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Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (visual elements)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (visual elements)

Visual elements. There are two areas on Twitter where you can make a visual impact, and it has nothing to do with what you’re actually tweeting. No, scratch that, there are three. Kinda.

Avatar

visual elements
ala10 Twibbon (Photo credit: ALA staff)

So the first, most obvious one, consists of the account’s avatar. Here’s where you should put the company logo. Don’t have a logo? Then it can be a picture of the person doing the tweeting, as this is supposed to be something of a conversation.

Other visual elements of choice for an avatar can be a picture of the company mascot, if there is one. Or a photo of one person (the main user) on the Twitter team, although if two or three people are doing the tweeting, what about a closeup of both or all three of them, photo booth style? This will depend upon your industry and your image therein. But at the very least, you must get away from a generic Twitter avatar.

Background Visual Elements

Where’s the second area where you can make a visual impact? It’s your background. Here’s where your company logo can go if it’s not already being used for the account’s avatar. And if you have a well-known logo, that will add to the visual impact, so long as you’re not using the logo for both the avatar and the background. Because that constitutes overkill unless both are subtle.

Depending upon monitor or device size and screen resolution, some parts of the background will be hidden or revealed. So make sure to place the logo on the left of the background, preferably near the top, and test the look on several different-sized monitors and devices, and utilizing different resolutions and operating systems. You will not be able to customize the look for each setup (like you can with Cascading Style Sheets), but at least you’ll get an idea of where you’re being cut off. Naturally, you want to optimize your visual elements for whatever setup your customers are most likely to be using — if your target audience has vision problems (e. g. perhaps they’re elderly), the most likely setup may very well involve a larger than standard screen resolution.

More About the Background

Below the upper left corner is some space directly to the left of where the tweeting actually occurs. To the left, vertically, you have a little room in which to place the company web address, a telephone number and possibly a short slogan. Twitter is meant to be short and sweet; don’t get caught up in adding a lot of verbiage here. Less can certainly be more in this case. Keep in mind, too, that no one can search on any verbiage you place here in the background image.

You can also add a picture just below your logo, or in place of it, in the upper left corner or along the left side. Try, perhaps, a picture of the Twitter team. Because you can great impact from offering pictorial evidence of who’s listening. Another option: place a picture of your main product here.

There is also some space to the right. However, this is the part that seems to grow or shrink depending upon monitor or device size and resolution. I recommend putting nothing much (if anything) here. This is because you don’t know how it will cut off. Although, if you have a color readily associated with your company (think of Starbucks green) or website, make sure that any unused portion of the background contains at least that color. Use that space as a part of a more unified design, not as a focal point.

Tweet Now, Or Later?

What’s part three? Visuals are also something, like every other part of Twitter, that you can schedule. This can come from a free or quasi-free website or software like Buffer or HootSuite.

But, what do I mean by timing? Picture this. You’re up early, and you’re kind of groggy. So all you really need is a cup of coffee. Then wouldn’t an image of a cup of coffee catch your eye? It just might.

And maybe this is small or even too subtle. But it’s another way to use visuals. Consider what your Twitter stream’s day looks like. And when are your followers up? If your followers are in the Philippines and not Boston, then you will need to think of everything as 12 hours opposite from the way you see it. So don’t put up your happy wake up cup of coffee image when your Filipino followers are heading to bed or going out to parties.

Visual Elements: The Upshot

What you tweet is, naturally, important, but consider the other areas where you can enhance your message. These basic visual elements can help you to place an exclamation point at the end of your tweets.

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Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)

Verbal elements? Twitter is, of course, utterly verbal. It’s just about all text. But not all of that text is tweets.

Almost Everything But the Tweet - Conquering Twitter (verbal elements)

One piece is the profile. There isn’t a lot of space here. The good news is that these verbal elements are searchable. If you want to make it clear that your company is green, you can put that here. Separate short messages with delimiters like pipes (|) or asterisks (*). Don’t use semicolons as they can end up being converted to code. This is an easy section to change, so consider changing it as needed, perhaps as special events come up.

Another area is the site URL. In order to be better able to track traffic coming in from Twitter, how about using a unique URL here, say, http://www.yoursite.com/twitter? That page could contain a customized welcome message to Twitter users. This is another readily editable area of Twitter, so why not switch it up as circumstances change?

Your location is another verbal area. Of course it need not be a real place, but for a commercial Twitter account you can’t get too whimsical here. However, if you’ve got a multi-state presence (and want to get that across but not create separate Twitter accounts for each state), there’s nothing wrong with making your location something like United States or New England or Great Lakes Region.

Verbal Elements: Names

Another area is the name behind the account. This is a searchable field. A company can add a tiny bit of additional information here, such as the general company location. Hence the user name could be Your Company but the name behind it could be Your Company, Cleveland.

Yet another area is the name(s) of list(s) that your company uses to follow others. Does a company need Twitter lists? Not necessarily, but you can still use them to make certain accounts stand out. What about lists like customers or distributors? Perhaps not very imaginative, but these could prove useful in the future if Twitter ever makes it possible to send certain tweets only to certain lists.

Finally, although it is an issue to change it, the username is another nugget of non-tweet verbiage. Instead of changing it, what about creating a few accounts to cover different eventualities? Able2Know used to do this well (although some of these feeds are abandoned these days). Able2know had split off a few feeds as follows:

A user can follow any or all of these and see a different slice of that site. The individual user names for the accounts make it abundantly clear which cut of the site you’re following.

What do you want to get across? What image do you wish to project? Peripheral information can support or obfuscate your message. Choose what you really want your verbal elements to say.

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Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (offsite connections)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (offsite connections)

Offsite connections. Because Twitter is so bare bones, any number of applications have sprung up around it in order to help you manage it and become as great as you can be. Try Twellow (many thanks to Bobbie Carlton for this particular tip).

This is essentially the Yellow Pages of Twitter. Put your company name here. You’ll have a bit more space to describe your site versus what Twitter gives you, so use that space wisely. Since most of the people checking you out on Twellow are also going to search for you on Twitter (probably after seeing your Twellow profile), make sure that your information is supportive and bolstering, but not redundant vis a vis your Twitter profile.

CrowdLens and Other Software

Another idea is CrowdLens, my friend Nick Ashley’s app. CrowdLens is designed to help remove redundancy (all that retweeting!) from your Twitter stream. CrowdLens can sometimes be slow. Here are some more sites to check out:

  • HootSuite – a tweet scheduling service (and more) whereby you can track stats and import your lists.
  • Social Oomph (formerly Tweet Later) – time tweets and gather simple metrics on shortened urls. You can set up more than one account this way.
  • Tweet Stats – a graph of, among other things, daily aggregate tweets, your most popular hours to tweet and who you retweet.
  • Idek – a url-shortening service that tracks metrics.
  • Twitter Reach – exposure and reach information, such as impressions and mentionings of any topic, word, phrase, userid or hashtag.

Offsite Connections: The Upshot

As Twitter continues to mature as a business tool, I predict that more and more of these off-site services will spring up. The most successful one will, in my opinion, combine the best features of all, coupled with ease of use and an ability to show trends over time.

And finally, Twitter changes things almost as much and as fast as Facebook does. So keep in mind, these instructions may need some tweaking.

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Twitter

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (metrics and timing)

Almost Everything But the Tweet – Conquering Twitter (metrics and timing)

Metrics and timing. When you tweet may not seem to matter too much. In particular, if you don’t tweet too terribly often, your tweets will still be out there, so why bother to even care about timing?

metrics and timing

Not so fast.

Patterns

According to The Science of Retweets, Twitter users tend to follow some recognizable patterns. First thing Monday morning is prime time for retweeting; so is five o’clock on a Friday afternoon. And that makes sense, as tweeters are either settling into the work week or are just about to start the weekend. Weekend tweeting is another animal as well. Noon is another good time for retweeting — people are at lunch or are about to go.

Plus there’s also the matter of accounts (often for job sites) that pump out a good dozen tweets, one right after another. These have little individual impact and seem only to be useful for later searching.

Timed tweeting seems almost counterintuitive. But for a business to use Twitter effectively, the tweets should be planned anyway. Why not plan not only their content but also their timing?

Scheduling Software

Here’s where services like Tweet DeckSocial Oomph (formerly Tweet Later) and HootSuite can provide some assistance. By scheduling the most important tweets for the very start and end (and middle) of each business day, you can add to their impact. Separating out your tweets can also get them all out there while simultaneously preventing a flood of tweets which many users are generally just going to ignore.

Another positive upshot to spacing out your tweets is giving you content that can be used later. For Social Media platforms, it’s easy to initially attack them with an enormous amount of enthusiasm and then taper off or even fizzle out entirely. If you regularly spit out twenty tweets per day, you’ll be tweeting 100 times during any given work week. Even your most dedicated followers are probably not going to read every single one. Plus, you’re setting yourself up for burnout.

Time Zone Scheduling

Instead, how about scheduling only two tweets per day (say, at 9:00 and 5:00 PM in the time zone where you have the greatest market share)? That way, you’ll have more people reading and no one will feel overwhelmed. Plus your 100 tweets will work for a little over a month or even two, if you are judicious and don’t tweet on the weekends.

So long as your tweets aren’t intimately tied to a specific time (e. g. announcements of an upcoming event), it shouldn’t matter. And, if they are, you might want to consider splitting them over several Twitter accounts. Perhaps open up one for just events in Seattle, for example.

Now, what about metrics?

URLs

Unfortunately, Twitter itself doesn’t do much, so you’ll have to cobble things together yourself and use off-Twitter resources. One idea is to use a URL-shortening service that tracks basic metrics, such as Social Oomph or Idek. You may not get much more data from them than click count, but it’s still something. Hoot Suite provides .owly link metrics, with two free reports.

Another idea is to use a unique URL for the site URL in your profile, say, http://yoursite.com/twitter. If you’ve got Google Analytics set up, you can track when that page is used for landings to your site, and its bounce rate. For commercial ventures, you might even make up a coupon code and tweet about it, or use your Twitter landing page as a means of communicating certain special offers available only to Twitter users.

Follower/Following Ratio

Your number of followers, and the ratio of followers to who youfollow, is all well and good, but it’s hard to say what you’re measuring. On Twitter, as on much of the web, popularity tends to breed even more popularity. And, it doesn’t really mean much if you have a number of purely spammy sites following you. They aren’t reading your tweets, anyway, so what’s the point?

This dilutes any idea of what these numbers might provide regarding influence, but if for some reason you really want to be followed by a bunch of spammers, just place the term weight loss into your profile and never block the spammers. In fact, follow them back, and you can get even more of them.

It hardly seems a worthwhile trophy to be followed by the biggest-ever village of spammers, eh?

Some Metrics

Some sites, such as Audiense, show number of followers and their influence and activity. You can see which inactive people you follow (so you can drop them), which famous people follow you, etc. Some of these are admittedly vanity metrics, but they are helpful.

Tweet Stats demonstrates, among other things, a graph of daily aggregate tweets. And it also contains your most popular hours to tweet and who you retweet. Twitter Reach reveals exposure and reach. E. g. this means impressions and mentions of any topic, be it a word, a phrase, a userid or a hashtag.

In conclusion, keep up with Twitter, but don’t overwhelm your followers with floods of content, and measure your influence as well as you can, both using your own and external tools. If you can adjust your tweets to better serve your followers, your true influence will surely rise.

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Facebook Social Media Twitter

Happy Holidays, Social Media Style

Happy Holidays, Social Media Style

Happy Holidays!

Oh, I do so wish I had written this.

Happy Holidays, Social Media Style

It says so much more about Social Media than most can say, and it does it in a breezy, easy to understand style.

The main idea behind this rather detailed video consists of a retelling of the Nativity Story. The video does so through the medium of social media, with everything from Facebook statuses to Foursquare checkins, to tweets, and more. Even electronic mail gets into the act. The Virgin Mary apparently uses Gmail.

Even More

And then there is even more, with a look at Nazareth from Google Earth. Of course there is a check for directions from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A check for hotel space reveals only a stable available (but of course). Joseph buys a cow (from Farmville, I would guess).

The Magi discuss their offerings (over Gmail – man, Google has its hands in everything!). And they pick up their gold, frankincense and myrrh at, you guessed it, Amazon.  Twitter gets into the act as the Magi, naturally, follow the star there (very clever play on words there).

Eventually, the visit to the baby by the Magi gets placed onto video and uploaded to – could there be any other place more perfect? – YouTube. The video shows, I suspect, a play.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

This beautifully made and cleverly written and produced video comes to us from ExcentricGrey, which is evidently a Portuguese advertising firm. They report that this viral video has over 20 million views. Viewers are concentrated more in the United States and Western Europe than elsewhere, a function (probably) at least in part due to the video being made available in both English and Portuguese.  Oddly enough, Portugal did not seem to have a very big concentration of viewers. Neither did Portuguese-speaking Brazil, Mozambique or Angola.

Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday.

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Facebook Google+ LinkedIn Opinion Social Media Twitter

Employer Access to Employee Passwords

A Look at Employer Access to Employee Passwords

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?

Employer Access to Employee Passwords
Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So before you reflexively say no, hold the phone. Because the truth is, unless the is 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.

Massachusetts

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

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.”

Connecticut

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.”

Delaware

And in Delaware, the law is Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709A. It’s pretty similar to the law in Arkansas.

Illinois

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.”

Louisiana

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!

And this is according to Nolo.

Maine

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.”

Maryland

So in Maryland, the law is Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-712. The provisions are pretty close to those in Arkansas.

Michigan

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.”

Montana

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.”

Nebraska

Then in Nebraska, the law is Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3501 to 48-3511. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.

Nevada

But in Nevada, the law is Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.135. This one is very short but it specifically includes blogs.

New Hampshire

Furthermore, N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 275:73 to 275:75 says:

“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.

New Jersey

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.”

New Mexico

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 House Bill 2372 says,

“Relates to labor; prohibits employer from requesting or requiring access to social media account of certain employees; prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for failure to provide access to social media account; authorizes civil actions for violations; provides for recovery of attorney fees and court costs; defines terms; provides for codification; provides an effective date.”

So this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Oregon

Then in Oregon, the law is Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659A.330. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.

Rhode Island

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.

Employer Access to Employee Passwords
English: Great seal of the state of Rhode Island Français : Sceau du Rhode Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.”

Utah

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.”

West Virginia

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, the following states have pending laws (as of 2019): Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. And then in 2018, these states considered the matter: Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York.

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.

Facebooker, beware.

Categories
Facebook Social Media Twitter

Social Networking/Social Media Tips

Social Networking/Social Media Tips

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.

English: A pie chart created in Excel 2007 sho... Social Media Tips
English: A pie chart created in Excel 2007 showing the content of tweets on Twitter, based on the data gathered by Pear Analytics in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And they were essentially exploring when Facebook and Twitter are useful. Here are some of their ideas.

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

  • 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?

Quotes

  • 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.

For more information, see the December 16, 2010 edition of Grassroots Giving Group.com’s blog.

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Book Reviews Facebook Google+ LinkedIn SEO Social Media Twitter

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors – do you do it?

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.

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

This one’s easy. Buy their book! Which version? Any version!

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

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

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.

Negative Reviews

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:

  1. Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
  2. 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).
  3. 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

  1. 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.

Categories
Content Strategy Social Media Twitter

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism

Professionalism? This post riffs on Be careful who you hire to manage your business’ Twitter account, a post on Social Media Today. Since the post is from 8 years ago, it’s long gone. But I still think the ideas are of value.

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism
Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv (Photo credit: Slava Murava Kiss)

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.

Lazy Tweets

  • 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.

Messaging

  • 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?

Engagement

  • 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?

Professionalism: References

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.

Professionalism: Metrics

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.

Professionalism: Time

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.

Categories
Book Reviews SEO Social Media Twitter

The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder Kabani, a Book Review

The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder Kabani

The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder Kabani is a fascinating little work on how to get ahead with online social media marketing.

Shama Hyder Kabani
Shama Kabani’s book is a good read. It was awesome to be at the book launch party for the first edition (Photo credit: ShashiBellamkonda)

Shama Hyder Kabani’s prose style is engaging and direct. Furthermore, if you go to her own website, the way she writes represents an obvious reflection of the way she really speaks. Major points for authenticity.

Shama says that the three main social media areas/sites you should focus on are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Forget most others. However, this part has changed and is out of date, for I would argue to swap out Instagram or even Snapchat (depends on demographics) for LinkedIn.

In addition, your should present your company (and, by extension, yourself) on all three with a kind of what I like to call professional intimacy. That might sound like an oxymoron. However, the idea is, be genuine and sincere but also hang back in terms of too much sharing and togetherness. Your customers want to know about your company and your product, to be sure, but a little personalization works (and, in fact, can help to build trust). But too much personalization does not work. Your prospects and customers really do not wish to hear that you’re going in to have a root canal.

ACT

So Shama’s three points come under the ACT acronym:

  • Attract – bring the prospects and customers in with good, lively (and up to date) content
  • Convert – turn your prospects into customers (and this may take several visits by them before this happens) and
  • Transform – turn successes into magnetic forces of attraction

Attraction is your brand, your outcomes, your differentiators. And Social Media marketing is extremely good for this. Clarity of communications is key.

However, Social Media remains a less optimal tool for converting strangers (prospects) into clients (paying customers). However, it is good for converting strangers into information consumers, which can often be a major step in moving them along the path from prospect to client.

Transformation

Transformation involves social proof, e. g. we’re more inclined to do something if we see others doing it.

Therefore, you have to do a good job, and use your success in order to attract more successes. That is, ask your clients if you can retell their success stories. Make it easy to buy and pick your tactics (means of marketing) last — you need to get the essentials (such as theory) in place first.

Strategy is the big picture. Tactics are the when, the where and the how.

Blogging is also key. The idea behind blogging is three things:

  • Educate – use your blog to add value by giving away good information.
  • Market – make it attractive to buy and
  • Sell – make it possible to buy.

The book is a brisk read. Of particular interest are the testimonials in the back. As you go along, you realize that Shama practices what she preaches on every page of the book. And, it worked, didn’t it? Because if she got you to buy her book and check out her website, then she’s already converted you to a client. And all she needs to do is sell you her services and she hits 100% of her target. Finally, the most amazing thing is, even after you realize how much you are being marketed to, you just don’t seem to mind any more.

Rating

5/5