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Celebrating Our Freedom to Read: See What the #NMX Community is Reading for Banned Book Week

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This week is Banned Book Week, a week where we celebrate the freedom to read here in the United States. Actually, this celebration has gone international ever since Amnesty International began celebrating it to help raise awareness for individuals who are persecuted for writing and reading books that governments and other organizations want to censor.

Banning books is a step down a very dangerous path. NMX is all about the media revolution…but some things will never change. Wherever there are people voicing their opinions about the world, whether that is in books or on your blog/podcast/videos or on social networks, there are people who want to keep them quiet. This is an issue that affects all of us.

To help celebrate our freedom to read, I asked NMX speakers, attendees, and staff to share their favorite banned books. Their answers (along with my own) are listed below, and you can get involved too: just tweet about your favorite banned book, and make sure to use the hashtag #NMX (and follow this hashtag to see what others are recommending you read). You can also leave a comment below to join the conversation! You can see a list of just some of the books that have been banned here.

Without further ado, here are some of the book the NMX community wants to encourage you to read:

rick headshot The Bible and Canterbury Tales
– Rick Calvert, NMX CEO, @blogworld and @NewMediaExpo
deb cole Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume – I can’t believe this book was banned!!! This was a pivotal book in my teens! And since I am unable to choose ONLY one (avid book lover) I’m also choosing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. In SHOCK this was also banned. W-T-F?!” – Deb Cole, NMX Media Marketing Director, @CoachDeb
tina baljian Arabian Nights. I love it because it reminds me somewhat of my grandma’s stories, because I am middle eastern. Its a medieval Middle-Eastern literary epic which tells the story of Scheherazade, who tells stories to her husband, the King, to delay her execution. The stories are told over a period of 1001 nights, and every night she ends the story with a suspenseful situation, forcing the King to keep her alive for another day.” – Tina Baljian, NMX Travel Manager/Executive Assistant, @Tina_Baljian
CC Chapman Call of the Wild will always hold a special place in my heart. That and Tom Sawyer were the first books that filled me with the wanderlust that I still have to this day. I have yet to get up to the Yukon, but it is a life long dream of mine and I can trace it back to reading that book.” – C.C. Chapman, Storyteller, Explorer & Humanitarian, @cc_chapman
john dumas Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut!! Being a US Army Veteran of the Iraqi War, I have always thought it important to remember the suffering soldiers go through during war. War is an easy thing to glorify when you are not experiencing it, and books like Slaughterhouse-Five bring to light the true colors of war.” – John Lee Dumas, EntrepreneurOnFire.com, @johnleedumas
Sam Fiorella “My favorite banned book: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. The book focuses on the psychosis experienced by Billy Pilgrim, an inexperienced American soldier, who was captured and imprisoned at the famous “Slaughterhouse number 5” by the Germans.  The American government and educational institutions believed the explicit story about the hallucinations and visions he experienced while held prisoner, including a vision of his own death, was too much for the general public. In a time where war is so highly politicized and  quickly called upon to right the world’s wrongs, it is important to have more personal accounts of the cost to those who actually fight the wars.” – Sam Fiorella, Sensei Inc, @samfiorella
Glenda Watson Hyatt “Looking through the list of books, I was surprised to see Black Beauty. I read it as a young girl while I was going through my horse phase. Before homework overtook my life, I loved crawling into bed, with a dog or cat or both beside me, and get lost in book. Black Beauty was enjoyed by this uber animal lover.” – Glenda Watson Hyatt, Motivational Speaker, @GlendaWH
Dustin Hartzler “My favorite banned books are: Goosebumps – definitely important because kids need to read fiction. The choose your own adventures were the best ones ;) And Where’s Waldo – kids and adults alike need to be able to keep their memory sharp. Finding Waldo allows the time to pass quickly as well as helps to keep your brain active.” – Dustin Hartzler, Your Website Engineer, @dustinhartzler
ffc “Favorite banned book: Fahrenheit 451. It’s the ultimate book-burning book. ‘Nuff said.” – Jonathan Raines, ForeignFilmcast.com, @foreignfilmcast
ric dragon Satanic Verses. As I went through the list of banned books on Wikipedia, I was thrown into an inner conflict. I’m horrible at making choices and here were several books that are near and dear to me. Finally, I settled on Satanic Verses. The turmoil around Salman Rushdie figured largely in the news of the late 80’s, and besides the death threats to the author, did result in the death of Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator.  When I finally read the book, I was mesmerized by the wonderful storytelling.” – Ric Dragon, DragonSearch, @ricdragon
allison headshot And here are my picks (yes, I have two favorites!): Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and A Wrinkle in Time. I think these books share something in common; they are both about exploring a whole new world that you never thought existed. That’s what books have always been to me, and I try to allow that to spill over into my everyday life as well. We can only grow if we’re willing to learn and explore.Also, they’re just plain fun!

Okay, your turn! Don’t forget to TWEET about your favorite banned book using the hashtag #NMX! We’ve even made a handy click to tweet link – just make sure you fill in your favorite title!

TweetButton

Or, comment below to join the conversation!

(And if you want to be involved with more community questions just like this, make sure you sign up for our email list on the sidebar! That way, you can answer the question ahead of time and be featured here like the above NMX community members!)

Julien Smith: “Your Environment is Everything”

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julien smith When I was in college, I was very interested in learning about nature versus nurture (i.e. the debate about what is more important: your innate abilities/genetics or your environment/experiences). It was the first time I had stepped outside of my secure, rural community to meet people from all over the world. It was uncomfortable and exciting at the same time.

Nature versus nurture was a topic brought up in my Psychology 101 class, and I began looking at my own life through more refined glasses. What I realized is that certain beliefs and personality traits that I thought were just “who I am” (nature), were more likely a result of the environment in which I was raised (nurture).

Writes Julien Smith, in a blog post on In Over Your Head,

Where you live is not trivial– at all. Your environment is everything for you. It shapes you. It’s made you who you are, from the people you spend time with to the very streets you are driving in and walking on every day.

This can be both good and bad. For example, I consider myself to have an extremely strong work ethic, and I attribute that to the fact that I grew up in a rural farming community where everyone had to work hard just to make ends meet. There, you won’t find a tolerance for laziness. But I also am extremely hard on myself when I  face any kind of failure, large or small, because where I grew up, failure in your career meant no food on the table.

So what does this have to do with content creation or your online business?

I believe, that the same way your physical environment can effect how you interact with the world and what level of success you achieve, so do our virtual environments. As Julien writes, where you live is not trivial, and because we “live” online these days, we need to broaden our horizons a bit to include your online presence in this idea.

Think about the people in your closest circle. Think about the websites you visit the most. Think about the online communities where you choose to interact, and the online communities where you consider yourself a member. Think about how your own content reflects the online environment where you live. Think about how you can step out of this cycle and build new relationships or simply just find refreshing places to hang out online, at least occasionally.

It’s about growth, and about ensuring that you surround yourself with an environment, both online and off, that is aligned with your personal and professional goals.

See Julien Live on the NMX Stage (And Download a Free Session Featuring Him!)

We’re happy to be welcoming Julien to the keynote stage at NMX 2014. If you missed our recent keynoter announcement, you can check it out in full here.

To go along with this announcement, we’re giving away past sessions featuring our keynoters, including Julien. Download these sessions now while they’re still available!

Get More Long-Term Readers with the Soap Bubble Approach to Blogging

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getting more long-term readers

Traffic spikes can be exciting. It’s fun to watch a post go viral, especially if those new readers are also leaving comments. But when those people leave your blog, they often don’t come back. Getting more long-term readers is a lot harder than getting more traffic.

Ten long-term readers who will become a part of you blog community are better than 100 readers who read one post and never come back, though. It’s hard to grow your blog if you don’t build a solid foundation of readers who are addicted to your posts. One of the techniques I use to convert first-time readers into long-term readers is what I call the soap bubble approach to blogging.

Blog Structure for More Long-Term Readers

The net time you work up a lather in the bathtub or splash some suds on your dirty car, take a close look at structure of the soap bubbles. You’ll notice that it typically isn’t a collection of air pockets that are all the same size. Instead, you’ll see mostly small bubbles that make up the foam with occasional mid-sized and larger bubbles. The small soap bubbles are what creates the sudsy power, though. Without them, your larger bubbles aren’t very effective.

I find that a lot of bloggers are obsessed with creating epic content. I’m a firm believer that every single post you write should be your best work. However, not every post your write has to be a “big bubble.”

Big bubble content is typically long, evergreen content that is highly sharable and often a comprehensive list or guide to a certain topic. An example of big bubble content is this post: 58 Ways to Get Noticed as a New Blogger

But “small bubble” content is just as important. This kind of content is still high quality, but aims to teach a single tip or skill or cover a single topic. An example of small bubble content is this post: The #1 Best Way to Understand Your Audience—And Why This Matters for Your Content

Whenever you write a big bubble type of post, you should be able to link back to at least five other supporting posts on your blog. Think of your big bubble content as a hub for the small bubble content you’ve written in the past.

Why This Leads to More Long-Tem Readers

In general, I’ve found that if someone reads three posts from me, they are likely to come back and read my posts again and again. In many cases, people who read at least three posts are so hooked that they read several posts on your blog. They’ve discovered your content, and they can’t get enough.

Internal linking encourages them to read more content, but this isn’t just about making sure you link to previous posts in every blog post you write. It’s about making sure that you have related posts to support the epic content that is going to get the most attention. Super relevant posts that first-time readers can visit to learn more is going to be extremely enticing. Again, if you can get someone to read at least three posts on your blog, they will be much more likely to become a long term reader. A lower bounce rate definitely leads to a bigger community.

So, the next time you sit down to write a list post or an ultimate guide or another type of post that you know is going to bring in lots of traffic, ask yourself this question: Do I have a small bubble (supporting) post to go with each point I’m making?

If not, write one before you publish so any post that goes viral encourages people to read more instead of bouncing on to the next website.

How to Build a Stronger Blog Community Using Comments (Part One)

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stronger blog community

About a year and a half ago, I started an interesting experiment on one of my blogs. Previously, I had only replied to comments sparingly, when someone asked a direct question or challenged the opinion in the post. I would get one or two comments on each post, with the occasional post getting more comments and some posts getting no comments. This is about average in the specific niche in question, especially for the size of my blog at the time (15,000 to 20,000 pageviews per month).

I made a distinct decision to start replying to comments. With very few exceptions, I started replying to every single comment received on my posts, from thoughtful, long comments to comments that said little more than, “Great post!”

Here’s what happened:

  • My pageviews increased more rapidly than my unique views.
  • I got an increase in emails from readers.
  • I began to notice certain commenters popping up over and over.
  • My email list subscribers began to increase at a faster rate.
  • I started receiving sponsored post inquiries.

I want to go over each of these points one by one, because I think it’s important to analyze exactly what happened and why. Replying to comments isn’t some kind of magic technique that will suddenly make your blog super successful. But if my experiences are indicative of the norm, this is a practice your should consider.

stats Increase in PageViews

When I made the decision to start replying to comments, I also made other changes. This was part of an overall strategy to move the blog from being more personal in nature to having more strategy for increasing traffic and revenue. Making the decision to reply to comments was just one of the changes I made.

Some of the other changes I made at the same time included:

  • Putting more effort into search engine optimization (previously, I had not considered it at all)
  • Posting more frequently (3-4 times per week instead of 1-2 times per week)
  • Scheduling my posts (previously, I might post twice in one day, then not again for a week)
  • Using Tumblr to promote my blog (previously, I had not used this platform)
  • Having a weekly feature every Tuesday (the same type of post consistently)

I think all of these changes helped me gain more traffic. Plus, most bloggers find that their traffic will increase over time naturally, as long as you’re posting regularly.

What was interesting, however, is that I didn’t see the same rate of increase in unique views as I did in overall pageviews. My bounce rate went down slightly, but more importantly, the same readers were coming back again and again. SEO, increase in frequency, and new promotion methods all brought in new readers, while the scheduling, weekly feature, and replying to comments all contributed to having more returning readers.

email Increase in Emails from Readers

On this specific blog, I publish a lot of “advice” posts. Commenters will often ask for clarification or ask new questions. However, the niche is relationship-related, so not everyone is comfortable posting questions that are so personal.

When I started to reply to comments, I saw an increase in the number of emails from readers asking for advice.

Of course, some of this can be attributed to my increase in traffic. However, regularly, I will have readers mention the fact that they’re email me after reading one of my comments or that they’re asking for advice because they like the advice I give to other commenters. I believe that this is by far the biggest reason I get more readers’ emails.

As a side note, this is an awesome way to get content ideas. Often, several people will ask the same question, and I end up turning my answer into a post. I keep a spreadsheet if ideas for my blog, including questions I’m asked via email.

comments Return Commenters

Before I started replying to comments, I had some regular readers. However, when I started interacting more with commenters, I noticed that the same people started to comment more and more often.

Were these people regular readers before? In some cases, yes. In other cases, no. The fact that old and new readers alike began to comment regularly is an advantage, though. Their comments make my posts more valuable or start interesting conversations. Sometimes, comments can even lead to new post ideas.

In any case, regular interaction has helped these readers feel like they are a part of my blog. Someone who feels like an active member of my community, not just passive reader, is invested in my content and community, and they’re more likely to share posts with their friends and buy products.

When you see someone comment regularly, I actually suggest reaching out via email and letting them know you appreciate their support. This is only going to keep them coming back and commenting.

Also, if you see a regular commenter stop commenting, take a moment and email them or say hi via social media. That little efforts lets your biggest fans know you appreciate them.

email 2 More Email Subscribers

Because I made several changes on my blog, there’s no way to say what attributed to the increase I saw in email subscribers.

I did notice some of the same names popping up–readers who had emailed me and who had become regular commenters also subscribed. So, I have to infer that replying to comments did make a difference. I won’t dwell on this point, though, since I don’t believe it’s one of the main advances, just fringe benefit.

Want more tips for getting email subscribers? Check out these 30+ tips for building your list.

money3 Landing Sponsors

By far, the best part of this experiment, for me, has been the increase in revenue for the blog. I started offering sponsored posts about two years ago, but I didn’t really see any traction on this until I began interacting in the comments section of my blog. Prior to that, most of the money I made on this blog can from banner ads and affiliate sales. Now, I get 5-10 sponsored post requests per month, and I get to pick and choose who I want to work with and what I want to post. (For the record, I only post about 2 per month due to the nature of my blog, but having the option to post more is nice!)

I know for a fact that landing more sponsors for sponsored posts has happened because of the interaction in the comments section of my blog. Potential sponsors have flat-out told me that they’re impressed with the interesting conversation that happens on my posts and the fact that I’m so involved with the community.

Some Final Thoughts

So should you reply to all of your comments? This really depends on your blog style. Seth Godin has a very successful blog that doesn’t have comments at all. Jenny Lawson has a very successful blog despite rarely responding to comments. There’s not one right answer. For me, for this blog and this niche, it has had advantages.

Do you reply to all of the comments on your blog? Tell me about your experiences in the comments section of this post!

Stay tuned for part two in this series, where I talk about commenting on other blogs to build your own community.

Blog Gamification: The Key to Community Growth?

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I look at my clock and it’s less than an hour until my next deadline. I haven’t had time to eat a proper meal in days, nor do I remember the last time I got a full night’s sleep. Heck, I haven’t even had time to shower yet today, and let’s not talk about my pile of laundry. Must work. Must get this done before time runs out…

And then my phone buzzes to tell me that it’s my turn to play on Draw Something. Somehow, I find the time to play.

Does that scene sound familiar? It does for me. A few months ago, I had to quit mobile/social games cold turkey because they were actually starting to interfere with my work. These games can be intoxicating, addictive even. And it’s no accident. Gamemakers know exactly what they are doing when they make games. They want you to spend as much time playing as possible, since that means you’re viewing more ads or even spending your own money on customization options.

It’s no wonder how Farmville, one of gaming powerhouse Zynga’s most popular games, has 2.5 million active daily users. What blogger among us wouln’t kill for those stats? Games are addicting; they keep people coming back for more. Maybe there’s something we can learn from that.

Could gamification be the key to building your blog community? Could it be the element you’re missing, the reason your stats haven’t yet exploded?

Gamification, Blog Style

Gamification doesn’t mean that you make your blog agame. It simply means that you use game elements to make the experience more interactive and addicting for your community members.

Blog posts as an evolution of the article already bring some of these elements to the table. For example, blogs were the beginning of a more social web. For the first time, published articles weren’t just a one-way street, with the author talking to an audience. Most blogs allow comments, which makes the conversation two-way.

Being able to add to an article and start a conversation makes you invested. You’re talking to the author and you’re talking to other members of the community. You’re involved now.

Comments are so common online, though, that they don’t have the same effect as they did at first. So, how can you take these same gamification elements and expand them to get your community involved even further?

Gamification Examples

To better understan the concept of gamification, let’s take a look at some examples of bloggers adding these elements to their sites:

  • Featuring Community Work at Six Sisters’ Stuff

Over at Six Sisters’ Stuff, the blog is host of a weekly link party, where other food and DIY bloggers post links to their favorite projects from the past week. This already adds a level of interaction, but even more importantly, the sisters feature their favorites every week, choosing a handful from the projects submitted to promote to their fans. It’s a mini competition every week, with the community encouraged to participate every week in order to be considered for the honor of being featured.

  • Leaderboards on Social Media Examiner

To complement their highly successful blog, Social Media Examiner also launched community discussion forums. Called Networking Clubs, this area of the Social Media Examiner site allows users to continue the discussion even away from traditional blog posts. It’s a great community element. But there’s a gamification element too. On the Social Media Examiner sidebar, you’ll see a “leaderboard.” Here, ten members are featured, so it’s a game among members. The more you participate, the more likely you’ll show up on the sidebar. You also earn a higher “rank” the longer you remain an active member.

  • Rewards with Comment Luv

Comment Luv’s premium version isn’t free, but it does allow you to enable some gamification on your blog posts. With Comment Luv, you can allow readers to include a link to their latest blog post every time they leave a comment. This in and of itself is gamification, as you’re rewarding people for taking an action that you want them to take (in this case, the reward is the link and the action is the comment). With the premium version, however, you can also allow them further rewards for taking more actions. For example, you can set it up so that readers who comment a certain number of times get access to post not just their most recent link, but any of the ten most recent links.

You can increase the gamification of this by including a “top commenters” widget on your sidebar in order to recognize readers who comment the most. This is something we do here on the NMX blog. Our sidebar shows the top non-staff commenters over the past 30 days, which encourages people to comment more and reach the top of that list.

The Elements of Gamification

Basically, gamification comes down to two elements: a rewards system or competition. The best systems allow for both. You want to offer something of value for people who participate in your community, whether that’s a link or a special feature or something else. You also want to pit community members against one another to see who can be the best at something (always making sure the competition is as fair and friendly as possible). The three examples above aren’t the only ways to do this on your blog.

Businesses are starting to realize more and more the benefits of gamification. Offline, this translates to items like punch cards (buy seven coffees, get one free!) while online this translates to items like Foursquare check-in coupons. Blogs, however, have been a little slower to the world of gamification. What examples of gamification have you seen on other blogs? Do you think this is a good way to build a community?

Breaking Through the Noise: Focusing on Relationships

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Twitter users publish more than half a billion tweets per day and Facebook is now integrated with more than 9 million apps and websites. With all of this online volume, it may seem like competing for your consumer’s attention is foolish. However, how much of that volume is from brands and people simply pushing out information without listening? Even though we are communicating with our consumers via a platform that takes away face-to-face communication, we need to be able to engage with them in a meaningful way.

That is exactly what Ford did with the second phase of its Random Acts of Fusion Campaign (or #backatyou).

Simple is better.

Through consumer feedback and program performance, we learned that our first phase of the Random Acts of Fusion program was too complex. With Ryan Seacrest, Joel McHale and Kate Micucci, we set out to surprise and delight fans with opportunities big and small. It included charitable aspects, vehicle giveaways and more, and we created a documentary around it.

However, most people did not discover this program until its completion. There was just too much noise online for us to make a different. In order to cut through all the noise online our message had to be concise and clear. We had to focus on relationships in addition to paid media and content.

People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Ford’s #backatyou campaign is taking consumer interaction to the next level. Instead of only rewarding select influencers, we are listening when people talk about Fusion and Ford Motor Company and engaging with our consumers directly instead of via a powerful gang of influencers and celebrities. When someone tweets a compliment, we tweet them back, offering a reward for their nice words.

What kind of reward? We’ve setup a multitude:  gift cards, lunch dates with Ford engineers via online hangouts, date nights in a Ford Fusion, and we even hired Reggie Watts to remix certain comments about the Fusion.

We are using #backatyou to celebrate our fans and take the time to say “thank you” to the people who are taking the time to pay attention to us. Ford believes that because they’re taking the time to speak on our behalf they deserve to be rewarded. They are helping us break through the noise, and we are ever so grateful.

Disclosure: This post is from NMX sponsor Ford.

Why Your Blog NEEDS to be Different: Tips from Patrice Yursik at NMX

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“Strong, original, consistent content is your surest way to build a big brand from your little blog.” – Patrice Yursik

At NMX 2013, Patrice Yursik (a.k.a. Afrobella) spoke about one of the biggest challenges for bloggers: How to take your little blog to the next level where you’re actually a big brand. Patrice has serves as a spokesperson for national hair and beauty brands, has worked the red carpet, and consistently gets opportunities most niche bloggers only dream about.

And for Patrice, her success started with a single decision. Back when she started her blog, Patrice made a conscious decision to be different.

Filling the Void

Patrice has been blogging since 2006, when starting a blog about a topic no one else was covering was a much simpler task. Today, however, it seems like there’s a blog about everything. That doesn’t mean you can’t fill a void, though, because what you have that other blogs don’t have is YOU. What experiences do you bring to the table? What unique interests do you have? Think about the demographic you want for your community, and find a way to talk to these people.

Being True to Yourself

One of the decisions that Patrice says has paid off for her big time is the decision to be herself online. In the new media industry, there are lots of “rules” that top bloggers say you have to follow in order to be successful–but rules are made to be broken. Says Patrice, “Mainstream needs to embrace different. Whatever makes you different also makes you desirable.”

People respond well to an authentic voice. And brands want that too. During her session, Patrice talked about all the opportunities she’s had with brands, in part because they appreciate her authentic voice and the community she has built around it. Had she followed the “rules” and done what other bloggers told her to do, she wouldn’t have been able to build a community around her identity as a natural-haired, plus-sized, fashion-obsessed woman of color.

What Are You Offering that Others Don’t?

Every piece of content you write should be unique. Be proud of everything you write, so you can offer your readers something different than what they can get from other bloggers. That’s what will keep people coming back.

Give them weekly features to look forward to. Write content with your own twist. Remember, everyone in your niche is getting the same review products, the same PR pitches, and the same news stories to cover. Be different and you’ll stand out.

Want to learn more about what has made Patrice a successful blogger with a big brand? You can check out her entire NMX 2013 session at NMX University with premium membership, which gives you access to our complete 2013 Virtual Ticket. Learn more here and get your virtual ticket today!

Ford’s Scott Monty Speaks on Community at NMX 2013

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Ranked by Forbes as one of the top 10 influencers in social media, Ford Motor Company’s Scott Monty has been called “an unstoppable force of nature,” “the best corporate social media lead on the planet,” and “a visionary.” We  had the pleasure of seeing Scott’s keynote today at NMX 2013. Here are some of the best quotes from his talk:

  • “We had the ultimate confidence in our product and we had to turn it over to them. And that’s how trust is built. […] If you have a good product let go of your fear and let others tell your story.”

It doesn’t matter how good your marketing is. If you don’t have a good product, you won’t make money. But once you have a good product, as Scott noted, you need to let your fans talk about it online. Word of mouth is still one of the best (if notthe best) forms of marketing out there.

  • “How do we know what they want and value if we don’t listen to them?”

Echoing something Amy Jo Martin said earlier in the day, Scott talked about how important it is to actually engage with your customer, not just broadcast your message. Poll your customers. Ask for their feedback. And above all else, show that you’re listening and that you care.

  • “People want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

Encouraging your fans to be a part of a bigger community helps to break down those barriers between customer and brand and instead just be on a level playing field, where everyone is just talking about something they love (like cars, in Ford’s case). Scott talked about how important it is to add that element of fun into what you’re doing so you’re not just selling, but also entertaining.

Want to see Scott’s entire session? All of our keynotes are being live-streamed and archived. Head over to NMX University to see our keynotes and additional bonus content live from the show.

About Scott:

At Ford, Scott heads up the social media function and holds the title Global Digital &Multimedia Communications Manager. He is a strategic adviser on all social media activities across the company, from blogger relations to marketing support, customer service to internal communications and more, as social media is being integrated into many facets of Ford business. Prior to joining Ford in 2008, Scott served as Consigliere for crayon, a strategic marketing firm,and with PJA Advertising + Marketing, a boutique BtoB agency. In addition to his professional responsibilities, Scott is an active blogger and podcaster.

He writes about the intersection of advertising, marketing and PR at The Social Media Marketing Blog (www.scottmonty.com) and also writes The Baker Street Blog and I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, two literary undertakings. Scott has been featured in hundreds of news and business publications in print and on the web, in dozens of books, and on a variety of mainstream media, including NBC, NPR, CNN and The Wall Street Journal.

Scott is a recognized thought leader in the social media industry and frequently speaks at industry events. Scott received his Master’s in Medical Science from Boston University’s School of Medicine concurrently with his MBA from BU’s Graduate School of Management. He lives in Michigan with his wife and two young sons, golfs all too infrequently, and has a hidden talent for voiceover work.Oh, and one last little-known fact: Scott coined the Oxford Dictionary of English-accepted term “tweetup.”

How to Use Live Streaming to Create the Ultimate Community Experience

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Nikki in Stitches Live Online Craft Classes

Nikki McGonigal leads a live, interactive online craft class.

Ever since I first clicked on a link to a live-streamed show, I’ve been bullish on live.  This was back in April of 2007 just a few weeks after the first live-streaming platforms launched. As an actor turned producer I had awakened to the realization that in the 21st century artists no longer had to wait for other people to make their dreams come true – finally we had the tools to green light our own work, so by 2007 I was already deeply enmeshed in the online video world and active in social media, shooting podcasts, writing blog posts, Facebooking and Twittering away.  And then came that live-streamed show.  Just 15 minutes into it my heart began to beat a little faster, I began to envision all the possibilities…it was crystal clear to me that live streaming video has as much potential as podcasting, blogging, Facebooking and Twittering combined.

Why Live?

First of all, live is exciting! The knowledge that you are seeing something unfold, in real time right before your eyes is magnetic. Secondly, with live-streaming you get two for the price of one, both a live, interactive show and an on-demand video you can edit and upload to any site you wish. Thirdly, live-streaming manages to be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Anyone is free to watch the show and join in the chat room, and anyone can watch the recorded show at a later date,  but only those people who are actually there live get to feel as if they have personal ownership of the content that was created. Lastly, and most significantly, live-streaming is inherently about community.I have long felt that online video soars when it stays true to the interactive platform it is built for, rather than the story telling models we are so used to watching on television. Community – the ability to interact with other people from all over the world, in real time, has been the  greatest differentiator and power of the online world since it’s earliest days. Live-streaming is all about that community.

People come to a live-streamed show from all over the world, not just to see the show, but to see the other people in the chat rooms. Then they come back, episode after episode, partly to see all their chat room friends. So while appointment viewing may seem counterintuitive in a YouTube world, passionate members of your live-streamed show’s community will make a point of putting your show on their calendar. Your live-streamed show? It has now been transformed into an event, and the more your show embraces that community, the more passionate and devoted that community becomes – it’s like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube rolled up into one.

Nervous about live-streaming?

Don’t be! There are so many options and so many of them require nothing more than a computer and an internet connection,and a free account on Ustream or Livestream  or SpreeCast or Justin.tv.  The platform and methods you use depend on what you are trying to achieve…

  • Are you a social media blogger, a political blogger, an inspirational blogger?  Is your main goal to develop deeper ties with a community you have carefully cultivated? You can probably keep it pretty simple –  just a webcam, a live-streaming site, and off you go.
  • Are you a craft blogger or a food blogger and you want to invite your community to create along with you? Spreecast is a simple way to invite up to three viewers right into the video with you – you can all create together and chat with the rest of the audience as you go.
You can of course, get much more complicated as well. My company, VirtualArtsTV works in the performing arts, specializing in translating live theater, dance and music into a live-streaming event tailored specifically to the online video experience.  In order to make sure our audience is always engaged, excited and leaning forward we utilize multiple cameras in every one one of our shoots, we shoot with a small video screen in mind and keep the action and the cuts moving as quickly as possible. While a lot of sites will facilitate switching multiple cameras right in their software, we go one step further and use Newtek’s marvelous Tricaster – which is simply described as a TV studio in a box.  The demands of translating live performance  into a live streamed event require a much higher level of technology than perhaps a talk-show might, but that is the point. There are so many ways to make live streaming work for you, from a simple one webcam experience to a high definition 8 camera event.
Live-streaming enabled us to engage a world-wide community in the performing arts

A few pointers as you begin to experiment with live streaming

  • Embed, embed, embed!  Not all platforms facilitate embeds, but if yours does place your video on your site, on your blog, on Facebook – let your readers embed it on their blogs.  The further your show travels the larger your reach.
  • Create a strong connection!  You can’t control your audience’s bandwidth size, but you can control the quality of the file you upload.  Turn off the wi-fi and use an ethernet connection to ensure you are sending the highest quality video possible to your live-streaming platform.
  • Make it social. Always utilize the Facebook and Twitter options in the chat rooms to further spread the word and grow your community.
  • Shoot with the end goal in mind. If you want your show to be as effective on-demand as it is live, then create it as if you were shooting a regular video.  Search for similar shows on YouTube and play close attention to their camera angles, their editing, their graphics and their speed.
  • And lastly, Embrace your community. Chat with them, call out their names, invite them onto the show with you.
If you haven’t experimented yet with the possibilities of live, now is the time. It is the ultimate, community building, lean forward experience and one of the most exciting, malleable and promising tools of our wired twenty-first century. And if you have experimented with live, what was it like?  What would you do differently next time? And what advice would you give to a live-streaming newbie?

Are You Letting the Wrong People Control Your Content?

Author:

Community is absolutely necessary if you want to grow your content online, but I think some people allow too much community involvement. You might be letting the wrong people control too much. I was recently reading a post on Marketing Profs by Matthew Grant, and he threw out a very insightful quote about business:

“Everybody should have a voice, but not everybody should have a vote.” – Tom Fishburne

In the business world, this absolutely makes sense. The CEO of your company needs to be a leader, making the hard decisions and guiding the team. It’s important to build a team of employees you trust and to value their opinions, but ultimately, it’s up to you to have final say on everything. Everybody should have a voice, but not everybody should have a vote.

Why shouldn’t the same be true of your blog, podcast, or web series/videos? You can call yourself by whatever title strikes your fancy, but you’re the CEO. It’s time to take control of your content.

Listening to Your Community

Before I tell you why you shouldn’t do everything your community wants you to do, let me make it clear, that just like Tom and Matthew, I agree with the idea that everyone should have a voice. Your community members are comparable to your employees in this way – it makes sense to listen to what they have to say. Here’s why:

  • Community members can be extremely creative and can come up with awesome ideas for your blog.
  • You might believe your community feels one way when they, in fact, do not, and this can shape the kind of content you produce.
  • If one community member complains about something, it probably means there are others also having problems but not being vocal.
  • Sometimes you’re too close to your content to see problems.
  • Listen to your community – and interacting with them – is fun!

So yes, definitely listen to your community. Just be selective with the advice you take.

The Dangers of Crowdsourcing the Decision Making Process

Sometimes, it can be really cool to allow your community to make a decision for you. For example, some travel bloggers let everyone vote on where they’ll be traveling next. But most of the time, leaving an important content decision in the hands of your fans is a recipe for disaster. Why?

  • They might vote for something as a joke or because it is the worst decision. Remember the American Idol Vote for the Worst movement? It’s still going and apparently covers more than just AI at this point.
  • Your audience doesn’t care about your content. Well, they might, but not the way that you do. Their livelihood and futures aren’t tied to it the way yours are.
  • Community members will vote for the option that’s best for their needs, not for the needs of the entire community or your content in general.
  • People don’t always know what they need or want until you give it to them.
  • When people feel passionate about something, they try to persuade others to vote the same way, even if those community members might not care. If you open voting to everyone with a public poll, they might even get non-community members to vote.
  • If you open it up to voting and then don’t do what your community says, you’ll have a riot on your hands worse than if you never opened the decision at all.
  • Your community members are probably thinking about what’s best right now, not what will be best long term.
  • Your community members probably won’t think about the cost of a decision since they don’t have to pay for it.

The bottom line is that your content is your responsibility. What your community has to say does matter, but only to a point. Ultimately, you have to take control of the situation and make a final decision.

If you’re interested in learning more about both content and community management, check out our upcoming conference in Las Vegas. NMX 2013 is shaping up to have awesome education in both areas!

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