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Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

If you’ve heard this before…

WhereI’m sure you’ve noticed that the NW Harley blog hasn’t seen an update in months.  In fact, it’s been 9-months since the last post.  Sure, I’ve approved a comment here and there, but mostly it’s been crickets.

Somehow I got swamped at work or maybe it was all the other distractions in life and priority changes in this turbulent world.  Quitting was a tempting option especially when it seemed like I was writing for others (which isn’t necessarily bad), but it can’t be the primary reason to blog as it saps you of your creative energy.

Someone told me a while back, that dedication was doing what you said you would do long after the mood you said it in had passed.

Well the mood has passed and I’m upping my commitment to post more often on this site.

All Rights Reserved© Northwest Harley Blog

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SevenInCircleToday is the 7-year anniversary of this blog.

I’ve been blogging all this time and still not sure how it happened!

I remember when I started it back on July 2, 2007.  I was nearly ten years into riding a FatBoy (not my first motorcycle, but the first Harley) and making plans for an epic ride to Sturgis and the idea of creating a blog and capturing the highlights of the trip seemed logical.

There were times when the day job interfered or I was burned out on it, and put it on hiatus for a few weeks. But I did persevere.  For you statistical fanatics out there here is a brief 7-year summary:

Number of Blog Posts: 1,020 (including this post)
Number of Blog Views:  1,509,551
Number of Comments: 2,351
Number of Blog Posts Shared: 1850
Highest Number Views On A Single Day:  Mon., February 18, 2013 with 17,796
Most Active Time Of Day:  17:00

It’s hard to believe I’ll ever have another blog milestone as big as this one. Will I blog for another 7-years?  Who knows.  It’s always been done as a hobby and for the sheer intrinsic pleasure — to ride freely and provide the motorcycle community a voice, talking about our interests, rides and issues with thought-provoking, wide-ranging and sometimes snarky commentary (the latter often flying over the head of some readers).  That’s the trick… to enjoying the spectacle for seven straight years.

There’s no looking ahead, only the here and now, and whatever happens with the wind in the face.

Stats provided by WordPress and 7 photo courtesy of internet.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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more-riding-less-bloggingWhere’s Mac?

You’ve likely noticed fewer blog posts the last couple months?

I don’t presume anyone notices or further, cares, but if you’re curious, life has been busier than usual and “the man” is keeping me down.  Too much work travel and cube isolation has taken a toll and one of the things that has fallen by the wayside is blogging.

Blogging is a hobby for me and because someday I hope to ride a wave on shore and start sipping pina coladas on the way to retirement — occasionally I find the need to prioritize work above hobbies.

I don’t put much pressure on myself to churn out “content” and I’m certainly not looking to ratchet up revenue through social media outreach  — adverts.  Besides, I feel good about how many “friends” I’ve got.  However, I do wonder after a couple of weeks pass and I can’t seem to find the passion to write something clever whether I’ve soured on the whole blogging gig?

I’m sure you are just as busy in your life as I, or stressed or living a crazy schedule too so, the “I’m busier than you” conversation never leads anywhere and that’s not the point of my post today.

I’ll still plan to blog, but I really want to ride more and post about those rides.  I wanted to provide some insight on the lack of consistent posts.

Photo courtesy of http://www.thefootdown.co.uk

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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NWHog Stats

Good morning.  This little hobby of a motorcycle blog logged its 1 millionth viewer today. Woo hoo!

Unfortunately there will be no falling balloons, bells and whistles or motorcycle give away as it’s a low budget operation.

There once was a time where I thought a million was a massive amount of views.  At one point I had “Content-Creation Madness”… thinking that all I had to do was post new content every day and then sit back and watch the hordes of new readers and the corporate decision makers find me.  I watched and waited for my clout score to skyrocket.

It didn’t.

And in today’s social media over hyped up marketing world with the aggregators, intermediaries and pyramid viral tricks,  I’m now thinking that I should be asking why is it only a million?!  If you were to benchmark entertainment or compare this blog to other viral legends like Susan Boyle, Lady Gaga, Old Spice Guy and Rebecca Black it’s really nothing but a dismal failure.

Number of Days To 100 Million Views

For example, let’s look at the number of days it took each of them to reach 100 million views:  Susan Boyle did it in nine. Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, which currently has over 900 million views, took 18 days. Rebecca Black’s Friday, currently at 430+ million views, took 45 days. Even Justin Bieber’s Baby, which has topped 1.1 billion views, took 56 days, one day faster than Miley Cyrus’ Party in the U.S.  Even Modern Warfare 2, one of the biggest entertainment gaming launches ever, hit 100 million views after 77 days.  I won’t go through all of them, but you can see how long it took some of the biggest viral names ever to reach 100 million views in the chart above.

This blog is about one-tenth that amount.  Yeah, I know it’s not an A-to-A comparison, but a million views is hardly a blip on the score board these days when you contrast it with entertainment.

In the beginning, the plethora of content distribution “paths” once exited me.  I developed a Twitter feed.  I started a Facebook feed then stopped it due to privacy concerns.  Early on I caught the eye of some savvy social media folks at Harley-Davidson who were convinced that product reviews (HERE) were the wave of the blog future.  It wasn’t.  I developed an iPhone app for mobile users.  There was even a shout out from the reality series man himself… Kurt Sutter (FX – Sons of Anarchy) HERE.  Then there was the Daily Newspaper (HERE).  Most of these were all attempts to help scale out the blog or content reach.

NWHog Geo Stats

Now, I realize that much of the blog content is landing in the “cloud dumpster” and I no longer think “view statistics” are a good gauge of a blog.  This blog has never been about attracting leads and transforming them into customers.  Customers of what?  I don’t sell anything so creating content for each stage of the buying process (awareness, consideration, and decision) is silly.  The characteristics that make for a great blog are typically never tracked.

Characteristics like:

Clarity – Is the blog/author clear about details such as the time period and subject.  Who or what does it apply to and are there updates to the information as new data unfolds over the days/weeks ahead.  Content should appear or link to many forms, ranging from videos, infographics and/or links to legal or report summaries.

Credibility – Is the information the author posted derived from sound research and is the methodology related to the facts.  Is the article sharing an opinion or is just biased?  Is the blog nothing but a repost-er of previously reported news articles or does it provide commentary and analysis of the potential impact to the motorcycle community?

Attribution – Is there clear attribution to the original source and an accurate/valid link to that source provided when possible.  Does the author/article provide links to the study or legal filing/report or just refer to it as “information found on the web.”

Though I generally don’t hold to a “hits mean much” worldview, I’m intrigued by the search results that send readers to the site and that readers are coming to this blog from all continents including places that I wouldn’t have thought — for example: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Guam.

The point of this post today is to say that I appreciate all the readers who’ve joined in the discussion on this blog.  More importantly I’ve realized that some readers had better ideas than I or had important insights that I wanted to share.  The blog has evolved a bit from my original intention and is far better.

I learn every day and for that I thank you.

Photo courtesy of Visible Measures and WordPress.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Maybe it’s the weather.  It can be positively gloomy in November in the Northwest.  Overcast, cold, shorter days mixed with long periods of wet.  Unlike So.Cal where this time of year the Santa Ana winds seem to blow warm and people remain in t-shirts and riding on dry pavement.

Even the light is different, as the air takes on that winter snap.

The contradiction got me to thinking about motorcycle bloggers and social media.  Yeah, I’ve been fairly skinny on the number of posts lately as the work gig is never ending, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about how to improve.

I’m talking about ReTweets. Likes. +1s.  If the terms are unfamiliar then stop reading.

Bloggers talk about these things as the currency of meaningful social engagement.  Seriously?  Many insist that the holy grail of social marketing is to create meaningful relationships with readers.  So, why is it we reduce these relationships to the most meaningless metrics?

I have an opinion that when someone clicks a “Like” button it’s similar to a “Hand-Wave” as two motorcyclists pass on the road.  These are folks who give a nod and say, “Sure, communicate with me.” But, from that interaction we never conclude they are advocates or do we assume they have blog affinity. Essentially they were a drive-by, somewhat interested party.   Using a dating metaphor,  a Like or a ReTweet is simply someone saying, “What’s your sign?”  It’s not a relationship.  Bloggers seem to forget that the real relationship and engagement happens after the “Like.” It’s the dance of finding out stuff about each other. It’s the “conversations” which is akin to an unforgettable riding journey together.  It’s knowing the other party cares about who you are and what you feel. There’s a feeling of trust. The “Like” is just a glimpse into the experience and who knows if they will linger.

If your blog strategy is like a teenager who measures popularity by the number of Facebook friends or to “get Likes,” without thinking about your audience or what to do with those Likes after you get them, I would suggest you are what researchers – using that dating metaphor – call “desperate.”   You’re essentially building up a dairy of folks who you can ping later with some form of advertising which most often is hawking someone else’s wares. And just like with dating, you’re going to get rejected more often than not. Most people have more self-respect than that. They’re looking for true “blog love.” While most motorcycle brands (corporations) just want to……well, you get the picture.

Business 101 states that you double down in a recession, that’s when you invest.  That’s the opportunity to pull ahead of your competition.  How many motorcycle bloggers doubled down over the last 4 years?  For that matter how many trade publications and/or motorcycle magazines remain in business or innovated their way out of the downturn?  A few did, but mostly what we’ve heard about are cut backs or the occasional web page that got a fresh coat of paint at most.

The number one challenge remains and that is getting people to listen to you.  And the way you stick is by being different.  It takes longer to get traction, but you last longer.  We know that the public is restless.  People are open to change and they want some new ideas.  If you’re giving them the same ‘ol, same then you’re no different from the government.  Something we tolerate, but can’t really believe in.

The bottom line is if you’re working a social media program you need to think about the entire process, not just the “Likes.” Likes are meaningless without the hard work of relationship building, and until bloggers truly understand this and embrace it, we’ll be viewed like that dating metaphor — an indiscriminate speed dater who is not very clever.

Photo courtesy of Onlyfunnyjokes.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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The times they are a changin’… certainly in the way people get their news.  This is especially true for the youth demographic who live and breathe by their cell phones.

As a result, I’ve been noodling about how to get this blog content onto iPhones given all the web-based tools that allow developers to build an iPhone App.   It seems logical that a blogger would want to create an app for the millions of iPhone users, right?  Sure it’s easy enough to call up a blog site on the Safari browser by typing in the URL, but wouldn’t it be much easier to push an icon button on the iPhone app screen and the like magic the blog content is there on your mobile device?  Complete with rich media.  And while we’re at it how about having the ability to jump to the Flickr photos and then over to Vodpod/YouTube to watch recent video posts?

Well…drum roll please….that day is here.  I’ve developed an application and placed it on the blog (under the calendar, right side).  There are a couple methods to get this application.  With your iPhone browser go to NWHOG and click on the app icon under the calendar.  Or go directly HERE.  Once the page loads for the first time, you’ll see a pop-up that instructs you to tap the ‘+’ sign, then tap the ‘Add to Home Screen’ selection, and finally tap the ‘Add’ button, which will add your app icon to your iPhone app screen.  Tapping the icon will start the webapp.  

Some might ask, “What are you trying to accomplish with this, Mac?”  My answer is simple.  I don’t know.  Other than to make it a little easier for mobile users to get to the blog content.  Plus I needed a little science project to fill those rainy evenings — it serves no other real purpose.  But, that could define much of the internet these days…

I do believe this Harley iPhone/blog application is a first.  Who knows if this will take off.  But, I thought it was worth a post and it serves as a reminder to Harley-Davidson corporate that they really should be doing more in the area of application development to promote or connect their customer base.  Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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jp_gardenAs many of you know I’ve been on lock-down for much of October and posted few articles onto the blog.  Candidly, I experienced few withdrawal pains once I stopped constantly checking my iPhone for comments.

I waded through the good, the bad and the ugly during my semi-hiatus and debated whether to continue blogging or not.  I thought a lot about announcing retirement due to other responsibilities and the relentless pace needed to create fresh material for the hundreds of readers who visit the site each day.  Those of you who do blog know it is a challenge to have a mix of thoughtful, intelligent material on one hand and snarky, tongue-n-cheek on the other.  I plan to continue posting original material regularly, but it will not be as abundant.

In a world of motorcycle-based media and social networking I certainly commanded a chunk of the cyberspace, but the negative impact of being plugged into this virtual world is that it’s become perpetually superficial.  So, I’ve dumped the Facebook account and group pages.  I have enough friends.  Twitter might be next, but I’m still assessing what’s helpful about the remaining online activity and what’s a distraction.

You see somewhere along the way I think it just got the point where I couldn’t even hear my own voice over the din.  Instead of riding more, dreaming of dirt bikes and trying to eat well I was just waking up to more white hairs… as the noise gets louder, you pull the trigger, push, push,… twist and shout in this huge virtual conversation.

I’ve committed to blog, but will spend less time online.  Instead I’m going to sprint, pedal, paddle, serve, shuffle, shoot, stretch, and strum.  There’s a whole lot more happening than being “plugged” into H-D.  And a good buddy often reminds me that, “Analog beers face-to-face are golden.”

True that!

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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timeoutAccording to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to WOW (wallow on the web), where they become public remnants of a dream — or an ambition — unfulfilled.

I started blogging in 2006 which seems like a long time ago… then in 2007, prior to taking off on an extended motorcycle trip I started the Northwest Harley Blog.  The thinking at the time was that a mix of hobbies (motorcycle and photography) would be a natural fit and thus was born — rantings of a motorcycle enthusiast.

Many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — try to build an audience and leave their day job, land a book deal, get attention from traditional media or simply to share their so-called genius with the world. I did not! Some even assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.  Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a time commitment and inspiration. Some actually believe those TV advertisements about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month?

As a “closet journalist” I like to provide a unique voice and work to accurately report and find unusual angles on stories related to motorcycle causes and the industry.  I also like to provide chronologies of my various ride and rally wanderings. After two+ years, or put another way — after 500 posts, 873 photo’s edited/uploaded, and several thousand moderated comments later I feel the blog is a successful hobby after obtaining on average 24,000 unique monthly views, but it’s also at a cross-roads.

trollThe internet is different now.  It used to be about research, accuracy and quality entries.  The good bloggers had something to say about the big motorcycle issues of the day.  Now it’s about snippets from people who pump out dreck or large excerpts of other articles.  Original and high-quality content has become dumbed down.  Bloggers are required to spend more time ‘digg-n’, ‘tweeting’, ‘facebooking‘, ‘youtubing‘ and SEOing their posts than they do on the actual posts themselves. Even H-D is pushing their social media outreach staff to pump up the noise level on marketing messages in non-traditional channels — i.e. bloggers.

Sure it’s cool to have all this media presence, you can tweet ad infinitum and make videos clips if you’ve got a burning desire to do so… especially if you love new media and are thrilled to be in constant contact with your fan base or “tribe.”  In other words, if its an end unto itself.

But, that’s what bothers me.  There is a point of diminishing returns and a mental cost to all the work.  In the early days all that was required to “win” at blogging was to show up early each day.  Today?  You need a team of social marketers to get your message out, a second team to manage any fall-out from whatever you’ve said and a third to manage all the SPAMers and deletion of bad behavior rolled up by the Google machine in the form of drive-by trolls and haters who try and take up residence.  As a result blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants!

Not all blogs fade from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, band-camp, and swim practice, or perhaps even housework. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter or Facebook and drop evangelizing via the blog platform. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some small slice of their personal time.  This brings me full-circle about a decision.

I’m going to take a blogging timeout. Little if any new material will appear during the month of October.  I plan to resume in November.  Why?  Having blogged consistently for over three years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the effects (both good and bad) and determine what if any new direction should be taken.  If you have an opinion or viewpoint I’m sure you’ll let me know.

I appreciate the allegiance of the blog reader base who subscribe and those who visit the site regularly.  If you happen on to this site during the month of October I hope you’ll enjoy looking through the archives.

Enjoy fall and ride safe out there…

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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newsI’ve been out an ‘bout riding the past week, but occasionally during my travels I’m pulled into discussions about blogging and the troubles of the newspaper industry.

It goes something like this… the newspapers are doing all the “real” reporting, and your blog as well as many others are merely “rehashing” the news without having done any real research.

I have a viewpoint on the topic and part of the problem is that “real reporting” and “news” are not that easy to define.  For example go to Google News right now and type in “Harley-Davidson layoff,” which indicates there are 262 articles on the same subject. I am sure that there are not 262 reporters out there gathering H-D layoff news firsthand. How many of these represent (and are monetized by) the people who actually did the original news reporting, and how many of them are rewrites, copies, or blog posts about the original news reporting?  If you type in “Michael Jackson drugs” the number jumps to 15,373!

It’s naive to think that news is only stuff like H-D plant closures, Michael Jackson’s death, a UN summit, a car accident; in short, stuff that requires a reporter to do the good old fashion reporting, which includes going there, attending the press briefing, taking a picture, calling people and asking for statements, etc.  Yes, that’s news. But I’ll tell you what’s also news.

  1. A summer Poker Run – bring 2 cans — which benefit the local food bank
  2. A benefit ride to support a fallen veteran
  3. The CoC meeting and motorcycle legislation topics
  4. I upgraded the TC-96 to Synthetic oil and the clicking noise went away

Who writes about these things?   Blogs. This is why blogs are popular, not because they’re rehashing news from big media publications, writing their opinions without contributing any facts. They’re popular because somewhere there’s a person who took great interest in figuring out how to do something and then write about it.  Like that person who determined which airplane seats are the best to be seated in and started a blog writing about it… you can’t find this information in any major newspaper!

new_newsThere’s another common misconception about blogs: the newspaper industry acts as if all the blogs were the same. A blog can be a lot of things.  There are blogs with one writer who write about motorcycles once a week. There are motorcycle blogs with a full staff who write 20 posts per day. Some blogs only do opinions. Some do rumors, some do original reporting, some do reviews, and some mix two, three, or four together.

This is why every attempt by the newspaper industry to define a common “enemy” that’s killing them will fail. They’re dying the death of a thousand cuts, and focusing on splogs (which are, most blog publishers will tell you, pretty much irrelevant in terms of stealing traffic) or aggregators will achieve nothing.

The fact is that blogs are here to stay, that many of them are valuable, that they’re attracting eyeballs and some are even taking a piece of the ad revenue pie from newspapers.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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HD_StormNow more than ever, Harley executives say that customer experience is critical to how motorcycle firms compete.

They’re right: research indicates a high correlation between good customer experience and increased customer loyalty.

Unfortunately not all dealers get high marks from their customers. And that translates into lower sales, higher churn, and lost business that goes to competitors.  Does the customer experience become less important during an economic downturn? Absolutely not!!  Building loyalty and catering to the needs of customers is even more important in these very challenging times.  And HD is doing much more than paying lip service.

PiperAccording to the newly released (.pdf) 2009 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) U.S. Motorcycle Industry Study, Ducati dealerships ranked highest.  This is one of a series of annual benchmarking studies which measure how consumers are treated when shopping for a new car, motorcycle, RV or boat. The independent study sent 2,100 hired anonymous “mystery shoppers” into motorcycle dealerships nationwide, then used the patent-pending PSI process to compile the results into accurate measurement of how each brand’s dealerships treat motorcycle shoppers.

Following Ducati was Harley-Davidson—whose dealers were ranked first in 2007 and 2008—then BMW, Victory, Buell and MV Augusta all above the industry average. Overall motorcycle industry performance improved from 2008 to 2009, with eleven of the fifteen major motorcycle brands achieving higher PSI scores.  Harley-Davidson dealers performed substantially above the motorcycle industry average, but 2009 marked the first time in three years that dealers from another motorcycle brand were ranked higher.

A powerful brand needs to convey a long list of qualities; often, a brand may find itself stuck trying to represent too many — even conflicting — things. It seems that Harley is faced with this very situation. Social media interaction with the company will continue to grow in this downturn due in part to its ability to reduce the cost of customer acquisition, service, and transactions. Motorcycle consumers have many places to discover products. In fact, consumption of digital media and the Internet is shifting to cell phones and other portable devices. This proliferation adds complexity to an already highly competitive marketplace, and changing demographics. Keeping the customer central in retailers’ strategies will be difficult given the short attention span.

They have yet to ask for my viewpoint, but I believe Harley-Davidson can improve business results by developing deeper connections with us consumers and independent bloggers. It begins with the recognition that blogs are a new motorcycle “voice” and that the customer experience is a wide-range set of activities, not just an isolated event.  It’s a multiyear customer experience with the end result for any organization dependent on how effectively it navigates through multiple stages of the customer experience maturity.

Congrats to Ducati and the HD dealers!

Photo courtesy of PSI and Forester.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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