The Following is a guest post by Sam Coren (@ samcoren ) the Content Manager for StudentAdvisor.com, a Washington Post Company. Check out her posts on the StudentAdvisor Blog for the latest in college news.
When it comes to business blogging, lists are an excellent accessory to have in your content generation toolbox. Why? Well, everyone is always dying to know what's "best" or "worst" for any given category. What readers don't want to do is spend the necessary hours researching information to figure it out on their own! Generating rankings for something relevant to your industry can garner you some serious web attention, but if you're not careful you can end up making more enemies than friends.
Before you start arbitrarily ranking things in your industry, it's important to nail down the details of how you're going to execute your list creation. No one's going to care about any list that was haphazardly put together and it could be a huge black eye for your company's brand if you're not meticulous.
5 Tips to Make Your List Launch a Success
1. Focus on something no one else in your industry has covered.
In the world of college review sites there are hundreds upon hundreds of lists that rank schools for almost everything you can possibly think of. At StudentAdvisor, we noticed a serious void in the world of college rankings: there wasn't any list that represented the colleges who best used social media.
Since it's becoming increasingly important for colleges to maintain an effective social media presence to connect with students and alumni, we saw an incredible opportunity. We challenged ourselves to create the first ever Top 100 Social Media Colleges list.
2. Gather data from publicly available sources.
The importance of using public data will make your list more authentic in the eyes of your readers if they have access to the data you used. Another added benefit is that it will keep costs low for you to use publicly available information rather than having to rely on paid private research studies.
With our list we had a wealth of publicly available sources for data collection. Finding out how many Twitter followers or Facebook likes a school had was a quick Google search away. The US Department of Education gave us enrollment data on post-secondary institutions. We even used HubSpot’s Twitter Grader to assign a quality score to the schools’ Twitter presences.
There wasn't any smoke and mirrors behind how we got the numbers we needed to calculate rankings. However, assembling this data took quite a bit of time so be prepared to dedicate a lot of hours assembling data. You'd be amazed by how many official Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts one school can have!
3. Determine your list eligibility criteria.
With over 6,000 schools we were collecting data on we had to decide what really defined a "Top Social Media College". We didn't want the rankings to be swayed by numbers so we took enrollment data into account. After all, it's much easier for a huge state school with a student of population of 40,000+ to have more connections than a teeny liberal arts school of 1,000.
Additional ground rules we set were that the schools on the list had to have an official Facebook and Twitter page, an official Facebook page with at least 500 likes, and only schools who had verified enrollment data would be ranked. It's also important for your readers to understand your ranking methodology so it's a good idea to take the time to put together an FAQ explaining what you did and why.
4. Notify those who made the list. Be prepared for backlash from those who didn't.
It's crucial to get the word out to those who made the list so they can help you spread the news across their networks. A phone call, an email, a tweet… there are many ways to go about notifying and congratulating your top ranking list-makers.
However it's important to understand that anytime you publish something that says X is better than Y you're going to get flack for it. In order to handle this our first line of response was referring people to our published methodology and FAQ. Another thing we liked to inform unhappy readers about was that we were going to be updating the list (the new version of the Top 100 Social Media Schools comes out on May 4th). So even though they were currently unhappy - the rankings weren't set in stone.
5. Measure your results!
Monitoring web traffic should already be on your daily to-do list if you're a full-fledged inbound marketer. Aside from traffic you should be watching how many new inbound links you're getting, how often people are mentioning your list on social media, and if those included on the list are promoting their appearance.
Other things that might be worth checking out as time goes on are your number of social media followers, RSS subscribers, and traffic from referring sites.
If your site needs a big "break" to get recognition consider creating a thoughtful rankings list relevant to your industry with public data.
Photo Credit: ell brown