It’s a big week here at Reid All About It, I’ll tell you why later.

But enough about life for now, let’s get back to business. If you have trouble coming up with good content for your organization’s blog, you’ll like these 5 Sources for Great Blog Post Ideas by Joseph Wesley Putnam at Blogtweaks. Sources #1 and #4, concepts you explain and questions you answer, both rely on listening and capturing. Make it a habit to capture post ideas whenever and wherever you get them — in a computer file, on a notepad or in your phone. The more you train your mind to listen, the more ideas you’ll get.

Once you have a good topic, review The Ultimate 8-Point Checklist for Remarkable Content by Pamela Seiple on the Hubspot blog. There’s no use writing about something unless the topic is worthy of your readers’ time.

I love Twitter. It’s my favorite social media platform by far. However, many people on Twitter don’t know how to use it, don’t give a hoot about their followers or suffer from a combination of the two. Peter Shankman lists The Top 10 Things That Need to Die on Twitter. I don’t usually like “rules” posts that mandate how we should and shouldn’t tweet, but I agree with Shankman’s list, except for #6, Foursquare check-ins. I don’t mind seeing where my friends are, unless they’re checking in at the office (seriously, who cares). However, I stop following people if their twitter stream contains more check-ins than any other type of tweet.

Claire Celsi asks us to: “Challenge yourself never to send another standard press release again.” She wants us to use our skills and creativity instead to get our news in front of reporters, and gives Six Alternatives to Sending a Press Release. If you absolutely must send a press release, I wrote earlier this year about ways to improve a press release’s chances of piquing interest.

Gayle C. Thorsen shares Ten Time Management Tips for Nonprofit Communicators. Don’t pass her by because of the word “nonprofit.” Her tips apply to anyone whose plate is too full, to-do list is too long and schedule is too busy. I can vouch for #3, Monday morning me-time. Give it a try.

You’ve strategized, read how-to posts, made editorial calendars and stressed over it, but still you can’t find the time or talent to write your organization’s blog posts. Don’t worry, the folks at Calvert Creative explain how busy leaders can blog without really blogging in The Number One Way to Kill Your Business Blog. The number one killer is not writing at all, turning your blog into a ghost town. Their answer: get help. Agencies and freelance writers, like me (ahem), can help you get your blog up and running again.

I have a very big special birthday coming up on Thursday, so I’ve been more reflective than usual. A few younger friends also celebrate birthdays this week, so this morning I imagined what words of wisdom I’d share with them, if they asked. “Fly your freak flag,” that’s what I’d say. I can’t take credit for those wise words, they’re from Joe Gerstandt, who every Friday encourages his readers, followers, friends, acquaintances and friends-he-hasn’t-yet-met (like me) to let their freak flags fly. You’ll have to read the “love note” he wrote to us last Friday to find out what that means: Put It Up In The Air. Hoist it up, friends!

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photo by nataliekbeats/flickr

I’m back from the beach and plowing through emails, blog posts, conference tweets and more. Thanks to Andrew Hanelly at TMG Custom Media’s Engage blog, I found seven ways to tame the beast: 7 Steps to Dealing with Information Overload.

If you’re coming back from vacation to blog editor duties, you’ll appreciate the advice in this post from Sarah Arrow at For Bloggers by Bloggers, especially if your blog relies on several contributors: 7 Laws That Make Your Multi Author Blog a Success.

When I tweeted out the link to this post, I described it as my best read all day. Noah Brier says the number one question he gets from brand marketers is: “What should I tweet about?” He goes on to write in Want to Tweet? First, Teach Your Brand to Speak at AdAge Digital: “What eludes brands so persistently in new media comes to people naturally.…The content people are sharing, unsurprisingly, is the content they are consuming.”

Ian Greenleigh laments the state of company websites in Quit Blogging Like a Tech Company at Dare to Comment. After posting product release notes and press releases, he says, “They discover how easy it is to blog about themselves. But no one reads it, or cares. Sooner or later, when that ROI never appears from the ether, they give up. And then they’re really blogging like a tech company, because they’re actually blogging so infrequently, it’s a sad little ghost town of quarterly posts.”

Why are Restaurant Websites so Horrifically Bad? asks Farhad Manjoo at Slate. Using hideous examples from some top-notch restaurants, he shows how the design and content fails miserably. The topic was picked up by the readers of Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish who pointed out the weaknesses of artist and college websites as well as restaurant sites. Although the posts are good for a laugh, there is a lot to learn here. Take a hard look at your organization’s website when you’re done.

My last one is for office refrigerators and bulletin boards everywhere, by my online association pal Jeffrey Cufaude: Anyone Can: So Why Not You? I’ve always been fond of #5: “Say what everyone knows but is afraid to bring up.” Who wouldn’t love #12? “Bring in a healthy snack for what will be a very long meeting.”

It’s been a while since I’ve written a curated post. If you or your organization have trouble finding time to write a post or figuring out what to write about, consider publishing a weekly curated post. As a reader, I love them – my favorite bloggers filter their information stream and select some of their best reads of the week. It’s just like Twitter but instead it’s all in one place and delivered via my Google Reader.

So how do you find great content? Well, it’s funny you ask. Mike Stelzner wrote about eight ways to do just that on Social Media Examiner.

I’ll let you in on my little secret for having great content to share on Twitter. You can scoff if you want but it’s been working for me for years. I explain it all in my post about tweeting like a real tweep.

Bob Leonard shares good basic advice on how to repurpose content you already have – speeches, white papers and sales presentations. He also explains how to find and curate content.

Now you might be thinking, “Nice, but how do I find the time to do all this stuff?” The Nonprofit Blog Carnival, hosted this month by Britt Bravo at Have Fun Do Good, gathered several posts about time management. I haven’t yet dipped into it but wanted to share it with you. I’ll pick a few favorites for a future You’ve Got to Read This post.

Or, you might be thinking, “Ok, I get the need for fresh useful and interesting content. But I don’t have time to write.” No problem, you can tell your story through a ghostwriter. The Winn Group (more accurately, their ghostwriter) explains what to look for in a ghostwriter. But, psst, you don’t need to contact them to find a ghostwriter, give me a holler instead.

If you write about social media, you might wonder how to spell some of its newfangled lingo. ReTweet or retweet? Fear not, Kerry Jones of Bluegrass Media gives us The Grammar of Social Media. Turn it into a one-pager and tack it up on your bulletin board.

And now for something completely different, the most awkward 404 page on the Internet (love it!) by Steve Lambert. Save this one for when you have several minutes to watch, it’s worth it.

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Steve Lambert helping lost website visitors

You can’t go far on the web without tripping over a productivity expert, or lifestyle guru but that’s another story. Unlike many productivity posts, this list from Lifehacker of ten ways to upgrade your morning routine is well worth reading. It includes a few ideas I hadn’t seen before — ideas that make sense and are doable.

My mornings have been more productive lately not only because of the push-ups that Lifehacker encourages, but also because I’m using time blocks to schedule my day. Beth Kanter introduced me to this idea in her post Time Management for Nonprofit Social Media Professionals. She shares a video that Chris Brogan made explaining how he uses time blocking.

My friend Lynn Morton explains why sometimes a timely and relevant post must override your editorial calendar. She talks about “piggybacking onto (a) collective experience,” like a conference or new trend. Editorial calendars are a must when blogging but often it’s the inspired thoughtful post discussing a hot topic that brings readers to your blog, and energy to your fingertips.

Here’s a short and not-so-sweet but necessary read: Michael Hyatt’s Why I Stopped Reading Your Blog. I squirmed a bit when reading it because it made me realize that even though I think I’m a pretty good blogger, there is still a lot of room for improvement. No more 500+ word posts!

I’ve talked to people who are hesitant to spend time on social media platforms because they’re uncomfortable putting their life out there for all to see, or they dread finding themselves in awkward situations. There are ways to make social media work for both your personal and professional lives. Angela Connor explains how to “take back your power” by developing a personal social media policy and shares her policy with us.

It can’t be helped, my final suggestion is another post by Lynn Morton – she’s on fire! Like me, Lynn is returning to her yoga practice. She explains the yoga concept of being present and gives ideas on how to apply that presence to your social media tactics. It’s not a woo-woo post, she provides solid social media advice.

 

I started reading blogs many years ago when I worked in associations. Back then it was a time-consuming process to go through my bookmarks and check each blog for new content. I had some bookmarks on my work computer and some on my home computer; it wasn’t very organized. My blog reading, as much as I enjoyed it, remained haphazard.

Then one day I discovered Google Reader and my life changed. Instead of clicking on bookmarks to see if a blog had any new posts to read, I sat back and blog posts came to me. I read them whenever I had time and didn’t have to worry about missing anything. I became a regular reader of association management blogs, learning something new about my profession everyday. I felt smarter and more motivated. Was I smarter than my boss? Who knows, but he was happy I was bringing new ideas to our chapter colleagues and to our association.

Soon I saw more and more references in these blogs to Twitter. I decided to try it out and started chatting to the association bloggers I’d been reading. Then I began to read blogs about social media and learned even more. I started commenting on blogs. And then in the spring of 2009, I became a blogger myself. It all started with Google Reader.

What’s in it for you?

A peek at the folders in my Reader will give you a sense of its benefits.

  • My Google Alerts and Twitter search results are sent there, as well as alerts from other listening tools, so I can keep up with mentions of my name or work. I can be responsive to others and participate in conversations that interest me. Even if your organization doesn’t participate in social media, please, at least set up Google Alerts.
  • Folders for blogging and writing, social media, marketing and association management keep me up to speed on my professional development.
  • Many of my friends (both near and far) blog about topics outside of my professional interests. By reading their blogs I get to keep up with their lives and expand my universe.
  • I subscribe to a lot of blogs about cooking, food and craft beer that are just plain fun and give me lots of recipes to try.
  • If you read a blog regularly, you’ll soon find yourself commenting regularly and feeling like part of the blog’s community.

How do you find good blogs to read?

  • My blogroll (down the sidebar to the right) is a good place to start. Check out their blogrolls too.
  • Alltop calls itself the online magazine rack of the web. Find new blogs by browsing through its topics.
  • If you’re on Twitter, check the profile of those you follow. Do they have blogs? You’ll also discover new blogs in the links shared by others. If you follow people with Twitter lists, see if any of the lists refer to experts. “Experts” usually have blogs.
  • If you see a thoughtful or helpful comment on a blog you read, click on the link embedded in the person’s name; perhaps they have a blog worth subscribing to.

Subscribing to blogs is easy.

Commoncraft has two videos that explain the process well – RSS in Plain English and Google Reader in Plain English.

It’s easy:

  • Click on the orange RSS icon (example to the right), feed burner icon (example to the right) or text similar to “subscribe to RSS feed” or “subscribe to Atom feed.”
  • The next window will display buttons for several types of readers. Select Google. Eventually you can set this as your default.
  • You’ll be given two options, “Add to Google Homepage” and “Add to Google Reader.” Select the Reader option.
  • Your Google Reader will open up. You may have to log in first, meaning you will need to set up a gmail account. In Reader, click on the drop-down for Feed Settings. Select whether to sort posts from this blog by newest first or oldest first, and select a folder for its posts.

Google has a bookmark bar button that makes it easy to “Subscribe as you Surf.” In your Reader, go to Settings, then Goodies, to find it.

Organize your Reader.

Create folders by topics. You can do this as you subscribe to blogs by selecting the New Folder option in the drop-down Feed Settings menu. You can rename folders and blog subscriptions anytime. You can also reorder your folders so that your priority folders are up top.

Use keyboard shortcuts.

Google Reader has many keyboard shortcuts. Go to Help and search for “keyboard” to see the full list. Here are the ones I use most frequently:

  • v – opens up the original blog post in another tab
  • j – moves you to the next item in feed
  • k – moves you back to the previous item in feed
  • s – star – favorite or unfavorite (toggle)
  • m  – marks as read or unread (toggle)
  • e – emails item
  • ? – displays guide to all the shortcuts (toggle)

Manage your Reader.

You will soon find that you are subscribing to everything. You groan as you open Reader because you have 1000+ unread items. Don’t stress. Accept the fact that you will never read everything and that’s okay. Skip through posts (using the “j” key shortcut) and only read the ones that really pop out at you. Become friendly with the “mark as read” option.

If you want to clean up your Reader but don’t have time to read all the posts you wish, save some for later by adding a star (located at the bottom left of each post). You can access your starred posts from the top right of your Reader.

Every now and then, view your Subscription Trends to see which subscriptions you are ignoring and can easily delete.

There are some Firefox add-ons that may help with the “read later” process, but I haven’t tried them yet – Read It Later and Feedly. If you use these, I’d love to know how you like them.

That’s how I use Google Reader. Do you have any other tips to share? Does anyone use the Tags feature? Or share items regularly?

UPDATE: In response to this post, Maddie Grant shares several Google Reader tips on the SocialFish blog.