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Quaddracci.jpgPhoto by O. Palsson

With permission from Brian Rice, and at the request of several SCN members, I modified this original post from Business2Community for the SCN audience.

Until recently, social media was of only mild interest to me – something I noticed in the periphery, but where I spent little time.  I am new to SAP, had never heard of SCN, and had participated very casually in internal blogging only.  However, this October a colleague launched a contest, promising prizes for the “first” and “the most” blogs on SCN about SapphireNOW.  I’m a sucker for prizes!  I threw myself into the fray – expecting to be rewarded solely because my blog was the first posted after he issued the challenge (the award has yet to be delivered, Michael…hint hint).  I was stunned when one of the posts went from 300 views to 5,000 overnight; in a matter of weeks there were over 50,000 views combined across the first five blogs I contributed, which completely surprised me.  It seemed those posts were attracting a far larger readership than many others about Sapphire. Though I’ve been writing for printed business media for years, blogging was a new endeavor for me, and so many views in a short time was far more than I ever anticipated.

Others were surprised as well – so much so that my manager asked for an investigation to ensure a technical problem was not the root cause of the high view counts!

As the ‘investigation’ progressed, it became clear that there was no technical error.  There was no spam server in a poorly-governed country constantly clicking on the links.  There was no odd glitch in a data center that led to quadruple-counting of viewers.  It seemed instead, after many knowledgeable people had been consulted on the matter, that the very high viewer counts had a simple and natural explanation:  The readers enjoyed the content – and told their friends.  Key personnel in the SCN Community asked me to help explain why people were responding so enthusiastically to the blogs.

When I outlined, after much deliberation, what I perceived to be the top ten reasons for the success, Brian Rice issued another challenge – to share those observations with the readers of Business2Community.com.  Several SCN contributors then asked me to repost to the SCN community as well.  Below are ten best practices I have discovered and that I would like to share with my SCN colleagues. I trust you will find, as I did, that blogging for SCN or other sites can be both easy and enjoyable if you apply these principles.

  1. Have fun.  I’ve spent my entire career writing the way someone else told me to, following style rules and editing cycles and getting legal approvals and so forth.  Now that I finally have the opportunity to just write whatever I want and post it right away, I figure why not enjoy it?  I like it so much that I write blogs on the weekends for fun, which I suppose makes me a total geek.  I think that when I have fun, that shows, and that makes people want to read the content.  Would you rather read, “MY Data is Bigger than YOUR Data” or (snore) “Applications of meter data to plant floor automation systems”?
  2. Treat others the way you want to be treated.  I first started blogging on an internal forum, in the early summer.  Though the view rates were acceptable, there were no comments and no interaction and I assumed no one was listening.   So I stopped posting.  Then I attended an event in October where three different salespeople approached me and said, “Why did you stop blogging?  We love your blogs!” I was SO surprised, since they had never responded to anything I had written.  So now, I actively seek out blogs of interest in my communities and I comment on them, so my fellow bloggers realize they’re not shouting in the darkness. I suspect that when I do this, they in turn read my content, but that is not why I do it – I do it because I genuinely want to encourage them to continue with their craft.  (Four favorites are Jeff Goins, Garrett Heath , Florian Städtler and the very impressive Thorsten Franz).
  3. Be honest.  I only retweet or favorite things I truly agree with.  I only write about things I’m very passionate about, or that I find genuinely amusing.  VuvuzelasPumpkinsOwls.
  4. Be helpful.  If someone asks a question, answer it.  If someone is having a hard day, reach out and make them feel better.  If someone seems to need encouragement, encourage them.
  5. Be kind.  Some of my colleagues have wondered why they have few followers on Twitter.  When I look at their Twitter feeds, they are snarky and mean.  Who wants to follow that?
  6. Engage on Twitter.  Engagement does not mean posting formulaic tweets every x hours.  Engagement means listening – and responding.  It means noticing that one of your fellow “live tweeters” at an event has lost battery power, and offering them your charging cord.  Engagement means helping others achieve their objectives, like mentioning the pumpkin carving contest for energy-themed pumpkins from the Department of Energy so that others learn about it.  Engagement means promoting your favorite group’s new CD to your followers, or telephoning an analyst whose tweet linked to a blog with a factual error, thus allowing him to correct it quickly and quietly.  In other words, engagement means being a decent human being and participating respectfully in your community – just like you probably do in “real life”.  The community participates in return.  For example, a lot of my customers enjoy music, and I found them in a place that wasn’t purely software related with the blog about Naturally Seven.  As a side benefit, it’s a place I love to be – a cappella is amazing!
  7. Engage on LinkedIn.  What surprised me the most about my LinkedIn activity is that when I mentioned blogs in updates there, my competitors liked and commented on those updates – simply because they enjoyed the content.  It’s refreshing to go beyond the bounds of competitive commercialism and truly connect with other professionals in your field on topics of genuine interest.
  8. Nurture.  It takes only a few minutes each day, but I make minor edits to my blogs where appropriate and republish, without updating feeds – that way the content stays at the top of lists that are sorted by date.  I also write fresh, catchy Tweets; doing this daily provides a brief, challenging mental break from my workday routine.
  9. Provide short links and your Twitter handle within the blog, and cross-link to your other content.  It took me a while to get the hang of this.  On many platforms – including SCN – if you use the tweet feature, you’ll get a ridiculously long and cumbersome link.  So where possible I include a bit.ly link within each blog so a reader can easily tweet about it.  I also cross-reference my other blogs where applicable so it’s easy to visit the other posts.  I’m grateful when other bloggers do the same.  (The bit.ly for this post is http://bit.ly/RdLEe2)
  10. Be You.  100% you.  This, for me, was the most wonderful and overwhelming surprise of my social media experience.  In social media, the only way to be is to be the most authentic version of yourself.  My ability to do this is a direct result of SAP’s commitment to diversity.  How so?  At some previous organizations, I was expected to fit into a cookie-cutter mold of what the ideal employee was like.  Which happened to be a beer-drinking, back-slapping, golf-playing guy from Cleveland State – definitely not me (I’m a tequila-sipping, cat-snuggling, Pilates-practicing, folk-music-loving Fulbright scholar.  Rest assured I value and respect guys from Cleveland State, so no flames, please.)  When I arrived at SAP, I expected to once again be “encouraged” to assimilate to the “norm”. And then I saw the “It Gets Better” video, with our co-CEO introducing it.  That video changed my entire professional life.  Though I am not gay, knowing that my CEO would go out in public about such a controversial issue and make it clear to everyone that our company accepts and values people for who they truly are made me feel proud, free, and liberated to my very core.  That was the moment that I knew I could be who I am without risking my livelihood, and that freedom gave me a license to unleash my creativity in my blogs – and the rest of my professional life as well. For this I will be forever indebted to Moya Watson, who made that video possible.

Ultimately, all of this comes down to passion and authenticity.  I’m crazy in love with the field of industrial energy management.  Music brings me joy; rescuing animals brings me pleasure; pumpkin carving amuses me.  And blogging gives me a medium to share these passions genuinely with other, like-minded people.

Find your passion.  Find your joy.  Let these shine through in your blogging, and you’ll find an appreciative audience.  (A timely and stellar example was posted recently here!)

To stay updated on new posts, follow @MWEnergy on Twitter.

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13 Comments

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  1. Moya Watson

    Marcia as you know, I’m incredibly humbled by your shout-out to It Gets Better. In this endeavor, it was an honor to help SAP colleagues represent themselves in every bit of their diversity.  It’s an oustanding thing – to be able to express ourselves on the web and hence to *be* more of who we are.

    In that spirit, this statement continues to be disturbing:

    >> Others were surprised as well – so much so that my manager asked for an investigation to ensure a technical problem was not the root cause of the high view counts!

    When highly viewed posts — when *any* posts — come from outside our usual realm of consciousness, we should strive to always embrace and welcome this new input, not immediately distrust it.  I hope I can continue to do this and to make myself worthy of your passion.

    thank you for taking the time to raise our awareness in these directions.

    -m

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  2. Jocelyn Dart

    Hi Marcia,

    Thanks so much for an entertaining and very helpful blog that is 100% you, especially for numbers 8 and 9 which I hadn’t twigged to yet… and will start doing right now.  One of these days I would love to reach the heady heights of a 10K views per blog average… even once would be amazing… but for now you have refuelled my blogging dreams! Ok.. yes that really is quite nerdy…but hey revealing your inner nerd is surely one of the joys of blogging.

    Btw… would love a blog on how to write fresh catchy tweets… as a details person getting tweets down to a 140 char sound bite is minor torture.  The extended tweet series is I think perhaps not the answer… so all help gratefully received.

    Thanks again

    Jocelyn

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    1. Marcia Walker Post author

      Thanks, Jocelyn!  Regarding “catchy tweets” and 140 characters – I used to think that ultimate creativity required ultimate freedom.  However, I learned that the opposite is true – constraints force you to be creative. 

      For example, write an entire paragraph without using the letter “a” at ALL.  Hard!  But what comes out is creative and fun!  I, too, found tweets very constraining at first, but it becomes easier and easier with practice – I’ll put your blog request in my queue! (I still owe Tim Clark one about coffee machines…..)

      As for nerds – have you seen American Splendor?  Best nerd movie EVER!

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      1. Jocelyn Dart

        Thanks Marcia, I’ll give your suggestions a go.  And no American Splendor never made it down under – must be something to do with the name…. and I love my coffee machine –  a Sunbeam Cafe Series – it’s quite spoilt me for the office coffee machine,  and I love acapella music – so it’s lovely to have something in common.   Re acapella…can likewise recommend Idea of North ? Great group but what I really want to know is how they managed to grab such a wonderful web site name… http://www.idea.com.au/ Must have friends in IT places somewhere.

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  3. Keith Elliott

    These are great tips Marcia. I’ve become a regular fan of yours, having been pulled in awhile back by one of your engaging blog titles. I think it was “Confessions of a Fake Football Fan.” There is some honesty there, I thought.

    But I have to cringe a little when you recommend in tip #8 the strategy to “bump” blogs up on lists that are sorted by date by making minor edits to them and republishing. If everyone were to do that those sort functions would become fairly meaningless. So I don’t think it should be recommended as a practice.

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    1. Marcia Walker Post author

      Keith:  Thanks for the kind words; I appreciate your feedback.  I do take your point regarding the republishing for fresh dates, and I try to use that method judiciously.  In general I find it valuable only for very time-limited blogs, such as those related to events.  The “Fake Football Fan” event is over, so there would not be much point in continuing to promote it!  For Sapphire blogs, though, it makes sense to keep blogs referring to my target solutions fresh, as new people visit the site every day up until showtime, and I do want to drive traffic to my sessions and booth.  Research shows that site visitors rarely, if ever, click to page 2.  To do my job well, with the current system, I need to keep my content on page 1 – and the only way to do that is by republishing.  Perhaps the “landing page” for Sapphire could be modified so that blogs are rotated randomly, and don’t automatically appear solely by date?  Then everyone would have their moment on page one.

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  4. Perry Zalevsky

    Marcia,

    Thanks for the reminders. It still comes back to the basics of communications, which we sometimes forget duing a hectic day. But, a Top 10 is great to have.

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  5. Suseelan Hari

    Hi Marcia,

    Very nice blog and good information. I liked it very much!

    I think the above photo was taken in Milwaukee Art Museum!

    Keep sharing and motivating forever!

    Regards,

    Hari Suseelan

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  6. Nitin Jinagal

    Ahh… Another master piece. Thanks for introducing this to me.

    Investigation part is funny 😆 . And Nurture thing is quite impressive and innovative. Got to follow you now 🙂

    ntn

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  7. Argenis Briceno

    Hi Marcia.

    Thanks for accept me!

    Congratulations, very inspiring! Maybe I’m felt 100% identify, the challenge to get over is worried about make mistakes. We have to be not afraid to make mistakes, which happen to me frequently even if I’m sure about who am I? Where I want to be?. As you said I’m just want to be happy, and collaborate to make things happen in a creative way. Just work and study hard is not a guarantee, communication and networking are a decisive factor on people live in our modern society.

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