Archive | April, 2011

Social media and live events: Tips from the Royal Wedding

From the old blog.

According to Wikipedia, back in 1981, approximately 750 million people watched Princess Diana’s wedding on television. This Friday, when Prince William and Kate Middleton marry, the television audience is anticipated to be closer to two billion. While I’m likely to be included in those 2011 statistics, I’m much more interested in how the wedding preparations are shaping up on social media – and how the use of these tools can be adapted by those running live events on a smaller scale.

Royal Wedding Facebook event

Create a Facebook event

It’s really easy to create an event on Facebook – either using your personal profile or your Facebook page – and it’s a great way to bring together potential event attendees. The event wall can become a place for updates and photos of the venue, as well as a networking space for guests. If it’s an open event (such as watching the Royal Wedding on television), then information about the event can spread virally, as those ‘attending’ invite their own Facebook friends.

The official Facebook event for the Royal Wedding was created by the British Monarchy page. As of this morning, the page had 357, 843 likes. The number of event attendees wasn’t available.

Have a hashtag

Hashtags are a way of filtering information relating to a particular event on Twitter. Clarence House, the official Twitter feed of the Royal Wedding, is predominently using the tag #rw2011.

Of course, you have no control over how the internet population uses your hashtag, but by defining it yourself, choosing something that’s not immediately obvious and getting the word (hashtag) out to attendees, you can attempt to bring together discussion that is specific to your event.

This is not only useful during the event itself (as a way to get realtime feedback), but also during the planning stages. Could potential attendees could use the hashtag to tweet in questions to your conference speakers? Could they use it to identify other attendees and start networking before the event begins? Check out this blog post from Blue State Digital for more tips on using Twitter at a live event.

Consider video

As the television viewing figures suggest, people like to see things. This Friday’s nuptials will be live-streamed on YouTube. While you may not have the camera crew or the budget to do something similar, it’s worth thinking about how you can use video to promote your event or capture it for people who are unable to attend. Video can bring to life the need for your fundraiser, build the profile of your speakers, spread your message or share the experience.

When I was working at YouthNet, for example, we filmed popular YouTuber Charlie McDonnell speaking at a launch event about how he got started with vlogging. It’s not a great quality video. It was filmed on an inexpensive FlipCam and the editing is minimal, and yet, as of today, it has had almost 19,000 views.

In the interest of keeping this post to a suitable blog length I’ll stick to those three points: Facebook events, hashtags, video. However, if you’ve got other examples of what can be learned from this royal use of social media or how web 2.0 tools can be used to enhance live events in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Five iPhone applications for the Royal Wedding

From the old blog.

At the end of this month, two university sweethearts will wed. The bride used to be an accessories buyer for Jigsaw and she still makes the best-dressed lists. The groom is a helicopter pilot and also His Royal Highness, Prince William of Wales. The British prince, second in line to the throne, will marry his long-term girlfriend, Catherine (Kate) Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.

Whether you’ll be in central London waving a Union Jack on the nuptial date or spending your extra public holiday watching the proceedings on TV, here’s a list of the top iPhone applications to help you prepare for this royal wedding extravaganza.

1. Royal Wedding Invite

£0.59; released 13 March 2011; developer Ryan Stevens; download from iTunes.

royal_wedding_invite_screenshot

According to Wikipedia, 1,900 people have been invited to the wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey. If you haven’t made the cut this time, you can still learn more about the bride and groom, the best man (Prince Harry), and the wedding venues via the free Royal Wedding Invite application – or alternatively, you could look on Wikipedia where most of the text and images come from.

If you’re especially eager not to miss any of the big event, the application also features a timer that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the ceremony begins.

2. The Royal Wedding from Hello!

Free; updated 23 March 2011; developer Hello Ltd; download from iTunes.

hello_royal_wedding_screenshot-e1303486026463

Hello! magazine has recently released their own royal wedding application, featuring a range of glossy images and short captions from their editorial team. Take a look at Kate’s ring and those of other royal fiancées. See early pictures of the bride and groom. Follow the timeline of their romance, break-up and engagement.

It’s a fairly slick application, but its content is fairly limited and padded out with pictures of other royal couples. You’re also not going to see Kate’s actual dress in the dress section at this stage, but rather sketches from alternative designers, such as Valentino and Elizabeth Emmanuel, showing what they would’ve done if given the opportunity. However, the application developers promise that new pictures will continue to be added as the wedding approaches.

3. Monarchy: The Definitive Guide

£1.19; updated 24 January 2011; developer Daniel Dickenson, download from iTunes.

monarchy_screenshot

Prince William is second in line to the British throne – a throne that has been occupied over the centuries by a number of well-known kings and queens. Henry the VIII with his six wives. William the Conqueror. George VI, played by Colin Firth in a recent film. The Monarchy application brings a timeline of monarchs to your phone, ranging from King Offa in 757 to Queen Elizabeth II in the present day.

Once again, the content is drawn heavily from Wikipedia, but the easy-to-use interface makes it a handy reference tool for offline browsing. Additional features include a list of Prime Ministers from 1721 onwards and the lyrics for the national anthems of the United Kingdom, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – useful if you want to brush up on the words to ‘God Save the Queen’ before your royal wedding street party.

4. London: Westminster Abbey Guide & Audio

£2.99; released 23 September 2009; developer GuidzAlive Limited; download from iTunes.

westminster_abbey_guide_screenshot

Westminster Abbey, the venue for William and Kate’s wedding ceremony, is one of London’s top tourist attractions. Whether you’re planning a visit or just wanting to find out more about this historic site, this Way2Go guide provides an excellent audio commentary on the highlights of Westminster Abbey, such as the Coronation Chair and Poets’ Corner. There’s even a five minute audio segment on the funeral of Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother, which also took place at the Abbey.

The application also includes a floor plan of Westminster Abbey, a map of the local area and information on how to get there (though if you’re a wedding guest you perhaps won’t be using public transport).

5. Weakest Link: Royal Wedding Edition

£0.59; released 22 March 2011; developer BBC Worldwide LTD; download from iTunes.

weakest_link_screenshot-e1303487034366

Once you’ve used the other applications on this list to study up on all things Kate and William, test your knowledge by playing Weakest Link: Royal Wedding Edition. Released by the BBC and based on their popular game show, the application matches you up with five computer-generated opponents who each seem to have an endless knowledge of wedding trivia as well as their own strategies for making it to the final round.

What does the Middleton family business sell? How old was Diana when William was born? In which room at St James’ Palace were William and Kate’s official engagement photos taken?

Answer the questions correctly while avoiding being voted off by your opponents and you’ll make it through to the sudden death play-off. There are no snarky comments from Anne Robinson here, but there are 1,000 wedding-related questions ranging from member-of-the-public to stalker-of-the-monarchy difficulty levels.

Alternatively, if you’re not interested in the royal wedding at all, and are just looking for something to do on April 26, the application also has a general knowledge setting, boasting 10,000 different questions – that should keep you busy through the ceremony, at least.

First published on iPhoneAppCafe.com. Happy to answer comments there or here.

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NFP Social Media League Table

From the old blog.

Earlier this month, research consultancy NFP Synergy, published a social media league table for UK charities. This league table measures social media presence – the number of likes a charity has on Facebook, subscribers on YouTube, followers on Twitter and so on. You can download the report for free from the NFP Synergy website.

Of course, mere presence and even follower numbers, are far from being the only indicators of social media success. For some organisations, a small but loyal fanbase, keen to donate, volunteer or take other actions on behalf of the charity may be much more beneficial. As the researchers say, ‘It is not an easy thing to measure the social media engagement of an organisation, and even more difficult to compare it to that of another organisation.’

That said, there are some interesting findings here. Charities, it seems, may be quicker than businesses to adopt and use social media. According to the researchers:

When the top 25 fundraising charities are compared with the top 25 FTSE companies by market capitalisation, charities are far ahead in terms of use of social media, with three times as many YouTube subscribers, eight times as many Twitter followers and ten times as many Facebook ‘likes’ on average.

Out of the top fifty fundraising charities, the Royal British Legion tops the social media league table. On their website, they have a Legion Interactive page which details ‘ways you can participate in online activities associated with the Legion or show your support in this digital age’. There’s also a separate website which brings all their online community-building work together.  Interestingly, they’ve set up their Twitter account as a character named Poppy who acts as their official voice, rather than using the name of the charity or one of its staff members. It’s also interesting to see that while Poppy has almost 5,000 followers - people who think her updates are worth subscribing to – she’s only followed back less than a thousand.

There’s also a section in the report on those not-for-profits who don’t make the fundraising top 50 list, but who still have a high level of presence on social media: organisations such as the V&A MuseumBeatbullying Bullying UK and Greenpeace. The great thing about social media is that it does let charities with less fundraising income - and smaller businesses for that matter – punch above their weight. Indeed, it’s often those that manage to be nimble and responsive to their followers, rather than those with excessive set up and sign off processes which can make the most of these new media channels.

For anyone who wants to know how UK charities are using Facebook and Twitter, YouTube and blogs in 2011, the NFP Synergy report is definitely worth a look. I’d love to hear what others thought of the results. Were they as expected? Any suprises? Feel free to leave me a comment below.

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Spotting comment spam

I got some lovely comments on my blog last night.

Regards for this post, wrote one Justine Lamaack, I am a big fan of this site and would like to go along updated.

Another commenter added: okay without appearing too sticky or groupie’ish you are amazing for posting this aha thanks man.

There’s not many posts on my blog yet, but I still get six or seven comments like this a day. You won’t see them on the site though, because they’re spam.

Spammers, it seems, are smarter these days. I get less comments that are obviously spam, comments that are stuffed with irrelevant keywords and links, here than I did on my earlier blogging efforts. Instead, the spammers are trying to flatter me into approving their messages.

Why? Because if I approve it, they’ll get their link on my blog where it will be seen by other readers. And because, once I’ve approved one comment from a particular user, my blog will usually automatically publish other comments from the same person – comments which can then contain as many keywords and irrelevant links as the spammer wishes to include.

Spam comments

However, it’s still quite easy to be smarter than a spammer. The image above shows three things to watch out for.

1. The commenter’s name

It may be obvious that the spammer is posting on behalf of a website which has little to do with your post and they’ve used that website as their name (1b). Alternatively, they may have used a personal name (1a), but it doesn’t match up with their email address.

2. The website/email address

Does the website look genuine? Is it relevant to the comment? Is it one you’d want to visit? It may be worth trusting your gut instinct here, because checking it out may lead you to some unsavoury content.

It’s worth taking a look at the email address too. Does it match the website’s domain name or have they used a free email account such as gmail or hotmail? Of course, lots of genuine commenters use webmail accounts, but there is usually a clue when it’s being used by a spammer (such as the different name/email account name above).

3. The comment itself

It’s nice to have such appreciation for your writing, but it’s also worth thinking about whether the comment is specific to your blog. The comments above, for example, could’ve been posted on pretty much any piece of online content.

It can also be easy to spot spam comments because of their poor English. Extra words. Awkward phrasing. Misuse of capitals. Real commenters can of course make mistakes too, but if the language issue is combined with any of the other factors above, it’s probably comment spam.

Stopping comment spam

There are two main ways of preventing comment spam on your blog. You can install a ‘human-test’ which needs to completed before the comment is submitted. This could be a CAPTCHA code or a maths question that the user has to answer correctly.

You can also set up a system of moderating your comments – either all of them or the first one from each user – rather than letting them appear on your blog automatically. If you’re using WordPress, the Akismet plug-in can also filter out most spam comments and hold them in a separate queue for deletion or, in rare cases, approval.

If you’ve got any tips for spotting or stopping spam, feel free to leave me a (real) comment below.

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NCT Babychange Review

From the old blog.

Before I had a baby, I used to be able to get ready and leave the house in less than five minutes.

The first time I ventured out to the local shopping centre with our newborn, however, it took me over an hour and a half to prepare. Not only did I have to get the baby dressed and fed, I also had to pack the changing bag with spare clothes, nappies and baby wipes, set up the pram and anticipate the bus schedules. And then, just as I was heading out the door, I realised that, should I need to change our baby’s nappy while we were out, I had no idea where to go.

Presumably there was a baby changing room somewhere in town – but it wasn’t something I had really paid much attention to before I had a child of my own. So, aware that I was going to miss the next bus, I turned to Google and searched for a website which would list the changing facilities in or around the shopping centre. I couldn’t find one. But now, four months on, I’ve found an app.

Babychange application screenshotDeveloped by Axon Publishing for the NCT parenting charity, the Babychange application allows UK mums and dads to find their nearest baby changing facility. It draws on your phone’s GPS function to position you on a Google map, with green and amber pins showing the facilities in your area.

When I first opened the application yesterday morning, there were only two or three pins nearby. These marked venues such as Nando’s or Debenhams: the sort of chain stores where every branch has a changing room. As a mother of a four month-old, I already knew about those facilities – and many more besides. The strength of this app is that it allows parents like me to submit these additional venues ourselves.

So, when baby and I were out and about yesterday, I added in a couple more – at a local cinema and play café – entering in their addresses, a hygiene rating and indicating whether or not I’d use them again. These were then added to the map as amber (‘requiring confirmation’) pins.

It’s not a perfect system. My mobile internet is notoriously slow, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication from the app that it’s processing data. As such, over the course of twenty minutes, I managed to add the same venue three times. There isn’t any way for me to remove the extra entries, but the developers say that if two other people click on the incorrect data button then it’ll disappear. I’m not sure how many other people in my area are using the app, but my guess is that those extra pins will be hanging around for a while yet.

There’s also no way to add a comment to your submission. This meant that I wasn’t able to let other parents know that to use the changing room at the cinema, for example, they’d need to have a movie ticket.

Despite its flaws, this is a free application which will only become more valuable as more people use it to submit and rate the facilities in their local area. I’d encourage all new parents in the UK to give it a try. I may never again be able to leave the house in five minutes, but having the information about changing rooms on my phone means one less worry as I head out the door – and that can only be a good thing.

Download from iTunes
Price: free
Released: 7 April 2011 (Version 1.0.1)

First published on iPhoneAppCafe.com. Happy to answer comments there or here.

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M&S Foursquare Promotion

Saturday the 16th of April, or to use the American date format 04/16, was Foursquare Day. I only discovered this because of another promotion. Over the weekend of 16-17 April, UK retailer, M&S, were promising to donate £1 to Breakthrough Breast Cancer for every Foursquare user who checked into one of their stores. According to their site, there was also a £5 off voucher for the first 25,000 people to check in.

So there I was, bright and early on Saturday morning, needing to buy some brown rice for the new baby weaning project. I could’ve gone to Sainsbury’s or Tesco Express, but the breast cancer promotion meant that I wanted to check in at M&S sometime that day and I figured I might as well do my grocery shopping at the same time.

M&S check in

I’ve tried to use my mobile inside the Merton High Street M&S before, but there’s been no signal – which would’ve made checking in on Foursquare fairly difficult. So, before I went in to the actual store, I located the venue on Foursquare, added a comment as you can see here, took a photo of the sign on the side of the building to prove where I was, and virtually checked in.

At this point, a security guard came up to me and asked why I was taking photos of the store. This is apparently not allowed. This is kind of a shame in the world of social media, but I figured I better play by the rules and when I got home, I looked up how to delete the photo from my history and thus from the store’s page on Foursquare.

Anyway, having checked in, I got a notification that I’d just earned the Foursquare Day badge. Not what I was there for, but nice nonetheless and something to share with the three million or so other users who checked in somewhere that day (according to this tweet). I still haven’t heard anything about my £5 voucher, either via Foursquare or by email – and when I read the promotional copy again, I’m not sure whether I was supposed to spend £30 on clothing on the day I checked in to receive the discount. I’m not particularly bothered about this, though I guess other people checking in may have been, so it’d be good to hear if anyone else has actually received a voucher code.

I just hope that my check-in did earn Breakthrough Breast Cancer a £1 donation from M&S – because that’s an interesting corporate use of social media for a great cause. There are clear benefits here to b0th the charity and the business, and as location-based services such as Foursquare become more popular, I can only wonder if it’s a fundraising model that will be increasingly used in the future.

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QR codes and real estate signs

From the old blog.

I’ve always thought that QR codes, those black and white squares of lines and dots that have started appearing on marketing leaflets and billboards, were a bit of a gimmick. In fact, until earlier this week, I didn’t even have a QR reader on my phone.

However, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed the codes starting to appear on the For Sale and To Let signs put up by local real estate agent, Eddison White. Now that’s a good idea, I thought. If I was in the market for a new home, it’d be great to be able to use my phone to scan the sign outside a place that caught my eye and be redirected to a webpage that had pictures of the inside, the price, contact details for an estate agent, and so on. I had to try this out.

Firstly, I needed a QR reader – an application for my iPhone that would let me read the codes. After heading to the AppStore and doing a bit of research, I went for a free app  called Qrafter which seemed to work for most reviewers. Yesterday evening, on my way home from a run around the neighbourhood, I decided to try it out.

The first sign I spotted was fixed to the second story of a terraced house. I raised my phone to scan it, but without the ability to zoom, the code only took up a small fraction of my camera window. Nothing happened. Feeling slightly let down, I walked around the block till I found another sign. This one was a bit lower, so I held my camera up above my head and walked towards the sign. Again nothing. I was getting a bit self-conscious by this stage, wondering if the neighbours were watching through the windows. It was also getting dark and the message on my QR reader said Avoid glare and shadows. I decided to call it a night, and try again in the morning.

It’s worth bearing in mind that I’m a pretty engaged ‘customer’ at this point. I want this to work. I’ve already invested the time in downloading the application. I’m still keen to give it another go. It’s possible that others might have lost interest by now.

Real estate sign with QR codeAnyway, this morning, it was bright and, if not sunny, at least clear. I walked up to a couple of signs, stood on my tiptoes, trying to get my phone as close as possible and hold it as still as possible. Nothing. I was about to give up, when I found it: a sign that was close enough to the ground for my phone to scan.

So I scanned it.

And it brought up a link to the mobile version of the Eddison White website. The link didn’t direct me to the individual property details I had hoped for, but to a webpage where, should I have been so inclined, I could have searched through their database until I found the property I was standing in front of.

Reflecting on this now with my traditional marketer hat on, I can see that it may be unrealistically expensive to generate and print a unique QR code for every sign. However, from a digital point of view, I couldn’t help be disappointed. I could remember the name of the real estate agent. I could’ve just as easily gone home, guessed or Googled their website address, and then searched the property database from the much faster internet connection on my home PC.

I didn’t get the result I wanted with QR today – and perhaps my initial expectations were too high – but at least my eyes have been opened to the possibilities of the technology. Until QR readers are a default application for every phone or hand-held device, I still think these square black and white codes are quite gimmicky. But if they can be used in a way that engages a customer enough to bother downloading the tools to read them, and then, once scanned, deliver value over and above what’s available elsewhere, then I can see that, for some businesses, they may have a place in the marketing mix.

If anyone’s got any examples of organisations successfully using QR codes or if you want to share your own experience with the technology, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Greenpeace vs. Facebook

On Beth Kanter’s blog this week, there’s a sneak peek into new Idealware research on how not-for-profits are using their Facebook fan pages. For those working in the charity sector – and perhaps for anyone familiar with Facebook – these initial results won’t be that surprising. Charities, it seems, are finding Facebook fanpages useful for increasing event attendance, driving traffic to their websites and encouraging online action (such as signing petitions), but having less success with using their Facebook presence to attract donations or volunteers.

Kyle Andrei from Idealware writes:

…more than 65% said that they’d had some success with moving people to take some form of action for a cause, like signing petitions or other advocacy actions. Online petitions and other political or advocacy actions are easy to do, demand little time, and are easily spread through Facebook and other social media.

A good recent example comes from Greenpeace. Greenpeace seem to just get online campaigning. Back in the middle of the last decade, they launched the Green My Apple campaign, drawing in Apple’s own loyal fan base to pressure the organisation into upping the green credentials of their products.

This year, for Earth Day, they’re asking Facebook to ‘unfriend coal’ and instead use clean energy sources. The campaign’s been run on Facebook itself. There’s a fanpage with a slick 30 second video introducing the campaign’s key message, and a welcome screen in a number of different languages. There’s a date target of April 22. There are regular campaign updates and fans are encouraged to add their comments.

I took the screenshot below this morning (14 April 2011). At that time, this post had 81,007 comments.

Unfriend coal

What’s Greenpeace doing right here?

There are presumably thousands of IT companies who are not using clean energy. They’ve picked the one with 600 million users. These are people who use Facebook, which means, whether or not they’re interested in the deeper issues of climate change, they’re on the platform already. These are people who get how Facebook works, who can leave comments or upload photos and who are spreading the word virally amongst their friends.

Greenpeace recently asked fans to help them set the world record attempt for the most comments on a single post – and achieved the goal within 24 hours. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of effort for a fan to leave a comment. It’s going to take far less time than volunteering for the cause. It’s doesn’t require the financial commitment of making a donation. And it’s exciting as well, to be part of a global movement like this, to say that your comment was one of over 80,000.

For those fans who are interested in learning more about the cause, there’s also a non-Facebook microsite. Interestingly, the blog post there, Greenpeace supporters set world record for most Facebook comments, has – as of when I’m writing this – no comments. Again this is proof that, in many cases, it’s better to take your organisation to your fans rather than asking your fans to come to your organisation.

With just over a week to go before Earth Day, it will be interesting to see how this campaign develops, and whether there will be any official response from Facebook. For now, it’s an interesting case study on how Facebook fanpages can motivate supporters to take the low-level actions highlighted in the Idealware research.

I’ve liked it.

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The Sun Microsystems Blogging Principles

From the old blog.

So far, I’ve only read the preface to Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’ Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. However, there’s already something on page xii that made me want to pause and post here.

The authors are talking the blogging principles that Jonathan Schwartz introduced for Sun Microsystems employee blogs in 2004:

  • Don’t do anything stupid.
  • Write about something you know about.
  • Make it interesting.

While the Sun website today seems to have a longer list of blogging principles, these three, in my experience, seem to be good general guiding principles, not just for employee blogs, but for blogs in general.

Don’t do anything stupid

When you’re blogging you’re essentially having a conversation. The other conversation participants – your readers and commenters – may be people you know, people you get to know or people who’ll always remain amongst the anonymous visitors figure in your Google Analytics statistics. The important thing is that they’re people. Remember that, and you won’t go far wrong.

What counts as ‘doing something stupid’ is fairly subjective, and bloggers will need to decide for themselves where they draw the line. It might be as simple as deciding not to post publicly anything that you wouldn’t want your parents or a future employer to see. Of course, mistakes are made. However, if you acknowledge them and try to deal with the consequences in a way that takes into account that there are actual people involved, then it seems that in most cases the harm can be minimised.

Write about something you know about

I’m not this one’s 100% essential. Anyone who’s read the Julie/Julia project blog (or seen the film starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams) will know that you can build up a huge blog following as you learn to do something. In many cases, such as a recent post I wrote on a cupcake icing failure, your readers will be keen to share their experiences and help you out.

The better advice may be, ‘don’t pretend you’re an expert if you’re not’. In a job interview, for example, it’s often easy to tell when someone’s bluffing or has hyped up their skill-set on their CV. Fake it on your organisation’s blog, and you may end up being similarly caught out.

Make it interesting

As a blogger, you’re already interesting. Again, it’s because you’re a person. You’re unique. Let that uniqueness shine through in your posts, and it’ll help make them interesting. It may be that you take a great picture, or that you’re good at making people laugh. Use those factors to make your blog stand out.

Also, make sure you’re having a conversation that’s relevant. What are people talking about at the moment? Do you have anything to add? I realise that, by writing a post inspired by a book that was first published in 2006, I’m not following my own advice here. However, from my experience, if you can provide the content that people are searching for right now, you’ll not only increase your website traffic, you’ll also be creating something of real value to your readers.

So: don’t do anything that you think is stupid, write about something you’re interested in and don’t fake it, and be different and topical. Three(ish) blog principles inspired by Sun Microsystems.

I should probably go and read the rest of Wikinomics before I post any more, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on other essential principles for bloggers. Feel free to leave me a comment below.

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Rediscovering StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon screenshot

Despite my total lack of coordination in real life, I haven’t stumbled on the web for a while. It’s just one of those things on the internet where, for a month or two, I’ll be spending all my spare time clicking on the stumble button, discovering new sites and leaving reviews. Then – as has happened this time – I’ll get distracted by some other web tool, and my StumbleUpon account will remain inactive for almost a year.

However, on Thursday last week, my 5 essential iPhone applications for pregnancy article was published on iPhoneAppCafe.com. Being the social media geek that I am, I kept returning to the page during the day to see how many tweets and Facebook shares it had received. While those social media numbers went up little-by-little, I was amazed to see that the article very quickly had 57 views via StumbleUpon.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tool, StumbleUpon is a people-driven website discovery engine. As users browse the web, they like or dislike and categorise the websites they visit. Then, when you click the ‘Stumble!’ button on the site or on your installed browser toolbar, you’re taken to a random website which matches your interests.

For me, the excitement of StumbleUpon is that you don’t know what you’re going to get. Of course, this means that a lot of time you get things you’re not interested in. But sometimes you stumble upon a useful blog post or a funny video or a great website that you wouldn’t have found any other way.

StumbleUpon can also drive a significant amount of traffic to a website – particularly if the site is ‘liked’ by a number of well-established Stumblers. While it’s not great etiquette to create an account just to promote your own content, if you take the time to establish a profile and a significant list of favourite sites, the odd bit of self-promotion shouldn’t do too much damage.

Alternatively, businesses can set up a paid discovery campaign, paying from US$0.05 per visitor, to add themselves to the randomly-generated site list. This seems to be a way of guaranteeing your site will be seen by like-minded Stumblers, without having to invest the time in building a StumbleUpon reputation.

Either way, of course, it’s important to have useful content on the page you’re directing Stumblers to. That ‘dislike’ button is just next to the ‘like’ one and it’s just as easy to use, and people’s negative reviews will be available for everyone to see.

For more information about using StumbleUpon to promote your website or blog, check out this article by Viktoria Michaelis. As always, if you’ve got any questions or want to share your experience of using StumbleUpon, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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