Saturday, May 01, 2010

Be creative when it comes to your blog

Social Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Friday, April 30, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Metro section

This is the second in a two-part series on blogging. Last week, I discussed the following topics: 1) What's a blog?; 2) How do I get a blog?; 3) How do I get people to read my blog?; 4) Making money on your blog; and 5) Keep it professional! If you missed last week's column, check the Times & Transcript's online archives or my blog.

To post photos or not?

The short answer is yes, definitely. Photos are also searchable in Google and show up in search results. It's just another way for you to get noticed when people are looking for content that will send them to your website. The vast majority of people use Google for searches. From January 1 to March 31 of this year, 39 per cent of my traffic came directly from Google searches, while another nine per cent came from referrals from Google Images - so that's 48 per cent just from Google.

There are various sources for photos, including Google Images and free stock photo websites. Just remember that it's very important to source your photos if at all possible. Try not to just save them on your computer and then post them as your own. I realize it's difficult sometimes to source a generic graphic or photo, but by all means provide a photo credit if at all possible and provide a link to the source's website. Courtesy and honesty should guide you here. If you use paid stock photography that you legally have access to, then there should be no need to source it.

Photos and graphics also make your blog more visually appealing. It's just human nature to be attracted to colour and design. If your blog is just page upon page of words, it's not as interesting to look at and may unfairly get ignored because it isn't attractive. With that said, however, content is king on blogs. Spend more time on content.

Use video whenever you feel it's appropriate: A blog doesn't have to just be written. You can use a vlog (video blog) post that you've saved to YouTube or another video sharing site. If you don't feel like writing, why not use video as a substitute? Most computers now come with decent built-in easy-to-use video editing software that at least will get you started. For fancier videos, you can purchase something off the shelf or online.

I post several videos to my blog every week. Because my blog (at least for now) is a general interest blog based on my own thoughts and writings, I can post whatever I want. I choose to post stuff that is normally considered family-friendly, but what you post is up to you.

There are several entertaining YouTubers out there who post videos all the time. I post videos by Fred, Charlieissocoollike, Barats and Bareta, Kevjumba and many other content creators. You don't have to do it all yourself.

Even if it's not for entertainment - but for business - there are lots of other people who are creating perfectly good videos that you can use on your blog. If you're a real estate agent, for example, there are tons of videos out there regarding staging your home, etc. These can only garner you more credibility with your clients and help them as they try to sell or buy a home - hopefully through you! What I'm saying is that you don't have to create all your content yourself. Post content created by others! That's what it's there for! Just remember to give credit where credit is due.

Enabling comments on your blog

Readers who want to post legitimate, responsible comments on your blog should be able to. If you enabled commenting, however - which I believe you should - I'm also a huge advocate for ensuring that you moderate these comments before they're posted. This means that you will get a notice with a copy of the comment and you'll either have to accept or reject it.

You'll likely accept most of the comments and may one day wonder why you're bothering to do so. Trust me, you'll thank yourself because the spam and nasty haters and trolls will come calling at some point. Actually, moderation tends to keep these negative commentators away because their "thrill" comes in the form placing a comment quickly and then leaving. If you enable moderation in your comments, you'll be able to delete any spam or hateful messages before they go online. This is a good thing because you don't want your readers thinking this stuff is condoned by you.

Figuring out your traffic

By all means, enable the amazing and free Google Analytics website traffic management tool for your blog. This will tell you how many people have visited your site in the last year, month, day€¦ and even how many in the last hour. It will also tell you from where in the world your traffic is originating and what content is the most popular.

There are a host of other things that Google Analytics will tell you, including how long people spend on your website and your bounce rate. According to Wikipedia, the bounce rate is described as, "a term used in website traffic analysis. It essentially represents the percentage of initial visitors to a site who 'bounce' away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site." So, the lower the bounce rate, the better.

Don't bother paying for a website traffic analysis tool unless you are highly specialized. If you're running a blog, Google Analytics should be more than sufficient.

Treat your blog like a business! That doesn't mean that it should bog you down, but it means that you have to commit. If you don't show up for work, you'll get fired, right? Well, if you don't blog regularly, you'll lose readers and credibility. Commit!

Have fun blogging! I'll continue to write about blogging from time to time, of course. If you have any questions or comments, send them my way!

It's May Day!


It's May 1 -- and that means it's May Day!

Check out this informative video from the U.S. Library of Congress for more information on May Day:

Friday, April 30, 2010

This week's Social Media Matters column

This week's Social Media Matters column is the second of a two-part series dealing exclusively with blogging. Topics covered this week include:

- Posting photos
- Posting video
- Moderating comments
- Determining the traffic on your blog
- Showing up for "work"

Check out Social Media Matters on page H4 in the Metro section of today's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted online here tomorrow. If you'd prefer to read the column now, click here to read it on the Times & Transcript's website.

Social Media Matters appears every Friday in the Metro section of the Moncton Times & Transcript.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

American Idol: Recap of Top 6 results show

This was one of those weeks on American Idol when a contestant appeared for the first time in the bottom three and was eliminated. If you're keeping track, that means it was either Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze or Siobhan Magnus, because every other contestant had appeared at least once in the bottom three before this week.

To find out who was eliminated last night, click here to read today's Idol Chatter column in the Moncton Times & Transcript or click here to read Idol Chatter in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner.

Next week, don't miss American Idol as the Top 5 are mentored by none other than the incredibly talented Harry Connick Jr., who'll be coaching them on the Frank Sinatra songbook! Should be a great show! Tune in on Tuesday at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox!

Networks aren't enough; real people matter too

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Editorial section

Last week, I attended an all-day session on social media presented by Mike Kujawski, an Ottawa-based marketing and social media strategist. Without getting into the details of the presentation (you had to pay $400 for that!), I was surprised by one of the first things he told us during the seminar.

For someone who specializes in social media -- in other words communication and networking done online through a computer -- he was just as adamant that it's still essential to connect with nature and with people face to face. You can't -- and shouldn't -- avoid it. You can't -- and shouldn't -- pretend that doing it online is always good enough.

Now, I thought I knew a lot about social media when I went to this seminar. I mean, sheesh, I write column on it, use Twitter and Facebook all the time, and have a couple of blogs with more than 3,000 posts between them. Well, after listening to Kujawksi speak for an entire day, I was left sobbing in the corner of the meeting room, lying on the floor in the fetal position sucking my thumb and crying for my mommy. This guy was good!

And he certainly proved to me in no uncertain terms that the world of social media is huge and that I have a lot to learn.

He also made me feel old . . . very old. I checked out his Facebook profile and discovered that he was born during my first year of university. Where's my rocking chair? Pass me my cane! Turn the television up louder! It's 3 p.m. -- so why isn't supper on the table? And, oh yeah, get off my lawn!

I've been so unbelievably busy lately that I pretty much just have time to toss a can of cat food at the cats when I get home after work and hope they can figure out how to open it before I have to leave the house again for another meeting or event. This time of year is always crazy with work, work and more work -- both paid and volunteer. Fun and leisure haven't been part of my vocabulary for a few weeks.

I've been burning the candle at both ends and wishing the weeks away just to get to a weekend where I could relax, only to find myself just as busy taking care of things that I wasn't able to do during the week, like teaching the cats how to open their own cans of food.

Like many people, I spend a lot of time on the computer. I blog and I spend time on Facebook and Twitter to see what people are up to and to share my own updates and links to interesting things I've found on the Internet. But, as Kujawksi pointed out, I need to remember sometimes that online communication is a part of a larger communication puzzle.

It's vitally important, mind you, but we need to remember that people are still people. We certainly get a grim reminder of that when someone close to us dies or moves away. And we certainly get reminders from Mother Nature. You can be online all you want, but if there's a tornado spinning toward your house, you'd better have the common sense to get offline and hide in the basement, or at least run down the street screaming like a little girl. Not the manliest thing you'll do that day, but it beats getting sucked into a tornado and shot head-first through a tree trunk.

I don't know what it is about April and May. The frenzy is definitely on to get things done before the traditionally slower summer months, when vacations take over the minds of most people. And while I've been so busy lately -- too busy, actually -- there are limits. Don't get me wrong. I like having lots on my plate. I'm used to it and enjoy accomplishing things. I can work reasonably well under pressure, but I've had enough.

Lately, I've been thinking that being busy isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've been running out of one meeting or event early to get to another obligation, not giving my full attention to either one. Saying "yes" to too many people will do that to you. And while it's nice to be of assistance and to feel wanted, sometimes you just need to say, "Sorry, I just can't." There's nothing wrong with that.

If you don't take care of yourself and your time, no one else will, I can assure you of that!

There are many people out there who are too busy -- and by too busy I mean that you're tired and that you're neglecting your own stuff. Of course, if you're doing those things, it also means you have your priorities wrong and aren't planning correctly. Even at your busiest, you should feel a sense of accomplishment and elation versus exhaustion. That means you haven't been working on stuff that really matters. Lately, I certainly feel more exhausted than elated.

Sounds like a change of priorities is in order, including paying closer attention to planning. One of those things I've been neglecting is certainly Mother Nature. Even going for a nice drive in the country is better than nothing! I really love doing that on weekends and have been neglecting that lately. It doesn't have to be for long -- even an hour's drive on country roads around the city is enough to relax me.

I'm not one to dance naked in rivers, but even a nice drive is enough to reconnect a bit with nature if you've been inside in front of a computer screen most of the day. And don't worry, I wouldn't dance naked in a river due to my love of animals. The last time I did that, a moose saw me and ran over to a hunter and screamed, "Shoot me! I'm delicious!"

Yeah, I've been spending way too much time in front of the computer lately. It's time for some fun. But what do to? Hmm . . . maybe I should just Google that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CBC report: Cyber-snooping bosses

Calvin Horne lost his job after he blogged about his frustrations with some people at work.

Motorvationally Speaking - Steve Daniels

Motorvationally Speaking is a weekly program that features dreamers and achievers in the New Brunswick business community. In this episode, hosts Gair Maxwell and Jim Gilbert interview Steve Daniels.

Steve's a good friend of mine and I urge everyone to check out LMI Canada, the company he represents. LMI's Effective Personal Productivity course is amazing. I took it last year and loved it. Changes the way you think and the way you value your time! Contact Steve at sdaniels@lmicanada.ca or call him at (506) 878-1631.



St. Olaf Glee Club: "Betty White Lines"

Awesome musical tribute to comedienne Betty White!

American Idol: Recap of Top 6 performance show

This week, Canadian superstar Shania Twain mentored the Top 6 who -- appropriately -- performed her songs, too!

Although some were obviously better than others, all the contestants had a reasonably good night. Siobhan Magnus was perhaps the most criticized, and I thought Lee DeWyze had an off night. The star of the night appeared to be Casey James. He definitely came out swinging after his first appearance in the bottom three last week.

This is one of those weeks where it's very difficult to choose a bottom three. Siobhan sang last, so is likely safe (or is she?). Lee sang first, but is so popular that I can't imagine him in the bottom three (or can I?). The rest did OK enough to keep them out of the bottom three under normal circumstances -- but these aren't normal circumstances. In the end, I prediced that Lee, Siobhan and Michael "Big Mike" Lynche would in the bottom three.

You can probably guess which one I predicted would go home. If not, however, click here to read Idol Chatter in today's Moncton Times & Transcript or click here to read Idol Chatter in today's Fredericton Daily Gleaner. Watch tonight at 10 p.m. Atlantic (9 p.m. Eastern) on Fox to find out who goes home!

This week's Hump Day column...


... is about finding more of a balance between being online and interacting in the "real world". While being online has its place in our personal and business lives, remembering that being in the presence of real people and nature is also essential. Sometimes, being so busy online can overwhelm us and lead us to a false sense of security that we're doing enough to interact with those around us.

Check out Hump Day in the editorial section of today's Moncton Times & Transcript. It will be posted online here tomorrow.

Remember... if it's Wednesday, it's Hump Day!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eight months to go 'til Ho! Ho! Ho!


Photo courtesy of Sketchy Santas, a blog featuring hilariously awful (and real!) photos of kids with Santa Claus.

Terrifying...

I've always thought the Snuggles commercials were one step away from horror movies. If I saw a talking teddy bear in my laundry, I would freak!! LOL