Tag Archives: organization

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.

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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.

Susan Mernit on Social Media

25 Mar

Recently I had the chance to talk with Susan Mernit about the role of social media in journalism. Susan is a long time blogger and reporter who started the site OaklandLocal. In her words OaklandLocal is:

[A news site] centered on issues including environmental justice, food distribution,transportation, development & housing, and gender & identity, OaklandLocal aggregates information and news  from local non-profits and community organizations working on these topics within a range of Oakland neighborhoods. We are committed to diverse voices, reader engagement, deep issue coverage and local commentary.

Any reader that spends time on OaklandLocal will get a good taste of the diversity in stories that make up Oakland. The site does a great job of covering news from various neighborhoods and across a number of topics. When asked about the role that social media has had in finding stories, Susan explained that social networking like twitter and facebook have made it much easier to locate the stories that don’t get covered in the mainstream and national media. This approach to story finding means that OaklandLocal  provides a truly fresh and new perspective to the news, rather than just repeating the same stories as other news sources.

Another aspect discussed in detail with Susan was the separation of the personal and public aspects of social media. An avid user of twitter, facebook and scribe, Susan shared that she only uses a single account for both professional and personal interactions on each service. Susan mentioned that there are downsides to this approach and that frequently she has to be overly aware of her wording when reading an interesting article or posting about it because its easy for a simple post to appear as an endorsement from her and subsequently an endorsement from the site – when in actuality it was just an interesting article. The extra hassle isn’t a deterrent however; Susan, continues to post as herself and be honest about her opinions on a frequent basis via social media.

When asked about how much of an asset social media is to the reporting process, especially for a web based news site, I was surprised by her answer. Susan explained that she had been writing online since the early days of blogging and in the beginning there wasn’t the convenience of social media to find stories or develop community around them. She explained that in those early days her goals were still the same, find often over-looked stories and share them with the community, but she did so by talking to people and networking in real life. I followed up on this idea by asking if the types of input she received had changed since moving to more social media and online networking. Susan’s impression was that while there are more people available at any given point with social media, the total number of opinions and viewpoints seemed to be pretty similar as to when all of her information gathering happened outside the internet.

Honesty was really the backbone of the message Susan had to share. The principles and idea that journalists are people first and as people they can’t help but have opinions. She shared that in her own writing she doesn’t strive to be without any personal stance on an issue but rather to just present all possible sides to every story – allowing news to be more about openness, transparency and dialog rather than simply marketing itself as unbiased. This approach is what makes OaklandLocal a unique asset to the hyperlocal news community. The ability to come to seek out stories, share them with the community and then allow for open discussion to commence from there.

Business interview

25 Mar
We recently met up with Lise Delong of Cognitive Connections and talked about the role that journalism, marketing and the internet have played in the success of her small business. Lise has owned and operated small businesses for over 20 years in both Indiana and California.
BreannaDrew: What was your first use of promotional materials for your business?
LiseDeLong: CREATING A BROCHURE AND TAKING THEM AROUND TO OTHER BUISNESSES / DAYCARES/ AND DIRECT HOMES

BD: Do you think it was easier to promote a business then or now?
LD: MORE DIFFICULT THEN, I DIDNT KNOW AS MUCH AS I DO NOW AS A SEASONED BUISNESS OWNER, AND A DIFFERENT MARKET, IN A DIFFCULT AREA TO SUPPORT A PRIVATE SCHOOL.
BD: Has the internet been a benefit or detriment in promotion?
LD: ABSOULTELY A BENEFIT…

BD: What has your use of news been in your business growth? Press releases, interviews, articles, etc… has it been mostly positive and helpful or had mixed results?
LD:I FORTUNATELY NEVER HAD BAD PRESS IN A LOUD MARKET WITH THE SCHOOL, A FEW DISGRUNTLED PARENTS MIGHT TALK TO OTHER PARENTS BUT NEVER IN A FORMAL FORMAT.  THE FORMAL FORMATS WERE ALWAYS POSITIVE AND GOOD TO ME.
BD: Do you actively seek out a relationship with the press as a means of promoting your business?
LD: I DID THEN. IN THIS NEW BUSINESS I HAVE NOT.  MY MAIN REFERRAL SOURCES NOW TEND TO BE MEDICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL REFERRALS NOW
BD: How has facebook impacted the way you do business? Do you use facebook for personal and business use? How do you separate the two if you do?
LD: IN THE CURRENT BUSINESS I USE FACEBOOK.  I HAVE DELIBERATLY NOT SEPARATED PERSONAL AND BUSINESS BECAUSE IT MAKES ME LOOK MORE HUMAN TO PEOPLE (MIGHT BE GOOD MIGHT NOT BE) WE’LL SEE…

Compare Your Answers

24 Mar

As time moves on and the basis for our society and economy continue to make the shift away from the industrial revolution towards information technologies the need for questions and answers is inevitably going to increase. Thankfully there is one thing the internet does really well… contain answers. Furthermore there are a number of sites dedicated to helping people ask and answer questions.

The following is a comparison of 5 top answer site. The same question was searched for and then asked from each site – both the process and results were compared.

My Question: How should a journalist evaluate a possible story and sources?

Yahoo Answers

http://answers.yahoo.com/

Yahoo answers has been a major player in the answers field for many years now. The idea is simple you ask questions and you answer questions, this getting a little more complicated by the use of a points system that rewards you for answering questions and having the “best” answer to a question and reduces points when you ask new questions.

The Pros:

  • Asking questions is easy
  • Searching is easy
  • Recommends categories

The Cons:

  • Recommends similar questions but only after you’ve posted – which is less helpful.
  • You have to have a yahoo account to post questions.

My question?

Wasn’t there originally but I did get a response and it was very well thought out and useful.

Quora

http://www.quora.com/

A relatively new kid on the answer block, quora takes the concept of questions and answers and mixes them together in a social media platform. The site is simple to use and easy to get started.

The Pros:

  • Allows you to “follow” topics/people of interest
  • Searching for a question and adding a question is the same action – makes things easy.

The Cons:

  • Requires you have a Quora account
  • User Interface could be slightly more intuitive

My Question:

Similar questions had been asked which had very nice answers. My question is is being followed by others but no answers still.

LinkedIn Answers

http://www.linkedin.com/answers

My previous experiences with LinkedIn Answers have been largely positive and I think there is a great deal to be said for having a captive audience of users that are actually in the field related to your question.

The Pros:

  • Greater probability of answers from professionals in the field
  • Incentives to answer questions and do so well

The Cons:

  • The Search function is not as open (doesn’t find only keywords or make suggestions)
  • Categories are less intuitive and not suggested (couldnt’ find a news or journalism category)

My Question?

Wasn’t available when searching. Now, what surprised me a bit was the only answer I received for my question was really snippy and kind of demeaning. Previous experience with LinkedIn Answers would suggest this isn’t the case normally but it was enough to make me consider other outlets for my next question.

Ask.Com

http://www.ask.com/

Ask has been around for a while and is a hybrid between answer site and search engine. This dynamic combinations makes finding information very easy – if not a little overwhelming at times.

The Pros:

  • Finds answers from across the web – not just the immediate community
  • Interfaces with linkedin for login makes it easy to join
  • Asking the community is very easy, no categories to worry about and the question is transfered from your search to the question form.

The Cons:

  • Having answers to your queries come from across the web can be a little bit of information overload and is really no more useful that a good google search.

My Question?

The exact question wasn’t in the search results but lots and lots and lots of pages with helpful information were. After asking my question… its just sat there unanswered.

Wiki Answers

http://wiki.answers.com/

Occaisionally when researching a topic wiki.answers.com will show up in the search results – unfortunately the questions were rarely answered and most often irrelevant to the search if they were. Having now used Wiki Answers to ask a question I’m fairly certain that the entire site exists solely increase search rankings and gain advertising dollars.

The Pros:

  • A search provided multiple questions that were very close to mine.
  • Easy to ask question, prefilled form, suggests categories.
  • No login necessary forasking but is for getting responses sent to you.

The Cons:

  • Answers to similar questions really really sucked (bad grammer, incomplete answers, etc..).

My Question?

Has yet to be answered and all related questions were answered but had one sentence answers that were little more than the question phrased as a statement.

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.