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Don Schindler

Executive Reputation Coach & Digital Marketer

Tag: blog (page 1 of 2)

Is blogging dead in 2015?

No, it’s alive and well especially in agriculture.

Blogging isn’t dead even though the big names in marketing and tech claim it to be almost every year. Here’s one from 2012 / Fast Company.

blogging-is-dead-fastcompany

Blogging is dead via Fast Company

And then this year, supposedly it’s doing great.

bloggins-is-alive-gigaom

Blogging is Alive & Well via GigaOM

Of course the company, GigaOM isn’t. But that’s beside the point.

When it comes to reaching out to our customers, farmers want to know if they should spend time blogging. I get this question a lot from farmers when I’m on the road teaching digital marketing.

My answer is always the same. Yes. Yes, you should.

“Why?” asks the farmer.

I have a lot of answers to that. But for this post I decided to reach out to ag bloggers and see what keeps them blogging and doing this kind of digital outreach.

Here’s one of the biggest reason of why you should be blogging.

People go online looking for information about farming if they don’t get it from us, who will they get it from? The number of people who want simple agricultural information is astounding and I personally want it to come from credible sources.
Janice Person – http://janiceperson.com

The farmers are credible sources of agriculture information.

Other reasons to be blogging is that all that time you spend in social media is great but you should be housing all of your photos, videos and longer text format in a place you control. Facebook’s posts and Twitter tweets are fleeting and get lost in the ether.

Why would you take all that time to craft something so beautiful to let it be lost?

Another reason is that the search engines especially Google still love blogs and give them a lot of credibility. Blogs are workhorses of the search industry. Many of the major news organizations nowadays were once just blogs (and are still structured that way).

“OK,” the farmer says, “I’m convinced that a blog is the way to go. What should you write about?”

Ranchers/farmers don’t necessarily see their daily lives as unique, and sharing the simple things of country life tend to be overlooked, but I can’t tell you how many times readers have asked how far to the grocery store or gas station, how do all the vehicles keep running or why do we have so many, can I get take-out? Lots of the daily stuff is worth blogging about, just because we understand it’s an hour to town, doesn’t mean the readers do! Sure moving cattle is a highlight, but most of the year, it’s Life that takes up my days.
Carol Greet – http://reddirtinmysoul.com/

 

I don’t think you need to just focus on the farm…snippets of the life of a farmer are good, because it draws in more of the non-ag audience. It’s good to write about things they can relate to, and to build relationships…that’s when you become their trusted source.
Carolyn Olsen – http://carolyncaresblog.com/

I’ll bet you that when you attend a city event and people find out you’re a farmer you get a barrage of questions.

  • What’s the difference between conventional farming and organic?
  • What do the cows eat?
  • Why do you take away the calves from their mothers?
  • Why do you live on a farm?

If you are looking for blog topics, you can also just use Soovle and it will help you see what people are searching for around your topics. Soovle will pull the auto completes from Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Amazon, etc…

Then the farmer asks, “How do you go about starting a blog?”

I’ve got a quick “how to blog” on my blog and some 13 best practices  but there are many different ways to start a blog and tons of people writing about how to do it.

But some good advice came straight from the farmers.

I suggest that anyone who wants to start blogging have 10 posts wrote before they launch. That way when they get busy they can use something they already wrote to keep their momentum going.
Plus if they can’t get 10 posts wrote in the first place, they can decide if maybe blogging isn’t their thing after all.
Carrie Mess – dairycarrie.com

 

Find a good blogging planner. My resolution for 2015 is 2-4 posts a month and I’m hoping a planner will get me there!
Brooke Behlen – http://meetyourbeef.com/

 

Your own blog helps you write about your passion. It will keep you interested in blogging.
Judi Graff – http://farmnwife.com/

 

Do something simple. Don’t worry about making a post the definitive post of all posts on the subject. Non-farm people are often fascinated by things we thing are mundane.

Brian Scott – The Farmer’s Life

But if you’ve tried blogging and it just wasn’t working out, don’t just give up on online communications. We definitely need your voice out here.

Are there other things besides blogging – yep! Try video or images.
If writing isn’t your thing, think of moving to YouTube. The second most utilized search engine is YouTube. Find YOUR way and don’t think you have to follow others.
Katie Pinke – http://thepinkepost.com/

 

Visual definitely makes a difference. Sometimes just a photo, sometimes photos illustrating, sometimes just a photo along with the article. I usually aim for 1 if under 400 words, more if over to ‘balance’ it or if needed to explain something.
Jan Hoadley – https://slowmoneyfarm.wordpress.com/

Again, blogging is a powerful tool to connect with your customers. You can pass along insights about life on the farm and how you farm as well as the commonalities you share with them.

Your farm voice is one of the most important communication tools ag has and without it other voices will fill the void and the imagination of our customers. You can set the record straight and build strong relationships with the people that trust you to grow their food.

If you have any questions about getting started or getting back into blogging, please let me know. I would be happy to answer them. You can leave a comment below or just hit me via Twitter or Facebook.

Are negative comments really negative? Sure they are but you can change them.

child-yelling

Photo courtesy of Sharon Mollerus (creative commons)

Yep, they are negative. It says so right here “negative comments”. But you can approach them as if they were a positive and I think you should because:

Negative comments are an opportunity to connect with people.
In a world where engagement is so very important, any opportunity to connect and engage is definitely worth the time.

It’s like when my wife says, “I wouldn’t tell you this if I didn’t care about you.”

So sometimes the purpose of a negative comment is to communicate about something an outsider perceives as negative to your business or image. You probably don’t want to hear about the negative but by learning about it you can make things better for the future.

Negative comments are an opportunity to share your passion and understand theirs.
Listen, if people didn’t care, they wouldn’t leave comments. You could take their negative comments as “I wouldn’t take the time to say this to you if I didn’t care what you are talking about.”

This means they are passionate about what you are talking about. I believe that people are as passionate about food as they are about religion, music and sports. You need to be sensitive to this information – passion can start a conversation with someone – even if it starts in a negative way.

Ray Prock, dairy farmer from CA, says this about negative commentary that he’s ran into:

“Don’t write off a relationship with someone just because they have different beliefs.  Do you remember that magnet experiment in science, the one where the same polarity repels itself and the opposite polarity attracts the other? The same can be said for relationships, find common ground outside the subject area involved to connect. Work towards a trusting friendship then use that trust to help re-enter the polarizing conversation.

Do not be afraid of taking time to build the relationship, Rome was not built in a day and you will not change someone’s beliefs that quickly either. As the relationship grows the trust will soon give way to influence and that is where you can work to help someone understand why you believe what you believe.”

Negative comments are an opportunity to share your insights into how your farm works, how their food is made, how your cows are treated, how much you care about your business, etc…
A negative comment can come off from someone’s lack of understanding – and you can share insights into how your farm operates.

I prefer to share insights over informing your readers that you are going to educate them on food production. By the simple fact they are reading and communicating with you, you can assume they are educated and informing them that you are going to ‘teach’ them usually gets them defensive.

Their thoughts and opinions may differ from you based on where they have received their information so approach those differences by sharing, not attacking their knowledge or education level. People need to know that you care about their opinions and that you empathize with them before they’ll care about your opinion.

Negative comments can give you insight on how you are coming across to others.
I think Mike Haley sums up this point best in his blog post on AgChat:

“The first step begins as you are writing the blog post, as the tone in which a post is written can set the stage for others to comment, either positively or negatively. If a post is written to talk WITH the readers and respect their opinions, instead of talking AT them, readers tend to think more critically about what was said. It encourages your readership to engage in positive and constructive conversations that remain respectful, even when opinions on the subject can defer greatly.”

I’ve seen Mike in action on blog posts and in comment sections, talking with people in a very respectful manner about their point of view. So I thought it would be great to interview him for this post and ask him directly about how he deals with negativity.

He says, “The biggest goal to any type of online social conversation is not converting people to your point of view rather it’s about opening up the dialogue – it’s a two way street.

Don’t spend so much time trying to get people on your side, instead spend quality time on the conversation. Everybody can be right – everyone’s opinion matters. When you treat negative comments in this fashion, then it’s much easier to get common ground.”

Janice Person, who has a great deal of experience with negativity, is in agreement with Mike. Her best advice comes down to:

“When you look at comments, it’s important to get a little broader perspective when the critics pop up. Maybe they have just heard something for the first-time and are really upset. If you always treat people respectfully, you are more likely move the conversation forward. They may seem aggressive or emotional to me but I need to think about how everyone else reading the exchange will view it. If I set the baseline of respectful dialogue, I can help hold others to it. That means I need to know when to step away for a bit sometimes as people may be pushing my buttons.”

Sometimes negative comments are NOT an opportunity.
Sometimes when you answer back and try to listen the other person will not engage, they are looking to just to use your platform to get their point across.

We call these people trolls.

All they look to do is to use your platform to attack you, to hijack other conversations, to incite anger in you or others and, generally, just be a nuisance.

When it comes to this type of behavior, you don’t have to put up with it or engage in it – actually, that’s the worst thing to do because that’s what the troll wants. To actively see you get upset.

How do you know if someone is a troll?

Check their information with a simple Google/social media search. If you can’t find them, then consider the conversation is over. Remember you can always walk away – it’s tough sometimes but it might be better in the end.

As you get more experience on the internet, you’ll start to know who are trolls and who is genuinely interested in having a conversation with you.

How to deal with troll comments, posts and tweets?

There’s a old saying out there that “never wrestle with a pig, you are going to get dirty and the pig likes it.”

In other words, don’t stoop to their level of fighting because your reputation will be damaged more and that was their intention in the first place.

Carrie Mess has a great point on how to deal with trolls.

“Don’t be afraid of the delete/block button. Some people’s comments are not adding to the discussion. If a comment is completely out of line, insulting or over the top, delete it and block them.”

So what do you think, do you think negative comments are opportunities to engage or should we avoid them at all costs?

In my next post, I’ll go through the steps that I use when dealing with comments – it’s a simple social media flowchart but it can help guide you on whether you should answer back or delete that comment.

13 Steps To Getting Started with a Blog

Keep Calm and Blog On T-shirt via spreadshiet

Keep Calm and Blog On T-shirt via spreadshirt

Blogging 101 – Getting Started is a training module I’m teaching to communicators and dairy farmers. It’s all about getting started with a blog as your mainstay on the internet. I’ve given the reasons of why you should blog but here are 13 steps to help you on your journey. And as always, you can reach out directly if you need help. Just hit up here or here and I’ll try to get you an answer or find you someone who can help.

1. Personal/professional brand
You need to figure who you want to be in your professional and personal life. I don’t think these things are separated in this digital age we live in and if you are going to have a digital life and brand then the two need to live together. Mainly because it’s really hard to separate the two and secondly, if you are only going to be a professional and remove the personal, no one is going to find you interesting.

We are humans and humans are social and personal – not robots. You can focus on your profession for your blog but if you never tie in personal stories, it’s just not going to resonate with the audience. Do you need help figuring out how to write out a personal brand statement? – check my post on it. It’s super simple yet will help you in profound ways.

2. Write, write, write.
Write out your first three or four blog posts in whatever system you prefer.  Definitely DON’T write a post in the system – directly on the internet. It only takes a few lost posts before you will switch to just writing in evernote (which I love) or in notepad or text-edit.

3. Add Visuals.
Find pictures / video content to associate with your blog and add them to it. Don’t steal or just grab stuff off the internet. You need to give credit where credit is due. I usually look through free image galleries or get images from Flickr.com/creativecommons – you have to give attribution and don’t photoshop their stuff unless they tell you it’s ok.

4. Select Your Domain.
Think long and hard about your domain name (keywords in the URL are important).
Having a your own domain name (with personal blogs, I suggest using your name) with good keywords in the URL. If you are writing about professional stuff, then make sure your professional terms are in the name.  You can use godaddy.com or other providers to get your name.

5. Select Your Technology – for the future.
If you get a very simple system, you may grow out of it. Pick something you think will be best for you in the future. If you are not tech savvy at all – try tumblr.com.

If you are a little more tech savvy and want more control – bloggerwixsquarespace or wordpress.com.

Want a lot of control – wordpress.org but be prepared to do a lot of work (you might need to learn how to code a few things like w3schools.com) or pay programmers to help you.

6. WHAT’S YOUR CALL TO ACTION!
What do you want the audience to do? Yes, read your post is why they are here – what’s their next step? Get their email address? Connect to you via social media? Sign a petition? Spread the word?

7. Are you a designer?
This is definitely not something to DIY. Hire a professional to make you look good. It’ll be worth it in the end.

8. Add your posts.
Use notepad or textedit to remove code. Learn about categories and tags. Take your time, work out the bugs, you can have a deadline but don’t force it out.

9. Add your other content.
You need an About page and your CALL TO ACTION page. Set those up. Add your social media profile links. Add your fun widgets. Don’t distract people too much. Everything has a purpose.

10. Get on a schedule.
Make and schedule your editorial calendar. One post a week is hard to do but will probably get you the most bang for the buck. Stay consistent. I need to follow my own advice here.

11. Link it up!
Don’t forget to link your blog to all of your social media profiles and email profile. This will help drive traffic.

12. Analytics helps you adjusted.
What should you post next? What are people actually reading? Why am I still blogging? Get Google Analytics (free) set up on your website to insure you understand what your traffic is doing and what they like about your website.

13. Use your network to drive traffic.
After posts, make sure you are posting your links to all your social media contacts.

BONUS: TIPS and TRICKS to get traffic to your blog

  • Help others
  • Talk about others
  • Link to others
  • Did I mention others and link to them?
  • Read other blogs and comment on them.
  • Use Google’s Autocomplete to work headlines

So are you ready to get blogging?  What are your steps to set up?  Anything I missed that you think I should add?

What’s the right web content management system (CMS) for you?

Too Many Choices (courtesy of Pinto and the Bean) This is a tough question for most communicators. Sometimes it’s because they are unfamiliar with the technical aspects of a CMS. Sometimes it’s because there are too many choices out there. At ND, we have tons of different CMSes and it’s difficult to know which one will be the right one to choose. I know because I’ve had to help them make the choice before – for my past clients and for current clients.

So what are some good questions to ask yourself when you are picking your CMS?  I’ve got five questions that you should answer before buying one.

1. How easy is it to use?

This may seem like a silly question but if you want other people than yourself to put content on your website (which you should – there should never be a bottleneck of one content person), the CMS better we crazy easy to use. It should be “log in”, “select the page”, and “type into the content”, then “save” or “publish”. If you make it too hard or give people too many bells and whistles available, they won’t login again and they won’t help you load content.

BTW, if you have a system where only one person in your office can use the system at a time – that’s not good. Make sure the interface is easy and clear for someone who doesn’t play on the internet all day.

2. What are special content needs for my website?

We get this a lot.  People want a website but don’t know exactly what they’ll put in it.  You’ll save yourself and your team a ton of time, money and frustration if you just do some homework and get your content together first.

This way you’ll get a really, really (that’s two reallys) good understanding of what content is for your audiences. If you don’t have a good idea of the content, then you need to stop your CMS buying process and go back to the whiteboard. Laying out all your content will help inform your decision the best.

Well, what if you don’t know what all your content is.  What do you ask yourself to help you find all your content.  Here’s what I do.

Write down all the content you currently have, what it is and where it is. Text, video, photos, audio, pdfs or word documents, etc…  Is digital or in hard copy form?

Once you have it all down, think of how you’ll want to display it.

When it comes to video, do I want to use YouTube and embed it on the page or do I want people to download them and play them locally on their machine (I don’t recommend this)?

When it comes to photos, do I want to have them access to my flickr account? Do I want a photo gallery where they can see all the photos on my website? Do I want to make a slideshow? Or maybe display all photos in a lightbox?  What is best practice for displaying a photo?

Do I want to people to be able to download my presentations or embed them on the page using something like Slideshare or Speakerdeck?

Do I want an automatic news feed so I don’t have to index news items? Do I want it to be shared with other sites on campus? Do I want an RSS feed?

What about events? Do I want events to be auto archived after the event is over? Can calender.nd.edu sync with my website? Do I want it to be easily shared to social media?

Speaking of social media, how will I handle social media pages on my website? Can I get an feed from my twitter? Do I want people to see my Linkedin company profile, etc…

What about forms? How will people contact me through the website? Can they sign up of a newsletter? Do I want to have a newsletter? (Which I recommend)

What we usually find is that people make a selection of a CMS without really looking through the content or structure or audience or any of that. This should be done before you move forward.

3. Is the code up to standards? Continue reading

Christmas Communication Gift: How would I market a dept, program or class on no budget?

Christmas So you’ve been challenged with getting people to pay attention to things you are offering them but you’ve got no budget to do it with.  Just a few years ago, you probably would have been out of luck.

The only thing you would have been able to use is good old “word of mouth”.  Which, btw, is still one of the best ways to get people to pay attention.

But today if you don’t have money, there are a lot more opportunities to get the word out.

Website – Central Hub
With no budget, I can get an ND blog and make it into a website.  The blog section can always be used for news and there are lots of different themes and layouts to choose from.  The main thing that I want people to do when they visit the website is to do something.  Sign up for something.  You need to get their information so you can reach out to them. Continue reading

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