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Pope to Priests: Thou Shalt Blog

February 4, 2010 2 comments

You know the old marketing adage: Go where your customers are.

Pope Benedict XVI has apparently taken this to heart. In anticipation of the church’s 44th World Communications Day on May 16th, he has issued a statement, The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word. In it, he urges priests to use social media for outreach in conjunction with their traditional means of communication. The Pope feels that it’s urgent and necessary to be online, where so many people spend their time — especially young people, a key target demographic for the Church.

Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: As new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word. The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace. Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

The Pope obviously knows his social media.

pope Pope to Priests: Thou Shalt BlogHis comments dovetail with the Vatican’s effort in recent years to establish a larger online presence. The Holy See created a YouTube channel last year, offering video and audio clips of Pope Benedict’s addresses, along with news about the pontiff. The recently launched Pope2you portal offers an iPhone app, a Facebook app, Papal videos, and a link to the YouTube channel. The Vatican was on the bleeding edge when it created its own Web site 14 years ago, with access to the Vatican Museums and Vatican Secret Archives; there’s even a section in Latin for classical language buffs. The Catholic News Service, which is affiliated with the Vatican, is no technical slouch either — it has its own Facebook page, featuring news stories, notes, and blogs, with over 3,000 fans.

As CEO of the Catholic Church, the Pope knows the importance of guidelines. He’s clear to his followers about how he wants them to use social media and the message he wants them to communicate:

The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility… Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord… In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different “highways” that form “cyberspace”.

Regardless of your religious convictions, it’s hard to deny how impressive it is that the 82-year-old leader ‘gets’ social media. It will interesting to see how many priests follow his lead.

Pope Benedict’s call to action is valuable advice for businesses, too. If he thinks that Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and blogging are good ways to spread his message, maybe these tools can help your company. If your firm’s leaders don’t see the value in developing a social media strategy, you can point to His Holiness’s commitment to the social Web as a branding and communication tool.

From: pamorama | January 28, 2010  | By Pam Dyer

Why Google Page Rank Is Now Irrelevant

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

I personally, have not blogged about this topic before. However,  in October 2006  this was written The Importance of Google Page Rank  and in  November 2007  Why Did My Page Rank Decrease – FAQs was also written, but that was years ago, and things change online and in marketing, more often than that.

Google Page Rank is a number from 0 to 10 that Google assigns each page on the internet based on how “powerful” that page is in terms of the number and quality of links coming into the page. CNN is a Page Rank 10, my mom’s blog is a 1, this blog is a 6… you get the idea.  Because Google reveals this number in their browser toolbar, a number of SEO tools and toolbars started to use it as a relevant metric to evaluate the “Google Juice” of a given website or web page. All of this resulted in a near obsession among most SEO (ers) and many marketers on their own Page Rank.  People used to sell links, and charge more for links from a higher Page Rank site.  Google started not to like that people were focusing on this metric, and started to delay the data in the toolbar, meaning that there was a 6-9 month (or longer) delay between what Page Rank Google assigned to you and what the publicly available Page Rank was.  And there were rumors and suspicions that Google no longer used Page Rank and had moved to Trust Rank, which was not available publicly but was the new version of Page Rank.

Fast forward to today, and I think Google Page Rank is a completely irrelevant metric to track, and here are 5 reasons why.

Metrics are useless unless you can track them, and you can’t track Page Rank.  The best approximation of your Page Rank you can get is 6-9 months old, and even then you’re not sure it is correct.  If you cannot accurately and frequently get new data for a metric, it is pretty much useless.

Page Rank has nothing to do with SEO rankings or results.  I know of websites that have a Page Rank of 0, and yet they still get organic rankings and search traffic for competitive search terms.

Page Rank is not relevant for real time search and social media results.  Increasingly, social media conversations, real time news and status updates and other content are making their way into search results.  Even though the Page Rank for a tweet or status update is 0, they still show up in results.  Same thing for news releases and other content.

Page Rank is not a results metric.  Typically it is best to measure things that get you real results for your business (customers and revenue) or things that directly lead to those metrics (leads).  But Page Rank has nothing to do with any results – see the previous two reasons.

Even Google says Page Rank is not important. Google removed Page Rank from its webmaster tools because it is not important.  Google Employee (Webmaster Tools Analyst) Susan Moskwa saysWe’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on Page Rank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.” And many other places Google tells you to not worry about Page Rank.

So, what should you do?  It’s simple… Don’t worry about Page Rank.  You should Get Found by creating great content, optimizing that content for search and promoting that content in social media and then convert these website visitors into leads and customers.  There’s a whole methodology for this stuff and even free training and certification available.

Search Engine Optimization Kit

Learn more about how you can optimize your site to rank higher in search engines so you get found by more qualified prospects.Download our search engine optimization kit.

Posted by Mike Volpe on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 @ 07:30 AM

Is Twitter and Blogging Creating Phonies?

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

big phonyThere is a lot of discussion about Twitter, Blogs and Social Media in general creating Illegitimate Experts, Gurus, Leaders… or iPhony’s. Lets’ look at the definition of Illegitimate– not in accordance with the principles of valid inference. By this definition Twitter, Blogs and social media may be creating illegitimate experts.  The beauty of the Internet and online community is the fact a person does not have to be “in accordance with a valid inference” to be successful.  No one is forced to follow or listen to anyone online, it’s a game of personal choice.

In the online world each individual is responsible for creating their own validation (whatever that means).  My personal opinion is this, “If a person has an audience, voice, knowledge, experience, personality, talent, information, the ability to influence and people are listening, They have been legitimized.”  If the above things are happening, the people are confirming that John Q. Twitterer or Suzy Q. Blogger aren’t iPhony’s.

There have been some very real and very legitimate online leaders that have risen out of the ranks of Twitter, Blogging and Social Media.  If people buy into what you are selling it’s only a matter of time before some degree of success and influence happens.

Traditional would-be experts are no longer the source of legitimization.  The market, the consumers, followers and the online community dictate whether or not a person is the “Real Deal.”  It doesn’t matter what I think or what you think, the only thing that matters is what the people think.  Let’s take a look at a relatively recent product that in my mind was not legitimate, The Snuggie.  Seriously a backwards robe is not a legitimate product.  The Snuggie has sold well over 4 million of their backwards robes; therefore the market and the people legitimized the product.  “Who am I and what do I know?”

Is Twitter & Blogging Creating iPhony’s?  Share your thoughts!

Posted by Scott Williams on January 30th 2010

Joomla Lovers May Have The Greatest iPhone App Ever

January 29, 2010 2 comments

For the first time in my geek life, I am seriously tempted to switch away from WordPress, all because of one iPhone app.

Joomla Admin Mobile, an iPhone application created by Covert Apps empowers users belonging to the Joomla faith to not only edit pages and articles, but also add multiple images to them without throwing all of the images at the bottom of the post (like WordPress 2) or near the top (like Squarespace).

Priced at $9.99, Joomla Admin Mobile (or JAM for short) sells at a much higher premium than other Joomla apps, although JAM does offer a few features lacking from its rivals.

What I Loved

Just like most of the other iPhone blogging apps, JAM allows Joomla users to upload images to their server.

However what separates JAM from rivals is not only can edit the image from within the app, without having to launch a photo editing program (like iRetouch) in order to touch up a picture.

Users can easily crop, adjust the image size or rotate pictures (in many fun and various forms) from within the app, saving times and energy when composing an article or section.

Another awesome feature that I love about JAM is the ability to edit user accounts directly from the app itself without having to power up the laptop.

Site admins can grant (or take away) access levels of registered users, change their passwords, email accounts or even screen names on a whim, and last (but not least) block users from logging in if they suspect an account has been compromised.

Admins can also email users registered upon the site from within the app, which is helpful if they suspect an account has been hacked (in which you can alert them of a new password).

Last but not least, JAM does support expandable post summaries, without having to hard code it in (which I have to do with my WordPress app).

What I disliked

Most of what I did not like about JAM had to do with the user interface which is quite ugly when compared to both the WordPress 2 and Squarespace iPhone apps.

When it comes to composing an article, I felt that there was too many “taps” compared to its rivals, which allow you to edit an article immediately instead of showing you a preview first.

Although I did love the basic photo editing features, I did wish the app came with a formating bar for HTML links, similar to what the LiveJournal.app has.

Also adding video support (perhaps via YouTube?) would be nice as well, as it could help JAM stand out from the crowd (as not many blogging apps have embraced video, despite the launch of the iPhone 3GS).

Conclusion

JAM is a powerful app for Joomla lovers, and perhaps one of the most powerful CMS/blogging apps that I have come across ever since WordPress and BlogPress entered Steve Jobs backyard.

JAM’s closest rival is BlogPress, although the latter does not upload images to your server but via third parties (Flickr and Picasa).

Despite being the only app to fully support Joomla, Covert Apps may want to adjust their pricing of JAM, as many users whine about apps being priced at $5, let alone $10 (mainly due to the global recession).

Overall Covert Apps is a “must have app” for Joomla lovers, and may help the Joomla community enter the blogging mainstream alongside of both Blogger and WordPress.

by Darnell Clayton on January 26th, 2010

How To Be A More Relational Blogger

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

relational.pngDarren Rowse in 2002 stumbled upon his first ever blog. This is about how he was immediately inspired to start his own blog based on two things he witnessed in that first blog.

  1. It gave the blogger a voice and amplified that voice around the world
  2. It gave the blogger the ability to build a community around what he was exploring and enabled him to have personal (yet public) interactions with many people to further explore his topics.

The community and relational aspect of that first blog was a big part of why I decided to start my own first blog. I’d not seen anything on the web that allowed a person to grow a community around their ideas before and wanted to experience it for myself.

So I started my first blog – a personal blog about life, spirituality and culture – and began to experiment with my voice but also with engaging with those who read what I was writing each day.

I quickly discovered the power of building a blog that not only had interesting content but which drew readers into a conversation.

In those early days I spent at least as much time building relationships with readers as I did writing posts (I’ll share some of what I did early in my blog below).

As I look back on the early days of my own blogging I’d attribute a significant part of the early growth of my blogs to this type of relational activity. Content might be King but community was its Queen for me.

Things have Changed…. But….

Of course the blogosphere and wider web has changed somewhat since those days in 2002.

  • Twitter and Facebook have emerged to take over some of the community interactions that blogs once had
  • Social media is also a space where much of the sharing of links we once did on blogs happens
  • Blogging has become quite competitive and bloggers in niches don’t always work together

Things have changed – however…. a relational approach and community are still one central aspect of many successful blogs.

Note: I’m not just talking about building your blog into a community (we discussed community earlier in our series) – instead what I’m talking about in this post is being relational with your readers – the blogger/reader relationship and not necessarily relationships between your readers.

So how does a blogger grow relationships with their readers? I’d actually like to tackle this question by making some suggestions for newer/smaller blogs and then for more established blogs where the challenge of scaling a relational approach is a challenge.

How to Be a Relational Blogger – For New Blogs

When starting out with a new blog there are many tasks that will confront you. Creating great content is of course your primary concern, getting your blog looking attractive and inviting is also important, thinking about branding, networking with other blogs in your niche, setting up with some good SEO…. the list of things you could fill your time with goes on.

However putting some concerted effort into building relationship with those who do come to your blog is something well worth putting time into. If you can build a loyal group of regular readers in your early days you’re well on the way to growing a blog that is read by many. Each loyal reader you have has their own network that they can spread word of you to.

Following are some of the things I spent a lot of time doing in the early days of my own first blogs:

  • Reading and responding to every comment left – particularly any with questions
  • Visiting the blogs of those who were leaving comments and interacting with those bloggers on their own blogs
  • Engaging on other blogs that were linking to mine
  • Emailing new readers to thank them for commenting
  • Linking to other blogs in my niche – promoting those who were reading my blog
  • Responding to email queries

These types of activities are very basic yet they have an impact and will draw those who read your blog in the early days to take a second look and come back again.

Tips for Established Blogs Trying to Scale Rationality

The above basics for newer blogs do work – but when your blog starts to grow the challenge for bloggers is to how to stay relational in their approach without burning themselves out. You see responding to every comment left on your blog becomes incredibly challenging when you have hundreds of comments left each day. Personal and in depth responses to every email from a reader takes over your whole day when you have tens of thousands of readers…. Scaling relationally is definitely a challenge.

So what’s a blogger to do?

I actually grapple with this one on a daily basis and would love to hear how other bloggers approach the challenge however thought I’d jot down some starting points (it should also be noted that much of this can be put into practice by new blogs too):

1. Write in a Relational Voice

One of the things that can help is to simply write in a relational or conversational style. Tell your own story, share your experiences, write about your failures, be personal. While you might not be able to respond to every reader personally all of these things make you more relatable.

2. Invite Participation

One part of writing in a relational style is to invite interaction with readers. Asking questions of readers and giving spaces in posts for discussion and interaction may not be fully relational if you yourself don’t participate – but it at least opens up opportunities for readers to interact with one another and get a feeling of being heard and valued as a reader.

3. Set Up Opportunities for Intentional Interaction

Another strategy that I find a win/win for bloggers and their readers is to set up specific times and places for interaction between blogger and reader. Put aside time for this intentional community time, publicise them with readers and then make yourself available to interact.

For me one of the ways that I try to do this every now and again is by doing a live Ustreaming video session where I simply do Q&A with readers. I’m amazed at the response from readers who join these chats – while I do feel a little ‘odd’ sitting there talking to my laptop answering basic questions about blogging readers really do seem to value the times and feel much more involved.

Note: Another way that I try to give readers another avenue for interaction is by promoting Twitter as a place for conversation. The key is to name where and when you’re going to interact and then make sure you do.

4. Answer Reader Questions with Posts

A further technique I try to do is to try to answer questions from readers with posts rather than just in comments or via email. When I get a reader asking a question I could respond with an email or comment and help that particular reader – but to maximise the benefits across the full community I try to take some questions and turn my responses into a more public answer in a post – thereby answering the person but also hopefully sharing some solutions with others who might have the same question. I find that the added bonus of this is that you highlight a reader interaction publicly which shows that while I might not respond to everyone that you are attempting to be interactive.

5. Manage Expectations

Without going over the top and becoming boastful or arrogant – try to communicate with your readership what they can expect from you as a blogger. Readers all come with their own expectations of what they should and shouldn’t be able to expect from you as a blogger. The emails I get from readers at times illustrate that some readers come with pretty good expectations while others come with unrealistic ones.

Side Note: interestingly these unrealistic expectations can swing both ways. For example today I had one email from a reader demanding I answer a list of 20 questions for them while another reader emailed saying that they didn’t really expect I’d even read their email and didn’t expect any kind of acknowledgment of their problem. The reality is somewhere between the two emails – I can’t give readers hours of my attention each – but I do read emails and try to respond to as many as I can.

One way to manage expectations is to have a system in place around your contact form. Communicating what you’re able to help with, whether you are able to respond personally etc on a contact form helps readers to gauge what sort of response (if any) they’ll get. Some bloggers also put systems in place to send auto response emails back when contact is made to help with this.

6. Build Community

Another way to help readers get help from your blog is to set up systems and areas on your blog where people can help one another. This is one of the reasons that both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School have community areas. The hope is that while I can’t possibly respond to every reader that there is always someone in the wider community that does have the expertise and resources to help. I also find that in time as a blog grows that this reader interaction between readers extends naturally into a comments section – a larger blog tends to have readers who love to help one another.

7. Get Help – Outsource

One of the hardest things I’ve done in the last couple of years is to get help to manage this aspect of my blogging. Outsourcing community is not something I ever wanted to do but getting help from someone to assist in the moderation of comments was actually something that helped me to be more responsive to readers. If you do end up hiring someone to help with moderation try to get them to alert you to threads of conversations that need your attention rather than just hiring someone to delete spam.

How do You Do It?

As I say above – I’m no expert in being a relational blogger. It’s one aspect of what I do that I do grapple with and have good days and bad days with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you approach being a relational blogger and what impact it’s had on your blogging.

PS: One last bonus tip – Stay True to Yourself and Your Personality

I say this because as people we all have different styles and personalities that will leave us able to interact with readers differently. I’ve been critiqued a few times over the years about not being interactive enough with readers but in the last 12 months or so have also come to realise that my approach in this area is not just about being too busy to interact but that it is partly about who I am as a person.

As a pretty extreme introvert I do enjoy personal interaction but also find that I’m not able to sustain as much of it as some others who are more extroverted and get energy from such interactions.

Those of you who’ve met me will know that I’m actually someone who tends to sit at the edge of groups watching and listening more than those who might enjoy being the life of the party. While I do enjoy conversation I’m someone who is a little slower paced and more laid back and who enjoys chiming in from time to time with my insights and thoughts – but who also enjoys listening.

On the flip side of this I know that one impact of being this type of person is that I can come across as being a little uninterested in those around me – it’s something I do have to work on (I could quite easily retreat to my introverts cave and never come out for weeks at a time). So for me it’s about being true to myself and not forcing myself to be the extrovert but also knowing that my introversion can also be an excuse and something that limits me.

Written on January 26th, 2010 at 12:01 am by Darren Rowse

The Beginning – Connect With Me

January 21, 2010 1 comment

Blogging is harder than it looks! I cannot put into words how difficult this process has been. It’s not so easy, sitting in front of a computer screen, thinking up something interesting enough to post.  As excited as I was to finally get the words from out of my head; and on the screen.  There was always this gnawing feeling, ever-present, in the back of my mind.  A feeling, I couldn’t shake, it was a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt.  After many days of brainstorming, I began the mundane process of revising my drafts. Sometimes changing a few words, other times whole paragraphs. Always having this feeling that maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew.  There’s a saying I am sure you’ve heard, “If it was that easy, anyone could do it.” I wasn’t fooling myself any longer.  Not everyone can write; and not everything written is good enough to read. It didn’t take very long for me to began questioning everything. Slowly, and steadily the self-doubt grew. My false sense of security was beginning to fade away.  I began to wonder, if starting this blog was such a good idea.  What are people going to think? I can’t write! Should I keep going?

Obviously, I kept going, so here we are. Is this perfect? Probably not… But, I can’t worry about that anymore. I’ve changed this first post so many times, I can’t be sure what my “first post” was supposed to be all about. All I know is, my reason for starting this blog was to share my ideas. Ideas on how we connect and how connecting relates to social media, networking and marketing. Now, I want to include other topics with many subjects. I am no longer concerned about how I am going to write a blog. I am far more interested in how much information I will be able to squeeze into each post.

There are so many ways we get connected, be it business or personal.  My wish is that you get something positive from reading my blog. In some small way, I can give something important enough to readers,  that they might consider subscribing to my blog.

Blogging will afford us the opportunity to share with those who wish to engage.

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