Bad Advice Given Well (and How to Spot Phony Experts)

Danger Bad Advice Ahead

Danger Bad Advice Ahead

You may not want to hear this, but at some point, you’ve received — and then shared — bad information online. Information so erroneous that it defies logic. Ideas that just don’t make sense. And, like many netizens, you’ve shared this with your family and friends.

Don’t worry. Everyone has done it at some point or another. (Don’t you feel better?)

Here’s the thing. There’s good advice given by smart, informed, and qualified people (sometimes they are even professionals). The information they provide can educate and motivate you.

And then there’s that guy that wrote “that blog” on “that website.” He could have been right, especially if he took a moment to look for truth instead of just disguising his opinion as truth. But he was wrong. Didn’t know what he was talking about, and unfortunately, his advice got stuck in your head. (Sorry, Oreos don’t make you thin.)

You are, as many of us have been, a victim of bad advice given well. Guidance from a self-proclaimed expert who is more self-proclaimed than expert, but probably has a nice-looking website. Maybe someone who has a lot of Twitter followers.


How This Happened

Back in the early days, the media business was a one-way affair. Those of us who studied Journalism and then worked at media outlets learned that we were the “gatekeepers” of information. The publishers and editors were the gatekeepers, but we were part of the gate. I was a journalist and I worked the gate at newspapers, websites, and magazines.

We were sharers and reporters of truth. We opened the gate to gather and disseminate truth and facts. Slammed it shut on information we perceived as wrong or irrelevant. Continue reading

Why Klout and Social Influence Really Matter

Klout.com Logo

Klout.com is a social influence measurement tool.

What’s your Klout score? It’s a question that you hear more often, particularly if you’re in the agency world.

So what is Klout and why is it important? That’s the more important question!

First off, if you haven’t tried it yet, go to Klout.com. If you’re signed into Twitter, it will ask you to connect your two accounts. Twitter has a pretty good application programming interface (API), so you can link two different services and share data. It’s pretty easy.

At first, Klout will probably give you a low score because it does not know how you interact with other Twitter users. But in time, it will give you some indication of your “influence.” You can read about how Klout scores influence, but suffice to say, it attempts to measure how many people repeat (or retweet!) what you say. It’s a modern, online version of how cool you are among your peers.

The mechanics of Klout aren’t as important as the concept behind social validation. So what is social validation and why should you care? Glad you asked! Continue reading

Use WordPress to Design a Website

WordPress Logo

WordPress logo

I’ve been developing content and building websites for a long, long time now. In the beginning, we did almost always from scratch. Occasionally, I used a template, but often it was just sitting at the keyboard grinding out a design and some code.

The past three or four sites, however, have all been developed on WordPress. Instead of worrying about HTML, CSS, Javascript, or divs, I get to focus on the content.

Initially, I only used WordPress as a blogging platform with the main body as the new content area. It was the standard blog structure where the newest post appeared on top, pushing the older posts down.

But now I’ve started to discover new ways to control WordPress to make it look like a regular website. So instead of posting a standard blog post, I am building a nice homepage with functional interior pages. In most cases, it still looks like a blog platform, which is fine by me. In most of these newer sites, I’m looking for a homegrown feel that highlights the content, not the snazzy design. Continue reading

Content Strategy Tip – Write Awful Content

Here’s a novel content strategy for you. Make some awful content. And when you’re done with that, make some more bad content.

How is that “content strategy,” you ask? Good question.

This year I published a book called “Creating Comics from Start to Finish.” It’s a book for people who aspire to create comic books. I included a section for writers where I offered the concept of the “Rule of 10.”

I won’t go into the whole thing (buy the book), but the Rule of 10 is all about practice. Specifically, if you are a writer, you need to create 10 stories before you even dare to pitch your stuff to an editor. By writing these 10 stories, you will write through your clichés and stiff storytelling. You will write through your amateurish experimentation, which nobody should have to pay for. Continue reading

How to Break WordPress and Destroy Your Blog

WordPress Logo Cracked

I broke WordPress.

Everything was working fine. Let’s get that out there just to start. My blog was not broken, nor did it need any specific adjustments.

But still I said to myself, “today…we optimize!” And that was the beginning of the end…and how I broke WordPress.

I’ve been developing websites for a long time. I got into this business in 1995 and the web was a very different place. There were fewer tools for generating webpages and they were buggy and frustrating to use. Making content online required generating HTML code by hand, which meant you really had to learn it.

I don’t mind monkeying around in the code. Experimenting is good, but you can go too far.

And now, let me give you a tutorial on how you can do exactly what I did to mess up my blog.

You too can break your WordPress installation, cause yourself hours of aggravation, lose productivity, and learn a very, very important lesson.

Ready for some fun? Break out the Rolaids ’cause we’re going to break WordPress! Continue reading

Marketing: It’s Just Too Easy

A friend of mind and I were talking about how to first brand and then market his company’s brand. We had a long, rambling conversation about marketing channels like YouTube, Vimeo, blogs, Twitter, etc.

When he told me, “on Twitter, anybody can build up a massive following, so it’s not really worth doing,” he stopped me in my tracks.

Upon further clarification, he told me that on Twitter anyone can follow a bunch of people and then unfollow them to build of your following. That traffic building technique, he explained, was one of the reasons Twitter didn’t really matter. It just seemed too easy. That, and anybody can get 50,000 followers, if you know how to work the system.

Anyway, the conversation continued normally until my kids got hungry and began demanding dinner. So we broke off the call and went to our respective families.

My friend was being honest and candid as he talked about the marketing channels that he thought were most effective. This was due, in part, with his feeling that Twitter was too easy. Continue reading

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery Fails

StumbleUpon Logo

If you’re a new blogger trying to figure out how to get more traffic to your site, then you’re not alone. Everyone wants new traffic. Yet it’s not enough to get traffic, you want to get the right traffic. Qualified readers. Right?

On Word+Pictures=Web, I am usually trying to attract readers interested in technology, marketing, photography, new media, gadgets, comic books, and fun stuff like that. Digging into my stats, I noticed that I was getting some good traffic from StumbleUpon.com.

Note: For blog analytics, I use a combination of Site Stats from WordPress and Google Analytics. Both packages are free.

StumbleUpon Paid Discovery became available in March, 2011, so I guess I am an early adopter here. It required a new sign up and some basic information, all of which was quick and easy. Paid Discovery offers three pricing teirs, which includes Light, Standard and Premium.

  • Light – 5 cents per visitor
  • Standard – 10 cents per visitor
  • Premium – 25 cents per visitor

At this point, I selected Light because I was just getting started and there really wasn’t much information out there. There is a lot more information about how to run search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns on Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing, but not much on Paid Discovery.
Continue reading

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

There’s power in the media. Still, today, we’re still influenced by things we read or see or otherwise receive from the media.

Part of it is presentation and packaging. If something looks professional, we mentally assign a level of credibility. Conversely, if it looks cheap or poorly produced, it is easier to dismiss.

Tonight, a friend and colleague forwarded along a link to an article he though I’d find interesting, since it was about the industry in which I work. He was right; the article was extremely compelling. Despite it being quite long, I read it immediately and entirely.

I mean, how could I stop? The article was complete and utter trash. Biased, reporting that showed the writer’s contempt for the fair and balanced journalism. But it looked good and appeared on a website that also appeared to publish other credible articles.

If I didn’t know something about the topic (i.e., I work in the industry), I’d read the article and think, “wow, look at these corrupt bastards who beat the system, someone should go get them!” That’s probably what many people thought when they read the article.

It’s not like yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, but it is dangerous in a different way. People who read it may assume that the writer was reporting honestly and accurately. Checking facts and getting both sides of the story. Checks and balances.

That’s not what happened, and fortunately there were a fair amount of posts that called out that writer on his biased article. Good for them. No censorship was required here, because the community recognized the writer’s unfair bias and challenged his slanted reporting.

In the days of old media, there was usually an editorial staff, which included reviewers who checked facts. They didn’t always get it right, but at least there were multiple sets of eyes reviewing copy before it went to the printer. Sure there were always articles that leaned to the left or to the right, but good editors often forced reporters to tell both sides of the story. To let the readers make up their own minds. And very biased articles usually found a home on the OpEd page, where strong opinions were welcome, facts be damned.

But now the world is changing, sometimes even for the better. Journalism and reporting has certainly changed, both for better and for worse. Often articles (including this blog post) go from they keyboard to the web without anyone but the writer reviewing it before it goes live. Nobody is required to fact check anymore.

And now, as with before, don’t believe everything you read out there.

Blog Traffic Tip #2: Know Your Stats

Blog-Traffic-TipsToday’s tip is about knowing your site statistics. But don’t panic, you don’t need to be good with numbers to understand this blog post.

Many people blog for professional reasons. Maybe they want to be considered a thought leader in their field. This kind of self-marketing, personal branding effort is sometimes referred to as Brand You.

If you’re blogging to build a base for Brand You, then you’re going to want to drive enough traffic to make it worth your time and energy. And how can you tell this? Site stats, of course.

Most blog platforms (I use WordPress) come with some sort of free analytics package that allows you to get basic information on visitors to your blog. Click a few buttons, and software will immediately start to track what people are doing on your blog. Neat and easy.

Here are a few things you should be looking for:

  • How are people getting to your blog? Is it search engine traffic? Other blogs?
  • If you are posting your blog and then tweeting it on Twitter, are people clicking that link?
  • What words are people typing into Google and Yahoo to get to your blog?
  • What day of the week are they visiting your blog? Time of day?

All of this is accessible in your stats. And — trust me here — it’s not that hard to understand.

If you really start to get into it, you can use a free software package for even more information. I recommend Google’s free Google Analytics software. It’s a bit more challenging to install, but the amount of information you can get is amazing.

Spend a little time looking at your stats. You’d be amazed at what you can learn about your readership and the basic usability of your website and/or blog. Keyword analysis may help you figure out better ways to search engine optimize your site.

Serious websites need professional analysts to understand site statistics. At work, we study the site stats to better understand what content, tools, and resources people use on our websites. This helps us build out future content and plan other digital media initiatives.

You may never want to get to that level of analysis, of course. But just having a basic grasp of your site stats will help you create a better blog experience for your readers.

Now get started. Your stats are waiting for you.

See also: Blog Traffic Tip #1 Be Controversial

Blog Traffic Tip #1 Be Controversial

Blog-Traffic-TipsSo you’re thinking about a blog to promote yourself? Awesome. As your personal self-appointed blog expert, I will offer useful traffic-driving tips (that I may or may not use myself).

First: Content is king. Wow, I know, deep. But it was true when we used to slay trees to share information, and it’s true now. If you have the right content, people want to read, see, experience it.

So if you’re planning your blog, you may be interested in:

Blog Traffic Tip #1: Be Controversial
So, you want traffic, but you don’t want to resort to posting naughty pictures of celebrities. Fine, me neither. So today’s blog traffic tip is to Be Controversial. Stir the pot. Give ’em somethin’ to talk about.

Example: Kurt Sutter is a successful Hollywood producer who worked on The Shield and is the creator of Sons of Anarchy. The guy is credible. So when he talks, people listen.

Boy does he talk. His blog SutterInk is an eye opener, especially when you consider Sutter is talking about people who pay (or may someday pay) his salary. It’s a bare-knuckled critique of the television industry. Even for people not working in Hollywood, it is a startlingly brutal blog.

And, if you just judge it by comments, people read Sutter’s blog. A lot. His recent blog post “NBC’s Act of Contrition” has already netted 65+ posts in under two days.

I loved the Shield, and now I plan to check out Sons of Anarchy. Yes, because of Sutter’s blog, I want to see what kind of television this guy produces.

So…back to Tip #1. If you want to drive traffic to your website, consider a little bit of controversy. Note: it may help if you already have a good contract and a few Emmys to back up your talent. If you’re just a regular shlub, you could end up unemployed. Blog about that.