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Top 10 Social Media Secrets

7 Apr

Social media can be a very useful tool for businesses, non-profits and individuals trying to spread news about any number of topics. Some people are born naturals with social media and seem to draw a crowd without even trying. For the rest of us here are some quick tips for making the most of social media.

Everything Is An Opportunity

Try to remember social media in your normal daily activities. View your life as a collection of learning experiences and share these with others. You’ll have a huge amount of content that you weren’t tapping into before. Your successes, failures and thoughts thorughout the day are all relevant (aren’t they to you?).

You Can’t be Everything to Everyone

If you try to cater to the broadest audience you won’t actually be an attractive content source for anyone. Figure out your specialty and stick with it. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep your content to only one topic all the time but make sure there is an obvious direction to your blog/tweets/etc…

Nothing Beats Good Search Skills

This may seem a little off topic but making your content easy to find is an important part of writing for the web. Search engines are becoming more and more intuitive and better at finding content based on native language use; however, you can help this process by understanding the basics of why keywords are important and using them appropriately. Do you remember how to use a card-catalog? If not take a library sciences class or at least read a little bit about it online. A solid understanding of old-school search techniques can do wonders for the proper use of keywords and search-ability of your content.

Make It Easy

If using social media is difficult then you’ll never do it. You can make things much much easier by simply being yourself. Finding your voice online can be as simple as finding your own voice. It takes a lot of energy to pretend to be an alter ego or fun and different persona – this might seem like a good idea but ultimately is just difficult.

Listen More Than You Talk

Ask questions of the community and they’ll tell  you what they want. Overall the best way to measure how you’re doing and what you should be doing differently is to listen to the community. You can do this by checking analytics but you can also be more personal about it. When you get praise – do more of what you were doing. When you get criticism – take it seriously and be introspective about what has been said.

This Is Real Life

Social media and the internet are no longer separate from “real life,” so don’t treat your social media connections like they are. Develop real relationships with people online, just like you would in real life and maintain these relationships accordingly.

Be Nice

Sure, you might get a big boost of hits and a giant following if you’re controversial, snarky and mean but that just isn’t a lasting method of relationship building. You don’t have to be syrupy sweet but be genuine and caring with your online content. Answer questions the way you would if you were talking to someone in person. People like to follow people that are kind.

There Is No Replacement For Creativity

One giant mistake that people make in social media is copying what others have done and expecting the same result. Its great to listen and observe the trends of the web but ultimately you have to be innovative to maintain true relevancy online.

Remember To Speak Up

Listening is important but don’t forget to publish your own thoughts and comments regularly. If you only retweet then no one will really know who you are. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, even when it goes against general wisdom, and speak up frequently. The internet is big and there will always be someone out there that what you say will ring true for.

There Is No Real Secret

All of the above items are great tips but the true secret is that when it comes to social media there is no replacement for hard work and consistency.


Time Management for Bloggers

5 Apr

Blogging is one of those funny little things that falls between the cracks of technical and creative mediums. On the one hand the basis for most blogs is to convey useful information to readers, but at the same time doing so in an entertaining and inspired way takes a fair amount of creativity. Last week I explored the creative side of this a little bit when examining writer’s block. The big obstacle on the more technical side of blogging is time management. It takes more than a few minutes to create and maintain a decent blog and for many people, even when you really want to blog, finding this time can prove to be a struggle.

A big portion of my day job is that of project management. Thankfully I love the topic and enjoy working with others so its a good fit. I find it to be a personal challenge to get projects done on time and in budget and have both the team and client happy along the way – this can be quite a challenge at time. But what has proved most challenging is applying these same techniques to myself as a blogger. After much trial and error these are the principles I promote when managing time as a blogger:

Be Realistic about goals

Positive reinforcement is an important part of motivating yourself as a blogger. If you set goals that are beyond what you can realistically accomplish then you’re building in a sense of failure into your blogging process. This isn’t good for you or the blog. If you aren’t currently meeting your blogging goals then try re-evaluating them. Maybe you’re spending too much time on the drafting process, or researching your potential topics. Try alternative approaches to your blogging process and reign in your goals until they feel like a good fit.

Obey the writing process

A very important thing which can save time and improve your blogs is to obey that simple writing process we all learned in 4th grade. Brainstorm your idea, do a little research if needed, write an outline, then expand it into a full story and lastly edit it before you publish. This is a 5 step process which means that ideally you have 5 working sessions for each blog before it needs to be published. If you need to combine some of these items then so be it but try hard to at least separate into outline, writing, editing/publishing.

Manage risk

As a project manager I trust that the people I work with know how to do their jobs a whole lot better than I can do their jobs. I don’t spend time trying to manage them and the tasks they do; instead, I spend my time managing risk. If someone gets the flu how will I make sure a project still gets done on time? If new information comes in at the 11th hour that would change some part of a project how will we make sure the team can handle it? The same principles apply to blogging. Make sure you allow enough time to expect the unexpected.

Find accountability

Nothing is quite so motivating as accountability. When I work with teams we most often use the agile method of project management and implement my favorite accountability tool, the scrum. It makes everyone accountable to one another and boosts a sense of team spirit. When you’re working alone accountability can be much harder to find and stick to. You might publish a roadmap to your readers of your upcoming blog posts – reader can get pretty vocal when you don’t publish on time when you said you would. Another option is to join a blogging group or challenge, this is a group of other bloggers that all support one another in regularly posting to their blogs.

While all of the above advice may make time management for blogging seem simple its always more difficult in reality. The most important thing to remember is to take it a step at a time and start at the beginning. Set small and realistic goals for yourself and celebrate when you accomplish your blogging challenges.

Notes on Writers Block

30 Mar

Most would agree that one of the keys to success with social media is creating content consistently. This was actually the basis of my first post to this blog. Ofcourse at some point almost everyone will come across a tiny bit of writers block. If your lucky it will move on in a day or two but sometimes you have to be proactive and assist writer’s block out the door. Thankfully there are more than a few ways to get the creative (or at least productive juices flowing again) here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Handy Dandy Notebook – sure it may be low tech compared to alternatives, like the smart phone, but there is something wonderful about carrying around an actual paper and pencil all day. Most of the time just having the small reminder that my goal is to come up with ideas will be enough to fill up a page with various blog topics or a series of tweets.
  2. Reviews – if your out of ideas yourself then piggy back off of someone else’s creativity. Review a series of similar items… for an extra boost you can even post a title like “Top 5 ___!”
  3. Play Games – it may seem a little odd but interactivity and engagement can be a very viable substitute for actual content. There are a multitude of games that can be played between you and those that are following you on twitter and the same goes for you blog, facebook or other social media outlet. If you can’t come up with meaningful content at least you can have fun.
  4. Switch Mediums – sometimes its good to mix things up, this is true both as the writer as well as the reader. If you normally post long and detailed blogs consider posting a collection of photos instead. You may find that your readers appreciated the change of pace as well.
  5. Ask For Help – every once in a while writer’s block is just bad enough that its best to just ask for some help. See if you can cash in on some guest posts from friends who had always offered or ask a coach for some prompts.

Boasting Vs. Branding

18 Mar

The idea and importance of the self-brand is such an accepted thing today that almost every online persona is ready to promote the personal self at any opportunity. The idea of self-promotion has always been a  thorn in my side. Whether its the way I was raised or just an element of my personality, in any given situation there are a million other things I’d prefer to talk about than myself and how great I am. This week I decided to overcome this hatred of self branding and finally define for myself the line between branding and bragging. This task called for some external assistance a little more powerful than a simple google search; in steps LinkedIn Answers to the rescue.

What suggestions are there have for overcoming the dislike of writing about oneself? Whether it be cover letters, resumes or bios, it always feels arrogant to write about my accomplishments, skills and assets.

I posted the above question fully expecting to get the same canned answers that I’ve read a million times before, be data driven, record your voice saying it and then transcribe that. These are great suggestions… for someone who doesn’t have any trouble talking about themselves – but in my case the two kinda go hand-in-hand. I was thrilled that with in a couple of days I had received 15 very thoughtful answers about the topic from others on LinkedIn who were just trying to help for the sake of altruism. while some of the answers did conform to the standard advice you would find anywhere – others provided a totally new and very interesting perspective on the task.

Some hi-lights:

The important thing to remember is that you are helping someone who is in desparate need of your skills and accomplishments. – Sharon Bailly

Get more, not less personal. And tell success stories about how you’ve helped your clients – Sally Strackbein

What could I say about you that would really p___ you off? Your designs are utterly unoriginal! You can’t make deadlines! You can’t spell! You can’t take criticism! – William Bell

As a developer, maybe you could think about it more like writing a specification as you would for a computer program. – Taylor Winship

When writing a cover letter or a bio, I find it best to simply sit down and tell a story…your story. People tend to get caught up on how to brag about who they are, describe their accomplished, and highlight their unique skills. – Jon Fernandez

Some of the above items may seem simple enough once you read them but none of theme have every been on my radar when writing up a bio. Some are slightly contradictory to one another, such as being less personal vs being more personal, but I like both for different occasions. Last year I did an experiment with sending out overly arrogant cover letters, the idea was in response to the number of incredibly overconfident but under-qualified I had recently encounted in working relationships. The results of this were infact surprising. There could be very large holes in the skills defined by my resume but with enough boasting in the cover letter I would still get considerably more return calls than when using my usual writing style in cover letters. Small tests like this have given me insight into a couple of key things; people actually do read cover letter, and people care more about your personality then your background and list of skills.

And so with many new ideas I go forth to do many a bio revision. Tip: check back soon for a proper author bio on this blog too.

IRL Etiquette for Social Media

11 Mar

Social media has become a staple in the lives of most Americans. With the rise of smart-phones it no longer is the domain of the anti-social computer geek and has entered into the realm of everyone – everywhere. There are many benefits that come along with having social media accessible to us all the time but one BIG annoyance that it brings.

One of the biggest complaints that comes from both users of social media and those that live without it is the use of social media in public settings. No one minds when you’re a lonely teen sitting in your bedroom spending hours on end texting but there is a huge amount of hatred towards this behavior coming from an adult that’s at a dinner party. I myself have often had a reaction of annoyance at friends, family and co-workers that sit down to a brunch and pull out their cell phone – it has been so much a distraction that my dinner table actually has a no electronics rule.

Yet for the first time yesterday I experienced the urge to use social media while in the midst of a meeting. It wasn’t that I was chatting away with friends or anything social for that matter. The whole issue was that I was in the middle of a rather sticky deployment of a new site, it was halfway live and there were more bugs than I’d every like to admit showing up. An office lunch meeting was getting started, and while I’m not at all a quiet person, there just wasn’t that much for me to say in this meeting. For the first time it actually felt like I was being more responsible and working more diligently by monitoring and responding to other developers txt messages then by placing all of my attention on the in person meeting I was attending. I had become that person I can’t stand.

This brings about a great question:

What is the most appropriate use of social media in public?

Having been on the otherside (that group of people that would prefer to go back to phones having cords), I totally understand the annoyance that is felt when everyone around you is having one sided conversations or all you hear is the clicking of tiny keyboards. I also now understand the increased productivity that can be achieved by using social media in a smart way. So here are my simple guidelines for social media etiquette.

Put family first – it doesn’t matter how important that text might be if you’re at a family gathering pay attention to your family. If you really need to check in to see your latest tweets then excuse yourself from the table and check your phone in the privacy of the powder room.

Think about what 5minutes gains. Sure you might get notifications every 20seconds about new information via txt but is all of it necessary right now? Even if your in an informal public environment there might be something gained by not grabbing your phone as soon as the alert comes in. Finish your in-person conversation and then check the phone, now you have 5 alerts to respond to all at once instead of being bogged down with one every 20 seconds.

Set your phone to vibrate. Regardless of how often you check your phone or where you check your phone everyone around you will appreciate it if they don’t have to hear your phone ringing all the time. Many smartphones even have different alerts for different types of messages. Let calls be heard by a ring (since we do really want to know if the babysitter is calling us about an emergency) but set txts and other notifications to vibrate or even silent. You’ll still get the messages but no one else will have to hear about it.

That’s it… simple enough, 3 rules that can keep everyone productive and happy.

Where to start on a blogging journey

23 Feb

Old notebooksIf my blogging history was inspected the conclusion would be the same as it is for many would-be bloggers on the web, “Well that was nice… but obviously they just aren’t dedicated to this.” And in many ways that would be a very accurate way to categorize my past blogging attempts.  Floating out in the midst of cyberspace exist more than a couple of failed blogs started with the best of intentions but all abandoned within mere months of creation.

Its good to keep in mind that this is not a characteristic unique to only myself. Many, many people out there feel great amounts of ambition when creating a new blog but are quickly discouraged by technical difficulties, writers block or sometimes even boredom. While the impulse may be to hide in shame of your past blogging failures, in actuality nothing good comes of this. A much more productive and rewarding road to take is to embrace your past bloopers, love them as the learning experiences they were and allow them to pass peacefully into the oblivion of your online memory.

To help clear the air of blog skeletons in the closet I’m sharing for all to see my past blog failures and ongoing projects (the blogging success of which is still to be determined).

Some of these items are obviously experimental in nature and simply nothing more than an attempt to gain greater knowledge of the medium – I do not suggest this methodology to others. What then, you may say to yourself, is the best way to go about starting a blog? The key to a successful blogging journey lies exactly in the place that we find fault in both our own blogging attempts as well as the blogs of others. Consistency!

Sure its wonderful to be passionate about your blog topic but for many of us passions come and go – and much like a solid marriage, a stable blog cannot be built on passion alone. You need to feel prepared to give your blog commitment and consistency. Know that your blog topic will always be forefront in your life regardless of what may change about your circumstance. Know that you have the time to write. This alone is no small feat for many of us; between work, family and all those other obligations that seem to creep into a schedule, the time to properly draft, edit and promote blog posts might just not be there. Lastly, understand that like most things in life blogging can have great rewards if done well, but doing things well means putting in work. If you want a good blog you will have to work at it – blogging may be fun, but its not always fun. None of the difficulties around blogging are an attempt to discourage new bloggers – they can all be dealt with and the blogging experience can be a very positive one.

At the end of the day, the key to starting your blogging journey is the same as starting any other journey. Prepare yourself. Embrace your past and use your experiences to create a personal course that will promote your success. Remember your blogging goals and be willing to put the work into your blog that it deserves from you.