A blog by any other name

I’ve been blogging for a long time now. I originally started in 2009 for a charity project I was working on and discovered a passion to share my ideas with the world (even if most of them were only ever read by my mom-Hi Mom!).

On this forum alone my posts go back to 2011, many of which are still relevant today. While I should admit I am highly critical of my evolution as a writer, I have never been afraid of to have confidence in my ideas no matter how flawed the delivery might have been. I credit this confidence in my words to the passion of my early years: journaling, and to the professors who give me good grades on my work.

So today I am wondering what the value my contributions and those of others are making on our culture and the digital space as a whole through the act of blogging.

Creating community and sharing ideas

The internet and all that lives on it from blogs and forums to ratings and reviews are about connection across time and space. Sharing ideas with people without regard for their time zone is something that makes blogging special.

Bloggers like Luis Suarez discuss the idea that this community and collaborative lifestyle is our right as citizens of the world. Kathleen Asselin also speaks of this interactive lifestyle and momentum in growth in her thesis (reference here: sadly not available outside of a library).

My posts started as essays on topics I was faced with in the workplace. They are littered with challenges of offering great customer experiences in eCommerce and digital marketing, topics, which were the reason I started erinburrell.ca. Here and there I would throw in a few accolades for those doing great things, but it quickly morphed into business commentary and hard-won survival tips with a sprinkling of academic content added for good measure.

Creating reach to new content and topics

As a student and scholar, I have access to publications most people only armed with Google and an internet connection will never see. Content under the badge of being scholarly and peer reviewed is often highly researched, validated, and edited for quality but sadly read even less than my personal blog in some cases.

Part of that fault is, of course, the desire for people to be paid for their content. An idea which with just a smidgen of understanding what it takes to publish an article makes sense. I have access to a great deal of paid content because I pay tuition and rich library access is included in my fees. I agree that content creators should be paid for their efforts, but I am sad that many publications and ideas will never reach people who could benefit from them.

Unfortunately, that means that the ideas we are all exposed to at no cost in some cases are….. well…. Let’s just call them poorly researched and not well cited to be generous.

Heidi Estes discusses the idea that blogging makes space for personal commentary and criticism in academic efforts and helps to round out the ideas of a scholar (here’s hoping).  Sadly her blog was not in the first few pages of search so the closest I can offer you for free is the abstract of one of her articles discussing the topic in more detail.-You can purchase instant access to the entire article for about what Netflix costs you each month.

Finding the balance: Freemium content

Freemium is one of my favourite things about the digital age. I could dedicate more than one post just to the value I think this adds to the digital economy, but for the uninitiated, this means that you have access to a product or service with limits. If you want to live life without limits you must pay for the privilege-somewhat like TV in the 90’s.

Great content providers in the entertainment, business, and journalistic space have embraced this idea. Harvard Business Review will let you read a little, as will People.com and the New York Times, but after you reach the limit it’s pay to play. I wish academia would embrace this, but I suppose it will be scholars like me that can change the face of publishing if we want to.

Freemium in my opinion, is the best of both worlds. Creators get paid and if they are producing content people really enjoy, in turn they pay for a subscription or buy what they want in an a la carte pricing menu.

So who am I to direct you?

Today I would call myself a scholar-practitioner. I study a number of topics and currently practice in the space of information technology and business strategy. My content is free and without the burden of extra ads and marketing because I pay service providers for blocking additional noise from my words.

If you like something I share or dislike it for that matter, you are welcome to comment, like and follow me. Or not. Your call.

I will continue to share my thoughts because I might be able to offer connections between the dots of concepts that you wouldn’t hear about without me.

I do ask you to forgive the gaps that may occur between posts. I am currently working toward my second masters degree, work full time and have lots of hobbies that keep me busy.  Plus, we all know that I actually pay for the chance to talk to you through this forum (domain registration, ad suspension, web hosting), not the other way around.

Then again delays could be that I am randomly surfing YouTube watching the cat videos that make the internet great.

Head to the archives and see what else I have to say.

Is Social Media the Answer?

Erin Burrell-Is Social Media the Answer
Defining strategies for social media in business

Each day I come across businesses that are trying to grow their engagement with their customers and employees and the first thing they come to the table with is the need for a Social Media Strategy.  I love and believe in social media, but I don’t believe that it is the best channel for every business or employee relations challenge that you are presented with.

In order to validate if a social media approach is right for a specific business challenge I have started to ask a few specific questions that help to get each brand on the right path.

Is the customer you are trying to reach in the demographic that uses the particular platform?

If you create a Twitter feed for a group that are loyal to Tumblr you may be wasting your time. Social media is a great tool to grow your business but you have to be relevant.  If the platform is not a match to the customers, then don’t bother, but if the answer is yes keep going.

Are you going to commit resources to write content and respond to questions or posts that arrive on the different platforms?

If the answer is no, then maybe you should re-think the idea of being in social media.  Responses that aren’t timely can turn into PR nightmares quickly on most platforms so what could have begun as a question about hours of service could spiral out of control and become damaging to your brand.  It is better not to be in the social space, than to do it badly.

Are you hoping to engage internal employees?

If you want to have an associate Facebook page and they can’t access Facebook from your internal network, you have likely created an obstacle to your own success.  Make sure your team can access your content from their workplace.  Hoping that they will go home and like your brand after a long day is a lot to ask of anyone.

Additionally, if your business includes employees that may not have great internet and/or cellular coverage because they work in remote locations, you may be spending time talking to yourself.

Ok, so you are going to staff the venture and you are committed to making sure everyone can access the content in the channel that fits them best, so what next?

You likely need a social media strategy.  Before you move forward and invest in the project make sure you know what you want to accomplish, and are willing to test it for a reasonable amount of time.  Most social media projects need at least six months to really build up steam, and don’t really hit their stride until at least a year of content and customer engagement has been completed.

When building your plan, include key milestones that will define success of the program as it builds and grows.  Try to be realistic about followers, circlers or likes that you want  for the first few months of the program.  Remember, just because you now have a presence doesn’t mean that everyone will seek out your page tomorrow.

Social media may have what seems like an immediate return on your investment, but you need people to care about what you have to say, before they will trust you with their time.  Be engaging, whatever your platform of choice and make sure that your social brand stays true to your existing non-social customer.