Tag Archives: preparation

Reflections on a Blogging Journey

23 May

Most of this blog has been in correlation with a course on social media and journalism. Many prior attempts had been made at creating a blog in the past but not until the peer pressure of a class was upon me was I able to stick with it and really give the blog all I had to give. These past months have provided me with a great amount of blog insight that no amount of reading or advising of others had given me before. I consider this blog to still be in its early stages and the longevity of it may still be uncertain but the lessons taken from the experience will apply themselves both to the future of this blog and to other ventures.

You Can Never Do Too Much Prep

Obviously some platforms call for more prep than others (there is only so much thinking you can do on a 160 character message) but regardless of your target its important to take time to think, draft and revise what you’re going to write/say. In the case of a blog or a news article this can be days and days worth of work collecting resources and growing the content into something new and exciting.

Engagement Is Queen

The common wisdom is that content is king. If this is true than engagement definitely plays the part of the queen. The game might be over if you kill the content but you’ll be sorely hurt and recovery is hard if you lose your queen. Developing a social media persona isn’t about just writing lots of content, publishing links to it and waiting for people to read. The real objective is to create a platform in which the topics you write about can be discussed, where the ideas that you share gain traction and grow. The only way to have this happen is by engaging with other people in meaningful ways.

Its Important To Be Appropriate

Appropriateness on the internet is a little different than in person. The content of your media doesn’t need to be rated G by any means and in fact the internet is a very good medium for discussion topics that might not be accessible in print or regular television. The importance of appropriateness on the internet has to do with how you use the mediums. Standards are in place which make technology platforms work well for everyone, use hash-tags when you create a tweet, tag people in facebook posts if you mention their name, when writing an article please use meta-data. These small things are there so that everyone can access content in a level playing field without having to search for pages and pages.

Goals Matter

While the internet is full of people that are otherwise board and haven’t yet realized they can go outside, chances are most of them you’re interested in communicating with feel their time is valuable. It can be fun to be a chatty Cathy and share each and every tidbit that comes to mind but when doing this keep in mind why you’re publishing social media. If your goal is to having meaningful relationships with followers that result in an engaged community then it might be better to keep some thoughts private. There are lots of things worth sharing but not all of them help you in your goals.

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.

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.

LinkedIn and Cute Black Pumps

9 Mar

At 18 I was managing a small coffee shop and enjoying many many aspects of it. I loved the interactions with customers and having a limitless supply of coffee drinks was very nice too. Aside from the very low pay, the thing I disliked the most about my coffee shop gig was the dress. Sure its nice to be able to roll out of bed 7min before work starts but its also nice to wear cute clothes an open-toed shoes. This was the mindset that prompted my first real job search, I was very open to any number of job options, the only thing I was really set on was that I wanted to be able to wear cute black pumps to work.

And so, at 18 years old I sat down and started revising my resume. To my credit, I did have a number of nice jobs during high-school but it was still the resume of someone that had only been supporting themselves all of 3 months. I worked tediously to express fully the asset I had been at each of my working and volunteer experiences. When all was said and done I had a very nicely formatted page that contained almost no information which would be helpful in attaining the type of job I was searching for. But with great amounts of optimism I started applying to job after job.

After not too long I found a temp agency that placed me in a couple of admin jobs – this was great, it payed well (compared to what I was used to) and I loved the change to a corporate environment. The problem was that the positions were temporary, I stayed anywhere from 2 days to 9 months but no matter how long I was a temp the rules made it very hard for the company to hire me outright. Little did I realize at the time it was this series of small opportunities that would ultimately give me the resources I needed to get the job I was looking for.

Almost a full year after starting my job search I finally landed a position as an office admin in a medical clinic. The dress code included cute black pumps and the atmosphere was just geeky enough that I really thrived and loved going to work. The funny thing was that I didn’t search for this job at all, it was just presented to me. In all honestly I haven’t really searched for a job since that first time at 18. Sure, I’ve had times when I’ve wanted more employment and times when I’ve wanted to adjust the criteria of what I do but its been the better part of a decade since I’ve dealt with truly hitting the pavement for a job.

So how does this happen? How is it that someone can have very little experience but still land a job they want? To be truthful I’ve wondered this myself and spent many a time thankful for my luck. But upon examining things I think there are two factors that likely have a significant influence on my easy job transitions: connections and a positive attitude.

Aside from the temp agency, every job I’ve ever had was acquired because of a recommendation. This is one of if not the most crucial thing that LinkedIn provides as a service. By connecting people to other people they work with and providing a way to see the degrees of separation between the person you know and the person you want to know LinkedIn creates meaningful interactions around networking. Not that facebook and twitter aren’t meaningful, I just wrote last week about the role they can play in job searching, but the networking provided isn’t nearly as powerful as the recommendation from a mutual colleague can be.

LinkedIn connections should be thought about carefully, you may love your goofy cousin but are they someone you’d bring along with you to an interview? If the answer is no, then I’d recommend leaving that relationship for facebook. Another asset of LinkedIn is that you can ask for written recommendations and they are available for viewing by prospective employers as well as all of your connections. I’m not overly active on LinkedIn but I still get contacted once a month or so about a possible gig, and until recently I wasn’t actually searching. This alone makes me really appreciate LinkedIn.

The other key thing I attribute to my past job hunting luck has to do with those black pumps. Indeed my priorities when vetting potential jobs have changed, from simply the most interesting attire experience to things more centered around security and growth, but the approach I take is the same. Searching for work is not about finding the ultimate most perfect job ever – that doesn’t exist. Successful employment is about focusing on the benefits that a job provides (new experiences, connections or even enjoyable tasks) and then moving on in a mutually beneficial way if all of these positive things don’t outweigh the negatives that a job may have. Simply being a happy worker will improve the relationships you have with coworkers and employers while you’re working with them and ensure you many great recommendations once you have departed.

The moral of the story… go visit LinkedIn, and always remember to enjoy nice pair of little black pumps.

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.