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.
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.
Community Management – How to be a Terrible Netizen
Are YOU a Terrible Netizen? I have been managing Able2know for over fifteen years and I have seen my share.
It is a generalized Q & A website and the members are all volunteers. I have learned a few things about making yourself the biggest jerk online during this time. Because I have seen a lot of people being awful, as if it were their aim in life.
How to Be a Jerk Online
Post as fast as you can and don’t think about it. And anything worth doing, is worth doing fast. Editing is for wimps.
When you’re being attacked, never step away from the keyboard. Because the way you feel about people online is never related to the offline world. It only comes from online events.
Be vague with your words. Because anyone who cannot figure out what you really mean is an idiot, and you should tell them that. Clarity is for other people.
Everyone should/must get you, oh terrible netizen, even the aforementioned idiots. What you have to say is perfectly wonderful for every audience and needs no tailoring.
Yet More Jerk Advice
Be First and Best, every single time. Why let anyone else be happy? They’re a bunch of idiots anyway.
Always get in the last word, terrible netizen. And this is even if you have to do that over and over again while someone else tries to do the exact same thing. That person is an idiot. You, of course, are not. Never!
Call people by names, because there’s nothing that says maturity like using a taunt from second grade or a word that trips a profanity filter.
Discuss as many controversial topics as you like, and don’t expect hard feelings. Because if people become defensive, their skins are too thin for them to be online in the first place. So have at them.
Never stop, and never surrender, and never ignore anyone. All comers deserve your pearls of wisdom, 24/7! Therefore, even months later, when the other person has clearly gone off to do something else, go back and pick at that scab some more.
I hope you let me know if you’re going to do any of these. So I can find a way to cross the street and walk in the other direction when I see you online. ‘Course, that probably just makes me an idiot.
Community Management Tidbits – Let’s Get this Party Started
Let’s Get this Party Started! You’ve made the decision to have a forum on your website. Great!
It can be for any number of reasons, such as to cut the number of lower level technical support calls, to generate buzz for various advertising campaigns, to generate sales leads, or maybe to bring together people interested in a common cause. And you have a site with forums, done up in Drupal, or maybe using a PHP application out of the box. Or it might exist on Facebook exclusively. Or perhaps you’ve conjured up your own proprietary software.
And … nothing.
You’ve got no users, no content, no conversations. The community should be a hubbub of activity, a virtual village. Instead, you’re stuck with a ghost town.
Whaddaya do now?
Recognize that no one wants to be first attendee at a party. So, you’ve got to get the party started. But how?
For any website to succeed, you need to be strong in four areas:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
So let us operate under the assumption that you’ve got the first two set (and, if you don’t, make sure you fix, perfect and beautify your design as much as possible). If you’re not already getting metrics, go get Google Analytics and Yahoo Site Explorer and get started on Compete (Compete takes a few months to gather data, so get cracking now). Add Alexa and Quantcast if you wish, as well.
Now with those two set, you can, fortunately, work on the other two together. First of all, let’s work on some elementary Search Engine Optimization. SEO divides into optimizing onsite and optimizing offsite. So start with a few basic offsite measures. It used to be that you had to submit your site to the DMOZ Directory. Yahoo runs this human-edited directory. At this point in time, that advice is out of date. Don’t worry about it. You can do just fine with social media and indexing on social bookmarking sites instead.
Submit your site to the follow social bookmarking sites:
There are any number of others but these are the really big ones and give you the most bang for the buck (most readers) versus others out there. You don’t need to pay some service to do this. It will all take you less than half an hour, no lie.
For onsite SEO, let’s move onto Content. Because the two are intimately intertwined. Furthermore, your future users are going to want to see topics. And they are going to want to see them started by a number of different people. You’ll need to pull in some friends for this, and divide the new topics up as much as possible. Be sure to start with topics like this:
Welcome to the New Members/Getting to Know You
Basic News from outside your company, about you (if you’ve got a company blog or press page already, link to them here and
A few (say, half a dozen) topics showcasing your best keywords but are written for humans to read
That brings us to keyword research. Go to your competitors’ sites, right-click and select “View Source”. Which keywords are they using? Consider using similar if not the same ones. So if your site is about, say, infant and child care, your main keywords and key phrases are probably going to be words and phrases like infant, child, child care, childcare, children, baby, babies, pregnancy. Do Google searches using these keywords and key phrases, with and without the words forum or community added. Look at those sites’ keywords and key phrases as well. Because you want to keep thinking of terms that your target audience will use for their own searches. Incorporate these words into your site and into the titles of some of your first topics.
Look at synonyms! If baby works better than infant, then use baby in the title but you can still put infant within the body of the post. Think like someone searching. What are they really looking for?
Don’t be afraid to be specific, for the child care site, try topics on such subjects as teething, sibling rivalry and readiness for kindergarten. Keep the keywords in the titles if you can logically and grammatically put them there.
Consider some really niche topics, such as handling siblings who are acting out because one child has special needs or a terminal illness. Because searchers are looking for those answers as well.
Now, you’ve got some content, and you’re getting some SEO, even if you are still low in rankings (don’t worry, it’s percolating). But you still need users. Here’s where invitations come in. You, me, all of us – we have online networks. We’ve got friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter and a network on LinkedIn, and a whole host of other groups of online acquaintances. Plus we’ve got friend and family email addresses.
So craft an invitation. Make it polite, pleasant, simple and short. Be definite about what your forums are about (e. g. write more than “Please check out my site.”). In particular, if you know people who like forums (perhaps you already regularly post on some other forums site, even if the main subject is radically different), invite those people. And do this in small doses, say, 30 people at a time. This will keep an influx of new members from overwhelming you. And you can greet everyone personally, at least to start. Furthermore, it will add to the feeling of exclusivity that a small site can engender. Don’t worry if people start inviting others to your site, even people you’ve never heard of before. Because this is a good thing. You want them to do this.
So look for sites to link to you, and be sure to get reciprocal links. Consider adding Google News Reader, and a blog to provide directed quality content if you don’t already have one. Furthermore, it will keep your users updated as to outages and new features as you add them. Add a Facebook fan page for your site, although I’d recommend waiting at least a little while after launching. After all, if no one likes you on Facebook, you’ll have the same issue. It’s trying to attract people who don’t want to be first. Furthermore, you’ll need at least 30 Facebook fans (that number may rise in the future) to get metrics. And then you can really get this party started.
But above all, have fun. And get this party started!
Now that you’re on, it’s time to start optimizing Twitter.
What are lists on Twitter?
You may have noticed people who have a rather different follower to following ratio than you do. What do I mean by that?
Let’s say you follow 100 people. And 1000 people follow you. The ratio of follower to following is 100:1000, or 1:10. This is fantastic. Celebrities often have ratios that look like this, or even better, where they might be following 100 accounts but there are 100,000 people following them.
Newbies often end up at the other end of the spectrum, with 1000 people they are following and 100 are following them, for 10:1. If you want to just read for the most part, this is perfectly fine, except it doesn’t mark you as a thought leader.
Now, most people don’t sit down and calculate ratios. But they do glance at profiles. Sir Patrick Stewart, for example, might be following some 200 people but he’s followed by 2,000,000. Hence people will really notice if he starts following them.
Does he (or any other celebrity, major or minor) have a sparse news feed? Probably not. Because he might be using lists.
Go to the profile of someone you want to follow but, instead of hitting follow, pull down on the gear wheel and select Add to or Remove from Lists. Your lists will show up, and you can add someone to several at a time, or make a new list. You can even decide whether you want your list to be public.
Go to your own profile (e. g. click on your profile rather than your settings) and you’ll see whose lists you are on.
Why use a list rather than follow? You’ll still see that person’s tweets in your feed, but your ratio won’t change. Furthermore, a public list tells everyone what you’re interested in. How about lists for indie authors, agents, or publishers?
You can also follow others’ lists. Maybe someone will find yours to be definitive and will follow it.
Who to follow
Who should you follow on Twitter?
Sometimes you want to publicly follow someone, rather than add them to a list. So long as you keep these people special, then this is perfectly great. I tend to keep friends as open follows and anyone more business-related on lists. But you may prefer otherwise.
Follow fellow indie writers (this is a community, after all), or publishers, or agents. Consider who can help you, and who you can help, and follow accordingly.
How to hashtag
What’s a hashtag, and how do you make one that isn’t lame?
A hashtag is a means of searching on Twitter. Hashtag something as, say, #amwriting, and click on that, and you’re led to a slice of Twitter of everyone who used that hashtag. Hashtags don’t look good if you use a ton of them. Don’t just indiscriminately hashtag! Also, keep them short. #ILovePuppiesAndDolphinsAndUnicorns is probably not going to be something used by anyone else, or at least not that frequently. But #ILovePuppies is pretty popular.
Experiment by searching before you hashtag. Beware, your innocent-looking hashtag might already be coopted for an unexpected usage. Just do a search on #NeverForget or #IStayedBecause and you’ll know what I mean.
Agents and publishers have seen it all, or at least they think they have. They are on the lookout for something new but not so new, if that makes any sense.
Huh? you ask. Originality is important, yes, but the main objective for both agents and publishers is to acquire works which will sell. Does your work have a coherent buyer persona, or ideal reader? Does it fit neatly into one or two genres? And what about works which are harder to define? What do you do?
If Manuscript Wishes were horses …
For #MSWL, at any time during the year, agents and publishers tweet about what they are looking for. Pay attention to their verbiage! Usually it’s something like Looking for cowboy version of The Hunger Games. If your manuscript fits the bill, answer them. If not, don’t waste their and your time.
A tip: if you’re answering an #MSWL, add something about your genre, e. g. #SF for science fiction, or #Romance, etc.
Above all, be sure to have fun with it. Who knows? It just might work out for you. However, there is a chance that it might not. In the meantime, you’ll keep getting better at presenting your work and, by extension, yourself.
We have all heard of what an elevator pitch is. It seems like it is the kind of stuff for overly eager new sales associates looking to make an impression on the big boss between floors.
But there is more to it than that.
Someone has just turned to you and said, “You’re a writer. What’s your book about?”
Don’t just stand there! You’ve got to be ready.
Your Verbal Elevator Pitch
Try something like this on for size.
Imagine if animals started talking, and they told you what to do in a topsy-turvy world.
My book is about Alice; she’s a young girl, a little bored on a sunny afternoon, when she spots a white rabbit. The odd thing about this rabbit is, he’s wearing clothes and talking. She follows him down a rabbit hole, but then she can’t get out.
That’s less than seventy words, and the person asking has the basic plot, the name of the heroine, and a reason to want to know more.
Your Pitch in Writing
Yes, you need one of these, too. But but a written elevator pitch a little different.
Even if readers know you for writing sweeping, epic sagas, you should still write some short stories. They can be in your universe, or not, although it might help with both marketing and your own personal creativity if they can fit somewhere within your universe.
They do not even necessarily have to be sent out for publication, but they could be good for anthologies. Don’t knock that; this is exactly how a lot of people get their starts. In fact, if you are having trouble breaking in, or want to impress a publisher, try submitting to anthologies. You can get a published credit and impress the publisher of the anthology. There’s a win-win right there.
Point them there, if someone wants to read a sampling of your work. Don’t make them commit to a 100,000 word novel.
Finally, have fun with it. Is your main character funny? What about quoting one of her best zingers, assuming you don’t need to explain the joke? Now there’s an idea for a pitch.
Keep in mind that Facebook is constantly A/B testing (e. g. checking to see if new layouts or color schemes, etc. will make you click more), so these instructions might be a little out of date after a while. This is what currently works. Caveat emptor.
Images are always helpful; use a measure of branding for your work, and always use images you have permission to post! If someone else created or photographed an image you are using, even if you now own the rights, it is a courtesy to link to them and give them a shout out. A lot of my father’s and husband’s photography is on my personal author page, and people like to see newer work from them. It’s just another way to acknowledge that this is a community and this solitary pursuit is far from being completely solitary.
Working On And Handling Updates
It’s all about the updates. You can schedule a few months in advance, so make a point of doing this. You can cover a lot more if you spread out your work and set it to emerge at various times; just look at your insights to get an idea of when people are online, and match to those times as well as you are able to.
Setting Up a ‘Buy Now’ Button
You will definitely want one of these. Right in front of your background image, there are three buttons. The one on the left (which is actually in the middle of your background) is a variable. Pull down on it and choose what you want to showcase. Select Edit Call to Action and enter a link directly to buy your work. Be sure it is a link directly to your work on Amazon or Smashwords or wherever. That is, clear away the extraneous junk on the URL. So for Amazon works, this is everything after the ISBN.
If you have nothing to currently sell, you can always upload a YouTube video and change the call to action to a call to watch a video on your site. There are other choices such as Call Now. So, use whatever works best for your needs.
So, swag is necessary when you go on the road. Work a convention at a dealer’s table, or get your book into a library, and you may need a little extra something to give away. Hence here are a few choices.
Bookmarks, a Very Common Form of Swag
Maybe the best and closest kind of giveaway item is the humble bookmark. In one sense, it’s perfect because it relates directly to books and reading. And you can spend as much or as little as you like. Plus maybe you only want something straightforward, perhaps a section of your cover, often printed on one side on heavy cardboard stock. And that’s great!
Because you’ve got some real estate, consider some additions, such as your website or even a QR code for a discount off one of your books. However, I suggest leaving one side blank for notes. While that’s not strictly necessarily, it may end up cheaper for you, not to mention it having an actual purpose.
Bookmarks are particularly useful because not only can you put them in your own books, you can put them in library or bookstore books. Yes, they might be removed and discarded. However, you need to consider that these are loss leaders; you need to be ready to lose some cash on these.
These seem hit or miss. If you go to conventions and run a table or booth, you will need cards. And again, try to keep the back blank. Pro tip: use matte. Shiny card stock costs more and it makes it harder to write on the card. Because you want people writing on your cards. Oh, and don’t be stingy with them. Give them away. Meet someone? Give them a card. Someone stops by your table? Give them a card. Like bookmarks, these will be discarded by a lot of people. Accept that as a cost of doing business.
These can work really well if you have a fantastic and memorable cover design, or a great catch phrase. Imagine a tee shirt which has your cover on the front and your catch phrase on the back. You can make people into walking billboards this way. Be ready to give a lot of these away, and maybe even use them as contest prizes. Most people will not purchase these unless you become really famous. Again, this is a cost of doing business.
Toys and Action Figures
Funko Pops lets you design your own male and female characters. But volume is an issue here. And so is the startup cost. The blank figures in that link are almost $10 apiece. Hence a large run of these may not be in the cards – so take advantage of their rareness and play on the scarcity aspect when giving these away or selling them.
For other types of action figures, look at prices and consider what you want to settle with. If the figure doesn’t end up looking a lot like you, how will that make you feel? If the answer is ‘terrible, of course’, then you might want to do something else with your swag budget.
Swag: Some Takeaways
Giving away swag may seem counterintuitive. After all, you want to make money, rather than spend it. But if you are new on the scene, it can be a great way to get noticed and show how you’re different from all the rest.
Hesitation Generation. So as I travel around the ‘net, I also take note of what is happening in my own backyard. What I have seen is an odd and somewhat disturbing trend.
I am the Project Manager for Able2know and in some ways it’s got its finger on the pulse. But, a caveat, the pulse is rather limited. This is a mere fraction of the web and therefore, by extension, an even tinier fraction of the world. Yet this is the world I know, and so I will report on it.
A2K is a generalized Q & A website where people can post all manner of questions. The availability and quality of the answers varies greatly. Keep in mind: no one is paid to answer questions on Able2know.
Hence inquiries about voltage are generally answered with an admonition to hire a licensed electrician. Requests for medical advice are answered vaguely, and nearly always involve telling the poster to follow up with their personal physician. Inquiries about the law receive a nearly identical treatment, save for the advice to contact an attorney.
You don’t need a degree in psychology to be able to dispense advice. Anyone who appears to be clinically depressed is told to seek treatment. Anyone who appears to be abused is advised to leave, and to contact their local authorities.
But it’s the people in the middle who I’m talking about.
What does it mean when someone stares at you? What is a good idea for a first date? How do I ask someone out? How do I get someone to ask me out? And the saddest – how do I get over a heartache?
And it’s amazing to me (and it really should not be anymore) how many people are paralyzed at the thought of actually speaking to the object of their desire. They wait and think they are seeing signals, and then they ask what those supposed signals mean. It’s like reviewing the Zapruder film, frame by agonizing frame.
My advice is usually – ask.
How do you feel about me?
Do you want to go out for coffee?
Are you seeing anyone right now?
What would you like to do together?
So many of them thank me and promise they will ask (I have heard back from some, and they tend to report either success or relief that they finally know).
But why the heck couldn’t these people have figured that out from the get-go?!?!?!
Back to Ike
It can be a little bit like the 1950s, where girls preen and sit by the telephone, waiting for Prince Charming to deign to call – and heaven forfend he should take more than 20 minutes to get on the stick and call! And guys hem and haw about the most letter-perfect thing to say, when the reality is that the perfect thing to say is something, as that beats the pants off saying and doing absolutely nothing. The same is true in non-cis relationships, of course.
I’m not so sure who that dynamic favors, except for the phone companies. Because minute numbers go sky high, and Facebook’s advertisers benefit as people check each other’s statuses and relationship statuses obsessively. And then they get to serve yet more ads.
It seems as if everyone wants to fast-forward through the movie, and cut the suspense. Instead, all they seem to want is the sunset and the fateful kiss. Dorothy clicks her heels together before she ever leaves Kansas. And nobody seems to miss the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch and the Tin Man and the rest of the middle part. All that matters is the destination, and never the journey.
Something is missing here, and what’s missing is the taking of chances. I get that these are generally rather young people. The vast, vast majority of them are between the ages of 13 and 28. That 15-year span is the worst – it’s a combination of raging hormones and self-absorption. But nowadays that’s spiked with a seemingly inbred inability to take a chance. Plus it’s all fueled by the artificial immediacy of far too much social media.
Instead of risk-taking, everyone seems to want the risks scrubbed out of their lives. They want the endgame handed to them on a silver platter yet refuse to do even a smidgen of the legwork required in order to get there.
A second caveat – this is, to be sure, a small group of people. Furthermore, they are self-selecting. Very confident folk are far less likely to request advice in any endeavor. Plus there is the age issue, as I have already mentioned.
People in their forties ask relationship questions, too, but those tend to be different. They are less about an initiation of connections and more about either reentering the dating pool or the dynamic of being a parent (or dating one) while in the game.
Upshot, Kinda, for the Hesitation Generation
So, where does that leave the Hesitation Generation and the rest of us?
An inability to take risks does not bode well. It clouds decisions on everything from trying a new brand of fabric softener to consenting to an experimental drug trial. It colors employment and investment choices, and keeps people out of new business ventures and away from new books, films and music.
The upside, naturally, is that it may be preventing sexually risky behaviors. That’s a good thing, of course.
However, risks are often good, and a life without them is rather dull indeed. It can be mindless consumerism as people give themselves the same personal rewards over and over again.
The trick, as in all things, is to find a balance.
And now, a bonus.
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
One last thing – here, for free, for Hesitation Generation, is my standard heartache cure. Your mileage, of course, will vary.
Expect to feel lousy for a while, and understand that that is a natural reaction. Congratulate yourself – you were affected enough to really feel something.
Relationships often keep us from doing other things, such as seeing other friends. So spend some time with your friends.
Explore things to do on your own. Some are inward, such as making art or even baking cookies. Others are more outward, like taking a class.
More You Can Do
Fill up your time. Being busy gives you few opportunities to wallow in misery. Your boss is likely not without sympathy, but you still need to write the reports, etc. or do whatever it is that you do. Treat your leisure time a little bit more like a job, in the sense that you should make some commitments and stick by them. If your leisure time is to paddle a canoe, then paddle the damned canoe. Don’t back out of that.
Do something physical. Exercise can not only fill up your time, it can also help with depression.
Do something for someone less fortunate than you. Read to a blind person. Serve at a soup kitchen. Visit people in a nursing home. Volunteer at a group home. These actions don’t just help the community, they can also help you gain some sorely needed perspective.
Don’t jump into a new relationship right away. Being single does not have to automatically mean being lonely. This is a time to cultivate your inner resources.
If you think you need it – and in particular, if you are experiencing suicidal ideation – please seek out the care of a professional. There is no shame whatsoever in getting the help that you need. If you need medical help to mend a broken heart, it should be no different from seeking medical help to mend a broken arm.
Community Management Tidbits – Going From a Collection of Users to a True Community
What is a True Community?
I’ve written at least seven obituaries.
That is, perhaps, an odd thing to confess. But when Jill, Kevin, Paul, Joanne, Olen, Joan, and Mary all passed on, it was up to me to write something, to not only commemorate their lives, but to try to help comfort a grieving community.
I am not saying you will write as many, or even if you will ever write even one. And I certainly hope you will never have to, as they can be gut-wrenching. But it was with the first one – Mary’s – that it became manifest (if it was not already self-evident) that, to paraphrase the old Brady Bunch theme, this group had somehow formed a family.
How Can This Happen to Your True Community (Without the Tragic Part)?
But no one has to cross over to the other side in order for your collection of users to coalesce into a Community with a capital C. The secret is very simple, although many companies don’t want to hear it: it’s going off-topic.
Let us assume, for example, that your community is a corporate-run one. And the product is a soft drink. Corporate tells you to stay on topic, on message. However, your users are saying something very different.
For it is easy, as you’re talking about the soft drink, to slide into discussing foods eaten with it (frankly, for such a community you’d almost have to go off-topic. Nobody but a truly dedicated corporate marketer can talk about a soft drink 24/7). Food slides into a discussion of recipes. Recipes turn into a talk about entertaining. And then suddenly you’re off to the races and talking about family relationships.
Corporate tries to pull you back on topic. Yet your users pull the true community ever further away And they pinball from family relationships to dating, raising children, and elder care, if you let them.
The Community Manager’s Role
Here is where you, as the Community Manager, can talk to Corporate and forge a compromise. Corporate needs for people to talk about the product, tout it, and virally promote it. And they need people to make well-ranked (on Google) topics about it. Corporate may also realize that they need to hear the bad news about the product as well. The users need to talk.
So make a compromise. Create an off-topic area and move all off-message topics there. And be fairly loose with your definition of what’s on topic. In our soft drink example, the recipes topics, even if they don’t use the product as an ingredient, are still close enough so you can consider them on topic. Also, don’t be surprised if the corollary is true. Hence topics that begin on message veer off it, even by the time of the first responsive post. That’s okay. Those topics should still be considered to be on message. Because Google is far more concerned with a forum topic’s title and initial post than with its tenth response.
The Benefits of the Off-Topic Section
Don’t be shocked if your off-topic section becomes a large one. And recognize that you and your Moderating staff (if you have one) may need to make on message topics in order to continue creating germane content. But your true community will be talking and the site will be a lively one. It’s a party that’s going nonstop, your users will stick around and from this you can build a marketing database. And that is one of the standard corporate aims behind creating a community in the first place.
So when your users start talking about life events, such as births, school, divorce, moving, jobs, marriage, children and, yes, deaths, it matters. And when they start supporting each other through each of these phases, it marks a bright line distinction between a haphazard agglomeration of users and a true team of like-minded individuals.
Finally, that team, that family, that army, is what being in a true community is really all about.