.
Why do I blog?
When I created this blog, I spent lots of time working on who I was writing for, and how I wanted to name my blog. I attempted to articulate that in my “About this blog” page. I’ll summarize:
Social media education is a new and emerging field. I want to be a part of that conversation.
I teach social media. I have a vested interest in growing with the field. To be great at my job, I need to grow, change, adapt. I need to constantly learn. So, I want to learn and reflect on what I learn. But I believe I can also help the field grow. I want to share my knowledge. Maybe by talking about my experience, I can help other educators, or get people thinking about social media education. And too, I want to meet others with similar interests and goals.
How has a Blog has been helpful to me?
Oh, this list could go on and on. So here are a quick few:
I’ve met great professors who are great people – before I blogged, I was on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. And I’d connected with some folks. It wasn’t until I began blogging that I really began having meaningful conversations with other academics. As I shared my knowledge, experience, and areas of interests, an amazing thing happened! Other people have learned about me, who I am, and what I have to say and what I am hoping to learn. Doesn’t that make it easier to connect and build relationships?
I’ve been asked to participate in events – from research to Google+ Hangouts, new opportunities to grow, learn, and enhance in the field have been presented to me by awesome people I never would have met (see item above).
It has given me a chance to reflect – I’m the sort of person who learns by talking things through or teaching them to others.
It has helped me grow my other social media – I believe that when people see you have a blog, they see that you are participating in the social media conversation at a deeper level, and thus are more likely to follow and engage you on sites like Twitter. I’m not sure if the blog signifies a level of credibility, or that they anticipate gaining more from you because you have a blog. But, I have certainly been much more interactive with folks on social media. And if # of followers on Twitter is important to you – those metrics have grown significantly!
It has given me a chance to help others – and I love to help others! I’ve seen a lot of folks looking over my syllabi and assignments, and it makes me feel great that something I have done may inspire them in what they teach!
My own place to share my research – I first created a professional website when I was in grad school using Sharepoint. I then moved to WordPress, but the page was static. Having a blog is so much more dynamic, but I still use by blog to post my CV, research, and so forth. I’m always excited when I see people looking over my research or searching my research on Google and finding my site.
I hope you enjoy the research article!
Why do you blog? How has blogging opened opportunities for you? Are you thinking about blogging but haven’t started?
Here are some highlights from his presentation to this semester’s Comm 322 Social Media class.
Challenges and Opportunities in Social Media – Mark said that a major challenge today is information density. Today, we have so much information that people are reaching information paralysis. How do companies adapt and thrive in this space, with so much competing for our attention? Though not specifically about information density, the article “How the physics of social media could kill your marketing strategy” offers what I believe is a good look at the general issue.
Why do some businesses succeed on social media and others fail? Mark said it really boils down to corporate culture. Questions that come to mind after hearing Mark discuss this topic are: Does the company understand and embrace the social space? Are they agile and responsive? Do they want to adapt?
What Metrics Matter?: Since I’ve been seeking to teach my students basics of Google Analytics, the importance of, and how to track metrics, I ask guest bloggers what metrics matter to them. When asked what the key metrics he tracks are, Mark said there was one that matters: returning visitors. Are they coming back? If people come back, eventually they’ll bring their friends. Traffic doesn’t create business benefits. Returning visitors do.
We’re All Students – the media landscape shifts so rapidly, it is difficult to be an expert. We all are students. And we should strive to keep learning and adapting. As a professor, I loved hearing this reminder. I am always looking to learn, change, grow, and adapt and it is great to hear someone with as much experience as Mark talking about the importance of being a lifelong learner!
Tips and Advice for Students
The Power of Blogging for Students – Mark echoed another class guest, Nate Bagley, when he encouraged students to blog, build an audience, and create meaningful content. He said that it was a valuable tool to show potential employers that you can build and sustain an audience. He said that often times he finds students or grad students are not blogging, and was glad to see students in our class were blogging as a semester long project. I was, of course, very happy to hear this. 🙂 So students, if you’re reading this, keep blogging!
Know Stats – Mark said education in stats is important. Increasingly, data and numbers are driving online business. You don’t have to be an expert, but you need to be able to ask questions and the ability to think critically, and choose the statistical analysis needed to answer those questions. While many students were probably grumpy to hear this, I agree completely. Stats and research methods are more important than ever.
It is not often that students get to speak directly with the author of a class text, and it meant a lot to me for students to get this wonderful opportunity. So thank you so much to Mark for being so generous with his time and knowledge!
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Last week, my social media class had the wonderful opportunity of having Nate Bagley as our guest.
Who is Nate Bagley (@bigbags)? Nate currently runs the Loveumentary Podcast (and blog!), a podcast that believes “True Love exists… you just need to listen.” The Loveumentary, which seeks to understand true love through interviews with married couples who have found lasting love, has been featured on The Good Men Project, ABC News, Fast Company, and more. Prior to leaving the security of employment to pursue his passion and share it via social media, Nate worked in web, SEO / SEM, and related areas.
I want to share a few highlights that stick out in my mind from his Skype with our class.
People and brands shouldn’t be afraid to take risk, be vulnerable, and to open up about who they are – Nate said that he learned through his experience building the Loveumentary, that his audience began to really grow when he opened up and was vulnerable and honest about his true feelings and concerns when it came to love. People can relate, they have the same concerns or face the same problems. And that has helped him connect with his audience and build engagement in ways he wasn’t previously able to.
Use Metrics to be Responsive to Your Audience – This ties in to #1: When I asked Nate about what metrics are most important to him, he reminded students it depends on your goals. One thing Nate tracks closely on his blog is “time on page.” He wants to make sure people are enjoying his content, and sticking around to read it. He knows that if people aren’t sticking around, his content isn’t appealing to them. If they are sticking around, it is. He can use this knowledge to find out what resonates with his audience, so he can produce more of what works.
Find your passion and find a need that you have – chances are others have it too. And if you are passionate about that topic, your chances of success go way up!
Students today should be blogging, getting their name out there, and interacting with their field WHILE IN SCHOOL – Nate reminded our class that networking and building connections can be invaluable for the soon-to-be graduate. Students should be blogging, and building themselves on social media he said. In fact, he said he wished his professors had made him blog.
We learned a lot from Nate, and greatly appreciated his insight and passion. The Loveumentary is a great project and a great example of using social media to reach people, share a passion, and build an audience by helping others and providing a valuable service.
If you’re interested in checking out the Loveumentary (@loveumentary), you can find it on iTunes, and all other major podcast streams, or listen at Loveumentary.com.
For some time before starting Social Media Syllabus, I’d thought about blogging again the way I think about getting back in shape to play lacrosse again or making homemade bread like Kelin and I used to – as a distant and improbable ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ scenario. I had started a blog briefly in graduate school, but being too busy, I shut it down. And honestly, my first blog lacked focus and intent. I hadn’t really thought through who I was writing to and why they should read my blog. I just wanted to blog and so I began. Needless to say, it didn’t go anywhere. Isn’t that the case with so many blogs?
So when I got my hands on Born to Blog after first hearing about Schaefer’s Tao of Twitter, I was excited and anxious. Clearly I wasn’t “born to blog,” I thought, reflecting on my first blogging failure. So I wasn’t really planning on starting a blog again. But a few chapters later I found myself plotting out Social Media Syllabus and telling myself, ‘this time it will be different.’
The book Born to Blog offers readers 3 important things:
The “how to” and motivation to become a successful blogger
A clear understanding of the value of blogging
A roadmap for planning, launching, and maintaining a successful blog.
The first part of the book focuses on motivating the reader and explaining what it takes to become a successful blogger, emphasizing the 5 common types of bloggers: dreaming, storytelling, persuading, teaching, and curating.
Readers are encouraged to determine what type of blogger they are and to harness their strengths to be themselves (not surprisingly, I found myself to fit the ‘teaching’ type). The writing style makes the book approachable and friendly. The reader can tell that the authors want to help, want you to be successful, and want you to not only have the knowledge to succeed but feel that you are capable of succeeding at blogging. The authors offer a number of great examples of brave bloggers sharing their story as well as their own personal anecdotes. This book is not filled with hype or promises that your blog will be successful. There are many out there selling snake oil in the social space. There are no illusions or “get rich quick” schemes. The plan the authors put forward clearly requires a great deal of work and commitment on your behalf. Mark and Stanford are clear that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint, telling the reader they will need tenacity and encouraging them to “not give up.”
Secondly, the authors concisely explain the value of blogging for a business in clear terms. The focus of the book is primarily on the use of blogging as a tool for business, a la content marketing. (There is a brief section in the back on personal blogging that I wish was placed earlier in the book). In this section, the authors tackle many of the common questions or concerns that companies face from “How often should we blog?” to the possibility of negative comments, or maybe worse no comments at all!, to potential legal issues
While the book isn’t quite as in-depth in terms of offering advice on how to create a content plan and calendar as Content Rules, it offers a great overview and enough to get you started. The authors do a strong job in the middle section of the book tackling important issues surrounding finding and nurturing blog contributors, developing a content plan, uncovering valuable content within your own company your readers want, and more. Readers should keep in mind that this is a shorter book tackling blogging specifically. I would recommend Content Rules, a book we’ll be using in my Writing Across Platforms class, as a supplement to this book.
I appreciate the emphasis on the theme in this book that blogging is a journey of personal growth. As bloggers, the authors remind us that we cannot expect to be perfect. We are constantly growing, learning, and hopefully improving. I have used Born to Blog as a guide and have turned to the book on many occasions for help with questions I’ve had along the way.
if you’re looking to get into blogging or improving an existing blog, whether personally or for a business, I highly recommend this book. I plan on using it for my social media class this upcoming fall (see social media syllabus. You can also learn more about the class) as the text for our class semester-long blogging assignment. I hope the students will find it as approachable, motivating, and informative as I have!
Do you have any great books you recommend for bloggers? If you’ve read Born to Blog, what did you think?
If you enjoyed this post, please share. Cheers!
A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.
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