The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing and Insourcing Content for Your Website

One of the most crucial components of any business is to have a website that can showcase your services or products. It is your means of letting the world know what your company is all about. Nowadays, everything is Internet driven and a website is the best way to get your name out there.

Content is important for any website. What significance would your website have if there wasn’t any content visible? Content not only gives your audience insight as to what your business is all about, but it also gives them a reason to keep returning to your site. Company blog posts are a great way to keep fresh content rolling in. They help keep your company visible within the search engines and provide you with a great opportunity to build an online community.

So when you make the decision to attach a blog post to your website or even write the static content for your website, should you outsource or insource your content? Outsourcing your content means that you have hired outside sources to write up the content for your website. While insourcing means that you have hired writers yourself and they intend to write for the company as one of its regular employees.

There are pros and cons to both outsourcing and insourcing. Ultimately, you will need to decide what you feel is best for your company. Some companies will outsource their content creation at first, but then decide to insource as their website’s audience grows.

Pros and Cons for Outsourcing Content

Pros

  • Outsourcing is typically cheaper than insourcing.
  • You can easily hire a company to delegate your content work for you.
  • You won’t have to worry about having enough office space for writers.
  • There is no need to provide benefits and other advantages typically given to full-time employees.
  • You can outsource content during busier seasons and hire for temporary work.

Cons

  • When you outsource content, the quality of the work tends to lack. Those who are writing for your company yet not working for it may not be as knowledgeable of the business.
  • You won’t have as much control or contact with whomever you had decided to outsource the content to.
  • It’s hard to rely on those working off-site to complete their workload on time.

Pros and Cons of Insourcing

Pros

  • Hiring people to write content for you in the office will give you the opportunity to have personal contact with them. They can ask questions when necessary and even be trained properly.
  • Working from inside the office will give them the opportunity to better learn what the business is about. Therefore, their content will be more relatable and of a higher quality.
  • The work will be turned in quicker and you will have complete control of the workload and content.
  • You will be able to provide clear instructions directly to the content writer.
  • You can train them in other areas of the business or even teach them SEO tactics and social media marketing strategies.

Cons

  • It may cost more for you to hire an in-office content writer.
  • You may be liable to provide benefits such as vacation days and health insurance.
  • You will have to have enough space for the writers to have office space.
  • Desks and other necessities will need to be provided to the content writers.
  • It may be difficult to find professional writers and researchers to work in the office to do content writing for your website.
  • Insourcing could lead to more personalities in the office which may lead to creative differences between writers.

As anyone can see, there are many pros and cons to both outsourcing and insourcing. Companies will always differ in their opinions of which method of content creation is better. It really all comes down to your preference and what you believe would benefit your website and company the most.

Prior to building out your website, make a detailed game plan. You will want to cover all of the bases. Be sure that you have everything planned accordingly, including whether or not you will be outsourcing or insourcing your content writers. You will not want to publish your website and make it visible until you have the content prepared and ready for primetime.

Regardless of whether you choose to insource or outsource your content, it is vital that you have quality, well-written, and relevant subject matter. It must be engaging and clear for your audience to read and understand. You will want to sell your product or services through words and images.

When it comes to fresh content being produced for your blog, you can choose to have your writers compose newsworthy articles within your business’ niche or even write up general content, but you will want content produced daily to keep your website visible within the search engines. Enhancing your content with keywords and employing SEO strategies will aid in search engine visibility. That is one of the biggest advantages of having content writers in the office. You can have them trained to enhance your content with SEO tactics that are geared towards your company.

Overall, content is a necessity for any website. Especially if your business has many websites, you will want to have several writers providing content for them. This will keep the content fresh and less repetitive. Just sit down and weigh out the pros and cons of insourcing and outsourcing. See what will work best for your company and remember that you can always begin with outsourcing and when business picks up, convert to insourcing.

Crystal Enon is a staff writer for the online dumpster rental company; BudgetDumpster.com.

Five Ways to Improve Customer Service Through Social Networking

Today’s guest post is written by Kyle Simpson. Kyle writes for Medical Coding Certification where you can find more information about a career and training in the medical field.

If you think that a call center somewhere in India and an email address are the only ways to provide customer service for your business, you are woefully un-invested in the social networking revolution.  In fact, many corporations (large and small) are turning to social networking (from online community forums to blog posts to tweeting) to handle a larger volume of customer concerns at far less cost to the company.  And here a few ways you can jump on the bandwagon and take a leap into the 21st century.

  1. Blog posts.  Much like the FAQ page on your website, setting up a blog is a great way to not only reach out to your customers (to address their concerns en masse), it also provides an excellent interface for feedback.  If you write a post about an issue, customers can get up-to-date information as well as provide input on the issue (how it has affected them, what solutions they found, any help they got, etc.).  It can decrease your company’s call log by a significant margin.
  2. Community forums.  The best thing about using this versatile tool is that you really don’t have to do any work.  Certainly you can have a company representative or technician monitor the forum and chime in if and when necessary, but people who frequent forums often do so for the purpose of trading and sharing information, and they do so freely (at no expense to you).  If many customers encounter the same issue, a few will undoubtedly have a solution to broadcast to all.
  3. Online chats.  This is an extremely effective communicative tool in many ways.  For starters, the only thing most people want is to talk to a real person rather than getting stuck in automated phone hell for an hour or waiting two days for an email response.  Chatting blends the best of both phone and internet resources by combining human interaction with the ability to post scripted answers that users can copy and paste instead of trying to memorize or jot them down.
  4. Twitter.  This is literally instant access to information.  One tweet has the capacity to reach millions of customers at the speed of light in order to keep them updated on any ongoing issues.  Rather than calling in or flooding your inbox, let them follow up-to-the-minute notifications, making everyone’s life easier and ultimately keeping your customers happy.
  5. Social networking sites.  If you don’t yet have a fan page on Facebook, get on it.  Nothing humanizes your customer service quicker than adding people as “friends”.  You can post updates and information, feature reviews, advertise products, and build up your reputation with a vital demographic.

There are many ways to use social networking to your advantage in business, but providing excellent customer service is the key to building and maintaining a solid clientele in our fast-paced, consumer-driven economy.  If you don’t understand the flexibility of social networking as a means of connecting with your customers, you should learn it quickly, because you can be assured, that’s exactly what your competition is doing.

Social Media Marketing: Ten Tips For Beginners

Social media marketing might be something your company is just getting started with. You have established that the fish, your customers are using it. They are using it for sharing information, keeping tabs with friends and family, and most importantly using it for making important research and purchasing decisions. You should have a set of objective and goals created before you just throw up a Twitter or Facebook account and start broadcasting to an empty silo. Social media, unlike other forms of online marketing is a two-way form of communication. This is where a lot of beginners miss the boat, they broadcast about me rather than about we. In no particular order, listed below are ten general tips for online marketing. This is basic 101 stuff, but it’s applicable to newbies, or anyone just needing a refresher.

1. Register brand names and create online identity:

At this point in time I’m sure you have done your due diligence, registered and incorporated your business name and have started to operate online under it’s assumed identity. The first priority is registering your domain names. It’s also a good idea to register any spelling variations and domain extensions. Buy the .net, .org and any relevant country extensions before someone else does, and purchase them for multiple years upfront. Most domain name registrars offer discounts for longer registration purchases and renewals.

The social media platforms we will use to create awareness, identity and community should have the same vanity urls, handle-names, logos, and overall look-smell-and-feel as the rest of our digital assets. Our messaging needs to be clear and concise. It all starts with our digital properties and corresponding hyperlinks.

2. Learn the webmaster basics:

I have been doing this since 1997. It’s the years of day-in-day-out experience that has taught me a thing or two about wearing a webmaster hat. The point I’m making here is one needs to learn as much as possible. Educate yourself on the basics, starting with domain names, DNS, FTP web hosting, and basic control panel 101 stuff. You should know how to register a domain name; create and admin a hosting account; create email accounts; and get familiar with the basics of MYSQL and PHP. The majority of this can be done through set up wizards and control panel automation, it depends on your web host but it’s a pretty common feature. Bluehost, the company that hosts this blog for example, offers automated script installation. If you needed to set up WordPress, it’s a three to four click process. Learning the basics will also save you in development costs.

When it comes to graphic and website design, this is not an area to skimp and save dollars. If you’re talented and have a background in design, by all means create you brand’s online identity, but if not, spend the dollars wisely and let a professional do the work. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In a digital world, your web site is the introduction to your organization. With an abundance of available Internet sites, consumers have virtually limitless options. More than ever before, it is essential to get it right the first time. It all starts with a clean, polished, professional and effective web site. That polished image needs to carry over into everything you do online. It must be uniform and consistent across the digital board.

3. Don’t fall for the snake oil:

You will learn just as everyone does, through trial and error, what works and doesn’t work. It’s all about arming yourself with the resources and knowledge to get the job done. Temptation can set in for beginners to take shortcuts and cause them to veer off the best practices beaten path. There is simply too much disinformation floating out there. There are tons of get rich marketing schemes disguised as lead generators, Twitter software to auto-follow thousands of random people and self proclaimed marketing gurus that can make you a millionaire overnight. The fact of the matter is, there is no magic bullet, book, application or otherwise that will reveal where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. Align yourself with industry thought leaders, read their blogs, comment on their content when you have something to say and most importantly learn how they do it.

4. Add value to the communities you participate on:

Adding value to your community is important, it helps you stand out from the crowd and identifies your motives as pure and not self-serving. It takes time just like anything else to be accepted into an existing community. Add value by answering questions; help by lending a hand with maybe graphic or coding expertise; and or sharing relevant quality content that will benefit the community and its members. Once you have established trust, you can gradually ease into promoting your other interests. Be yourself and act accordingly, after all this about business and we all should know how to act like adults when using the Internet.

5. Create good quality content:

You hear this one all the time because there’s a lot of truth to it, content is king. If your goal is to brand yourself as a thought leader; brand innovator; or plan on sticking out from the crowd for any particular reason, you will need brand name recognition or quality content with a compelling story to get you there. Quality content comes in many different shapes and forms across multiple platforms. You could establish your persona with a blog. With a commitment of extended writing time, you could brand yourself  and your influence as an expert on your subject matter. The same goes for video, if that’s your cup of tea. You or your brand could become a YouTube social media rock star with a little creative brainstorming and editing. Then there’s always podcasting. Good content will work on any platform and it should be optimized as such. Good content gets noticed but can be overlooked. Make sure you encourage social sharing and voting of your content by asking people to Tweet it, Digg it, rate it on YouTube etc, and give them the to tools do it automatically.

6. Guest posting:

If you’re just starting out with social media you need exposure. Guest posting affords you an opportunity on higher, more relevant industry related platforms then your own to get your voice heard. This is a common strategy used by start ups on a shoestring budget, bartering expertise in the form of 500 words or more for targeted traffic. Remember what you write, and how you write it is a representation of your business and brand. It if it’s intended to be a business driver, make sure you’ve done your fact checking, and use opportunities to link to other content that you have written on your blog or website. Guest posting on sites with a higher pagerank in theory should boost your SEO, due to the inbound links that you can embed on your author byline and content. In addition to your guest post, your byline contains an opportunity for branding yourself and your area of expertise. Craft your bio for the audience you’re writing for, and of course include a link back to your website, blog or a special landing page that you have created to track any byline clicks.

7. Use the tools wisely:

Your time will be better managed and more efficient using a social media tool kit that makes sense for you. Social media after all is just a set of tools we use to communicate with. The tools are great, but they tend to make us complacent. Use automation services to your advantage,  but be very careful about auto-posting duplication issues that can arise when streams are crossed. I highly recommend and use the micro-blogging service Posterous to capture life’s precious moments, and it works well for that. The service can be used for a professional blog when adding a domain name and masking it. It’s a great platform for a micro-blog, or for short form blogging. It offers some design customization and most importantly it can auto-post, syndicating your content to other social networks such as Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, YouTube and so forth. That is where you have multiple networks rebroadcasting and reposting the same content. This is when you have entered into the twilight zone, officially known as, crossing the streams.

8. Don’t over extend yourself:

Here he goes with another Cliche, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s true, invest your time and passion where the fish are first. Yes, establishing a presence on Facebook and Twitter should be a top area of focus and marketing priority, provided your fish are there. Maybe the fish are feeding elsewhere or changed their diets, use different bait to catch a different niche of fish. Once you know who your fish are, and where they swim, only then should you build your Rome. After you have an established customer base, or are revamping marketing and advertising efforts you should cast a bigger net and focus on being truly omnipresent.

9. Track everything:

Track everything as much as possible when possible. Analytics is key for measuring and tracking the performance of website traffic. Was a particular campaign a success? Did we see spikes in traffic? How are customers finding us? Generating online PR consists of generating inbound links, links you need to be monitoring and tracking for. Google Analytics will give you reporting on all of this information.  This makes you better informed about the people visiting your website and how they interact with it. It’s all about working smarter not harder. Tracking links off-site is easily done with url shortening services such as bit.ly, or HootSuite. Both of these services do offer Twitter analytics and management. TubeMogul is a great tool for submitting video to over 50 popular video sharing sites, and it also provides video analytics.  Tools exist that track just about anything, most are free. You can use something simple as Gmail, in combination with Google Docs, an excel spreadsheet or create a roll-your-own social media dash board.Paid brand monitoring services are abundant and can be found easily by searching Google.

10. Don’t be fooled, it’s about quality not quantity.

With all the spiked koolaid newbies tend to loose sight of the real value factors, quality, and instead focus on the numbers game. Numbers mean nothing when none of them are listening or responding to your call to action. Focus your time on creating quality content and rewarding it by sharing. 150 online connections can be as powerful, if not even more powerful than 150,000. The numbers game is played to stroke blogger egos and to inflate numbers for advertising. Your network in time will grow granted you stay active in some form of participation or content creation. Beginners who are just starting out need to start small, slow and focus on content production and syndication. Focus on network building with the relevant people by using your content. Quality content builds quality inbound links which builds quality relationships and opportunities.

Interview With Jamie Guse of American Dairy Queen Corporation

Jamie GuseDairy Queen, an iconic American brand that will be celebrating its 70th birthday this year, is no stranger to social media. Dairy Queen like most major corporations utilizes social media to connect with its global customer base. The man responsible for maintaining all of Dairy Queens digital assets, including social media, is Jamie Guse. Jamie is the Web Site Manager for American Dairy Queen Corporation. I sat down with Jamie for a brief Q & A session.

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Mike: How long have you been with Dairy Queen and what’s your official role there?

Jamie: I’ve been with Dairy Queen since September of 2008 and my current title is Web Site Manager which includes managing a majority of our .com properties along with all of our social media properties and anything else considered digital.

Mike: What’s the best thing about working at Dairy Queen and what has changed the most about your role there?

Jamie: This is actually a very tough question because I really love my job and love what I get to do on a daily basis. But what I really love the most is that I get to share the love that people have for this brand through our social media channels. Also, I love that I directly effect what visitors to DQ.com see.

Mike: How is Dairy Queen using social media?

Jamie: Currently we are using several social media channels; a Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, YouTube and Flickr. The way that we are using social media is to share all the wonderful stories that this brand has built over the past 70 years. Also, Dairy Queen is a very social brand and every time I mention where I work everyone has a smile and a story to share with me. So, what we are doing is bringing this conversation to the people and allowing them to talk directly to the brand.

Mike: How much time do you spend monitoring and engaging in social media for Dairy Queen? Take us through an average day for you.

Jamie: Typically every morning I pull up CoTweet which at this time is one of my favorite application to help in monitoring Twitter and see if I need to respond to anything and next I pull up Facebook and the Blog to see if anything needs attention. Then, I examine my daily Google alerts along with checking Filterbox which is a social media monitoring tool to see if anything is out there that I can share or need to respond to.  I would estimate that I spend on average of 60 minutes per day monitoring and engaging our fans on social media. The biggest thing is our communications team is helping with the blog and Facebook which helps reduce the amount of time I spend focused on it.

Mike: You wear many hats at Dairy Queen and one of them could be described as a Community Manager. How important is listening and responding to Dairy Queen consumers online?

Jamie: It’s a huge part of what we are doing within the social media landscape and whenever I’m unable to answer the questions or comments, I always pull in our consumer relations team to help.

Mike: How, if at all, has social media impacted the Dairy Queen brand? Any negatives or positives?

Jamie: The impact on the Dairy Queen brand has been very positive! Our consumers were already having conversations about DQ. Now we get to join in the conversation. We’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from our consumers regarding the fact that we are engaging them in the social media landscape.

Mike: What experiences over your career has prepared you for your current role at Dairy Queen?

Jamie: Several key elements have played a significant role in what I do for DQ. When I graduated from college the web was just about to explode. So about 10 years ago I was given the opportunity to work on the website of a local radio station in Minneapolis and I found that this was something I really loved and enjoyed, so began my career in the web world. It’s been my real world web experience over the past 10 years that has given me the experience needed to manage all of our digital assets. Regarding the work with social media, it has seemed to come rather naturally and I believe that is due to my educational background which was in communications. This, along with my love and passion for the web, has made the social media work an exciting adventure this past year.

Mike: Can you share with us any plans or news that Dairy Queen has for 2010? What’s your role in these plans?

Jamie: In 2010 the DQ system will be celebrating the Blizzard Treat’s 25th birthday.  Although I can’t yet reveal all of the fun stuff we have planned,  I can tell you that we are launching a special menu in January called the “25 flavors for 25 years” Blizzard menu. This menu is a celebration of our best selling and favorite flavors from the past 25 years. In support of the new Blizzard menu, I will be conducting a tour – trying and rating all 25 flavors over the next 12 months, so make sure you join me on this tour and check out our Blog for video updates throughout the year. Also, you can check out our Facebook, Twitter and DQ.com site to see what’s next in the celebration of the Blizzard’s 25th Birthday.

Mike: What’s the best part of your job?

Jamie: I love the fact that I get to make an immediate impact on what is communicated to our consumers through our social media channels. I also get to make an impact on DQ.com by designing, developing and managing the content on the site which is has been seen by more that 7 million visitors this year.

Mike: Dairy Queen is all about smiles and stories.  What’s your favorite Dairy Queen story?

Jamie: I have many!! When I was in Little League baseball we would always hit the local DQ after the game. But my favorite is this, if you were to ask my four year old what her Dad does at DQ she will tell you “Makes Blizzards”. So after about a 30 minute discussion telling her what I really do (yes, I know she’s four!). I asked her again “what does Daddy do at DQ” and she yelled “MAKES BLIZZARDS”. She thinks I’m pretty cool because I work for Dairy Queen and well make Blizzards! FYI, don’t tell her otherwise she will soon find out on her own that I don’t make Blizzards and I’m not that cool.

Mike: Bonus question: What’s your favorite Blizzard Treat?

Jamie: Cookie Dough, but I just tried the Double Fudge Cookie Dough Blizzard it was out of this world!

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(Disclosure: Dairy Queen is a client of my employer, Pierson Grant PR)

Social Media Toolkit

Social Media ToolsThe barrier for getting started with social media is low, it’s dependent on your involvement level, objectives and goals. The facilitators of the message, our tools, are the key components that make it all work. They are the tools in our digital toolkit that every strategist, marketer and PR professional should already be learning and using. The sole purpose of these tools are to; create, manage and distribute content, build awareness, drive traffic, connect with our customers and hopefully turn a lead into a prospective sale.

Tools for your social media toolkit can be broken down into the following categories:

dns-toolsYour Black Box – The flight data recorder for the Web

The default tool in any toolbox always starts with Analytics. On all commercial airplanes there are Black Boxes. They record crucial flight data in the event of  equipment breakdown or catastrophe. Your website’s Black Box is Google Analytics. Before you can get clearance for take off, you must  be armed and recording  website traffic data. Knowing where your existing traffic or lack of traffic it is coming from, will yield a goldmine of data that can be strategically utilized.


dns-tools

Listening: monitoring the social web and beyond

If you’re a PR professional or marketer who uses social media for marketing purposes, you need to be able to listen and monitor your surroundings for conversations about your clients and their respective brands. Incorporating these tools into your toolkit and using them in combination will track the vast social media landscape, but there are limitations. Depending on what data you’re trying to capture, these tools might be suffice. Monitoring other media such as print and TV require the use of paid subscriptions to media tracking services such as Cision.

The other limitation is data harvesting and processing. Ask yourself, who is going to be responsible for capturing, filtering and presenting this data? If you’re a large corporation this task is most likely farmed out to a Brand Monitoring service, Public Relations firms or an advertising agency. Social media, after all is about the conversation. Make no mistake, the bigger you are the more people are talking about you online and in real time. With that being said, it makes sense to have a third party harvest and filter this data. Depending on your company size, the task of social media might be the responsibility of the marketing dept/advertising dept/ web assistant or non existent position at this point in time. Whoever is tasked with this  needs to use these tools in an efficient and productive way that yield measurable, understandable, and explainable results.

Alerts: Yep, there is an app for that

Every social media toolkit needs to contain a listening station. Ideally, your listening station is your email inbox. My toolkit uses alerts for the following services:

Google Alerts is still worth mentioning as it used to be very reliable, nowadays it’s not so relevant and it’s far from real time. It’s still a tool that should be in ones arsenal though. Set it and forget it, just don’t depend on Google Alerts as your sole notification provider, otherwise you surely will end up missing timely and relevant data. At the time of writing this post, my findings with Google Alerts is that they are often several days to several months behind.

Google Blog Search, which like its counterpart Google Alerts, used to be very consistent and timely.  Today it’s hit or miss with accuracy and timeliness, which I think is partly due to the way Google changed how it indexes new blog content and updates  its search results, meaning it’s not at fast as it used to be. Search results generate an RSS feed for output, so you can plug that into your Google Reader, or Social Media Dashboard.

Google News may not be applicable to everyone, but if you’re  a PR professional this tool belongs in your toolkit. Clients make the news and hopefully it’s our message that’s being aggregated across the web. Beyond that, Press Releases, ones that are done through a paid wire service such as, Business Wire are syndicated with Google News, and often appear in Google News search first. Google News search results also show for a period of time in organic search results. Clients like results, this is one metric among many we use for campaign measurement.

Google Search is pretty much self explanatory. I will say this, learn how to use the advanced search feature. This will cut down on time wasted searching through countless pages of search results.

TweetBeep is Google Alerts for Twitter. TweetBeep monitors the usual Twitter data such as, @replies, @mentions, keywords and urls. It will email you hourly reports. Upgrading to the paid version will give you more timelier reporting and alert functionality.

Twitter Search is used for searching Twitter.com directly.  It’s always a good idea to go straight to the source and not just rely on one application that feeds into Twitter’s API. Twitter search is real time, with no delays, granted Twitter’s servers and databases are running one hundred percent. Twitter’s search has one other feature which I heavily utilize, it’s RSS.  All search queries will give you an RSS feed for output. The RSS feed I export into Google Reader, which I use to track certain brand and keyword mentions. I tap into Twitter various different ways, but my main preference is still using Twitter Search. It’s the old school, plain jane look, smell and feel that keeps me coming back, repetition I suppose.

dns-toolsTie it all together with a Social Media Dashboard or Social Media Listening Station.

Radar - Social Media Listening Station

Image by Richard Carter under Creative Commons License.

Processing this data can solely be done using an RSS reader such as Google Reader.  All of the above services will supply you with an RSS feed, using this method you can bypass email completely for alert notifications and monitoring. Google Reader and Gmail are two different comfort zones visually, use what works best for you. The second roll-your-own listening station option is, Netvibes.  Netvibes is an Ajax-based, personalized start page much like Pageflakes, My Yahoo, or  iGoogle. With the use of RSS and widgets you can create, as I did,  your own customized Social Media Dashboard.

dns-toolsThe White House – Home Base, Your Blog

Your White House - Blogging

Image by vgm8383 under Creative Commons License.

Your White House, used to be your website, it’s now your blog. From an SEO and CMS standpoint, it’s inexpensive and often free, easy to use out of the box, and allows any entity to create and publish content on a global scale. Creating this foundation from scratch, or adding a blog onto an existing website requires a blogging platform. It should be no surprise the obvious choice here is WordPress. There should be no question at all, self hosted is the way to go. There is no need and no advantages to having a wordpress.com hosted blog, other than reserving your name for vanity purposes, before a name squatter does. Web hosting is cheap nowadays and most web hosts have scripts that will automatically install WordPress on the back end, a host that I recommend is Bluehost.com. Alternative blogging solutions that will allow you to mask a domain to a service hosted blog are, Blogger, Type Pad and Movable Type.

Build your blog community with RSS

Give your readership ways to stay up to date and informed with your blog, by encouraging them to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed.FeedBurner, another Google owned product is the only game in town for feed management. It will give you statistical data about your feeds content, distribution and subscribers. Even though the data can be taken with a grain of salt. The real benefit of Feedburner for me is the  ability to offer email and RSS reader subscriptions to readers of my blog. The trend I find is shifting more to email subscriptions than RSS subscriptions. Feedburner’s email delivery service works very well and it can be customized rather nicely. If we can’t educate consumers on using RSS readers, we can at least educate them to subscribe via email, something everyone has done at some point.

dns-toolsSocial Networking/Social Signage

Social Media Profiles and Branded Outposts

Image by stevendamron under Creative Commons License.

Think of Outposts as a sort of  a toll booth or exit. This is the analogy I’m making here. It’s pretty much the same in real life. On the Internet there are many exits for many destinations. You need to own and operate that toll booth, instead of your competitors’.  Branded outposts and social profiles should be filled with useful automated aggregated content so that it serves as a teaser or mousetrap to send traffic back to your main hub or another destination. Take advantage of  free advertising opportunities. Spend the time and fully complete all social media profiles, upload a logo, add company information and optimize accordingly. Consistency is the name of the game. If there are services that you will not be active on,  then be sure to aggregate content into and place them on autopilot.

Professional Networking

LinkedIn is the tool of choice for professional networking. At the very least, if you’re not using the site for employment purposes, fill out a completed work history, resume and profile. Set your profile to public so that it ranks for your name. LinkedIn allows you to aggregate third party service content such as, blogs and SlideShare presentations into your profile page. Use your profile to showcase your work and talent.

Social Networking

Facebook love it or hate it, it’s here and its the 800 pound gorilla force to be reckon with. Use Facebook for professional or personal networking. Be cautious on how you combine the two, because they can very easy spill over onto each other. If you’re going to be doing any marketing on Facebook, set up a public fan page. Facebook is a completely different beast and should be treated as such. There are a ton of bells and whistles that will allow you to customize your Facebook page, in addition to aggregating content from other third party sources.

Social Megaphone

Twitter is a social megaphone. There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter, however due to 140 char limitations it’s best for megaphoning links and information back to your home base. Establishing a Twitter presence is standard protocol nowadays, but ask yourself what do you want to get out of Twitter? Your objectives and goals will dictate how you use the service.

Social Profile

Create a Google Profile and control to some extent what information people see about you online. As long as your profile is set to public, it will appear in search results for your name. You can also link all your social profiles. This is outpost number one, spend the time and optimize it correctly.

Social Curation

Delicious or Diigo both are the only two tools for this category. These bookmarking tools have proven that they can scale and have a solid track record. There are pros and cons to both, but they both achieve the same objective, tagging, saving  and storing bookmarks. I currently use both bookmarking sites. The nice thing about Diigo is that it can save all new bookmarks  automatically to Delicious. This gives you peace of mind knowing your digital data is archived. Do you remember what happened to Ma.gnolia?

dns-toolsDoodle Blog

Social Media Doodle Pad

Image by KaiChanVong Images under Creative Commons License.

A Doodle blog could also be called or used as a personal blog.  It’s basically a repository for all things that need to be captured on the fly, non important, personal, or all things to be filed for another day. It can contain clippings, graphics, video, links etc. I use Posterous as my Doodle blog platform. My Doodle blog is a digital archive for my iPhone media. Posterous can also be used a lightweight blogging platform, nothing that comes close to WordPress functionality though. The beauty of Posterous lies in its simplicity and features. Publishing is easy, the preferred choice is via email. Send photos or text in a body of an email to your Posterous account and it’s live on the web. The other core feature is auto-posting, this will give you the ability to have your content sent to various other services such as, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and so forth.


dns-toolsVideo and Photo Sharing

User Generated News - Social Media Video Sharing Sites

Image by Henderson Images under Creative Commons License.

Thanks to the advent of  mobile technology, faster and more accessible broadband and sites that host, broadcast and share consumer generated content, the video revolution is upon us and has been for some time now. Social media, is well, social. Stories get people talking. Create informative videos that are relevant to your messaging and brand, encourage others to share it and to create their own video content. Viral videos are rare and lots of factors determine if something will go viral. If your content is good and worth sharing, people will take notice.

YouTube reigns supreme in this category and rightfully so. YouTube is yet another Google owned property, are you starting to see a common theme here?  YouTube makes it extremely easy to host and stream videos. YouTube videos are easy to embed and  are very shareable. Create a branded YouTube channel for your brand and always optimize your title and keywords accordingly. YouTube is a video sharing site at its core, but it’s also a massive search engine.

There are a ton of other video sharing sites out there, such as Viddler and Vimeo.  The tool that I use for mass video distribution is TubeMogul. TubeMogul allows you to upload one video to their service and from there send it to approx 50 other video sharing sites. The paid version will also give you analytics such as, video views, audience geography and will allow you to distribute to all the video sharing sites they support, rather than the 7-10 with the free version.

Pictures are worth a thousand words

Photo sharing sites are in abundance, but the two that I use and prefer are Flickr and Google’s Picasa. Flickr has been around the longest and has lots of social components, specifically a built in die hard community. Picasa I use more often because it’s tied into my Google account and my desktop Picasa software.  I use this for basic photo editing and easy bulk uploading to the web. Both services offer the basics, uploading, tagging, and sharing of photos.

dns-toolsMobile Blogging & Lifestreaming

Mobile phones have now allowed us to capture and create content, anywhere, anytime.  It’s mobile generated content that feeds today’s social media ecosystem. The tools in my mobile toolkit consist of the following:

Qik and UStream for mobile recording and live broadcasting. Both of these applications recently released an update that now allows you to broadcast live to the internet. This was previously done using only a jailbroken iphone. These two apps cover live recording and local (saved to your iPhone). The iPhone of course has a built in video recorder which you allows you to send your recordings to YouTube. Status updates and sending quick bursts of text goes to Twitter hands down. Tweetie is my preferred Twitter application for the iPhone.  I have no use for location based apps such as BrightKite, it’s installed on my iPhone but never sees the light of day, same goes with Google Lattitude. Location based apps due serve a purpose for some people, but it simply does not fit into my routine.  Twitter will  eventually be rolling out geo-location, which reinforces more to me why I have no use for these other location services. There are a ton of other apps worth mentioning but this is a broad category, so perhaps that’s  another post for another day.

dns-toolsShared Documents and Collaboration

When it comes to sharing documents and online collaboration, the winner in this category is Google Docs. Google Docs suite of applications is all cloud based, very reliable and easy to use. While I still use some desktop based Microsoft applications such as excel, I’m starting to use Google Docs as my replacement to desktop applications altogether.

In closing

Toolkits come in different sizes and different shapes, it all depends on what the toolkit will be used for. This post featured some of the tools of the trade in my digital toolbox. Because of time restraints and attention disorders, I simple can not list them all. This is what a starter toolkit looks like, what did I miss? What’s in your digital toolkit?