Most of us don’t have big comment communities, and likely never will. That’s OK: They can be troublesome to manage and rife with infighting, spam and nastiness.
But, oh, how fun they are when they work.
I look at content for info or entertainment. But I study the comments for genuine laughs and opinions. My favorite comment communities allow users to display their wit and have deeper discussions, while self-policing for trolls and spambots.
And fortunately, they can respond with text, GIFs and videos in threaded comments. They can give points to their favorite comments.
I like to think I’m a comedy snob, but really, a clever screen name is enough for me. The responses on this post, “Oklahoma Legislature Opens Door to Satanic Monument on Capitol Grounds,” are fairly typical.
The A.V. Club recently switched to the Disqus commenting system, which apparently has caused some dissension among the ranks. The current settings don’t allow any embedded media, just up votes and down votes. Disqus allows readers to sort comments by date or by up votes, but I rarely switch it up.
The site not only keeps track of active TV shows, but also classics. I enjoy popping in for the occasional retro-review of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” but what I really love are the capsules from Rappin’ Jake Sisko. Take in the poetry from this recent analysis of DS9 episode, “Inquisition.”
My final example is an old standby, What’s Alan Watching? on HitFix, another TV blog. Critic Alan Sepinwall posts news items and reviews almost daily. I’ve long admired his simple comment policy which keeps life easier for blog writer and blog readers.
I enjoy reading viewers’ reactions to the latest episodes of my favorite shows, so I’ll stop by daily to see what comments pop up. They always see things I miss, or, at the very least, run through my favorite quotes. HitFix recently added the Like button to comments, but no sorting or no embedding allowed.
Check out the discussion below Sepinwall’s latest review of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Vibrant online communities make good blogs great. Even if the posts are mediocre, the comments keep me coming back. I’m content to read and laugh along, rarely putting in my own 2 cents.
Make it easy for readers to leave comments and interact not only with you but also each other. Give them room to play, and watch how they help your site flourish.
• • •
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Video: Vine compilation 2013
I could tell much better stories. I need to work on that skill as much as possible.
I worked on my focus this year, and will continue to do so in the years to come. In 2014, I want to also work on my storytelling. That might mean in writing and in my daily haiku. That might mean in video. That might mean onstage.
I believe in stories. I love watching them and reading them and hearing them. It’s why Malcolm Gladwell sells so many books, by hooking readers with compelling narratives. It’s why even a 6-second Vine video can have a beginning, middle and end before you can blink. (See a slew of examples in the video above.)
It’s why even a creative nonfiction tweet (#cnftweet) can pack more story into 140 characters than in some novels.
Improving my storytelling skills will help me teach others more effectively. I weave stories into my presentations and training sessions, but usually in addition to my outline. I need to think more narratively from the start.
Being better at storytelling will also help me assist clients in developing campaigns and messaging for their goals. I already help plan editorial calendars, but having the story defined from the start will guide us in our work.
I shall dig deep into story construction and presentation. I know where I need to work hardest, and I look forward to practicing these skills.
Come see me in 2014, and let me tell you a story …
• • •
I share stories and links to stories in the free
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I must confess: I don’t do coffee.
I mean, I do coffees, as in coffee meetups. But I’ll likely have a Diet Coke.
Despite this shortcoming, I’d still like to do coffee with you. Meeting face to face gives me a better sense as to where you may need help with communication.
It will also give you a better sense as to what I do for a living. Because this is what I do, assessing corporate communications and making suggestions on how to improve, based on your goals.
Brainstorming is one of my strengths. I’ll pitch idea after idea after idea. And it won’t cost you a penny — I’ll even spring for the coffee.
(For those of you outside the Birmingham area, we can chat by phone, Skype or other video service. BYOC.)
Let’s do coffee soon. You’ll walk away with some killer ideas.
Photo: Martin Fisch (CC)
• • •
Let me know when you’d like
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Slides: “Focused communication: Working with subordinates, peers and bosses”
I’m giving this presentation on “Focused communication: Working with subordinates, peers and bosses” today to a class at Samford University. I’ve spent years honing my skills for effective interaction up, down and sideways.
What can you do to understand your colleagues better and help others work in harmony? I have nine strategies for improving communications with an emphasis on service.
1. You can download these slides or embed them on your site. To download a PDF, click the button marked “slideshare,” then “Save.”
2. If you want to stay in touch …
- You can contact me through this simple form. Please feel free to ask questions, make suggestions or request help.
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Thanks for checking out “Focused communication: Working with subordinates, peers and bosses.”
• • •
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Photo: CalypsoCrystal (CC)
The right equipment will give you the best audio and video quality, even in the field.
Video can be compelling. It can show off your personality and engage an audience in ways text and photos can’t. It can convey complex information in minutes through great visuals and narration.
And it can be a pain in the ass.
Before you roll cameras on incorporating videos into your digital storytelling, let me give you some direction on what role it should play in your business.
Strategy No. 1: On the cheap
What’s involved: A smartphone, a YouTube account, a tripod (optional).
Pros: A great way to get started quickly, shooting short selfie videos on the fly. Shoot, upload to YouTube, share on social media, done. Costs next to nothing if you already have a phone.
Cons: You have to be willing to show your informal side to the world. The quality of the audio and the video will likely be poor to passable.
Strategy No. 2: Better look and sound
What’s involved: A smartphone or a low-end pocket video camera (preferably with audio input), a YouTube account, a tripod, homemade lighting (“101 DIY Lighting Tutorials”, “DIY Lighting”), microphones, editing software or app.
Pros: Your videos will look and sound more professional than 99 percent of other videos. Ability to set up location shoots (even just down the hall or on another floor) as needed. Less than $500 cost.
Cons: A big time cost in building the lighting gear and learning the software. Storage space required for gear. Editing time increases in piecing together video and audio clips.
Photo: Melonie Galagos (CC)
Dedicated studio space gives you complete control over professional video production.
Strategy No. 3: Going pro
What’s involved: A video camera or two, a YouTube account (or paid video hosting) and a website, tripods, empty office set aside as studio, lighting, microphones, editing software, a set (chairs, demonstration table), backdrop, green screen, stock music, dedicated editing computer and monitors, experienced videographer and on-camera talent.
Pros: More videos can be shot and edited in batches. Faster turnaround time. Full control over lighting and audio. Easy to start shooting quickly on an interview or product demonstration. What previously cost tens of thousands of dollars can be done for thousands of dollars.
Cons: Cost goes up in hiring experienced pros. Much more complexity in the process.
While the cost of video production has decreased dramatically, it still requires significant time and a good eye for telling stories in a compelling fashion.
The right approach can brand your company effectively.
• • •
Need help with video content?
Get in touch for a free consultation …
Companies often struggle with internal communications. Email can be cumbersome, and paper memos can pile up.
What about a free private solution that your staff already uses?
Facebook groups can help teams, departments, managers and branches share information, photos, videos and documents in real time. Administrators can set them up in minutes, and invite others by Facebook or email. Members can stay informed by visiting the group through desktop and mobile versions, as well as email and app notifications.
(LinkedIn has a similar groups function.)
How to set up a group on Facebook
- Go to Groups on Facebook.
- Click Create Group button at top.
- Fill out the form.
Uses for Facebook groups in your company
- Share info usually sent by memo or email.
- Recognize colleagues for outstanding work.
- Poll colleagues for feedback and suggestions.
- Collaborate on simple text documents.
- Post training videos.
- Quick updates on projects.
- Weekly Q&A with the CEO.
- Back channel for teleconferences and video chats.
- Show galleries of new floor plans, product designs, brochure layouts …
- Coordinate social media channel management.
- Boost morale (since everyone’s sharing funny videos and pics anyway).
- Ask and answer questions on department changes.
- Introduce new employees and interns.
- Share links to industry news.
- Gauge daily performance of a sales team.
- Create a searchable archive of information.
- Tag specific people for questions and assignments.
- Employees’ bulletin board.
- Coordinate team members for events.
Is your organization using Facebook groups for internal communication? Share your experiences in the comments.
• • •
Get your company’s communications on track.
Contact me for a free consultation …
Video: “When everyone’s super …”
Thinking about praise this week, I remembered how compliments can go wrong with insincere attempts.
I hit upon another pet peeve: too many compliments.
It may seem impossible in our cold, cruel world to have too many compliments. Certainly, we hear many complaints about people and companies and meals and TV shows and songs and on and on.
But I find myself often wearying at an endless stream of praise. They might be compliments to ensure everyone in a group or a team is included. They might be the unsophisticated musings of the masses.
I find myself pickier about who I ask for recommendations. I cast a jaundiced eye at heaps of praise on anything and everything.
And I struggle. I try to make sure my compliments come forth regularly, but that they come from a place of true admiration, rather than a superficial reflex. I want my words to count.
Perhaps, my cynicism gets in the way. Or I need to be less stingy with kind words. But I still wonder what would happen if others were more selective about their compliments. Would they have more impact, more credibility?
Or would the world be a sadder place?
• • •
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Good bloggers strive to be better.
Great bloggers share their knowledge freely.
Meet both at the October Alabama Bloggers lunch.
The free event will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at Avondale Park [map] in Birmingham. Bring your own lunch.
Attendees usually range from beginners (and those thinking about starting a blog) to experts. This will be a great opportunity for everyone to ask questions in a new format.
Each person can bring her question written anonymously on a slip of paper to drop into the submission box. During the lunch discussion, guests will take a turn drawing out a slip to read aloud and answer.
So bring yourself, bring a guest, bring a good lunch. And most important, bring your most challenging blogging problem. Your peers will have plenty of solutions.
Photo: Jason Paris (CC)
Please let us know you’re coming …
Google+, the social network in waiting, has rolled out features regularly since it debuted in 2011. Its Communities featured came out Dec. 6, and I had the Birmingham G+ Community up and running by Dec. 7.
Some Communities have tens of thousands of members. This Community has more than 300.
I set it up with a simple rule: Play nice or be banned. As the sole admin, I can make rules like that.
The other rule: no spam. A few groups I’ve joined on Facebook and LinkedIn tend to be link dumps and spammy.
(I’ve bent over backwards to follow that second rule. I may put a lot of my links on the Birmingham Pinterest board, but I have not shared any of my posts in the G+ Community in its 9-month existence.)
I had no goal other than to see how the Community feature worked. I haven’t been using G+ much for myself, because it’s challenging to schedule posts, which is my default method for sharing to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Like other social networks, G+ Communities can be public or private. They can share links, videos and photos (a nice feature about Facebook Groups is shared documents).
For whatever reason, I never created a Birmingham Facebook Group, just a couple of Interest Lists. And the Pinterest board has done well, but is solely powered by me (co-pinners dropped out over time, and no new volunteers stepped forward).
This Birmingham G+ Community has reached an important milestone: I no longer have to sustain it on my own. Each person has an equal voice in this group, and several have made great contributions.
I like to share current news about my hometown. And I appreciate seeing what others enjoy reading and sharing. It’s interesting to read members’ comments, whether in reaction to a story link or hearing about how they receive (or don’t receive) their news.
Sadly, Google does not provide metrics for its Communities (beyond Ripples for viral posts), nor can users or admins schedule posts. But posts are public for this Community, so even nonmembers can see them (and hopefully embed them someday).
In starting a G+ Community, I have a few quick tips to do it right:
- Don’t make it about a company or brand. It’s my pet peeve, but I’ve seen over and over how trying to elevate the brand over people fails as a tactic.
- Invite people on a regular basis. I invite friends and followers on other networks to check it out and join.
- Post a description and a set of guidelines. This helps participation from the start, as new members know what’s allowed.
- Post new items regularly to start the conversation flowing. No one will post to a seemingly deserted or inactive group. Admins can pull back once others start jumping in.
- Hit the “+1″ button a lot, for every good question, post, photo, comment and more.
- Create categories so users can label their posts correctly.
- Police the Community regularly, to weed out trolls and spam. If a user breaks a rule, an admin should message them privately to explain why a post or comment was removed (often, it’s an unintended oversight by a newbie).
- Add a moderator if needed, but define their duties and role clearly.
- And have fun!
Build a Google+ Community to meet people, to learn from them, to debate ideas and to make the world better.
Visit our Birmingham + Community and learn more about Birmingham
and the people who make it special.
Photo: Liz West (CC)
In all your communications, know your audience.
It’s the best starting point in connecting with them. You might be considering one person for an email or a thousand fans for a social media campaign.
Your audience could be friends, customers, partners, strangers or subscribers. They may be experts or beginners, locals or outsiders, peers or unconnected others. Some may be indifferent, or even hostile to your talking points.
You must understand how they receive news and information: online or through the media or through other people. And what formats they prefer: text, photos, video, graphics, audio and so on.
Not knowing your audience leads to misfires: wrong tone, wrong medium, wrong message, poor results.
Get to know them by asking them questions and studying their behavior. Yes, it sounds like a mad scientist research project, but it ensures you’ll have a message that resonates.
You might assume your audience is just like you, so your preferences should be their preferences. This is a trap. You must get outside your pattern of thinking to see how others react and behave.
But a few of your habits do apply to others: clicking quickly from one thing to the next, skimming for info, making snap judgments on the value of a post or email, being drawn to certain types of headlines or photos.
The only magic bullet in effective communication is to know your audience. Turns out that bullet isn’t a bullet at all, but a process of discovering how groups listen, read and respond.
Photo: James Lee (CC)
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