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Understanding, Defining, Owning – Blog Evolution

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Change Is Never Simple – Evolve

Agent Genius underwent a major site overhaul this past week, and I’ve had many many offline and online conversations since about the changes and what we’re attempting to accomplish. So now that I have some time, I thought I would dive into them because I think they’re important even in your own business.

I had a conversation yesterday with someone who acknowledges that from a blogger’s perspective, they just didn’t understand the layout, but was interested to know what I was telegraphing with a change away from forward facing content.

It’s Pretty Simple

Someone finding our content via longtail in relation to blogging have probably already been exposed to a blog, they’ll land on a blog page they’ll understand. But what about those folks who have never seen or used a blog, have no idea what it is, nor what they would be searching for in the first place? What about those folks in your office who ask about blogging, learning more, who are maybe not that savvy about internet things? What type of front facing content might they be most comfortable with?

You can essentially narrow this thought down to your own market. If you’re in the Midwest, chances are, a consumer locating your answer via longtail looking for homes, and landing on a content (blog) faced website, may be lost, take the information, and continue to skim google until they find a site face (probably static) they’re more accustomed to.

The same thing rings true for Agent Genius. You as a blog consumer already understand a blog’s basic fundamentals, but if our intent is to grow the audience, teach those that have no fundamentals, then obviously, a Ferrari may not be the best road test for a noob.

So What Have We Accomplished?

A landing page that a curious 1.0 agent has a fighting chance of navigating. It’s straight forward, it answers directly to the skimmer, it forces the author (including myself) to follow our own advice of a great title, a great lead in paragraph, and if those two things fail to grab the skimmers interest, it entices the reader with related imagery, and it also forces us to remember context and to build the story for newcomers. To discount any of these things when presenting material for some moral reason is simply a disregard for marketing philosophies, that to be honest, may be over the head of a few critics- as smart as they are.

Navigation

Much of the content at Ag is timeless, it is within context of the overall conversation when it comes to coaching, training, agent tools, and discussions about some of what I just mentioned. This created a need to better present navigation options to those that are use to traditional websites. It was a shame when a great post turned the page on Ag, and this layout provides an opportunity for that content to become new once again.

The Sidebar

Moving the traditional sidebar inside the content also serves this need, it allows a deeper access to content, authors, and current articles that might be of personal interest. It also frees up the sidebar for some very cool things upcoming in the near future- it’s a lot of real estate that can be better harnessed, sideblogs are very cool and straight forward, and can make visible content that is just too valuable to hide. You’ll begin seeing new things appear there over the next week or so.

Color & Imagery

Someone somewhere said something the other day about us being pretty, but it was more sarcastic than anything else. I’m going to take that as a compliment, but not for the reasons this person intended (as it was not their intention), but more because the purpose of presentation goes without argument, and if you’re arguing it, it’s not Ag with the problem.

The Amount of Content

In addressing the issues of content turning the page, with this layout, we’ve essentially doubled the amount of content we’re able to display in a single page load.  Twice the articles, twice the <h1> tags, and twice the keywords.  Add to that the sideblog forthcoming and you begin to finally see how this format adds to the audiences ability to consume content, or direction, and do it in a way that is not overwhelming, or slow page load which was a real issue in the previous format.

Some Overalls

The site looks alive to the untrained eye. It’s stimulating, vibrant, and it looks open for business even at 3am. One of the basic issues I’ve always had with walls of text is that if you’ve read every article on the front page, then there’s nothing new to it. But if you really study, I mean really study the AG front page, you can understand how you find more and more things to get into. It isn’t busy, but it is alive, even if there hasn’t been a post in an hour or two. We want that, you want that in your own website!

Getting Started With Evolution

I’ve been making the case for some time now with folks to delve into their own demographics and it’s about time you start doing it. It you’re looking at conversion as a means to get business, then you must look at every page turn as it’s own conversion.

Constantly Evolve With These Questions:

  • Is my website ahead of my market?
  • Is my website behind my market?
  • Does each page ask a consumer to do something?
  • Am I enticing them to actually do it?
  • Am I speaking over the head of someone with a simple question?
  • Am I defining context in my content or speaking as if they’ve read for years?
  • Will my content have context in a year?
  • What is the point of the content I’m producing?
  • Is my content answering to that same point?
  • Can I make my site more mainstream, but keep my 2.0 philosophies?
  • Am I discussing politics where I eat?
  • Am I limiting my own audience by doing so?
  • Am I willing to do anything about it?

The bottom line is that we’ll continue to experiment with wordpress as a CMS, take advantage of new strides and studies in content management, adapt to new ideals in design, develop new ideals based on the success of others outside of real estate, and blend as many as we can.  We’ve not gotten to where we are in one year because we sat still in someone else’s definition, we got here by constantly asking ourselves more and more questions- and then setting out to find the answer.

I hope that some if not all of this helps you in your own journey with your own sites, and heck it may just reaffirm your own belief in your own techniques.  I know of some very very successful local sites with forward-facing content, but never let that fool you.  Those same folks succeeded by their own trial and error experiments- watching them may give you some insight, but I’ve warned in the past of imitating your competition.  Follow the ball, not the player, and your likely end result will be success if you remember to ask questions of your audience but also watching what they do, and then repeating that success even if you may not look like everyone else.

We’re very excited about the future in our space, and at the prospect of bringing new faces into the conversation, and just this week we’ve approved a few handfuls of new commenters, and we’re seeing action on older material as we expected- we welcome all of the new faces and thank all of our regular ones. 

If you find any kinks, feel free to click Submit Tip in the top nav and drop me a note.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Missy Caulk

    November 3, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Benn, thanks for the explanation. I’m all for driving more readers to the blog. I remember Lani saying in a post the traffic had gone up since the new change. You’re right most of the posts are timeless.

  2. Ken Brand

    November 3, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Thanks. Money quote: Follow the ball not the player.
    Go long, I’ll heave it as hard as I can, you catch and run like Boltz. Thanks, Rock on Benn

  3. Benn Rosales

    November 3, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Missy, even more, avg time on site has gone from 7 to 9 minutes avg which is amazing.

    Ken, gracias, partner!

  4. Laura Cannon

    November 3, 2008 at 11:00 am

    “Can I make my site more mainstream, but keep my 2.0 philosophies?” –this line really struck me.

    I’ve been thinking about this issue for some time, but I haven’t acted on it. I think AG has effectively responded to this dilemma with the new site. The new site is more readable, easier to navigate, and yet it is also seems more sophisticated, i.e., more cutting edge. I had sort of decided that this couldn’t be done or more accurately that I couldn’t do it. Clearly it can be done! And, AG has done it extraordinarily well!

    It will be interesting to see how blogs will be changed by this. I am already thinking about how I can tweak my blog to better respond to mainstream readers. I didn’t know where to start, AG has provided some grounding.

  5. Daniel Rothamel, The Real Estate Zebra

    November 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Benn,

    This is a great explanation. I totally get where you’re going with this, and I applaud you for doing it. You’ve got a plan and a vision, just execute.

    I know you’ve gotten some flack for the change, but I also know you’re smart enough to know which criticisms matter.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Ricardo Bueno

    November 3, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    All in all, I’m really diggin’ the new redesign! It took some getting used to at first but I love it now. It’s easy to navigate and catches your attention (it’s not overwhelming; at least in my opinion).

    Redesign = Success!

  7. Ryan Hartman

    November 3, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Yay to WordPress as cms. I also spent the last year evolving PhiladelphiaRealEstateHub.Com into a similarly styled “magazine” type monster blog that feels more like a modern news type site.
    It’s pretty exciting to see others going through the same process, exciting enough that I’m actually checking out the design on a real computer and commenting (as you’ve been instructing me to do on my iphone feed reader for months 🙂

    If I may…Our last theme switch, one that was similar to what you’ve done here, did real wonders for our overall page views. I wonder, do you have any plans to add a similar/related posts plugin? Also, –(maybe you’ve already done this?)–are there any plans to vary the sidebar as you switch to different sections within the site? We found that doing both also did wonders for our stickiness and overall seo effort….[Sorry for the long comment, just excited to talk a little about this stuff 🙂

    [Oh, yeah…is the page nav at the bottom of your pages some kind of plugin?…thx]

  8. Benn Rosales

    November 4, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Hi Ryan, thanks for the comment.

    the navigation plugin we use is wp-pagenavi, we’ve always had it, it’s just restyled for our site. As for sidebars, you’ll just have to wait and see, and same with related.

    We’re still tweaking where we are now and will add as our list shrinks. Overall, we expect another full week.

  9. Paula Henry

    November 5, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Benn – I love it! Since we have spoken about this very thing, it is exciting to see it in action.

    Looking forward to the enhancements and tweaks!

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Instagram flaunts new features, including a decked out desktop experience  

(SOCIAL MEDIA) It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram with additions of Collabs, fundraisers, and desktop posts on deck

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Instagram displayed on a desktop

It’s been a time of exciting product and feature announcements for Instagram on both mobile and desktop.

Collabs Feature

“Collabs” allows up to 2 accounts to co-author a post or Reel, both sharing joint ownership of what is ultimately published. The post or Reel will show up equally on both users’ feeds with the same amount of engagement numbers, but combined, including comments, view numbers, and like counts. This is initiated through the tagging screen and the invited account will have to accept the offer before the collab can be complete.

Examples of adding a co-author in Instagram Collabs feature

Fundraiser & Reel Features

Instagram was quick to jump on the short-form content trends taking the social media world by storm. With the rise of TikTok, the Insta platform that was originally focused on static photos added Reels, along the same wavelength of short 15, 30, or 60-second videos, though the competitor has now expanded with the option of 3 minutes. Even so, Instagram is taking the time to improve music-related features within the Reels section of the app, adding “Superbeat” and “Dynamic.” The first adds effects to the video matching the beat of the chosen song, while the latter offers unique and interesting ways to display the song’s lyrics on screen. In addition, they are beginning to test the option to run fundraisers on a post by clicking the + button in the top right corner of the interface.

Examples of Dynamic for Reels feature

 Desktop Feature

FINALLY! Instagram is now realizing just how many users truly enjoy the desktop experience. If one were to compare the platform on the mobile app vs. desktop, they would see the slew of differences between the two with the desktop interface looking like the 1st year Instagram was even introduced. Functionality is no comparison; they only just added the ability to DM on desktop last year. As one can see, there is an extremely limited experience on desktop, but Instagram is now rolling out the ability for users to post from their browsers. Catch us enjoying posts on the big screen!

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Truth Social: Trump’s long-standing battle against Big Tech backfires

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Truth Social is an example of how a new platform, though necessary to keep competition alive, can prove to be fallible before it succeeds.

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Man holding iPhone with Truth Social app download page up, as well as the stock market and Trump in the background on computer screens.

Former President Donald J. Trump announced a new social media platform, dubbed “Truth Social” last week. The platform has since been the recipient of cyber attacks by hacker collective Anonymous and the Software Freedom Conservancy has accused the Trump Media and Technology Group of violating the terms of their software agreement.

The circumstances plaguing Truth Social provide a small (if nuanced) look into the rigors of creating and sustaining new social media platforms in the modern-day. While expanding the number of social media platforms available creates more competition, this platform, in particular, raises some questions about the wisdom of investing in a service that creates an ideological echo chamber, as well as demonstrating that not just anyone can run a social media site.

There’s no denying that this new entry into the world of social media is off to a rocky start. Cyberattacks just hours after Truth Social’s test run left the site in disarray, with fake user accounts for Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump appearing at various stages of the launch. Truth Social’s hosts eventually took it offline, and the sign-up process is halted for the time being.

Woman holding iPhone showing Truth Social's feed.

Truth Social also has some interesting rules regarding user interactions on their platform, including a non-disparagement clause and the assertion that users can be sued for the content they post, Time reports.

“In addition to terminating or suspending your account, we reserve the right to take appropriate legal action, including without limitation pursuing civil, criminal, and injunctive redress,” says one section of the Truth Social terms of use.

This clause is in stark contrast to the ethos behind Truth Social – a platform that, according to the press release, was “founded with a mission to give a voice to all” and “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

The disparity in messaging versus reality is an understandable mistake, as much of Trump’s mindset was most likely impacted by criticism levied against him on mainstream social media when he had his accounts – and anyone in the same position might reasonably make the same call. However, restricting users to agree with one set political ideology is a perilous precedent to set. Echo chambers aren’t particularly conducive to longevity.

iPhone showing Trump's suspended Twitter account.

The Trump Media and Technology Group also violated the terms of their open-source software of choice when they uploaded the pilot version of Truth Social. According to the licensing agreement associated with Mastodon – the software company TMTG used – users must have access to the source code for the product in question (in this case, Truth Social).

Since the initial users of Truth Social did not receive that access, the social media platform is at risk of permanently losing its rights to the code.

While some of these pitfalls feel proprietary to Trump insofar as his high-profile battle against social media is concerned, the truth is that any development of new social media entries will be messy and fraught with obstacles. Truth Social is just one example of how a new platform – something that is absolutely necessary to keep competition alive – can prove to be publicly fallible far before it ever succeeds.

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Instagram Collabs: New feature fosters the ability to co-author content

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is rolling out a few updates, including a new post format called Collabs, giving users a new way to co-author feed posts and reels.

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Instagram stock images of collab feature.

Instagram is rolling out a few updates, including a new post format that many can benefit from. Called Instagram Collabs, this latest feature gives users a new way to co-author feed posts and reels. This isn’t the first feature Instagram has rolled out to promote collaboration between users, but we think it will be a beneficial addition!

How to use Instagram Collabs

Using Collabs is very similar to how you tag someone on Instagram. You can start by choosing to create either a reels video or feed post. After recording your video or taking your photo like you normally would, you head over to the “Share” screen and select “Tag People”. On that screen, there is now an “Invite Collaborator” option!

By choosing to invite a collaborator, the account you add will be able to share your post to their profile grid and their followers. Additionally, the names of all the collaborators will appear in the feed post or reel header, but before their username shows up on your post, the collaborator will need to accept the collaborator invitation first.

Keep in mind, only public accounts can be tagged and there is a limit to how many tags you can use. You’re able to tag up to 20 accounts, including the number of tagged users and collaborators.

Instagram stock photo of how to use new feature, Collabs, with iPhones showing the sequence of how to add a co-author.

Benefits of Instagram Collabs

Collabs makes it quicker and easier for everyone to share content on the platform. From local artists working together on a project to businesses working with high-profile influencers to promote their brand, content is shared instantly. Gone are the days of screenshotting or using third-party apps to repost that same content on your profile.

Along with making sharing easier, the feature makes it clear and simple to give credit where it’s due – all authors are given credit. When it comes to branded sponsorships, instead of adding hashtags or brand tags that can become cluttered, along with the user, the names of brands are neatly displayed in the header. Before this feature, it was a little difficult to distinguish a regular tag from a business, but with Collabs, that is no more.

And last, but not least, collaborators will all share views, likes, and comments. By sharing engagement signals, content creators will be able to maximize their reach and businesses will have more transparency with their customers.

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