Offsite sharing is a fascinating concept. Perhaps the most compelling feature of Facebook consists of the availability of the Like Button.
The Like Button and Offsite Sharing
Because the offsite Like Button dovetails beautifully with its presence on the site itself, i.e.,
“The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user’s friends’ News Feed with a link back to your website.”
Drag and Drop
Furthermore, the site tries to make it easy for even novice programmers (and people who can really only do drag and drop) to place a Like Button on their own sites for offsite sharing.
The premise is irresistible. You add the Like Button, people “Like” your own site, and that information transmits back to Facebook and to the Likers’ friend lists. In addition, their friends, who may not have know about you at all, suddenly do, and the offsite sharing spreads even more. They, hopefully, check you out, Like you, and the process repeats on and on, ad infinitum, or at least in theory. And with enough intersecting friends with enough non-intersecting additional friendships, a few Likes could translate into dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of new people who know about you.
Engagement and Reach
However, engagement and reach are both going down. And Facebook actually has the gall to try to get people to pay for what it does! Quelle horreur!
But, seriously folks, how do you think Facebook pays its bills? They do it with advertising. If users won’t be charged (and Facebook would be mighty foolish to start charging all of those free sources of detailed consumer data), then advertisers will be. And of course that already happens.
What gets a lot of people’s undershorts knotted is that the freebie advertising is harder and harder to implement. Facebook seems to push everyone with a page to start buying likes to get more offsite sharing.
Thumb on the Scale?
Whoa, Nelly! Because that would be kind of unethical, if the site was deliberately putting a thumb on an imaginary scale and making it harder for people to reach their fans without paying for reach and engagement.
So, are they doing that?
While the jury is still out (after years!), I’m still inclined to say no. After all, the site grows by leaps and bounds on a second by second basis. And so engagement and reach dilute without Facebook having to do a damned thing.
Finally, does the site benefit from making it harder for page and group administrators to connect for free? Absolutely. But do they have to work in order to create this condition?
Nope. Life does it for them.
Offsite Sharing: The Upshot
Beyond issues with Russian interference and how the Facebook algorithm can sometimes tamp down third parties, offsite sharing can work pretty well there.
Political and other paid ads, though, are another story. They are a reminder that, every year, Facebook becomes more and more of a “pay to play” platform. Hence if you want to share something from off the site, your shared content might be lost amidst the paid stuff. So be it.
Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!
Go offline. Yes, I really and truly want you to do this. I want you to go out and meet real-live, honest to goodness human beings. You know, members of your own species.
But, but, but, I hear you saying, why am I on on online networking site in the first place? Isn’t it to build a network online?
Well, sure it is. But nowhere in there is the word only living. Online, yes. But not exclusively there.
Not by a long shot.
Traditional vs. New-Style Networking
Traditional networking involves fairly formalized, ritualized meetings between job seekers and employees of companies where the job seekers wish to work.
Here’s the drill: the job seeker gets an introduction via a friend, or a friend of a friend, and goes to the contact’s office. The job seeker brings his or her resume and the two of them chat, maybe for a half an hour or so. And the job seeker leaves the resume and, if he or she is good at follow up, sends a nice thank-you note. The contact may or may not respond, promising to get in touch if something comes up, or if the contact thinks of someone else for the job seeker to talk to. And the cycle either continues, or it dies on the vine. And so it goes.
LinkedIn Changes That
With LinkedIn, the drill differs. Here is what I found to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, or you may come up with something else. So, instead,
You find a person you want to meet. They may be in your industry, or an industry you want to get into. Or they are in a company where you think you’d like to work. Make sure they are close enough to you that getting together is feasible.
And you ask them to link to you.
You do this with about 19 other people – this is a numbers game, and not everyone will say yes. My experience has been, out of over 200 of these, only one person has flat out said no. However, over half either ignored my link request or just never got around to it (I have even met some of these people under other circumstances – it’s not hostility that keeps them from linking to me, it’s that they are busy and processing far too much information at any given one time). So, give yourself better odds. Mine have been about 45% have said yes to the link request.
Someone says yes. Great! Send them a note, saying something like, Thank you for linking with me. Would it be possible to meet briefly for coffee? I am interested in going into ___/working at ___ company/working as a ____ and can see that you have done that, and I hope that you have a few tips you can share. Thanks!
Repeat this with anyone else who’s agreed to link with you, pursuant to your initial request. My experience has been that, out of the people who linked to me, I contacted about 55% of them to ask them to coffee (for the others, I realized they were either too geographically remote or they let me know they could link but were busy, e. g. they were new parents) and then, out of that group, about 25% of those actually got as far as scheduled meetings. Hence my success rate was that I met with about 6% of the people I initially wrote to.
So block off an hour or two, but tell your guest that you only want 20 minutes of their time. Hence that way, if the meeting goes over, you’re covered.
Don’t bring your resume! Instead, bring either a laptop or your smartphone or a pen and paper. And bring a paper list of companies you’re targeting. Because if the conversation flags, you can always ask your guest what he or she thinks of those companies, or if your guest knows anyone at any of them.
Furthermore, have your guest select the date, time and place. In addition, give a couple of choices of dates or places for meeting offline, if your guest is having trouble deciding and
Offer to pay for coffee. Even if you’ve been out of work for a long time, most people are sensitive enough, and realize you’re probably watching your funds. However, you must ask.
Meeting Offline Specifics
As for the meeting itself, make it whatever you want it to be. And if the conversation flags, remember it’s only 20 minutes out of your life. So you can always claim a prior appointment. However, if the conversation goes well, be sensitive to your guest’s time – just ask – do you need to go? And then just follow their lead.
So follow up with a thank-you email, and send a note every few months or so, to maintain the connection. Just send along an article or blog post that you think that your guest might enjoy. And it is also a courtesy – although not strictly necessary – to follow them on Twitter and/or read and comment on their blog, if any.
So will it work? It can. I did not meet with a lot of people in terms of percentages. However, the people I met with gave me very good information, and introduced me to others (or informed me of upcoming events) which helped me out even more. And it also was incredibly helpful to me in my work, as I had a good, strong network to draw on when we had events and needed to fill a room.
This kind of activity will certainly get you out and about, and give you exposure to people in your current or future field. Finally, meeting offline counts as making a job contact for virtually any Department of Unemployment.
There, now, meeting offline wasn’t so bad, was it?
So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.
And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.
However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.
You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.
And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.
Transitioning to the In-Person Experience
My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.
After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.
With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.
I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).
Internet Afterlife and a Cyber Legacy
The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.
But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?
A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might just that cyber legacy and feel we are rather shallow people indeed.
Forums Tell a Different Story
However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.
So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind for your cyber legacy? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?
Employee passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.
So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?
So before you reflexively say no, hold the phone. Because the truth is, unless the law expressly forbids it, companies can. They can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees.
As a result, they can demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. Hence a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.
First of all, here in the Bay State, legislation is pending. This includes H.B 448, which relates to student data privacy. It also includes, which relates to social media consumer privacy protection. And it includes S.B 1055, which relates to social media privacy protection.
Arkansas and Employee Passwords
Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. § 11-2-124; Code Ark. R. 010.14.1-500 says:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose their user names or passwords to a personal online account; change the privacy settlings on their accounts…”
California and Employee Passwords
Much like Arkansas, employers can’t get into employees’ social media accounts. But an exception exists for investigations into misconduct, per Cal. Lab. Code § 980.
Colorado’s law is Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-2-127, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.”
In Connecticut, the law is Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-40x, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $500 for the first violation and between $500 and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Employees can be awarded relief, including job reinstatement, payment of back wages, reestablishment of employee benefits, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
And in Delaware, the law is Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709A. It’s pretty similar to the law in Arkansas.
So in Illinois, the law is 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 55/10; Ill. Admin. Code tit. 56, §§ 360.110, 360.120.
“If an employer violates the law, an employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.”
In addition, La. Stat. Ann. §§ 51:1951 to 51:1953, 51:1955 says:
“Employers may not request or require employees or applicants to disclose user names and passwords or other login information for their personal accounts.”
But in Louisiana, it’s okay for employers to push for a look into employee personal online accounts in one instance. This is if there are allegations of misconduct. So stop downloading porn at work!
So in Maine, the law is Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 26, §§ 615 to 619.
“An employer that violates the law is subject to a fine from the Department of Labor of at least $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations.”
So in Maryland, the law is Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-712. The provisions are pretty close to those in Arkansas.
And then in Michigan, the law is Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 37.271 to 37.278.
“Employers that violate the law can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000. Employees and applicants may also file a civil claim and recover up to $1,000 in damages plus attorney fees’ and court costs.”
And then in Montana, the law is Mont. Code Ann. § 39-2-307.
“An employee or applicant may bring an action against an employer in small claims court for violations. If successful, an employee or applicant can receive $500 or actual damages up to $7,000, as well as legal costs.”
Then in Nebraska, the law is Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3501 to 48-3511. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
But in Nevada, the law is Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.135. This one is very short but it specifically includes blogs.
“Employers may not require employees or applicants to change the privacy settings on their email or social media accounts or add anyone to their email or social media contact lists.”
But just like in Louisiana, Granite Staters will have to provide a look-see if there are any misconduct accusations flying around.
Then in New Jersey, the law is N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:6B-5 to 34:6B-10. So it says:
“Employers that violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation from the New Jersey Labor Commissioner.”
So in New Mexico, the law is N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-4-34. This one specifically extends to friend lists.
Oklahoma on Employee Passwords
In addition, when it comes to employee passwords, Oklahoma’s Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 40, § 173.2 says,
“Employers may not require employees or applicants to disclose passwords or other information that provide access to personal online social media accounts or require employees to access personal social media in the presence of the employer. A social media account is an online account used exclusively for personal communications and to generate or store content, including videos, photographs, blogs, instant messages, audio recordings, or email.”
So this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Then in Oregon, the law is Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659A.330. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
Furthermore, per R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-56-1 to 28-56-6:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit for violations. The court can award declaratory relief, damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and injunctive relief against the employer.”
So this is beyond the standard where an employer can’t just take a peek whenever they feel like it.
Tennessee on Employee Passwords
And per Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-1-1001 to 50-1-1004:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose passwords to personal online accounts.”
So in Utah, the law is Utah Code Ann. §§ 34-48-101 to 34-48-301. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations, with a maximum award of $500.”
Virginia and Employee Passwords
So in Virginia, the law is Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-28.7:5. It’s not too far off from Arkansas, but an employer can get employee passwords under the guise of an investigation.
Washington (State) on Employee Passwords
So in Washington State, the law is Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 49.44.200 and 49.44.205. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations and obtain injunctive relief, actual damages, a penalty of $500, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
So in West Virginia, the law is W. Va. Code Ann. § 21-5H-1, another Arkansas clone, more or less.
Wisconsin on Employee Passwords
And then in Wisconsin, per Wis. Stat. Ann. § 995.55:
“Employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for violations and receive appropriate relief.”
Other States on Employee Passwords
In addition, Maryland became apparently the first state to consider the matter, per the Boston Globe, in 2012. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several bills have been proposed around the country.
However, aside from the ones listed above, only the following states seem to have these laws. Then according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are also such laws in Guam and the District of Columbia.
So these bills come up repeatedly.
Finally, the country still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing employees privacy in social media accounts. Hence we all need to look out more. In addition, it might end up a good idea to just out and out refuse when asked for passwords.
Superstar users? Some people just seem to be born with it. If you’ve ever spent some time on forums, you immediately know who they are.
Their topics rarely go without a response for long. And their contributions are routinely applauded (either using available site software or via written praise) by the other users. Their absences are lamented (and noticed!). Their returns are celebrated. In addition, people rarely forget their birthdays and membership milestones.
They are the superstar users.
They can be made by the community or they can be nudged along by you, the Community Manager. The community can sometimes choose stars that don’t promote your company’s vision very well. But you can combat this by selecting some superstars of your own.
Converting Users into Superstars
How do you make superstar users? Almost the same way that the community does. However, you may have some added tricks up your sleeve. First of all choose, choose a few likely candidates. Go into your member list and sort by number of posts, from most to least. Select your top 20 posters.
You probably know who they are already. But if you don’t, if you have a posts/day statistic, copy that down. Put all of this into a spreadsheet. Add in the dates each user joined the site and the dates of their most recent posts (which may be the day you compile this information).
If anyone has overwhelmingly negative social signals (vote downs, ignores, complaints or reports against them), if you can put your hands on that information quickly, discard that member from your list and replace him or her with the next one. Ignore sock puppets and second accounts, if you have good proof that two accounts belong to the same person. Again, just move to the person with the 21st-most posts/day, etc.
Now look at your list. Who is the member with the most recent post (gauge that by day, not by hour, so if two posters have a last post date of October first, consider them to be tied even if one posted at 1:00 AM and the other posted at 11:00 PM), with the highest number of posts/day, who has been a member the longest? Rank that person #1 and rank everyone else in order behind him or her. Ties are fine.
Now you’ll need to do a little more research. If you have this data readily available, use it: the section(s) of the site where your 20 users spend the most of their time. This could divide into tags or subforums or categories. It really depends on however your site is divvied up. However, if this information is not readily available, research it by investigating everyone’s last 10 posts. Of course their most recent 10 posts could potentially not be perfectly characteristic of their behavior on the site. So you take that chance. Nothing is set in concrete; you can always revisit this later.
If your #1 user’s last 10 posts are all on message or in the section(s) of the site devoted to your company’s message, that person stays at #1. But if not, weigh them as against their 19 competitors. And if #2 is close to #1 but a lot more on message, switch their rankings. Also use this measurement of being on message (or not) to resolve any ties.
Now look at your list again. #1 should be the user who is most on message, with a lot of posts and recent activity, who has a long history on the site and whose negative social signals (there are usually some, particularly for long-time, popular posters. That’s fine; just try to stay away from universally reviled people). This is the first person you want to approach.
And, how do you approach them? Handle this both indirectly and directly. Indirectly by promoting their posts, topics and replies, with up votes, applause, positive ensuing comments and making their topics sticky – whatever your software allows which provides them with attention and positive reinforcement. Don’t do this all at once – spread it out over time. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint here. Provide the same indirect positive reinforcement to your other candidates, but less as you go down your list.
The direct approach: engage them, both openly on the boards and in private messages (most sites have the means to do this). You should out and out flatter them. Instead, offer encouragement or point out their posts that you find interesting. Or tell them about others’ posts that you feel might interest them. Again, don’t do this all at once. Offer these little tidbits gradually.
Every few months or so, review your list and consider whether to add or drop anyone. If you’ve made friends with these users then of course don’t drop them from your personal life just because they’ve gone off message too much! But certainly curtail your official Community Manager messages to them if there are others who would be more receptive.
Why do you want to do this?
Superstar users can help to bring your site out of a funk. They can (and do) make you aware of spam. Superstar users create and promote good content. They help trolls lose their power. They can help to calm the site down and ease it into and out of transitions. You can count on them.
However, they need to feel valued. And, even more importantly, they need to feel that you don’t just call on them when you want something. Provide positive reinforcement when there is no crisis and you’ll be able to call on them when there is one. And the corollary is true as well: superstar users, if unappreciated, will leave, and other users will follow them out of your forum. Ignore them at your peril.
Social Media Tips? Yes, please! A while back, Grassroots Giving Group published some great Social Networking tips. I agreed with their ideas but would like to expand upon them a bit.
And they were essentially exploring when Facebook and Twitter are useful. Here are some of their ideas.
Announcements – don’t just announce upcoming or new things but also add links in order to drive traffic. Agreed! However, I would add a targeted landing page. If you’ve got people coming in from Facebook, why not create a new landing page to personally welcome them (e. g. Welcome to our Facebook Friends!). The best part about that is that, since it’s a separate page, Google Analytics will track the clicks separately. You’ve got a fighting chance of getting good metrics, so you’ll know whether your announcement of the opening of a new branch of the Widget Factory played better on Facebook or on Twitter.
Sending shortened website addresses on Twitter – use an URL shortener. Of course! But why not use one (such as from HootSuite or Social Oomph) where you can get some click metrics? Using both a personalized landing page and an URL with click metrics can give you an even clearer idea of how traffic flows. Oh, and they don’t tell you why you should shorten an URL on Twitter (even if the URL fits), but I will: to make it easier for people to retweet.
Planning in Advance – nothing new here. You should keep up with things and plan in advance. Absolutely. And that means, when you’re hot and creative, write, write, write! Keep drafts and ideas going, and also think about how you can expand on your own blog entries or others’ (such as this blog entry). Get yourself a stable of other blogs/blog writers, news sources, etc. Who inspires you? Who interests you? And don’t repeat or steal, of course. Rather, expand and comment. These are perfectly legitimate ways to update your blog.
This Day in History – Commemorate occasions in your company! There must be something you’ve done that is good blog fodder. Of course, not every day is memorable, but it’s another way to keep the pipeline going. If July 12th is an important day in your organization, make sure that the July 12th blog post and Tweets are ready to rock and roll, and they are updated to the correct year. Heck, in HootSuite and SocialOomph (mentioned above), you can schedule Tweets. Why not schedule the Tweets for July 12th (or whatever your special day just so happens to be) and be done with them?
Quote Collection – I like this idea, and I think it can be used for a lot of purposes. This is not only quotes about your specific organization or its work, but even more generalized quotations. Surely there is something from Shakespeare (My Kingdom for a horse!) or the Bible that could work for you in some capacity or another. It can be another jumping off point for creativity.
Ask Your Audience Questions – I think this is more useful if you have a somewhat large and actively commenting readership. While a rhetorical question is lovely, I think it’s just better if you can get at least a little feedback. Otherwise, it feels like you’re just shouting out to the wilderness.
Staff Introductions – this is another great idea. While your site might already have staff biographies, that’s another way to get the readership acquainted with who’s making the product.
Notes From Your Day
Notes from Your Day – I don’t know about this one. Your day, maybe. Mine? I guess this is, in part, centered around the event reviews I’ve done. But otherwise, my days tend to be spent, well, here, blogging. Which may or may not be thrilling to others. But I can see where my coworkers could have some very interesting days. The process of invention is pretty fascinating.
So there you have it. Some pretty amazing ideas for getting and keeping things going. And, while the post wasn’t, specifically, about blogging, it rings very true for that very specific – and sometimes challenging and elusive – task.
Finally, many, many thanks to the Grassroots Giving Group.
So for the social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. However, the book proved to be optional.
Yet I read it from cover to cover, and I just plain devoured that thing.
Fiction Writing Zen
So as a fiction writer, I particularly loved his ideas about how to, well, get ideas. On Page 33, he wrote –
“… in a lifetime, we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. Into our subconscious go not only factual data but reactive data, or movement toward or away from the sense of events.
“These are the stuffs, the foods, on which the Muse grows.”
Spoiler Alert: I Loved It
First of all, that is just a great way of looking at things. Because what Bradbury is doing is essentially giving the aspiring writer permission to get inspiration from everywhere, and from everything. Since the smallest memories can do it. So don’t give up on your weirdness. And don’t suppress it. I love this concept.
Furthermore, on Page 50, he writes about praise. And as writers, we might aspire to everyone loving us, and buying our works or at least reading them or, at minimum, being aware of them.
However, Bradbury offers a rather different definition of success –
“We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we’re not crazy after all, that what we’re doing is all right. All right, hell, fine!”
Therefore, really, it is okay to want to be loved. And it is okay to be weird.
I recommend this writing book above all others. Yes, really! It is just that good.
I am published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, concerns how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family far removed from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to help out.
And for the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.
However, authors might get better percentages of the take with a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale beats out no sale), if we have our druthers and it really makes a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors
So once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way of supporting indie authors even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book.Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review (and some places require it now).
The Sum and Substance of Your Review
What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group the work is aimed at, then no problem. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, really help. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.
What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (an unethical request, by the way). However, if the book stinks (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:
Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. However be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book utterly bored you, the term interesting works. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you have just damned with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.
Really going negative
Post a negative review. However, be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Yet is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). However, if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.
Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.
The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author
Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, or Tumblr rebloggings. Plus it’s clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content goes to more people and you are supporting indie authors. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.
The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors
Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies with larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.
You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). And you can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends. However if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?
If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.
The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author
Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling?
You can also act as a beta reader when you’re supporting indie authors. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? Or the protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). Instead, this is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.
As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.
Final Thoughts on Supporting Indie Authors
The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. Or you get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.
Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.
In addition, in the original article, the author talks about, essentially, how to tell whether a Twitter feed is being handled professionally, or not. Hence following are their “5 Points to consider before hiring a service to manage your Twitter account.”
Professionalism: Check Their Twitter Stream
1. First of all, before you even look at the different tools for measuring a Twitter user’s level of influence (which can be misleading and in some cases manipulated) you firstly need to check the individual’s own Twitter stream.
What type of language do they use? – agreed. Because branding involves, among other things, speaking the language of your customers. Are you a hip hop record label? A travel agency catering to retirees? A diamond jeweler? All of these businesses have different customer demographics. Hence there is no “one size fits all” here. However, this does not mean people cannot adapt to communicate properly with everyone they do business with (after all, you need not hire a child to market to children), but the Social Media Specialist needs to get the message across so that the target readership is receptive.
Do they spam their own followers by sending lazy Tweets for example? #FF @Tweeter1 @Tweeter2 etc. – I’m not so sure I call this spamming. I think, at times, it’s useful to do this. But overdoing it (and you’ll know it’s overkill if tweets like this – or quickie retweets – dominate the stream) is definitely not a good way to do business.
How do they use their own account? Is it professional or sloppy? Do they Tweet late into the night and have no professional boundaries. Do they over mix professional with personal Tweets. – agreed. And with useful tools such as HootSuite, you can schedule tweets. There’s no excuse for late night tweeting, and no need for it. If the stream is meant to engage internationally, it might be a good idea to split it up into more than one account, so that one stream is for North America and another for Asia.
Are their own Tweets all over the place so you are not able to pick up a clear message. – this is a good point, and not just when it comes to Twitter. A clear message is key – for a robotics company where I worked, the message centered around sales. Messages promoted education and/or robots. NASA, for example, was only mentioned in the context of robotics, not in the context of space launches. There’s a lot of information out there. Consider it to be a bit like a garden – usually it needs weeding and thinning, as opposed to fertilizing.
Furthermore, do they acknowledge where they take their material from or just duplicate what they see their competitors do? – ah, this is big. It’s why the original source for this article is listed. And it is a big part of how the ‘net works, or at least is supposed to. You post a blog entry. A competitor sees it. If they riff on it and post it and give you a link back, then that’s good for you. And you thank them and do the same in reverse and yeah, they’re still a competitor. But you’ve got common ground and in some areas you can cooperate. Or they don’t acknowledge you. And everybody digs their heels in and the world becomes a slightly more miserable place. Hey, you make the call, but I prefer cooperation pretty much every time, myself.
Too Much Self-Promotion?
Do their Tweets make any sense to you or are they just full of self promotion they hold no real value other than grooming their own ego. – true, but I think sometimes this can come from Social Media marketing folk not being properly trained. If the marketing manager is unsure of how much promotion should be mixed in with information, the marketer might be similarly confused.
How much negativity comes across in their stream – not everything is or should be positive, but I do get this. The idea is, well, are you promoting to people who want to buy your company’s organic brownie mix, or do you just sound petulant and whiny? However, you can sometimes be too perky. But I think if there are errors in this area, they should probably fall on the side of more, rather than less, perk.
Professionalism: Which Business Accounts Do They Manage?
2. Ask to be given the name of one of the business accounts they manage, and go through this with a fine tooth comb. Keep an active eye on the account and monitor how they manage the business’ online profile.
How many Tweets are there and what type do they send? – it’s a quantity and a quality game on Twitter. You need to get across some seven views before people start to consider buying. And consider Twitter’s international, 24/7 appeal – people may be checking at 4 AM your time. This, by the way, goes against an earlier statement about the marketer not tweeting into the wee hours. No, they shouldn’t – but unfortunately, sometimes, that’s when the readers are online. After all, if you’re tweeting for people playing World of Warcraft, they’ll be on at 4 AM. As for quality, that goes along with the above statements as well – are the tweets worthwhile, or are they dull self-promotion?
How do they engage with the client’s audience? – some of this is in the form of retweeting. Retweeting and replying have a place, as it is a give and take type of engagement. Is there professionalism behind the engagement?
And how is the call-to-action placed and worded? – this is fairly self-explanatory. There is a difference between what looks like a hard sell, and what has more of a friendly “Hey, check this out” vibe. Does the marketer know the difference? And is the difference readily apparent in tweets?
In addition, do the articles relate to the client’s industry and audience? – this harkens back to my NASA example above. Content is necessary, of course, but irrelevant content is worse than no content at all. Because it’s better that the marketer pump out less content if it’s not relevant, yes?
Do they add any value? – the $64,000 question! Can you tell without having access to measurement tools?
3. Ask for a number of references and call them. This, of course, is excellent advice any time you’re hiring.
How has the business level of influence grown? For sure if they cannot achieve this for themselves, then they can’t do it for the client. – try objective measurements if you can get them, like Google rankings, bounce rate, etc.
What have been the benefits? – only your industry will have the specifics for this. Increased sales may or may not be the actual benefit. After all, sometimes social media is used for damage control. If that can happen more efficiently and inexpensively – that might be the benefit.
What difference has it made to your online brand? – again, this is a specific question.
How good is the level of communication? – hard to say what this means without context. After all, the car dealer and the online cancer support group will have different needs in this area.
What results has the business seen? – again, objective measurements are best, whatever you can get.
4. Ask what Twitter measuring tools they use to provide their clients with monthly reports. Do they use anything else to measure how things are working (or not)?
While there are some good free tools around they do not come close to paid analytical tools for managing Twitter accounts. – agreed, but sometimes that’s how things go, particularly if the person you’re considering has worked for startups or nonprofits.
Ask what recommendations they have made to the client that have enabled the business to grow based on the findings. – these should be in whatever reports the person under consideration provides.
5. Finally, ask how much time they intend to spend on your account over the week.
How will this time be managed with all their other projects? – this is a good question for any sort of a freelance or offsite working relationship.
What elements of account management does this breakdown in to? – again, this is not confined to social media; it’s a good question for any potential employee who’ll be working remotely, or not exclusively with you.
How will they keep you informed and up to date with relevant Tweets and conversations? – reports? Emails? What is manageable and relevant?
Professionalism: My Own Ideas
And now a few of my own when it comes to professionalism.
What do the tweets look like? Are they interesting? Relevant? Grammatically correct within the character limit? Or are they just slight variations on a theme?
Do all provided links work, or do they go to dead ends? And do the links have any sort of measurement behind them, even simple click metrics? Do they lead to generic pages, or to any custom pages for Twitter users?
What’s the follow/follower ratio? Does the person follow everyone, or are they, at least seemingly, a bit choosy in this area? We all know that junk follower accounts exist – does the prospective hiree even follow those or seem to use auto-follow?
So how often does the person tweet? Daily? Monthly? A monthly Twitter stream is barely this side of useful. Tweets need not come every five seconds, but it is a fluid, evolving medium and needs more attention than that.
And finally, and this is a question for the person (and you may not get an accurate answer, by the way), does the person under consideration actually like what he or she is doing? Do they have a passion for it? Or is it, like, Time to make the doughnuts? I’m not saying that we can (or should) always love what we do. But plenty of people love doing this. Why not hire someone who does?
Finally, you can get a passionate Social Media person, to handle your Twitter stream, do your blogging, manage your online community, promote your Facebook page and more. And they will do it with professionalism and aplomb. We really exist.
Company pages have become spots you put together on Facebook to support a business (not the same as a fan page).
However, like everything else on Facebook, these pages and their settings do evolve, and they’ve gotten simpler these days. Currently, the following features are available:
Change Background Image/Avatar
Promote with an Ad
Add to my Page’s Favorites
Suggest to Friends
Friends Who Like the Page
People Who Like the Page
Change Background Image/Avatar
This one is rather self-explanatory. Furthermore, a good, bright background image is good, as it shows up when you share the page. In addition, you might want to change these on occasion as that generates an update.
Manage permissions, add an address or business hours, etc. here.
Promote with an Ad
This is fairly self-explanatory. Note that Buffer has said that Facebook ads are a mixed bag.
Add to my Page’s Favorites
So here’s where another company you can link your page to your event pages.
Suggest to Friends
This is basic information such as the company’s location.
First of all, this provides basic click information, including the number of Likes and Views. In addition, you can also see information on age and gender demographics and, most importantly, when people are online.
Friends Who Like the Page
People Who Like the Page
Fairly self-explanatory, except this includes people you are not, personally, friends with.
This goes back to adding a page as a favorite. And it shows which company pages your company has favorited.
I’ve found adding events to be hit or miss. First of all, not everyone RSVPs, and not everyone shows up even if they’ve said yes. However, it provides more exposure and it will bring your page up to people as the event date rolls around. Because even people who are clicking “No” are still looking, at least a little bit. So use with discretion and don’t overdo this. Because not every activity is an event, and not everyone should be invited to everything. Since that’s just plain annoying.
Fairly self-explanatory. In addtion, you can control who can add to your wall. However, keep in mind that if you are free and easy with this, you’ll get more posts but you might also get spam. Although if you shut this down, you end up with Posts to Page. And it’s easy to miss these!
Here you add more detailed information. Hence this includes the company’s address and its business hours.
Fairly self-explanatory. Posts with images nearly always do better than those without, so upload an image if the link you’re sharing doesn’t have one. Make sure you have permission to use the image!
For administrators, you can see what’s going on at a glance. However, this no longer seems to exist on Facebook.
Fairly self-explanatory. Hence add notes like you would on your own personal page. E. g. these are almost discussions. However, the responses are relegated to subordinate comments versus the kind of back and forth that comes from the wall or the discussions page. And this is, admittedly, a nitpicky distinction without much of a real difference. I would, though, suggest that you not use the Notes section for blogging. Instead, get a blog through WordPress (yay!) or the like and do it that way. Because the Notes section ends up a rather poor substitute for that.
Fairly self-explanatory. Hence if you’ve got videos uploaded, they can show up here. However, this is not the same as linking to a video hosted online elsewhere.
Fairly self-explanatory. So just post to your wall but pull down on the post button and select Schedule Post. In addition, if you’ve been looking at your Insights, you should know when people are online. And of course you want to try to post when people will see your posts.
Finally, go to Edit Profile and there is an option for Applications. However, these days, the only ones are Notes and Events.