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Eeek! I’ve Seen a Ghost (Blogger)!

25 Aug

The ghost at the machine

Let’s say you have a company that provides a service or product. You’ve been in the business for a number of years, you may even have a degree in it, it is a huge part of your life. Your clients love your product or service and really appreciate the insight and expertise you are able to give them when you interact with them. Now you want to take your business to the next level by sharing your expertise and thereby attracting new clients to your business. Everyone has told you that you need a blog. Not only will it allow you to spread the word about your company, but it will help your website climb organically in the search engines.

There are just a few problems: you don’t like writing (or are not good at it) and you have no time. If you are a lawyer, consultant or other kind of professional who charges by the hour, it may not make economic sense for you to spend unbillable hours writing a blog.

What to do? Should you put your blog ambitions on the shelf? There is another option and it’s called ghost blogging. Most people are familiar with the concept of a ghost writer. If you have a story to tell or information to get out and you want to publish a book, you may look for an experienced writer who will work with you to take the information out of your head and get it on paper in a coherent way.

Ghost blogging is basically the same process. First, a plan and schedule are determined by the client and blogger, to decide what the goal of the blog is, what topics should be covered, the style of writing, and how often content will be posted. The blogger then interviews the client to extract the person’s expertise on the various topics, and may supplement this information with books, articles or white papers provided by the client or found online. Once the post is written, the client reviews it to make sure it is factually correct and adequately covers the topic. Then the blogger posts it online.

It is critical that the client be involved in the process, and reads each post not only to make sure it is sending the right message, but also so that he or she can speak to it with clients. I also recommend that the client be the one responsible for responding to comments on the blog, so that he or she can establish a relationship with the readers and potential customers who care enough about the topic/company to make a comment.

But, Is It Right?

Some people have been going off on a rant about how ghost blogging is just not right. They feel it’s sort of like hiring someone to write your term paper in college. The thing that made the bought term paper wrong was that the person didn’t do the work of learning what he was representing he was learning. You, however, have invested years learning your business or trade. You’re the real deal.

No one raises a stink when celebrities use ghostwriters to write their memoirs. And it is commonly accepted for companies to outsource their newsletters to PR agencies. It’s my feeling that as long as the client, whether as an individual or a company, actually has the expertise that the blog is communicating, it is perfectly fine to hire someone to do the writing.  If the client is using the blog primarily as a personal branding tool, to get speaking engagements or a job, then it is even more important that the content honestly represent the client’s knowledge, experience and style, because that will all come out eventually. But even in that situation, I don’t think it is that critical for the client to be the one actually writing the posts as long as he or she can communicate the essence of the content to the ghost blogger.

My company, Pro Creative, provides ghost blogging services to companies or individuals, so if you like this blog and would like a blog of your own, contact us. We would be happy to help you join the blogosphere.

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Coloring Within the Lines: How to Keep Social Media from Backfiring

10 Aug

Coloring within the lines

Don't cross the line!

Whether it is the FCC fining CBS over half a million dollars for Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction or the CAN SPAM Act, the government or someone else always feels the need to step in and establish some rules around media, and social media is no exception. With social media, however, you have an added incentive to play fair; if the online community feels that you are being dishonest, misleading or insensitive to their needs, watch out! The social media community is not shy about making their feelings known.

At the end of last year, the Federal Trade Commission instituted new rules regarding social media marketing, and sites like Facebook have begun to self regulate as well. Here is a recap:

Don’t : Pay people to “like” or endorse your product without disclosing the fact that they have been paid to do so. This goes for bloggers plugging your company as well as sending out a request for testimonials sweetened with a payment or reward. It’s just plain deceptive. One of the nice things about social media is that people trust people to be honest and speak their mind. If it eventually gets out that you have put someone up to endorsing you and didn’t disclose, it could seriously damage the trust you have built up with your community.

Do: Ask your best customers to write reviews and act as brand ambassadors, but don’t pay them off for doing so.

Don’t: Include deceptive topics into your promotional tweets or posts. Habitat, a furniture manufacturer, was caught putting misleading trendy topics like #iphone in front of its promos to add people to its list. Twitter users squawked, and Habitat had to backpedal and issue an apology.

Do: Be upfront about what you are talking about.

Don’t: Require Facebook users to “like” your page in order to enter a contest or sweepstakes. It may give you some more fans, but will cast doubt on your whole fan base.

Do: Use contests to bring people to your page and let them decide for themselves if they really like you.

Don’t: Only send out a steady stream of promotional messages to the exclusion of all else. Last year, the train service Eurostar continually tweeted about its ticket promos, but totally disregarded followers’ questions about the service. This blew up in their face when their trains became stuck in the channel and their silence on the issue was deafening.

Do: Keep a reasonable ratio of useful/interesting/valuable content to promotions, recommended at 4:1 so your users don’t feel spammed, and make sure that you are addressing their real concerns such as customer service and quality issues.

Don’t: Hear only what you want to hear. Sometimes you may launch a product that is roundly panned by your audience. When this happened at Honda with its new Crosstour car, Honda’s product manager was the lone dissenter, loudly praising the car. Not only didn’t he listen to the people, but he neglected to identify his role in the company, another no-no.

Do: Resist the urge to defend yourself. When faced with criticism, thank people for their feedback and tell them that the company will take it into consideration. Then, really do what you said and come back to the community with some kind of resolution to the issues. Domino’s Pizza did a good job of this when confronted with the poor quality of their product. They used TV and social media to admit that their pizza was bad, but that they had improved it and were asking people to give it another try. The campaign was a smashing success, and their stock soared by 50%.

Remember, social media is all about building trust, and if you cross the line and get caught by your community, it could set your company and your social media strategy back for a long time. Before social media, a person who had a bad experience with a company would tell an average of 7 friends about it. Now, the number of people who will instantly hear of a company’s misstep has gone up exponentially. So, be honest and transparent, and treat your community members like they want to be treated, with respect and human dignity. You know, like you would want to be treated by someone else.

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