Guest Author: Christian Buckley
In this final segment of my series on ways that you can get more involved in the SharePoint community, I’ll focus on ideas for how you can generate content. Why create more content? The community needs to hear your unique perspective, learn from your successes (and failures), and understand your industry best practices. Sure, creating content can be a fabulous way to build up your personal brand and build out your portfolio, but it also adds to the digital library of the collective unconscious.
How can you get involved? Here are some ideas:
- Create a blog.
Catalog your experiences. You never know who you may be helping. As your reputation grows, it’s always great to be able to go back and point to previous posts to share as case studies or to prove out a point about a current problem. The best blogs typically contain a mixture of corporate, subject matter expert, and personal voices within the content. Lean too heavily on the corporate voice, and people will identify you as a marketing vehicle for your company. My advice is a 20/40/40 mixture of corporate/sme/personal. You can check out my blog at http://buckleyplanet.net
- Read other blogs, and comment.
As you write to your own blog, follow other leading blogs. Find people who share your area of expertise, who focus on the same vertical, or who live within your community. Cross-link, create link lists/blog rolls, and refer to others in your own posts. Some blogs you might consider are Bill Baer, Joel Oleson, and the SharePoint Product Team blog.
- Submit an article to the SharePoint websites and magazines.
Focus on real-world examples and case studies. Write about your own experiences solutions you played a part in creating. Expand on content you created as part of your blogging effort. Remember to cite proper references, but definitely point to other leading content and experts.
- Present at a regional event or conference.
Once you have content in hand, you may be interested in presenting that content – possibly with a technical demonstration – at an upcoming event. As with getting an article published, start by creating several detailed abstracts, watch for the call for speakers. Most events lock down their speakers (especially new speakers who do not have extensive presenting experience) well ahead of time so that they can promote their event, so you need to hit this window. Having the right topic is critical, but the larger the event, the more weight the event team will give to prior experience. Start small by presenting at your user group, move up to a SharePoint Saturday, and then move up to the big events.
- Write a whitepaper, or provide input to a whitepaper.
As your technical expertise grows, there may be opportunities to share more in-depth experiences around specific solutions, products, and/or services. You may decide to tackle a topic on your own, partner with others within the community, or make yourself available to partner ISVs or SIs who seek to produce content around their solutions. Different than blogs or articles in the technical depth, whitepapers are generally not viewed as marketing pieces (though some are definitely more marketing fluff than others), and are viewed as a resume-worthy technical contribution.
- Write an ebook.
For those who are more marketing-savvy, you may want to share a best practice in this usually light and reader-friendly format. As with a whitepaper, these are generally more content-intensive than your longer blog posting or magazine article, but have a more casual tone than the whitepaper. An ebook is a great way to share a process or outline a tool in a brief, entertaining way. Like a whitepaper, an ebook is a great way – with the right content – to establish yourself in the SharePoint community.
- Write a book.
This is no small task, but if you have the expertise, a detailed outline, and can make the time – a book is a fantastic way to document and share your experience with the world. Some words of advice: know what content is already out there, and have a different spin or story. Know your readers, and have a compelling reason for them to purchase your book.
Once you have your detailed outline and unique value proposition defined, put together a book proposal that includes a summary, your outline, one or two completed chapters (rough drafts), details on your target readers, and a basic marketing overview of how you will promote your book. Send out copies of this package to the various SharePoint publishers, including O’Reilly, Pearson, Wiley, and others, and follow up by phone on a regular basis. More fruitful is a recommendation from an existing author to their publishers. Reach out to your SharePoint community connections.
- Create a page for About.com or Squidoo.
There’s a bit of legwork involved with getting something published on About.com, but the site continues to be a trusted resource for content and expertise – landing somewhere between Wikipedia and the typical user guide. Find the right About.com subject expert, send your proposal or abstract, and provide some compelling content. On the other hand, Squidoo allows anyone to be the expert. Simply sign up, add your content, and start promoting your site. Created by marketing mastermind Seth Godin, Squidoo allows you to make money off of your content through advertising and direct links to sites like Amazon and eBay. It’s not for everyone, but hey – it’s an option.
- Create a template, workflow or web part and share it.
On the technical track, a quick path into the hearts and minds of the SharePoint community is to development something – and then give it away for free (or cheap). It might be something as simple as a unique site template, or as complex as an industry-specific business process management solution. There is a growing list of sites available to share free tools, but you might begin with Codeplex and SharePointReviews.com
- Host a webinar.
Take your content, your series of blog content, or your latest SharePoint Saturday presentation and create a version for a webinar. Promote the event to your fellow user group members, to your Twitter followers, and get it listed on one or more of the community calendars. Record the event and make it available on-demand. This is just one more tool for you to promote your expertise, your product or service, or to develop a name for yourself in the SharePoint community.
I like to think that this list – consisting of this and the two previous articles in the series – is a living, breathing action plan for getting involved and staying involved in the SharePoint community. If you have other ideas, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you think. Tell us what has worked, and what has gone down in a blaze of flames.
For a more comprehensive list of ideas on how you can get involved in the community and start building your SharePoint profile, download my free ebook ‘Inside the SharePoint Community: Three Strategies for Building Your Personal Brand.’
Get involved! The community needs you! Share!
Guest Author: Christian Buckley
Christian is Director of Product Evangelism at echoTechnology, an Axceler company, where he is responsible for content, strategy, and evangelism. Prior to echo, Christian was part of the Microsoft Managed Services (MMS) SharePoint team, now known as BPOS-D (Business Productivity Online Services-Dedicated). He has also led product and deployment teams in the creation of product lifecycle management and supply chain-integration solutions for some of the world’s largest manufacturing and telecom companies, and co-authored 3 books on software configuration management and defect tracking. You can find him at http://buckleyplanet.net or on Twitter at @buckleyplanet