The Problem with Blogging

Fingers on keyboardThere's no point in beating around the bush. The main problem with blogs is that they're hard to maintain.

After the first few months, you begin to understand that like anything else, it's work. And not just a little bit of work. It's a lot of work.


I began blogging in 2007 and have been both a faithful and an unfaithful blogger in the time since. However two years of steady writing at a time is the most I've been able to accomplish before falling off the blog wagon.

Oh, there's tons of excuses. I've used them all. But once you stop writing on your blog, it's easier to stay stopped than it is to start again. I've probably spent more time thinking about NOT blogging than I have about what to write in the first place.

My most successful blog was my children's literature blog –Crazy4KidsBooks Upon reflection, I think the reason that blog was successful comes down to three things.

  • Clarity – I reviewed children's books. Just for the joy of it. Since things on the Internet never die, the blog is still there. The content is mostly book reviews with an occasional rant about funding school and public libraries. I was totally clear on the blog's purpose and function.
  • Community – Once I began, I was almost immediately welcomed into the community of children's literature bloggers. A wonderful ragtag group of teachers, parents, librarians, writers, illustrators, and folks from the publishing industry. And what's not to like about talking books with other readers and finding boxes of books on your doorstep each month?
  • Contribution – Although the most popular books might be reviewed on multiple blogs, there was an interesting lack of redundancy between children's book blogs. Each reviewer had their own interests and experience that colored their choice of titles. So together (at that time roughly 500 of us), we produced a large canon of book reviews and opinions that celebrated our love of good stories. They, of course, have continued to create wonderful content in my absence.

So, can I extrapolate anything useful from this experience and apply to my now third refresh of this marketing blog?

At this point I can tell you that being passionate about marketing or even about helping teachers and students is not enough to keep most people showing up at the keyboard for weeks, months, and years.

I think the three points above are actully key success criteria for any blog. It's not enough to love what you do.

It's about finding clarity, building community, and making a contribution.

In our world of educational publishing, being focused and clear about who our community is and how we can help them is the first requirement. What information do they need to accomplish their goals?

Building a community of people who resonate with what we have to share is another key ingredient. Learning and sharing with others is collegial and fun.

By helping educational companies share their customer stories, we contribute to the body of information called  'What Works' in education.

My goal continues to be helping educational companies tell their stories about changing the lives of teachers and students. In restarting this blog, I'm going to keep in mind the three lessons from above – finding clarity, building community, and making a contribution.

We'll see if I can beat my two-year blogging record by sharing successful marketing strategies with educational publishers and providers.

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Does Common Core Have a Branding Problem?

  This article was first published at MCH Data's blog.

In her first piece for the new Education Post, Tracy Dell’Angela suggests that the real issue around Common Core Standards is that they have a branding problem.

confusion.jpgReferencing the 2014 EdNext data, she says: “Americans… want clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do in math, reading and writing from elementary through high school. Maybe they don’t like the name, but they want what Common Core offers. They know we must expect more from our children.”

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3 Reasons to Use Twitter in Your Educational Marketing

twitterMost companies use Twitter the same way they use advertising – as a one-way communication blast. Although it is easy to set up and manage your Twitter account this way, it is limiting and off-putting to your target audience. They quickly see through your self-serving Tweets, and tune you out. Often, for good. If you think of your website as “information central” and your Twitter account as an “outpost,” gathering and sharing intelligence, then you’ve got the right idea.The three best ways to use Twitter in your marketing are:

 

  • Research
  • Building Awareness
  • Establishing Authority

You can think of research in this sense as keeping your ear to the ground. Educators are talking and sharing on Twitter. They share what’s happening in their classrooms and schools, what they think about education issues, and what they need help with. Twitter is a direct channel to the connected educator…the educator who is actively invested in learning how to be more effective by connecting with other educators across the country. Building a community of interest and awareness of your products is the goal on Twitter. It is not a direct sales channel. As you know, educators are particularly sensitive to marketing spiels. Once they determine you are more interested in selling your stuff than in helping them, they’re gone. They’ll pass right over you.

So, how do you build community and awareness without turning off educators?

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3 Ways to Optimize Your Investment of Time in Social Media

 

Time to go One of the biggest objections to launching a social media plan is concern about the investment of time and money.

Straightforward social media plans do not have to cost a lot of money. You can certainly spend a lot of money, but more expensive does not necessarily equate to more successful.

The largest component of any social media plan is time. Whether it’s your time, a team member’s time or a freelancer’s time, it takes time and lots of it.

There are a number of automation programs that can make social media more efficient: Hoot Suite, Hubspot, and Wildfire are three of the most popular. However, you don’t want to sacrifice engagement and building relationships for greater efficiency. Even the best automation plans require time spent on interaction with your community.

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Case Study Must Haves for K-12 Solutions

 

students and school computersOne of the most common ways to demonstrate product efficacy or to tell a product story in the K-12 industry is through a case study or a customer success story. Case studies are an important component of your content marketing strategy in pushing out content of interest to your community of prospects.

While the general structure of a case study is basically the same across all industries, K-12 stories are usually quite compelling because they strike at the heart of two things our culture holds most dear – kids and education.

Case studies have a four-part basic structure:

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Why Content is the Secret Sauce in Your Marketing Mix

 

secret sauce for your marketing mixWhen developing a marketing mix for a new campaign, not only do we need to ensure that each channel's tactics complements the others, but they also need to stand on their own to move the prospect forward to the next step in the process.

Our marketing mix should include every available channel that makes sense for the product. We can choose from: direct marketing (including email, phone, print), search marketing, social media marketing, advertising, public relations and mobile marketing.

Different products require a different marketing mix, but no matter what channels we use, each should lead the prospect to the product website which is "brand central." It's there that we get to tell our story in detail and prove our authentic intention to help customers solve their problems.

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Grow Your Business with Online Professional Learning Communities

grow your businessK-12 educators receive encouragement from their school districts to seek out online professional development opportunities. There they can form professional learning communities (PLCs) or a professional learning network (PLN). While some districts provide direction and a platform, other districts encourage teachers, librarians and administrators to find and participate in a PLC of their own choosing.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of presenting a free webinar called “Growing Your Business with Online Communities,” for K-12 education publishers sponsored by edWeb.net, a professional social network for the education community, and MCH Strategic Data, an education data company.

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The Role of Storytelling in Effective Marketing

Once upon a timeHuman beings have been sharing stories since the dawn of time. It’s the way we connect with each other. Stories that create a heart connection are the most successful – when we can imagine ourselves in someone else’s story.

Good marketing has that same effect. Think of Hallmark commercials, for example. Their sweet and nostalgic vignettes strike an emotional chord. Other common responses to ads and commercials include laughter, irritation, or a sense of disbelief.

But whatever the reaction, the marketing has succeeded to some degree because it evoked a response. We saw ourselves, even for a moment, in that story. The reason videos go viral is because those stories successfully capture a moment and trigger a response.

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Three Basic Elements of Successful Customer Engagement

talking chairs individualityEarlier this week we talked about the difference between social media marketing and content marketing. What they share at their core is the idea of authentic customer engagement.

So what is the essence of successful customer engagement?

First you must to listen with genuine interest to your customer. You have to hear what their concerns, issues and goals are.

Second, you must understand how to help them solve their concerns with what you have to offer which is relevant to them.

Third, you must respond to them in an authentic and transparent way supporting their need for individual attention, additional information or the move to the next step of the process.

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The Difference Between Social Media Marketing and Content Marketing

To put these topics in appropriate relationship to each other, it’s best to begin with a definition of content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as ‘the creation and distribution of educational or compelling content in multiple formats used to acquire and retain customers.”

What do we mean by “content”? Content can be as short as 140-character tidbits to share on Twitter or it can be long-form white papers, articles, videos, etc. To be valued, the content has to be informational and topic-focused rather than the traditional product focused marketing of the past.

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