The Conquest of LinkedIn – Meeting Offline

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Meeting Offline

Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!

The Conquest of LinkedIn - Meeting Offline
linkedin logo (Photo credit: clasesdeperiodismo)

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 followup, 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,

  1. 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.
  2. And you ask them to link to you.
  3. 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.

More

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Yet More!

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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 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?

Next: Your Profile Page.

Collaboration

Collaboration

Do you like collaboration?

C’mon, all the cool kids are doin’ it.

Collaboration
Collaboration (Photo credit: Venessa Miemis)

Well … maybe.

We Mean Well

We all start off life (or, at least, us American type folk – your mileage may vary) learning to collaborate. First of all, we learn how to share. And we are broken into little groups. Furthermore, we pass our science classes because of, in part, how well we work with lab partners. In addition, we might try out for a class play or community theater, and become a part of an acting troupe. Or we play on sports teams or join a fraternity or a sorority. We join churches and volunteer groups.

So why is it so difficult for so many people to collaborate at work?

To be sure, I think a lot of us try. We dutifully send out some sort of an enormous email to the people on our team. And we attend meetings, and we might even take notes at them. In addition, we put our two cents into various documents. We may even attend various team-building exercises and emerge from them confident that our collaborative hurdles have been overcome and from now on, it’s cooperation all the way.

Lone Rangers

However, lots of us, aside from what is almost forced togetherness at work, end up as Lone Rangers. And we don’t even have faithful sidekicks.

I think that some of it may have to do with work itself. The process of education is competitive. And the process of interviewing is competitive. The process of advancing a career is also competitive. No wonder it’s tough to get together and set all that aside.

I think that email fosters the siloed feeling of being alone out there, just you against the onslaught of various missives. When was the last time any of us truly enjoyed the process of grabbing emails, opening them and answering them?

I mean at work, people.

Email feels like nagging. And it feels incessant. It is a baby bird. Baby robins Collaboration And while I love little baby critters as much as the next person, I have to say, these little guys can get annoying awfully quickly.

So … what to do? How to deal with the baby birds or, maybe, deal with fewer of them?

Collaborative Software, Forums, Wikis and Spreading the Wealth

Email is so last week!

Kinda.

The thing of it is, email is a perfectly fantastic medium for a lot of things. And Word, for example, is a perfectly fantastic word processing program. But just like Word is not the best tool for spreadsheeting, email is not the best tool for collaboration.

Instead, you need to work with software that truly fosters communication and collaboration. You need to draw upon the wisdom of crowds.

Forums

Oh my God, you want me to do what?

I want you to talk to a bunch of people. In a forum.

But they’ll be mean to me. They won’t answer my question. They’ll steer me in the wrong direction. 

Not necessarily. Consider (insert shameless plug here) Able2Know. Yes, it’s true. There are people who will be less than wonderful to you. There are people who will misdirect you. And there are people who will be friendly but, essentially, cannot answer your question, and so their presence on your question thread is a waste of your time.

However –

There are also people who will take time out of their day to Google for you. In addition, there some people have actual knowledge, and will help you out with things like Latin translations, geology inquiries and philosophical arguments. And there are others, because it is a large and (mostly) friendly forum, who don’t know the answer but will steer you to the people who do.

Wikis, Databases and One-Stop Shopping

There are plenty of other places online with common, pooled information. Memory Alpha, for example, is a large wiki about canon Star Trek in its various forms. SparkPeople, while it has dedicated health, fitness and nutrition experts, also has a huge section filled with the weight loss and maintenance wisdom of people like you and me. And IMDB (The Internet Movie Database) is the product of all sorts of people working together, including actors and actresses, agents and fans, to get the most comprehensive information on film and television, all together into one neat, easy-to-use package.

What do these three rather diverse sites have in common? They all have people who have a passion for the subject matter, who are willing to do a few things –

  1. Research and make sure that their information is as accurate as possible
  2. Spend time getting the information onto the site and
  3. Work with IT in order to assure that the site remains fast and easy to use.

Oh and, except for IMDB Pro, they all have another thing in common.

Amazingly, they are all free to use.

Bringing it All Back Home

So what’s in it for you, to use a forum or a wiki at your place of business?

  • Get out of the email rut and make it easier to actually find what you’re working on. 1,000 emails in your inbox are not possible for you to read, digest and work on. You may as well delete them. Because you are not reading them.
  • Make it easier for everyone to see, at a glance and at the same time, what you’re working on. The mass email to fifteen people will inevitably begin to splinter, as someone changes a status from the To: field to the CC: field, or leaves someone off the distribution list entirely, or hits Reply instead of Reply All. Using a forum or a wiki eliminates that as a possibility and fosters collaboration better.
  • Urgency can more granularly be communicated. I use Yahoo mail at home, and I like it, but there are only a few possible modes. Read/unread, starred/unstarred. Well, what about urgently starred? As in, it’s not only important, but I need to do it yesterday. Alas, the only way I can get this across in my own mailbox is to use an “Urgent” folder. But that doesn’t tell anyone else, at a glance, that a particular item is red-hot. Life is not binary, not really. Why should your communications be that way?

More Benefits

Oh, and one more thing. Collaborating on one thing can often lead to collaboration on other things. The people on Able2Know who get together to help solve problems that someone might have in introducing a new puppy to a household also do things together like play Fantasy Baseball, rally around when someone is ill, congratulate users when they marry or become parents or grandparents and even meet on occasion. In short, they reach through the pixels and become friends.

How ’bout that, eh?

Sharing Less

Sharing Less

Sharing Less can help you out in dozens of ways. Because there is something to be said for mystery.

Sharing Less
Buchaechum, one of the Korean traditional dances for Royal court of Joseon Dynasty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a fan dancer’s artfully concealing fans, if you will. For a dark corner where the camera does not go, and where we do not allow others to see. Perhaps not even our lovers, our mothers, our children and, most assuredly, not our government.

Origins

This post is a riff on Learning Not to Share, an article by Rich Barlow in my alumni magazine, Bostonia.

Wait a second, oops! I just told you where I went to college. Better cover that up, and sweep it out of the way.

Oh no, wait! I just told you it was undergrad. Good thing I didn’t tell you one of my professors studied under Wittgenstein.

D’oh! I probably just gave away that I majored in Philosophy! Wait, I’ll come in again.

We Keep on Sharing

It is like this, over and over and over again online. We share. And we share again. And then we overshare. While the above few tidbits probably don’t tell you too much about me, there is plenty of additional information out there. There are plenty of minefields. So I might accidentally drop something whereby someone could steal a password, stalk me, take my identity, burgle my house while I’m away, etc.

Digital Nosiness

Stephen Baker, the author of The Numerati, talks about what essentially amounts to digital nosiness – too much information out there, and we’re all inviting it in. And we do so in the name of greater security, or peace of mind. We want to make sure our teenagers are driving safely so we agree to put a black box in the car.

And we want to know that our elderly parents are all right (but we are not committed enough to move them home with us, or move to their homes or cities, even briefly), so we install sensors in their beds to make sure they get out of them every day. So then, as privacy erodes, we accept more and more of these intrusions until they are no longer seen as intrusive. And a privacy (and shame!) tradition that harkens back to biblical times is canned in favor of The Age of TMI.

Stop Volunteering Information

Is it possible to shut the barn door, when the horse has hightailed it for the next county? Sadly, probably not. But this oversharing is nothing new. I well recall, when I was practicing law (uh oh, another identifier!), prepping witnesses for depositions. E. g. if the opposing counsel asks, “Were you driving?”, the answer is yes, no or I don’t remember. It is not, yes, and the car is blue. If the lawyer wants to know the color of the car, she’ll ask. Don’t volunteer anything.

Yet, inevitably, people would do just that – they would volunteer all sorts of stuff. The vast majority of it was completely harmless. However, every now and then, it opened up different things, and drew others into question. Or it got the whole thing onto some wacky tangent and it then became hard to throw a lasso over the proceedings and get them back to the matter at hand.

And a deposition, once, which was going to take maybe 45 minutes took the better part of a week as a witness and opposing counsel kept feeding one another more digressions – even after I repeatedly told the witness to just stick with getting the actual questions answered and nothing more. This tactic, by the way, did not, ultimately, harm my client or help the opponent. All it did was make the matter stretch out that much longer. And, I am sure, it nicely increased my opponent’s bill (I was salaried – a deposition could take three years and I would not be paid any extra. Dang, there I go again, oversharing!).

Wiping Away Shame

Some sharing, particularly in the face of things that have been taboo for too long, seems to be, to me, to be a very good thing. Take, for example, the physical demands and changes that go along with weight loss. In the interests of full disclosure, this is a subject rather near and dear to my heart. So I put it out there – the fact that stretch marks don’t really go away and what post-weight loss plastic surgery is really like and how sometimes, no matter how much you want to convince yourself otherwise, the oatmeal just does not taste one bit like fried chicken.

I think that this kind of oversharing can have a true benefit. Give hope, or at least some amusement and information. And trample away shame until it’s gone.

But there is plenty more out there where that came from, and it is often all too much, and it can be damaging. Give away too much and you are the naked fan dancer, all out of fans.

How to Strike a Balance

So my suggestion is: tread lightly, and as wisely as you can, and ask yourself: will this information do more harm than good? Will it hurt me or my family? So even if the answer to both questions is no, my advice is: consider it and weigh it anyway. And decide, one way or the other. Do this based upon reasoned understanding and not on expediency, or going along to get along, or trying to be cooler than everyone else in school. Above all, do not sleepwalk and step backward into these kinds of giveaways. If you are going to toss aside that last fan, at least look your audience in the eye when you do so.

SEO and its discontents

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Discontents and SEO?

SEO and its discontents

Now, I am no expert by any means.

What really is Search Engine Optimization? discontents
What really is Search Engine Optimization? (Photo credit: Go Local Search)

But I know it’s important and so I’m going to take my shot at trying to optimize things as best as I can. The fact that the site and this blog are already on Google (and I already pretty much own jespah as a keyword – I’m #2 on Google already) is encouraging.

An Early Hint

In 2010 I met Kevin Palmer for a networking meeting, and told him I was interested in creating a new site for myself. And he told me — it’s like three legs of a stool: Content, Design and SEO.

Content I’ve got. I’ve got content coming out of my ears. I’ve got stuff to write like, like Carter’s got Liver Pills as my Dad would say.

As for design, I use WordPress. It is far, far simpler to just use their templates. They have an excellent understanding of how to put together a sweet-looking website and give it some style. And it’s mine and I made it and I am not only fully responsible for the content, I am also responsible in every way for its design and usability. With the help of WordPress, it’s prettier and more usable than ever.

SEO

But then there’s SEO. My friend, Robert Gentel, who runs Able2know, which we both manage (he’s the owner, I’m the Community Manager/Project Manager/Chief Cook, etc.), is an SEO whiz. I have talked to him about it a little bit. As I spread my own wings, I also learn from classes at Quinnipiac and from looking at Google’s own tools and, frankly, from my own experimentation.

I’ll either fly or fall onto the pavement. The first option is more attractive, so SEO it is.

Oh and the title? It’s a play on Freud’s book. I’m not a big Freudian but I do love the title.

Sometimes a title is only a title.

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

Your Network is important. So you’ve decided to join LinkedIn. And you’ve even posted your resume. That’s great! Now what? What do you do about your network?

This is icon for social networking website. Th... Your Network
This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have already received an invitation or two to connect. Or you may be starting to realize that having a resume out there isn’t enough. You’re right. You need to forge bonds with others.

So, who should you link to?

The short answer is: everyone.

The long answer is also: everyone.

Two Schools of Thought

Now, there are people who will disagree with me, and such is their prerogative. However, the truth is, when you’re looking for a job, you tend to need all the networking help you can get. Your dentist. And your former college roommate. Your brother-in-law. Because a traditional network goes beyond just former colleagues and classmates. It branches out and eventually begins to include people who are friends of friends. The same is true online.

Finding Connections Among People You Know

So one thing you can do is, open up your address book to LinkedIn and allow them to send a networking invitation to the people in it. Your present and former colleagues are probably either already on LinkedIn or are contemplating joining. Most will be receptive to your invitation. And as for your family, they will probably also be fairly receptive to linking. Even if your cousin is geographically remote and in a very different industry from yours, that does not mean that the connection is a complete waste of time. As for the other names in your book (your babysitter, perhaps), use your own judgment. Personally, I think you should ask everyone, but I can see where someone might balk at asking everyone they’ve ever known to link to them.

And that’s all right, but you may have unnecessarily cut yourself off from potential opportunities. So, what’s next?

Growing Your Connections List

Beyond the people you know, there are not only the people they know, but also people who you want to link but you don’t know them yet.

What? You don’t want to meet new people?

Then, with all due respect, why are you on a networking website to begin with?

I don’t mean to sound flip. But the concept behind networking is to, well, network. So that means you need to meet people you don’t know, and go outside your comfort zone a little bit.

Objections?

But, you say, they’ll know my name and address. Your name, yes. As for your address – no, not unless you’ve got it in your online resume. And you shouldn’t have it there, although at least your general location can most likely be inferred, given where much of your network lives. Yet to that I say, so what? Your address is on your mailbox, and in the telephone directory. It can be found in tax records and vote registration rolls.

It is not hard to find. And you are neither hiding it nor better preserving your identity or your privacy in any way by not opening yourself up to this kind of linking.

So, link. Indiscriminately? Not exactly. Avoid known spammers. And, if someone you’ve linked to turns out to be a spammer, drop and report them. You don’t need to be tarred by that.

LIONs

And, how do you attract people? Should you be just messaging people, willy nilly? No. Instead join any LinkedIn LION group.

What’s a LION? It’s a LinkedIn Open Networker. This will signal to people that you are open to networking with anyone but a spammer. Too many invitations? Just leave whichever LION group you’d joined. You can always rejoin later.

Targeting Connections at Target Companies

Who else? Try connecting with people working at companies you’re targeting. And, if it’s a very large company, try narrowing your connection requests to just people in the departments, and/or with the job titles or descriptions, that you are directly targeting.

The Art of Asking for a Connection

How do you ask for a connection? There is a ready-made note that LinkedIn pops up for you. It’s fine, but you should modify it. First, call the person by name! I don’t want to positively respond to a generic note – do you? So, call me by name! What else? Make sure you thank the person.

Anything else? One last thing – tell the person why you want to link with them. It can be brief, just one sentence is fine. You want to link to me because of my work at a particular company? Then say something like, I’m interested in linking to you because of your work at ___ company. Want to link to me because of a job I’ve had? Then write something like, I’d like to link to you because I’m looking to become a ___, which I see you’ve already done. Understandably, these notes are not too terribly exciting, but they are short and to the point and they get the job done.

Downsides

Be aware that, if you are dinged enough times by people who say they don’t know you, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to link later. So, proactively go out to link with the following people:

  • Friends and family
  • Current and former colleagues
  • Known LIONs and
  • People in companies you want to get into, but only if you send them personal notes and do so sparingly.

Who should you allow to link to you? That’s easy – anyone but a known spammer.

Grow your network. Here’s an area where size really does matter. Quality matters, of course, but quantity is going to open a lot of doors as well. Like it or not, an impression is made by a large network. So go plant those seeds!

Next: Offline Meetings.

The Karmic Wheel Turns

Social Media Karma

What is the Karmic Wheel?

I was once contacted by a friend, Phil Butler, to write an article for the Examiner.

Representation of a soul undergoing punarjanma... Karmic Wheel
Representation of a soul undergoing punarjanma. Illustration from Hinduism Today, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, Phil and I had known each other for a few years. We met through LinkedIn.

We have never actually seen each other, in person. He’s not even on the same continent as I am. Yet I wrote the article all the same. It’s on Food Addictions and Treatments.

Now, did I expect fame and fortune from all this?

Well, I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be nice. But do I honestly think that empires will rise and fall based upon my one little article?

Of course not.

Karmic Wheel Spinning

But I think it illustrates the point I have made about collaboration. That is, sometimes you just up and do something for someone. And you do it because you just, well, want to do something for someone.

So that ends up a reward unto itself, is it not?

And by the way, I hope you do read the article. Because I think it’s the kind of thing that’s got to be written about. And it continues to shock me that other writers wouldn’t touch the subject matter with a ten-foot pole, as if it would give them cooties to talk about addiction. As if being at all sympathetic with people who are ill would, somehow, mean they were condoning those lifestyle choices or admitting that they, too, were imperfect.

Hey, I will shout it from the rooftops – I’m imperfect!

And if I’m not mistaken, the sky did not just come crashing down.

Go forth, and I hope you’ll collaborate, and do things for others. And the karmic wheel will turn for you, too.

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.

Social Media: Hope, Hype or What?

Social Media: Hope, Hype or What?

Hype? Hope? Now, this subject has probably been done to death but, here I will do it all over again. Perhaps (hopefully!) my perspective will be fresh and/or of some value.

Social Media Marketing Hub and Spoke Infographic Hype
Social Media Marketing Hub and Spoke Infographic (Photo credit: DigitalRalph)

First of all, this post is inspired by The ABA Journal’s take on Social Media. As in the online magazine for lawyers. And they went on about Social Media, much like I have and others have, as well.

It Feeds Itself

And I can’t help feeling that that, in and of itself, is feeding the ole hype machine. Is Social Media hyped? Well, let’s put out an article about just that, and we’ll rev up the hype machine and get the word out and and and …. Suddenly, there’s hype about the hype.

Ai chihuahua.

However, there is, perhaps less of a hype issue than there is one of unrealistic expectations. I suspect that most people, if they give Social Media more than a passing glance (and, in particular, if they need to touch on it for business), take one look at it and think: free. Ooh, goody! This marvelous free thing will supplement (and perhaps eventually supplant) all of the things I have to actually pay good money for! My wealth will increase, in an incredible and exponential manner, because I can put my advertising and marketing dollars elsewhere, outside of traditional (read: expensive) channels, and instead shove it all into some investment that catches my eye. Llama ranching, perhaps.

Traditional vs. Social Media Marketing

Okay. Let’s back up. The real thing is, Social Media marketing isn’t really an apples to apples comparison with traditional marketing. It’s more like holding a town hall meeting and seeing what people have to say about your product. Or like doing community outreach (e. g. having your company send people to work at a soup kitchen or build a house). It’s like a million networking events. In short, it’s that dreaded, over-used term: relationship building.

And creating relationships is hard. And messy. Plus it’s not necessarily terribly free, at all.

A Sense of Entitlement

Because I have seen, in many instances, when software on a website changes. And in particular with community forums, people tend to freak out. They have a mislaid proprietary interest in a whole lotta sameness. Or they want the site to be the same from day to day, because that’s familiar to them. Hence moving the post button from the left to the right, or changing its color, is akin to moving their cheese. So it tears at them.

But, ultimately, they figure it out. And they give it a chance and come back, and pretty soon, so far as they’re concerned things have always been the new way, and were never the old way. Because for them, it’s not about the tools; it’s about the people.

And the same thing should be true for you – and that should knock the hype right out, and for good. It’s not about the tools. It’s not about Twitter, or Facebook, or Foursquare, or Groupon, or Yelp, or MySpace, or LinkedIn or StumbleUpon or Snapchat or a billion others. Instead, it’s about the people.

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

Chicken Scratch

Neurotic Writers. I know aspiring writers.

You probably do, too. There are lots of people with a Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Neurotic Writersmanuscript out there … somewhere. Perhaps it’s just in a hard drive. Or maybe it’s been uploaded to a fiction site. Or perhaps it has gotten a little exposure by having a chapter or a tantalizing fragment tossed onto a forums site. It might take the form of a blog (Gee, I wonder if I’m doing that …?). There are some that are typed (Remember that?). Others are only in long hand. And still others are locked away in brain form only.

Attention Monsters, All

Neurotic Writers
Social Media Iceberg (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Whatever form it has taken, there is one thing I have learned about aspiring writers (And this includes fan fiction writers, by the way. Don’t dis ’em; they care about what they do, too!). This may also be true of established writers as well. I’m not even so sure where “established” starts happening. If it starts when you’ve gotten a check for writing, then count me in the established camp. If not, well, then it might be that I am still waiting for my established writer card. But I digress. What have I learned about aspiring writers?

It’s that we are all attention monsters.

We all crave attention. But it’s more than just “Look at me! Look at me!” Instead, it’s more like, “Please oh please oh please read my stuff and leave detailed feedback so I know you really read it and don’t forget to tell me how kick-bun awesome I am!

Er, yeah.

Now, pretty much everyone on the planet adores hugs and positive attention and love and happiness. For aspiring writers, though, it’s poured onto a page. The soul is naked, for all to poke at (Erm, that wasn’t meant to evoke an NC-17 image. Shame on you for thinking so. And now that’s all you can think of, am I right?). It is scary and it is daunting. And it is exhilarating when you get even a scrap of positive feedback.

Enter Social Media

For aspiring writers with a backbone and a somewhat thicker skin, social media can be a way to get some of that craved feedback.

How?

The first and probably most obvious method is to have a Twitter stream dedicated to your writing. I doubt that most people want to read about writer’s block, so you need to have something going on. Perhaps you could write about inspirations, or earlier works, or how things fit together in your universe.

Hence I am also talking about a blog. You can blog about writing. The creative process can be fascinating for people who are into it. Maybe you’d like to review your own work, and comment on what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown as an author. Put both of these together, and you’ve got a pretty dynamic combination. You write, you blog about it and then you tweet about your blog posts and your writing.

Plus writing begets writing. Even blog writing (which is a rather different animal from book-writing) can help keep writer’s block at bay. It helps to exercise these muscles fairly regularly.

Another Option?

Post on social sites. Hence for fan fiction, there is Fanfiction.net. And for purely original stories, they have a sister site, Fiction Press. Or try Wattpad. In addition, plenty of more specialized fiction and fan fiction sites exist. Google is your friend!

Be aware of scams; they do exist. Furthermore, putting your work out there does not guarantee that you retain full rights to it. And this is despite the laws in your own country. In addition, understand there’s a lot of plagiarism and downright theft out there. So remain as cautious as with any other information you put online.

Understand, too, that if you neurotic writers are going to submit to a traditional publisher, they often don’t want you to have posted your story elsewhere beforehand. Because this has to do with the full rights to your product. Hence you might want to put out your smaller or less important works, and save your really big one, if you are ever planning to submit to a traditional publishing house.

Competitions

Yet another option is competitions. Here’s one, at America’s Next Author. Because the inspiration from this blog post came from learning that a friend had a story in this competition. The competition ran as a pure social media experiment. Hence, while good storytelling and story-crafting matter, so does publicity. Like with any other social media site, “likes”, comments and popularity all play a role. For my friend, and for others trying to make it, putting the link onto Facebook or Twitter is essential to getting the word out. Even this blog post is helpful (FYI, and just for the record, this post is my own idea and she did not request or suggest it).

The Reader End of Things

The community of aspiring writers is, truly, a community. And that means give and take. What kind of give and take? The kind that goes along with reviews and comments. Because for those who are trying to write for a living, commenting and reviewing should be a part of that. Readily and cheerfully provide constructive criticism, if desired.

Aspiring neurotic writers write for exposure. And often they get exposure from fellow aspirants. What better way to forge a sense of community than to read one another’s works, and comment thereon?

The Upshot of It All

For those of us neurotic writers who put it out there every day, who bare ourselves and our souls with prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction, fan or wholly original, short story or multi-novel series, we all have a major issue in common – we want recognition. We don’t even necessarily want to be famous, but we want to be the one at the fireside who spins a yarn as others sit, enraptured. And with social media, we hope, there just might be some people listening.

Community Management – Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen

Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen

Are you a good netizen?

I have been managing Able2know for over fourteen years.

It is a generalized Q & A website and the members are all volunteers. I have learned a few things about handling yourself online during this time.

Chill Out

  1. There are few emergencies online. Take your time. I have found, if I am in a hot hurry to respond, itching to answer, it usually means I am getting obsessive.
  2. When it’s really nutty, step away from the keyboard. I suppose this is a corollary to the first one. Furthermore, I pull back when it gets too crazy-making, or try to figure out what else may be bothering me, e. g. I haven’t worked out yet, something at home is annoying me, etc. Being online, and being annoyed, does not equal that something online caused the annoyance.

Be Clear

  1. All we have are words (emoticons do nearly nothing).
    Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen
    what are words for? (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

    I like to make my words count, and actually mean exactly, 100%, what I write, but not everyone hits that degree of precision in their communications. I’ve learned to cut about a 10% degree of slack.

  2. Not everyone gets you. You might be hysterically funny in person, but bomb online, Netizen. Or you might feel you’re a gifted writer, but you write to the wrong audience. You may be hip for your crowd, but hopelessly out of it in another. This is not, really, a personal thing. You can either waste your time trying to get everyone to love you or you can recognize that you didn’t convert one person and move on from there. Choose the latter; it’ll save your sanity every time.

Keep Chilling Out

  1. Be Zen. E. g. I’ve found the old, “oh, you go first” kind of thing smooths the way a lot. I am not saying to not have your say and let everyone else win all the time. It’s just, ya kinda pick the hill you wanna die on, e. g. what’s really important. Stick to those guns. The others, not so much. E. g. getting into a shouting match and kicked off a site due to your hatred of the Designated Hitter Rule – even on a sports or baseball site – falls in the category of you’re probably overreacting and being really, really silly. I doubt that that is a hill most people would try want to die on. But defending your beliefs, fighting prejudice, etc.? Those are probably better hills.
  2. And the corollary to #5: controversial topics are controversial for a reason. They get under people’s skin and make them squirm. Be nice; don’t do that all the time. So try to engage people in other ways, Netizen. There are plenty of people on Able2know who argue a lot about politics. I am not a fan of arguing politics. But we also get together and play Fantasy Baseball (talk about your Designated Hitter Rule). Or we swap recipes, or pet stories, or the like. But then, when a forum member gets sick or becomes bereaved, people who just argued till they were blue in the face turn around. And they virtually hug and offer tributes, prayers (or positive, healing thoughts) and words of comfort. And this user multidimensionality warms the heart. Over the years, people have gotten better at it. If someone’s really bothering you, it’s possible that, in other contexts, you’d get along. You might want to see if you can find some common ground, and other contexts.

Sing Along with Elsa and Let. It. Go.

  1. Know when to stop, or even let others have the last word. When I am really angry, I usually just withdraw. However, this isn’t a surrender. Instead, I’m tired and life’s too short. You do not become a smaller, or less worthwhile person, and you haven’t lost (whatever that really means, particularly on the Internet, fer chrissakes) if you walk away and wash your hands of things. Netizen, you are entitled to call it quits on an argument or discussion.

Finally, I hope you learn from my insanity and my mistakes. Life’s too short to let it get to you too much!