Wow. I cannot believe it. It’s been two months since the last post on this blog. Thanks to all of you who reached out to find out why it’s been so quiet here. There is a simple reason. Sometime around New Year, I realised that I was due for a creative break from writing. It’s a ton of fun to run a blog with so many awesome readers. Still, writing got a bit harder in the last quarter of 2012. I decided to take an inventory: 196 posts over 1.5 years. That’s a lot of ink on paper! Blogging should be fun and the decision to take a step back and focus on other things for a while was surprisingly easy. I have used the time to start a few different projects including a new photography blog along with a new posterbook publication.
Is the Performance Ideas blog done? Nope. I will be back in a while. The focus will probably shift a little bit. In my new role at OSIsoft, I focus on real-time data and the according analytics. There are a ton of interesting stories and best practices.
In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to submit guest posts, ideas, inspirations and stories. Stay tuned for updates!
Blogging is fun! Yes, it is. I started the Performance Ideas Blog almost two years ago and I would not want to miss that. There were certainly some stretches where I thought about just dropping the project. Blogging regularly requires a lot of discipline and focus. This is especially true when you write the majority of the posts planes, trains, airline lounges and random hotel rooms. Some friend recently asked why I still went ahead and kept on growing this blog. Here are some of my top reasons. If you have asked yourself the question ‘Why blog?’, you might find some inspiration here in this post.
Why blog? 13 reasons
You need to stay fresh & agile. Blogging frequently requires you to constantly search for topics. This keeps you fresh and agile. Also, you tend to know more than others who don’t put in that effort.
You get to learn many new things. Writing about something requires you to have a deeper understanding about a topic. A successful post looks at various different angles. I therefore often invest time researching ideas. That includes following other blogs, reading more books, attending more conferences. That allows me to learn.
You conquer some fears. Writing about certain topics can be scary. There are some posts where you are not quite sure how people will react. Sometimes there is criticism. But at the end of the day, you just post the stuff and you feel good about not letting your fear stop you.
You get rewarded. Certain posts often generate tons of feedback. It feels awesome to see people sharing your content. It feels even better to receive emails, tweets or comments.
You create new relationships. The Performance Ideas blog has dramatically increased my network. I have met a bunch of fantastic analytics professionals and other bloggers. And these relationships pay off.
You actively build your own brand. Blogging allows you to share your ideas and to actively shape your own brand. Your brand is no longer just determined by who you really are but also by what Google says about you. Blog posts feed and shape your online persona.
You let your creativity flow. Blogging allows me to combine my passion for business, photography and design. I love taking photos for the different posts. Developing posts is definitely a great way to get creative.
You develop (potentially) valuable skills. Running your own blog requires you to learn new and unexpected skills. I use the self-hosted version of WordPress and have taught myself a ton about that platform and social media. While I don’t have any use for those skills in my job, I was able to build my wife a new website for her recent business launch. We developed her presence within half a day. It was fun and Jen was able to save a ton of money (hmmm…she does owe me a dinner!)
You get to do something geeky. Running your blog in a self-hosted environment allows to get really geeky sometimes. You get to configure plug-ins, tune databases and test new functionality. Well, I sometimes enjoy that type of thing.
You stay current with social media and web x.0. Running a successful blog without being involved in social media is almost not possible. This has forced me to dig a lot deeper than I ever thought.
You get market insights. Performance Ideas is a business blog. As such it is an interesting measure of what people are interested in. Some posts receive virtually no traffic whereas others go viral. And that is an excellent indicator of what people care about. I have often used these insights to develop new presentations or to prepare for customer meetings.
You get to feel like a rockstar…sort of. On more than several occasions, people have approached me at conferences and wanted to know if I was ‘the guy from the Performance Ideas blog’….oh man….those moments make you feel like a rockstar….and then reality sets back in….
You develop an valuable repository. In the past, I often lost good ideas. But having a blog allows you to capture everything. You build up a repository of your own thoughts. And that is extremely valuable.
Well, those are just thirteen reasons. I could go on and easily find another twenty or thirty. If you are considering to write your own blog, just get started. Give it a try. Some of my former colleagues and friends also recently started their own blogs and I think they really enjoy it, too.
If Dr. Johann August Unzer would have had a company website, it would have been a very lively place. The practicing physician from Altona, Germany, was the publisher of the well-known medical weekly journal “Der Arzt” („The Physician”) as well as the author of numerous medical, philosophical and early psychological essays. His home was a central point for society in Altona. On the painting of Johann Jacob Tischbein, which caught my attention during a visit at the German Museum of Medical History in Ingolstadt, he portrayed himself as a well-connected, scholarly medical scientist and author. He is surrounded by letters from colleagues and his hand rests on his best-seller: “Der Arzt” (“The Physician”), published 1759 to 1764 also as a set of 12 books.
Unzer dedicated himself to topics that were discussed intensively in the medical world of the 18th century. He wrote for example “De sternutatione”, a discussion about sneezing. And he wrote down his “Gedancken vom Einfluß der Seele in ihren Körper” (“Thoughts on the influence of the soul on its body”). Burning questions that wanted to be answered.
Since the invention of a search engine, however, one must no longer consult experts nor call nor mail a letter in order to find answers; the answer appears on the computer screen within milliseconds – delivery free of charge.
Google prefers high-quality content
Sophisticated content marketing for companies utilizes the new possibilities of searching for answers. A company website is no longer optimized towards products but rather towards topics. One of the reasons for this is that Google prefers “high-quality” content that supplies answers and currently neglects outdated methods like keyword frequency.
But the one-time creation of content is not enough. The up-to-datedness of content is important; users and search engines prefer fresh content, whether that’s text, images, informative graphics, or video clips. An interaction with a graphically pleasing interface will, for example, offer easy entry into a topic, which is particularly recommended for complex matters and generates a long user session.
Know-how generates topics
If one focuses on the customer‘s needs, the customer’s trust in that brand increases immensely, which will automatically result in higher sales volumes. Schwarzkopf’s story of success is often told: the internal website was completely revamped, and since early 2011 presents itself like a thematic portal in the style of Vogue or Madame. Complete with topics regarding hair – and since then with fantastic hit-rates.
The engineering blogs of Indium, a developer and producer of special alloys for component production show how to create high-quality content in the B2B segment. Indium recognized that company’s content capital is made up of the Know-How of its staff and its network.
In order to create high-quality content it is necessary for marketing, PR, and distribution to work together on a daily basis. Distribution staffs are familiar with their customer’s needs, the PR department develops topics in alignment with these needs, and marketing prepares the content according to the various formats and knows the best distribution channels.
Once content is placed, it works “round the clock“, on the web
Many companies balk at the high expenditure of time for the production of content. It’s not for impatient people: such measures don’t have immediate effects but they improve the reputation of the company bit by bit. However, since content works round the clock for the company once its placed, success can be seen faster and is effective for a much longer time than in printed customer magazines, for example.
For as long as he was alive, Dr. Johann August Unzer refused offers to teach as a professor in Copenhagen or Goettingen. His publications were highly recognized and solidified his reputation as an expert in his field. He surely had enough well-paying patients.
In this context, content marketing is nothing new. For a company it is today much easier to connect with its target group. Once upon a time one placed its message exclusively into commercial breaks, which interrupted customer discussions, but today it’s possible to participate in the discussion. Once this is understood, one can use content marketing to provide suggestions regarding the direction into which the discussion may go.
Bernhard Lermannsupports customers from the semiconductor, industrial electronics, logistics and IT industries and small to medium size businesses for Lermann Public Relations. He designs story lines for content marketing strategies and for company videos and regularly writes specialized contributions for companies from his core segments.
This mission of this blog is to share ideas about business analytics. One of the things I want to increasingly do this year is to feature more guest bloggers and do more interviews.
A few months ago, I came across Sanjay Shetty’s unique blog Communities R Us. His approach to blogging about social media topics is very visual. Sanjay and I ended up connecting via a recent blog post where we exchanged a few ideas. The idea of a guest post quickly developed. And here it is: Sanjay Shetty writes about his views on Social Business Intelligence.
Evolution of Social Business Intelligence: Human Business Intelligence
Social Media provides a fantastic opportunity for enterprises to gather enormous amount of business intelligence, whether it’s about their customers likes and dislikes, or whether it’s competitive intelligence. My earlier post and video covered quite a bit of ground. However, I’ve seen organizations limiting themselves and the power of the social opportunity in leveraging true human business intelligence.
Social media have changed the way we market to our customers. But reaching the right people is not all that easy as you have probably experienced. The basic idea of Zarrella’s book is to look at why certain ideas are contagious and what you can do to make sure that your message is heard in the various social media channels. Zarrella introduces a useful model (Zarrella’s Hierarchy) that helps explain how messages get spread through social media. It is a hierarchy of three criteria:
Exposure: People need to be exposed to a piece of content.
Attention: Once people are exposed, will they actually notice the message?
Motivation: Once an idea has been noticed, will people share it with others?
The experts at Decker Communications just released their annual list of the top ten best and worst communicators. I always look forward to this annual article. Not only is it interesting but it is also entertaining and sometimes a bit sad. I highly recommend spending a few minutes going through their blog post. There is a lot to be learned from the best (and the worst…).
Communication skills are more important today than ever before. There is so much noise around us. Being heard amongst all the information frenzy requires us to continuously work on our skills. In his amazing book You’ve got to be believed to be heard, Bert Decker sums that up nicely:
“The message for all of us is clear: Whatever our life goals, our career goals, or our dreams of a better world, the key to success lies in our ability to communicate. No matter how uncomfortable or ill-equipped we feel as communicators, we dare not back away from the challenge of becoming effective speakers.”
Over the past few years, I have attended more conferences than I can remember. Unfortunately, there are always a few people who deliver extremely poor presentations. Some of them simply do not care. Others are extremely nervous. And some of them simply have nothing to say. But the result is always the same: a lot of wasted time (think about the audience loosing 45 minutes of their lives) and the speaker’s reputation is often damaged (would you purchase expensive software or services from the arrogant person who could not articulate a clear message?).
Presentation coach Jerry Weissman states:
“If any one presentation fails, there may be no tomorrow. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS
2011 is almost over. Towards year-end, most of us sit down to make goals for the next year. Working on communication skills is always on my personal list. So, what can you do? Here are a few ideas:
Less than six weeks ago I was lucky to get an invitation to Google+ . While I have not had too much time to play around with it, I do have to admit that I have a serious crush on this tool. Here are some early impressions:
Clean interface: Google+ looks awesome. It is pretty basic but that makes it beautiful. The design allows you to focus on the important stuff – the content.
Circles make sense: Circles allow you to group your followers into different groups (Circles). I have circles for business stuff, photography, friends etc.. You can simply drag and drop people to arrange your circles. Once you have setup the Circles you can then use them to control the flow of your content: a cool new photo ebook should only go out to my photo circle. The latest business analytics story goes out to my business circle. Circles is so much easier to use than lists on Facebook or Twitter. This makes Google+ much better suited for combining business with pleasure than Facebook or Twitter.
Posting stuff: Very simple and easy. Just like Facebook or Twitter. Along with posting stuff, you also determine that Circle that your content should go out to.
Slick iPhone app: The app is clean, looks great and works well. A bit cleaner than Facebook’s app.
Excellent traffic: A lot of people are already posting top content. Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, Tim O’Reilly, Guy Kawasaki. I prefer following those guys on Google+ over Twitter. The interface makes more sense.
So far so good. But here is the question I am struggling with: How many additional networks do we want to maintain? I am active on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon. Living and working in Germany also requires me to be on Xing. Arrgh. And now there is Google+. Do I want to give up one or two networks? Personally, I have not yet figured out a good strategy.
Summary: Google+ is a bit of a perfect mix between Twitter and Facebook: Much more versatile than Twitter. Just about as powerful as Facebook. A bit cleaner than Facebook. Circles allow you to use Google+ in a way that is very similar to Twitter. This might make Google+ the best social network out there today. I do have a crush on it! But every relationship needs to grow and there is still lot’s to discover. Let’s see where this one will end up. I highly recommend giving it a try sooner than later.
P.S.: Please let me know if you would like to have an invitation to join Google+. Drop me a note on Twitter via @cpapenfuss or send me a mail (email@example.com)…..hmmm…you have to use Twitter to get on Google+….First come, first serve.
You might have noticed a few changes on this site: new URL and new layout. Encouraged by a bunch of friends and readers, I finally decided to migrate this blog from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. In other words, Performance Ideas moved from a hosted to a self-hosted model. The tremendous feedback and support from you along with the fun this project has been, led me down this path. When I started this blog in November of 2010, I had no idea how much traffic this site would generate. It was more about capturing a few ideas here and there. Many thanks to all of you for reading the posts and providing comments via this blog, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Not all that much on the surface. There is a new layout that will hopefully make it easier and more fun for you to follow the blog. Also, I am implementing better social media integration, analytics etc to enhance the overall experience. The URL is different as well. It is and easier to remember (nine characters less):
In case you have subscribed via email, you will have to sign-up again (sorry!!!). The old site will re-direct to the new site for a while.
Running a blog in a hosted environment like wordpress.com or Blogger is really easy. But after a while, I found that the hosted environment is very restrictive. The possibilities to customize the blog are limited. You are pretty much dependent on the platform that you choose.
Think about the Facebook Like button: wordpress.com only added that feature about 2 months ago. The same is true for statistics: the ability to understand what works and why is also limited. If you are thinking about starting a serious blog, I would therefore recommend to consider a self-hosted model sooner than later. However, I do have to say that I was very happy with wordpress.com.
The blog migration from wordpress.com to wordpress.org was a lot easier than I expected. It actually did not take that long. If it wasn’t for a few issues I had with my host, I could have completed the migration within an hour. Yes, it is that easy. But the devil is always in the details. And that’s where I spent a few hours fine-tuning the new site. Here are some of the lessons learned:
Get some help: My good friends @lermann and @wiemann have a lot of experience with WordPress.org, web development and blogging. It was extremely helpful to receive their input before and during the migration. It’s all about the team!
Effort: Establishing the blog in a self-hosted environment requires a lot more effort than I had anticipated. You will have to research and install a bunch of plug-ins to do ‘simple things’ like commentaries, ratings etc.. Getting the basics back up and running did take some time. Also, the on-going maintenance will require some effort here and there. But that’s part of the fun.
Pay: A self-hosted blog costs money: hosting space, templates, plug-ins, books etc.. I am also paying to re-route my old blog to the new one. The Euros quickly added up. You might want to anticipate this before jumping ship.
Migration tools: WordPress has an amazing export & import feature. All posts & comments were imported flawlessly. That process took less than 20 minutes to complete. I would highly recommend sticking to that.
Try: There are so many great WordPress templates. I spend some time customizing one that I initially liked. Later I found some other ones that looked much better. I therefore highly recommend downloading and trying a few before actually starting to put in the effort to customize everything.
Read: There are some great sites and ebooks that provide a ton of input. I highly recommend researching a few and scanning through these before actually starting the project. I especially found the migration pdf on www.blog-well.com helpful. The eBook ‘The WordPress Power Guide’ is a quick but effective read. If you are interested, I have some additional recommendations.
The initial blog migration is done. It’s been fun! But it’s not 100% done, yet. You can therefore expect additional changes in the next few months.
Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback. When I get a chance, I will put a short white paper together that describes the entire migration process. Many thanks for your amazing support!
This past month, I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I did not travel. Being home also opened up the opportunity to hang out in some of the famous beergardens in Munich. In case you haven’t been to a beergarden – it’s kind of like a social network: You connect with friends and strangers, you share, you chat, you collect and you sometimes get spammed (mostly by drunk people). One of those evenings I met a few people from a former job. The entire group basically consisted of pretty successful guys in their mid 30s and 40s. One of them raised the topic of social networking.
About a year ago I discovered a true treasure: Blogs. No, I didn’t find out about them a year ago. Just like everybody else, I had been reading some of them here and there. Sure, I had a few bookmarks on my work & personal laptop. But I never really got into the habit of actively leveraging the awesome, inspiring and educational content many blogs offer us today. I never systematically participated in highly valuable discussions around certain posts that cover topics that are important to my job and personal life. And that is really too bad. Many of my friends and colleagues are running into the same issues. But the iPad and some awesome apps changed that. Here are some ideas for you to get started with enjoying the valuable content.
“The more we can lower or even eliminate the activation energy for our desired actions, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.” Shawn Achor
The biggest hurdle for me to really enjoy blogs was the process of sourcing the content. Bookmarks here and there didn’t do it for me. I tried loading a few RSS Feeds into my mail program but that didn’t work either. Google Reader did a somewhat decent job for a while but I do not usually enjoy reading on my laptop. Plus, I spend so much time on the road. But the iPad started offering some amazing Blog Readers. These apps allow you to easily subscribe to your favorite blogs and to take the content with you. Even offline. The apps basically automate the sourcing process. Suddenly I had access to valuable blog content even while sitting on an airplane. And that is what did it for me. Today, I read a ton of blogs on a daily basis. What apps are there? Well, I use three different ones. And I am not quite sure yet, which app is my favorite.
The Early Edition looks and handles like a regular newspaper. You can literally sit down every morning with your coffee and read your personal blog and newsfeed paper. New blog posts and news are easily identified. Navigation is intuitive. The layout is very simple but effective from my point of view. All synchronized content is available offline (except for photos and graphics). The app is pretty fast overall. However, subscribing to new blogs is a bit tedious: You have to know the feed address and copy it into the app. This app currently costs USD 4.99 making it one of the more expensive readers.
Pulse is one of the most popular readers (it’s currently free!) But I am still warming up to it. The interface looks sophisticated but it is a bit too loud for my taste. There is a lot going on which impacts the reading experience. On the other hand, subscribing to new blogs and newsfeeds is super easy: there is a catalogue and you can search for specific blogs. The original setup process is therefore a lot easier than with the Early Edition. You can also add Facebook updates to the reader. Content is available offline but without pictures and graphics.
Blogshelf is an app that I just recently added. I was a bit frustrated with the fact that Early Edition and Pulse do not synchronize photos and graphics for offline use. Blogshelf fixes that issue and even allows you to save certain pictures to your photo collection. The app has a clean interface that looks and feels like iBooks. Searching for new blogs and other feeds is extremely easy and pleasant. It took me under five minutes to get the app up and running with my content. But organizing blogs is abysmal. The other two readers are much better at that. Identifying new blog posts requires you to scan through your entire bookshelf and to look for little orange triangles on the different subscriptions.
If you own an iPad or a smartphone, take a look at these iPad Blog Readers. My personal favorite is still Early Paper but I am slowly migrating towards Blogshelf because of the ability to view the entire post (with graphics) in offline mode. All apps have definitely made a huge difference for me. There are some excellent blogs out there and it would be a shame to miss engaging with the content and/ or the authors. These apps lower the hurdle towards actively reading and following the blogs. And of course: Make sure to subscribe to this blog! 😉 Let me know if you have other iPad Blog Readers and experiences to share.
UPDATE – September 2012
Things have changed since the original post. Blogshelf is no longer available in the app store. It still works on iOS 6, although it does crash often. The Early Edition has received a major make-over and looks better than ever. You can also export all your feeds and import them easily to Google Reader. This app is by far my favorite. Pulse has improved dramatically as well. However, it only allows 60 feeds. I do follow a ton of blogs and this is not enough for my only personal taste.