Pepsmedia News: Training Courses on "Blogs & Social Media in Business" in September & October

pepsmedia_workshop_artIn the past year, I’ve been providing in-house training for companies who are approaching blogging and social media with excitement, but need some guidance to ensure they do things right.

I’m now opening up the “Intro to Blogs & Social Media in Business” training course to the public, with a few dates in September and October:

  • Cambridge: 8th September and 20th October
  • London: 22nd September and 21st October

Some details about the training course:

This one-day introductory course will offer insight into the emerging social media channels:

  • Blogs
  • Social Networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr
  • Microblogging: Twitter, Plurk, Tumblr
  • Podcasting, Videocasting
  • Wikis, mashups, community events and more…

We are confident that the above wonʼt sound like a foreign language any longer at the end of the day.

This course aims to explore each channel’s potential in terms of getting brand exposure, building feedback channels and integrating within traditional marketing campaigns. We will look at case studies of the best and worst uses of social media by marketers from businesses ranging from 1-man-shows to multinationals.

It will help you understand how you can join the conversation that is undoubtedly already happening about your company, your product and your brand on the web. You will discover the tools and techniques used for creatively communicating your message, building quality relationships with users & making your social media campaigns a success.

I suppose that coming from a family of teachers, I was bound to end up providing training. Seeing attendees leave the session feeling energised, with bucketloads of ideas for their own campaigns and having shed the fear of this social science is the greatest reward for me.

Interested? Download the course details here or register for the course right away to secure a space in one of the next few sessions!

Five Years of Blogging: Giveaway Winners!

Earlier this month, I announced that I was giving away five fun gifts to celebrate my blog’s five years. Each of the gifts represents an aspect of my personality and what I’ve been blogging over the years; Geeky, funky, practical, foodie and artsy. (No, they’re not five of the Seven Dwarves, before you ask)

It’s taken me a bit longer than expected to pick winners. Who knew cats would be so adverse to making choices! (Seriously, they either fell asleep on the papers or tried to eat them…)

So with no further delays, here are the winners:

Geeky:
The ticket to the FOWA UK Tour was won by Kat of Safety Goat fame.

Funky:
The three sets of Spin Collective vinyl wall stickers were won by William, Neil and Terence.

Practical:
Eric and Dan won the two SpinVox voice-to-text voicemail accounts.

Foodie:
Adam won the opportunity to have a recipe of his choice immortalised by Niall Harbison on Look & Taste.

Artsy:
And finally, Angela has won the Blurb book gift certificate!

Congratulations to you all, I will be in touch soon to put you in contact with the provider of your goodie 🙂

Five Years of Blogging: Celebrating with some giveaways

In April, That Canadian Girl celebrated 5 years of bloggy goodness and, yet again, I nearly missed its birthday. Oops!

In reality I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years – a friend kindly hosted my first diary-style site back in 1999 or 2000. The Wayback Machine can see a site on thatcanadiangirl.co.uk from 2002, which is when the previous iteration of this blog was born.

This makes me feel really old. In Internet terms, that’s an eternity. I mean… ten years ago, Geocities was still popular, Google was moving into its first office, the Melissa worm was working its magic on mail servers across the world, and everyone was still starry-eyed about the Information Superhighway.

Oooff… sorry about that flashback, it was like being the old drunk guy from the Fast Show for a minute.

As my memory is absolutely hopeless, I usually consider my blog’s current archive – which goes back to April 2004 – to be the beginning of Time As We Know It.

Now for the giveaways: To celebrate this milestone birthday, I’m giving away goodies to my readership which match the topics I’ve written about over the years; geeky, funky, practical, food-related and artsy goodies.

To take part, all you need to do is leave a comment and tell me which ones interest you: On Sunday, 10th May, Jack & Rose will pick out winners for each of the prizes!

geeky

A ticket to FUEL conference FOWA Tour, an excellent Carsonified event about online marketing and social media, held in London on June 23rd. Ryan kindly offered me a ticket for one of my readers, so entrepreneurs, marketers, this one is for you.

Anyone can win this ticket, as long as you’re able to make your way to London for the event.

[Update: As there have been some changes to the Carsonified calendar and FUEL has been cancelled, you will win a ticket to the FOWA Tour in a city of your choice: Cambridge, Leeds, Bristol or Edinburgh.]

funky

I love unusual art and beautifully decorate home offices. Stuart from Spin Collective is giving away three sets (up to a value of £30 each) of the superb wall stickers. They’re jaw-droppingly cool and I’m having to resist very hard the urge to keep them all for myself!

Spin Collective will ship anywhere, so everyone is welcome to take part. If you win, you’ll get to choose from the website and they’ll be shipped to you directly.

practical

To satisfy the productivity nerd in me, I had to include a tool I’ve been using for a couple of years that changed the way I use my phone. James from SpinVox is giving away two SpinVox voicemail-to-text accounts.

SV is available in the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany & Spain, so if you live in any of those countries and uhh have a mobile phone, go for it!

foodie

I’m a total foodie, so I thought it was only fair to include something food-related to the list. Of course, I’m not going to ship you a bowl of my awesome homemade chilli as it’d get messy and Royal Mail would give me funny looks (…yet again)

Niall Harbison from Look & Taste (previously ifoods.tv, and yes he’s the guy who braved Dragons’ Den) is offering a few things:

First, if you’re an iPhone user, there are 10 licenses for Twecipe (£2.39) and another 10 for Look & Taste’s own video recipes app.

Secondly, Niall has agreed to create a pro video of a recipe of my readers’ choosing. Want to immortalise your nan’s best pudding or that wild recipe you made up the other day? You’ll get a mention, and Niall will let his viewers know where the recipe comes from.

The apps are (obviously) for iPhone & iPod Touch owners, and the recipe video is open to everyone.

artsy

I love beautiful things, making cards & handmade gifts. I’m pretty much rubbish at it and my projects look like something out of a preschool classroom, but I still love it.

Blurb.com have offered a £35 voucher for a Blurb book, so it’s a chance to create your own full-colour, beautifully professional-looking bound book. Whether it’s to remember your kids’ summer holiday or a special event, it’ll be unique!

Blurb ships to lots of countries, have a look at the list if in doubt. Promise you’ll show me your finished product 🙂

So what are you waiting for? All these awesome goodies are just one comment away!

RSS Feeds: Full Fat or Summaries?

I love RSS and I hate RSS.

It’s both one of the most useful tools I’ve ever used; it allows me to catch up with my favourite blogs, keep up with seldom-blogging friends and find inspiration for my own posts.

google_reader-1It’s also the bane of my life; I turn away for a day or two and Google Reader sits there, laughing at me with its smug “1000+” in the toolbar, reminding me just how far behind I’ve fallen on my reading.

Either way, it’s a way of consuming media that seems to have become routine so this morning, when I came to the realisation that I had just unsubscribed from my last summary-only RSS feed, I wondered if I was the only one to take such drastic action against those frustrating feeds, and wanted to understand why anyone would choose to publish them.

I wrote about this topic 2 years ago with little conclusion so I thought I’d investigate informally whether things have changed by asking my Twitter followers.

So what are their issues with the short summaries?

The results were enlightening but roughly reflected what I expected; Out of 15 responses, 12 people expressed a strong preference for full feeds, to the extent where summary feeds were either not subscribed to or unsubscribed from.

  • Don’t want to click
  • Don’t want to be forced through to a site to read something
  • Full feeds get more readers and engagement
  • When using Google Reader on iPhone, RSS summaries are annoying. Clicking through is a waste of time
  • I never subscribe to anyone with summary-only feeds, why encourage them?
  • “Publications” opt for summaries to drive traffic and ad revenue
  • Summary on mobile sucks, don’t subscribe and probably forget to visit again
  • Would rather see a full feed with ads, than a summary feed

One person seemed to stand up for the summary feed, saying that short post feeds are fine when reading basic news story while travelling. So that’s one for the summary feeds, but with the caveat that the summary must really summarise the story rather than simply be the first run-on sentence of a post where the author might not get to the point immediately.

The publishers’ point of view

Two publishers were kind enough to explain their side of the story; in both cases, it was a question of protecting their content against sploggers who previously stole their feeds on a regular basis. While summaries don’t fully solve the problem, it makes it more difficult for a spammer to copy their content.

No one piped up with regards to summary feeds as a method to gain more traffic to the site, and more ad impressions as a result. Either that isn’t the motivation of most summary-feed publishers, or they’re aware that it isn’t a popular view and avoided responding to my question.

Finding a solution

Finding a solution to these publishers’ problem is tricky; it’s difficult to identify who is subscribed to your RSS feed and what they’re using it for. Feedburner makes a good effort of reporting “uncommon uses” of your feed, but in my experience it has picked up the legitimate uses of my feed (where I’ve used it on another site I own) but missed most instances of splogs “borrowing” my content.

So if the flow can’t be stemmed, we need to make the flow smarter:

  • Add an automatic footer to a post in the RSS feed linking back to your site: Joost de Valk created a WordPress RSS footer plugin which takes care of the hard work for you.
  • Cross-link generously when writing your posts: Don’t go overboard and write purely for the purpose of linking back to your older content, as it’ll show in the quality of your posts. But when you do post, think of the relevant and useful content you could refer to, so that if your post is on someone else’s blog, there is still a reference to yours. This can be done within the content or as “related items” at the end of your post. Yes, some services or plugins can create related items automatically, but I don’t endorse those as I find the relevance to often be too poor. Take 5 minutes and do it manually!

These benefit you from an SEO point of view as well, so why not put them into action? Remember, however, that creating value on your site and building your personal brand so that people recognise you as YOU rather than a generic blog-post churner is the best way to create a loyal readership and make the sploggers’ efforts (almost) pointless.

Valleyrag's Boutin says blogging is dead, I say good riddance!

Desperate as ever to get a rise out of bloggers, Paul Boutin, of Valleywag fame (or shame, your choice), has been writing in Wired’s Entertainment section that “Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004”.

He says “Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.” Boutin’s argument is so flawed, when he mentions Jason Calacanis’ decision to stop blogging last summer and refers to Technorati as though it’s the sole reason for a blog’s existence.

Hello? McFly!? Being a Top 100 Technorati blog isn’t the be all and end all of blogging. Thousands of bloggers make a living from their trade, directly or indirectly, and it’ll take more than one bitter blogger to stop them from writing about their passion.

Millions of bloggers, big and small, write for completely non-financial reasons. It can help someone find focus, in the way a personal diary may have done a few years ago. Some find like-minded people to discuss hobbies, habits and interests with, from GTD to crocheting.

Others have found the longest lasting value of a blog; indirect revenue. Advertising is a fickle friend when revenue from your blog is dependent on traffic. A bumpy ride on the Googlecoaster and revenue can be eclipsed quicker than you can say “Google AdSense”. So the indirect revenue can be a longer-lasting, slow-burn solution, whether it’s in selling homemade jams and liqueurs after having detailed on your blog how you make them, in selling your band’s music where you’ve been actively blogging about the evolution of rock in the modern day or, like myself, providing services that are in line with the knowledge you’ve been sharing on your blog.

In this instance, blogging is about reputation building, finding a community that feels like home.

Technorati’s algorithm and Boutin’s thinking are both relics from blogging’s first life. Now, like a snake shedding its skin, we are seeing blogs evolve into something more organic. They’re more three-dimensional, showing people’s Flickr photos, their tweets in the sidebar and contain a link to their Dopplr profiles outlining their next few trips. But in all reality, they still are the home and heart of many passionate bloggers, money-earning or not.

Blogging as part of a marketing role: Give it the time it deserves

In the corporate world, there are more blogs than ever. Along the lines of 70% of Fortune 500 companies will have at least dipped a little toe in it by this year, according to Wikipedia’s utterly incomplete entry. For a handful of us, it’s an integral part of the job; important internally, important externally, yet so little time allocated as thinking time. That’s frustrated me for a long time.

Blogging is natural for me, but it still doesn’t come as easily as having a morning dump. Seriously. I realise that my entries are rough and ready; I don’t have Seth Godin‘s conciseness, Chris Brogan‘s punch or Jeremiah Owyang‘s insight (especially with my comparison above, for which I truly apologise) but even with my willingness to keep entries in a natural state – thorns, weeds and crawling critters included – it takes some time to cook up. And unfortunately, I don’t believe most marketing teams generally allocate enough simmering time for even the best in-house blogging god or goddess to write something meaningful.

I’m a strong believer that in every business there is a story worth telling, a mistake worth owning up to, a success worth sharing. Or just a story. A really honest, truthful story that allows customers, prospects, fan boys and haters to see behind the marketing pitch. A blog is so much more than a home for your latest press release.

So marketing managers, directors and CEO’s, please remember that beyond the board reports and year-on-year growth charts are human stories which will help your users, current and future, love you more and become true evangelist for your brand, if only you’d open the door and let them in. How good is your relationship with your users? Honest enough to let you see without makeup on Sunday morning?

and they say that the truth will set you free
but then so will a lie
it depends if you’re trying to get to the promised land
or you’re just trying to get by

ani difranco (listen)