Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

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

Filed under: social media,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 2:01 pm
Tags: ,
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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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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Crusade: Carry it back to the silo September 1, 2008

Filed under: community,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 10:49 am
Tags: ,
Concrete silage siloImage via Wikipedia

It’s good to be back. I confess that I lost (or was being ignored by) my muse and have not felt inspired to write for weeks.

WAY back on July 30 I wrote about the debate around whether companies need a companywide social media strategy or if collaboration across departments is the key. I had some good feedback from Beth Kanter and Augie Ray, whose work inspired the post. In the end, I suggested we needed a collaboration strategy.

In the weeks since that post, I’ve spent time pounding the pavement to evangelize and recruit for a prep sports community and attended a multitude of meetings and presentations around the company, and I’m even more convinced that we need that collaboration strategy. And soon.

I believe that “community” is what we need to do all across the company — internal community with our peers; external community with our customers; across all products, core and niche; marketing and customer service.

Naturally, I have an idea for this collaboration, and for fun I’ll stick with the ninja imagery I already have going: That the handful of folks across the company (fine ninja all) who are/will be tasked with exploring/building community be grouped in a “dojo.”

That this group of people make a concerted effort to share information on best practices, tools and research. That they collaborate where it makes sense on determining best practices for our company, be a support network for each other when it makes sense to fight conformity and carry concepts back to their respective departments.

I am not suggesting we create another department. The dojo would be a loosely organized group of people from various departments. Colloboration is the operative word. Each of these ninja, supported by the rest of the dojo, would push their respective silos toward the ideal — community as an integral function of our work and our lives, so ingrained that we eventually don’t need the dojo or even the ninjas.

And “community” is so much bigger than social media. “Social media,” “social networking” — those are really references to the tools we can use to foster relationships. And THAT’S what community is about.

It’s been said to me that the companywide embracing of community is the ideal for some day. Why some day? It’s tempting and easy to put off the hard work to achieve fundamental change, but the ideal doesn’t just turn up, wrapped in silver foil and a red bow. “Oh, look, the ideal has arrived. Isn’t that nice?”

We have to (cue “Battle Hymn of the Republic”) work for it every day, climb hills for it, knowing it’s somewhere on the path ahead, and that effort should start today, one step at a time. And I think the dojo could take responsibility for pushing us along on that march, be guardians of the drive for the ideal, if you will.

You may snicker at this imagery or scoff at my attempt at an inspirational speech (Obama’s speech writers were busy, so I had to go it alone), but don’t ignore the underlying message. That we need to work together and we need to start now.

If we don’t, I fear “community” will become compartmentalized by each department, owned by each silo, a piece of territorial turf to fight over, and we’ll never achieve the ideal.

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You. Me. Us. July 30, 2008

Filed under: community,social media,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 5:05 pm
Tags: , ,
Commercial Street, Bangalore.Image via Wikipedia

Reading about best practices of online community engagement led me to this rather existential question: Do we need a comprehensive strategy for community/social media for the company or just collaboration across departments?

Beth Kanter blogs today about whether orgs really want an online community (read: relationships) or just want content (read: dialogue around a topic of shared interest). There IS a difference. Kanter was discussing strategies for community engagement, when a reader posed the question: Do you really want community? The reader suggests that an org decide what it really wants and tailor strategy around the answer.

Then I found Augie Ray’s post today at Social Media Today. Ray argues that companywide strategies are more of a hindrance than a help to effective use of social media/community because “social media is a tool to be used in different ways under different circumstances” and spending time setting the strategy won’t get you where you need to go now. He also says that no one department in a company should “own” social media, but the departments should collaborate to effectively get what they need out of the tool and to cut down on duplication.

I see the merit in Ray’s arguments. Strategy can become gospel — That’s the way we do things! — and when needs change, it can take an act of god to change strategic course.

Here at GazComm we don’t have a comprehensive community/social media strategy (as yet). There are overlapping initiatives across departments –- the ninja project, The Gazette’s social media guide, the Web Best Practices Group, social media R&D for online niche products and, one assumes, future social media efforts by the retooled marketing department. (Online communities are hot in marketing.) I’ve probably missed some projects here, and I apologize in advance.

It’s all interrelated in some way, but mostly happening independently of each other, and many of us are probably covering the same conceptual ground in our research.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not that the folks in these initiatives don’t talk to each other or don’t share information. We do, but I don’t think we can really call it collaboration, either. Not yet. I’m thinking we need to get there, though.

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High tide June 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — contentninja @ 11:14 am

Today is a gift — a beautiful, soft spring day. The sun is warm when we lift our faces to it, and the breeze is cool against our skin. The world is saturated with color, like a new box of crayons. 

Perhaps this glorious day is nature’s gesture of apology to Eastern Iowans who have stoicly watched, helpless, as floodwaters washed away livelihoods and lifetimes’ worth of memories in homes and neighborhoods.

Today has significance for me. It is my sister’s birthday, and nine years’ ago today I went home from the hospital after a two-week stay and nearly dying while bringing my daughter into the world.  I’m not a spiritual person, but I was comforted then by author Squire Rushnell’s little book, “When God Winks.” In it, he argues that life’s little coincidences are signs from whatever higher power you choose that things are gonna be OK.

I choose to believe that this gorgeous day, whose date already has significance for me, is a sign that it’ll be OK. And I hope that those who have lost so much in recent days will find the signposts in their day and their lives that bring them comfort as well.

I’ll end today with kudos for my colleagues in the company’s two newsrooms who have demonstrated, and continue to, what the best of multimedia journalism can be. See their work and excellent flood coverage at and, as well as the daily Gazette newspaper and coverage on KCRG-TV9. 




Rules of engagement June 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — contentninja @ 6:41 am

Content Ninja finds herself needing to set a few boundaries this morning. Since an immature, cowardly little troll has found us and sullied a comment thread by slinging mud, let me explain what will get your butt kicked off this space.

… THAT kind of behavior will.

The rules are simple. All comments are welcome as long as they are on topic, and the topic is exploring the evolution of newspapers and journalism. Comments that are not on topic will be removed upon discovery. Participants in good standing here also are invited to let me know of violators if you spot them first.

As my mother used to say, play nice. And if you can’t, get your own sandbox.


Sugar rush April 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — contentninja @ 10:28 am

Just a quick note to say that Content Ninja is in focus-group withdrawal, but what a great experience! We clearly share a community with lots of bright, engaging, funny people. They were thrilled to share their opinions and thoughts, learned from each other along the way (that kind of organic interaction was great to watch) and many of them offered, without prompting, to remain engaged with us for continued brainstorming and user testing. THAT is cool.

Other big thing this week is Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Jason Kristufek, Ted Borelli, Todd Bransky and Becky Ogann are there. What’s really cool is that they’re posting daily blogs and video from the convention to share what’s going on. Jason is tweeting, too. Check out their updates at Wedia Buzz.