By Sonia Simone
Baby Bear makes friends easily, and he always has a lot to say. He can be awfully cute—even adorable, if you do it right. So I hope you'll forgive him for not really being a bear at all.
Baby Bear makes himself useful
One of the smartest things you can do with social media tools is to make yourself useful. Take information, which we all have too much of, and turn it into something people can use.
Compile a bunch of good advice into a simple, readable format, or come up with a great framing metaphor to make a complex subject easier to understand. Take complicated stuff and make it easy. Take overwhelming stuff and make it manageable.
In other words, create a Baby Bear strategy: put together a whole bunch of killer content that solves a real problem or fulfills a real need.
A lot of folks mistakenly think that great content is the same thing as great writing. It's not, at all. Great content is useful. Great content does something to make people's lives better. It might save time, frustration, money or brain damage. There's lots of great content that just makes people giggle.
Great writing is nice, but completely optional. The audience for great writing is small (and shrinking), and there's an overabundance of great writing out there to consume. There are more brilliant novels than any of us can ever read in a lifetime, and that's not counting all the stellar nonfiction plus weekly doses of The New Yorker.
Please understand, I'm no fan of crummy writing. If good writing matters to you, by all means, learn to write well, and take pleasure from that. But great content is a lot easier to create than great writing, and has a much wider audience.
Baby Bear is friendly, whether or not he's social
There are true "social media" uses of a content strategy (like blogs) and then there are not-so-social uses (like email newsletters). But whether or not you have a mechanism for your readers to engage you in a true conversation isn't actually very important. Either way, having lots of useful, relevant content makes you look friendly.
The smartest content providers make their stuff feel like a conversation even when it isn't. Most good content uses a friendly, accessible voice and feels more like a letter from a pal than a textbook.
Most of us are influenced by our friends and by authority figures. A solid content strategy turns you into both. Every piece of useful content you create is like doing a small favor for your readers. It also establishes you as a smart, thoughtful authority on your subject.
Your content might suggest a rather chilly personality, like Jakob Nielsen's, or you may come across as a lovable train wreck like Dooce. It doesn't matter. Either way, readers who tune into your stream of regular content develop a connection with you over time. That connection translates into trust, which can be translated directly into dollars.
Baby Bear can't shut up
The tricky part about Baby Bear is you have to keep it going. It's work–enjoyable work most of the time, but it's still work.
A blog falls on the time-intensive end of things. The whole point of a blog is to provide lots of fresh content. Even blogs with good search tools (I'm working on getting that for you guys!) don't really invite dipping into your most compelling past content.
You also have no control over how readers work their way through your stuff. Which means if your great article on LOLcats requires a whole bunch of set-up, you don't have any way of making sure your readers have the right context.
Lately I've been falling hard for my email autoresponder. These are email programs that send a predefined sequence for you (like my 10-part marketing tool kit), which you can expand, move around, and generally evolve and refine to your heart's content. You can create a sequence of 3 messages or 3,000, the system doesn't care.
If you're already sending out an email newsletter and you don't use the autoresponder feature (you may have to dig, I didn't realize for months that Emma had one), you need to start now. You can create a sequence of your brainiest, most useful content and put it in front of every fresh reader.
And if you flake on getting your newsletter out in a timely way (like I do every month), you'll at least make a great first impression. Plus your readers stand some chance of remembering who the hell you are when you send something later.
If you've never thought about doing broadcast email but you think you want to start, in my opinion there is exactly one vendor to consider: Aweber. Their deliverability (percentage of messages that reach readers vs. spam filters) is just better than anyone else I've seen, their system is extremely easy to use, and they just added a whole bunch of gigantically useful analytics tools. Plus they're cheap.
Tell them Baby Bear sent you.