Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

The gospel according to social media January 21, 2009

Filed under: social media — contentninja @ 7:00 am
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Transparent screen attempt
Image by jpstanley via Flickr

Content Ninja is taking the evangelizing on the road.

@jenneumann and @HeatherMSmith have asked me to join them in a presentation next week for the Chamber Academy, a B2B series sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

We’ll be talking about why businesses need to get involved with social media and how to use it for business. Some key points we’ll be making: listen, engage, contribute, keep it real and it’s not an age thing.

To register for Social Media Workshop 2.0 – Making it Work for your Business or to get more information, see the Chamber’s site. Also check out the nifty wiki that Jen created. It’ll be stocked with additional info and reading for business owners.

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Be a blog star, or at least link to one December 19, 2008

Filed under: social media,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 2:01 pm
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A broad metal chain.
Image via Wikipedia

Friend and former cohort in news Tracy Pratt asked me this week for some tips and best practices on blogging to share with a blogger from the community that she’s recruiting. I pounded out a bullet list in no time. It also got me thinking about all the blog newbies I know. So I’m pushing out the list here for all to enjoy.

Like my earlier post on social media tools, advice on building a successful blog abounds. Fellow bloggers with experience, please share your tips for best practices, too.

Note: These tips are more about building brand and audience development for a blog than how to write one. A wealth of advice exists in the writing category and can be easily accessed at your nearest bookstore or Google search bar.

  • Blog 2-3 times a week to build and maintain an audience. You can certainly blog more than that, but 2-3 times a week would be the minimum goal for maintaining your audience’s attention.
  • Find bloggers who speak to the same or similar topic as yours, comment on their blogs and link back to your blog. This helps build your audience.
  • Allow comments on your blog and — most importantly — respond and engage with folks there. If you don’t engage with your audience, you’ll lose them.
  • It’s OK to set rules for commenters about civility and niceness. It’s also OK to delete comments that break the rules, but you should be clear about what the rules are.
  • Give credit where it’s due. Attribute information you get from elsewhere. Even better, link to original source. Research shows that links out of your site can help build traffic. (It also helps search engines find you.)
  • Speaking of search engines, keep headlines short (5-7 words) and avoid abbreviations to make it easier for search engines to find you. A Web user is more likely to search for “Iowa City accident” than “IC accident,” for example.

Image by Toni Lozano

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Building a social media toolbox December 16, 2008

Filed under: social media — contentninja @ 7:00 am
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As promised, here are some recommendations for getting started in social media.

You certainly don’t have to take my word for it. You could spend days, literally, letting search engines put you in touch with other bloggers who have written good things on this topic. (See what Zemanta found below for starters.) So begin here, or do your own research. Just do it! And please share your recommendations and links to good primers in the comments here.

Chuck Peters recently pointed to an excellent primer on Twitter, and @bldngnerd, a local Twitterer from North Liberty, recently posted this video how-to for TweetDeck, a good tool for managing and filtering your Twitter stream.

I won’t go into detail with Facebook, which is intuitive to use and great for personal stuff. Sign up, have fun, but don’t be stupid. If you’re friending your boss, don’t join groups like “You look better the more I drink” or throw a Bahama Mama at him/her. There are lots of sophomoric Facebook applications mixed in among the cool stuff, such as Goodreads, so be choosy.

LinkedIn is good for professional connections. LinkedIn will connect with SlideShare (a site for uploading and sharing slide presentations), so you can share/show-off your work on a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn also can be used to request and obtain introductions to professionals you don’t know but would like to. Comfort level with that will vary among individuals. I for one won’t introduce someone I don’t know well to someone I do without the latter’s consent. Some people use it as a digital resume. Recruiters and headhunters have been known to use LinkedIn to find and make initial contact with potential employees.

FriendFeed is one example of an aggregator tool. You follow people you know or who share your interests. FriendFeed will then track your and your friends’ activities on many social networks. If you use iGoogle for your home page, there is a FriendFeed widget that puts these updates in front of you, so you don’t have to work hard to use it. In that widget you can rate and comment on friends’ postings. FriendFeed is not by any means a universally adopted tool, but I like it for its integration with Facebook. It will push my tweets, delicious links and notices of blog postings to my Facebook page, which extends my reach for sharing information.

An excellent aggregator for links is delicious. Find a Web page you want to keep and share? Bookmark it and tag it through delicious. People who subscribe to you on delicious can see your links (FriendFeed also will track your delicious bookmarks), and you have a handy reference tool for links that is searchable by tags that are relevant to you. I really like it for keeping up with what Chuck Peters is reading. :)

If you choose to really get into the social media thing, consider, which is a broadcast tool. I don’t use this one, but Chuck does, which might be recommendation enough for some folks. You update once at ping, and it pushes that out to all the social networks you desire.

I suggest Google Reader for aggregating blogs you want to follow. Simply subscribe by copying the blog URL into Google Reader. It will track new posts for you, and you have the option of reading them at Reader or click through to the blog. You can “share” items with friends on Google Reader, and FriendFeed will even note what you’ve shared.

Whew. That’s a lot to start. Don’t be intimidated. It’s doable, and I’m glad to help.

Remember: Share what you know, too. Add your favorites here, and if I get enough, I’ll post a complete list at a later time.

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Social media is not 1 size fits all December 15, 2008

Filed under: social media,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 4:31 pm
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Grumpy German lady and oversize teddy bear.
Image by robleto via Flickr

We’re getting serious finally about big change fast, and I’m being asked a lot about finding the value in social tools and how to manage the noise.

The key point to remember is that social media is not one size fits all. What works for me, the company president or your nephew in college may not hold the greatest value for you.  Experimentation is the point.

You have three tasks when you jump into social media:

  • Try: Sign up and use a social network or two. Often recommended around here are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Learn the ropes. Figure out how to upload a photo, embed a video, create a link. Read blogs and comment there. Start your own blog, link out often and use trackbacks to promote your blog around the Internet. Update your e-mail signature with links to your social networking profiles.  Listen to what people in your network say about these and other tools, and then try their recommendations.
  • Weed: Let go of  the tools that don’t add value or relevance to your conversations and information gathering for tools that do. Or maybe the tool’s just fine, but some of the people you’re following in a particular network are not adding value. Let go of them. It’s OK, and it’s normal. Value is determined by the individual. (And it’ll help you understand why it’s so difficult to connect with our customers, who are making their own value judgments, too.)
  • Share: Tell others what you’ve learned and recommend the tools you like. Tell folks why you like those tools and how you use them (i.e., personal vs. professional social networks. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.) Teach a co-worker how to add a link to an e-mail signature or embed a slideshow. Mind you, your favorite tools won’t work for everyone, but it gives them a place to start, too.

Last point, it’s not an age thing. Anyone can learn and use social media, and then teach it. If you’re too young and hip to teach it, or too old to learn it, you’re part of the problem.

Tomorrow: Some tools for starting your social media toolbox.

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Frontier optimism November 12, 2008

Filed under: innovation,journalism,social media — contentninja @ 7:00 am
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Winter scene in Yellowstone

Image via Wikipedia

Is the vision just crazy talk? We talk about being digital first, separating content from product and fostering relationships with and among our communities, but c’mon. Can we really change the world from Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, Iowa? Can one little ol’ regional paper stumble upon a solution to the newspaper industry’s woes?

Maybe we can’t find a solution that fits the entire industry, but I believe we can find the solution that fits us and that serves as an example for companies like us.

Still skeptical? Find inspiration in this guest post by Shelli Johnson from on Chris Brogan’s blog.

She has a small, independent company in Wyoming — a Western state that’s still classified by the Census Bureau as “frontier” and that boasts an average population of five people per square mile.  She and her colleagues were smart enough to recognize back in the mid-’90s the importance of the Internet and, later, the importance of Web 2.0. They embraced the disruptive technologies and built a successful tourism company “in the middle of nowhere.”

“It was mid-2006” she writes, “when we realized that the customer would be increasingly in charge and that they would be all that mattered in the new landscape.”

Most of the news industry has yet to figure that out, but I’m thinking that if a ’90s start-up in Wyoming can make it, so can we.

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What a porker October 15, 2008

Filed under: social media — contentninja @ 7:00 am
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Piggy bank from German bank HASPA, around 1970.

Image via Wikipedia

One of the things I admire about Mzinga’s Rachel Happe is that the woman has a sense of humor. Her “This Little Piggy” set of slides is fun, fast and makes a memorable case for why we must all learn to work/play/live in digital space. Check ’em out here. And a warm shoutout to @Alexa, who did the slides for Rachel. (Especially note the fine print on final slide.)

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In the Ning of things October 13, 2008

Filed under: community,social media — contentninja @ 3:59 pm
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Tutto mi conduce a te

Image by .chourmo. via Flickr

I’m a snob.

You may have known this already, but it has come as a revelation to me.  What I’ve been a snob about is Ning, a super-simple social network in a can.

I have unkindly described it as “stupid-proof” and “social networking for the technologically intimidated.” Then I put on my fortune teller’s hat and decreed that it’s neither “robust nor intelligent enough to meet all our needs over the long-term.”

Geesh. What a snot I can be.

Ning is exactly what it promises to be — so easy to use that anybody can build an online community with it in about 20 minutes and so open that folks with the know-how can tweak it to be more than what it started as.

We have, in fact, launched The Fan Zone, the community component of, on Ning. I actually like that it’s easy to use and that it can be tweaked. I’m already asking developers here for more stuff, like the ability for users to flag comments for moderation and a place to put the forum code of conduct.

So why did I say such mean things about Ning? It never did anything mean to me. My best guess is that I’m really dissing on an online community I met that was built on Ning. It was my first encounter with Ning many months ago, and I was turned off by the people I encountered there. Some real stuffed shirts.

So, in the name of self-awareness and self-improvement, I’m casting off my snobbish gloom and admitting that Ning is alright.

Don’t believe me? Check out The Fan Zone, or see Beth Kanter’s blog post in which she interviews a non-profit Ning user/fan.

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