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.
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.
Employee Passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.
So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?
So before you reflexively say no, the truth is, unless the is expressly forbids it, companies can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees and demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. As a result, a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.
First of all, here in the Bay State, a bill was introduced in May of 2014 which would block employer access to social media passwords. Because The Boston Globe reported on this. And according to State Senator Cynthia Creem, a Democrat from Newton, who originally filed the Password Protection Act, demanding passwords as a condition of employment, “doesn’t seem acceptable.”
“Creates the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act; prohibits employers and educational institutions from requesting or requiring individuals to disclose information that allows access to or observation of personal online accounts; prohibits employers and educational institutions from taking certain actions for failure to disclose information that allows access to personal online accounts; limits liability for failure to search or monitor the activity of personal online accounts.”
Furthermore, House Bill 414, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,
“Relates to privacy in the workplace and legislative approval of collective bargaining agreements; prohibits an employer from requiring an employee or prospective employee to disclose his or her social media or electronic mail passwords; provides that violations by employers subjects them to a civil penalty; provides that the cost items of every collective bargaining agreement entered into by the state shall be approved by the Fiscal Committee of the General Court before each takes effect.”
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.”
And this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In addition, Tennessee’s Senate Bill 1808, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,
“Creates the Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014 which prevents an employer from requiring an employee to disclose the username and password for the employee’s personal internet account except under certain circumstances.”
And then in Wisconsin, State Bill 223, per the National Conference of State Legislatures,
“Relates to employer access to, and observation of, the personal Internet accounts of employees and applicants for employment; [and] relates to educational institution access to, and observation of, the personal Internet accounts of students and prospective students;
and “relates to landlord access to, and observation of, the personal Internet accounts of tenants and prospective tenants; provides a penalty.”.
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 have these laws. Except for Massachusetts, which pended at the first writing of this blog post. Otherwise, all were enacted in 2014. Furthermore, these laws prohibit employers from gaining access to employees’ social media account passwords. I list them by the year the protection was enacted:
2012 – California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey
2013 – Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont (provides for a study only) and Washington
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.
Book Review – Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen
Dave Kerpen has a rather interesting book here.
Likeable Social Media
This book was required reading, as a part of my Community Management class at Quinnipiac University.
And it made for an excellent read.
For Kerpen, a lot of social media success comes from listening to, and then surprising and delighting customers and potential customers. Are your posts what they are interested in? If you received this post, would you bother clicking on it?
Case in point for surprise and delight
In May of 2015, my husband, parents, and I went to a Mexican restaurant in my parents’ town. We have eaten there before, but not so much that they know our names or our usual orders or the like. My husband and I don’t visit my parents too often. And he visits them even less than I am. To the restaurant, even if my parents are repeat customers, my husband and I surely don’t look like repeats.
There was a short wait until we got our food. Without prompting, we received a little appetizer, which mainly consisted of little breaded and fried mashed potatoes, configured a bit like sticks. There were three bits of sauce in different colors. The potatoes and sauce, most likely, were leftover odds and ends. It may have taken the chef all of ten minutes to make the dish. I didn’t see anyone else getting the appetizer. We thanked the server. The appetizer tasted good.
We were served our food, and you’d think that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. We didn’t order dessert. But we received a plate of flan and four spoons anyway. No one asked us; we just got the flan (it tasted really good). We weren’t charged for either little extra.
These twin activities impressed us, so much so that I’ve even linked back to the restaurant. Win-win!
Surprise and delight your customers. Or, as I’d like to say, where’s their flan?
By no coincidence, Kerpen named his company Likeable Media. From its positive name to its obvious association with Facebook, the book and the company are all about creating positive and meaningful experiences for customers and potential customers. Kerpen begins with listening and with careful, accurate, and specific targeting. E. g. not all women in their 50s have the same interests. He strongly urges marketers to dig deeper. He also encourages them to have empathy for their customers. Is a post interesting? Would it be welcome to the customer base? The first fans should be preexisting customers, with perks for the really rabid fans. Another skill to master: engaging in a true dialog. This means not just accepting praise, but also effectively and expeditiously responding to complaints. It also means owning up to your mistakes when you make them.
Kerpen advocates authenticity, honesty and transparency in dealings, and promoting an exchange by asking questions, which goes right back to listening. From listening, comes the surprise and delight. Did the restaurant hear us complaining about slower than normal service? Possibly. The appetizer and the flan certainly helped to quell those complaints and win us over.
Because he’s talking about social media (and not restaurant service), Kerpen’s flan moment doesn’t just cover coupons and offers. It’s also the sharing of stories as social capital. Some of this includes stories of the company (e. g. how a product was invented that spawned an industry). But it also encompasses the stories of the customers themselves. Imagine being a soft drink company and asking customers who drank your soft drink during their first date to share their love stories?
Finally, rather than hard selling, Kerpen exhorts marketers to simply make it easy to buy. Good products and services will always have customers. Generally, you don’t need to massage demand. But you do need to make it easier for customers to open their wallets.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a bit too cleverly named, but the premise is an interesting one. Essentially, what Gary Vaynerchuk is saying is, little bits of content and engagement which reach your potential customers are the setup for the big finish (which is not really a finish, actually) of a call to action and an attempt to make a sale.
The other major premise of the book is that all platforms have their own native quirks and idiosyncrasies. Therefore what is reliable on Pinterest, might fall flat on Facebook. What is killer on Tumblr might get a shrug on Instagram. And what is awesome on Twitter might bring the meh elsewhere.
Breaking Down What Went Wrong, and What Went Right
The most powerful part of this work was in the analysis and dissection of various real-life pieces of content on the various platforms. Why did something not work? Maybe the image was too generic or too small or too blurry. Or maybe the call to action was too generic and wishy-washy, or the link did not take the user directly to the page with the sales information or coupon. Or maybe there was no link or no logo, and the user was confused or annoyed.
While this book was assigned for my Community Management class, the truth is, I can also see it as applying to the User-Centered Design course at Quinnipiac. After all, a big part of good user-centric design is to not confuse or annoy the user. Vaynerchuk is looking to take that a step further, and surprise and delight the consumer.
Give people value. So give them what they want and need, or that at least makes them smile or informs them. In the meantime, show your humanity and your concern.
And work your tail off.
A terrific read. Everyone in this field should read this book.
Beta readers and editors – what’s the difference? Does it matter which one you use to help with your manuscript?
Beta readers are people who read over your work and evaluate it before it gets anywhere near a publisher. They might read for typos, spelling errors, grammatical issues, and punctuation problems, but that is not a very good way to work with them.
Instead, you want them to help you with flow and continuity. If your main character is female and 5’2″ and has a chihuahua on page 4, then she should still be female, 5’2″, and the owner of a chihuahua on page 204, unless there is some on-page reason why she isn’t. E. g.:
She is transgender, and successfully transitioned (with or without surgery) to male. Or the character no longer identifies as female or male.
The character had a growth spurt and is taller, or has osteoporosis, and shrunk, or maybe her legs were amputated (sorry, character!).
She gave away the chihuahua, or it ran away, etc.
The last thing you want is for your beta reader to wonder where the chihuahua went, particularly if the little dog isn’t a big part of the story.
Good beta readers are in the demographics of the people you’re trying to reach with your novel. They like your genre or at least are willing to read in it and offer feedback. They don’t tear you a new one when they don’t like something, but they are also unafraid to tell you if something isn’t working for them.
Some questions to ask them
Are the characters believable? Are they distinguishable?
Do you think the situations are plausible?
Are the settings well described? Can you picture yourself where the characters are?
Do the transitions work?
Are the conflicts plausible?
Is the conclusion a satisfying one?
Also ask about genre-specific issues, such as whether your mystery was too easy or difficult to solve, if your horror story was scary enough, if the technobabble in your science fiction novel was credible, etc.
The best way to get a beta reader is to be one! Offer a trade with another indie. Usually this work is done for free. So be kind, and either recommend your beta reader friend or at least donate a little something to one of their three favorite charities.
Editors are more professional than beta readers and are generally people you hire. They will do copy editing, where they check for typos, etc., although there should be a last pass by a proofreader before publishing, no matter what.
Editors can also check for continuity, but they will mainly read with the audience in mind. They are a good enhancement to the work of a beta reader, and are a good idea before you send your work out for querying.
The best way to get an editor is to do some research. Ask people you know are published. After all, an editor no longer has to live in the same city or country as you (but you will do best with someone who is a native speaker of the language your book is in). Work with the editor on a sample chapter. Do you get along? Are his or her suggestions reasonable? Are they slow?
Ans if you are absolutely, utterly stuck for funds, try a local college or university. You might be able to get an English major to help you, but be aware they probably won’t have experience and they may not be the best fit. But they may be all you’ve got.
And make sure to have a written agreement with them! This is a sample copyediting contract, and it’s pretty good. Be sure to change the contract to indicate the laws of your state apply!
So you find a new site. You look around. And you think – this looks like a place I might like. Therefore, you take the plunge and you register.
And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Twitter, or Facebook or Able2know. If it’s big enough, it scrolls and leaps by so fast that you can barely get your arms around it. And in the beginning, that can be incredibly exciting.
However, after a while, it’s a bit too much. So if you want to hang around and have a more meaningful interactive experience than complaining about the weather, you end up finding yourself some sort of an enclave. I’ve covered this before, actually.
You find your niche, whatever it is. And you start spending time with people. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, be it playing fantasy sports, or comparing notes as new mothers, or trading rumors about the next season of Doctor Who. What matters is, you’ve found your peeps.
And that’s when it can get kind of complicated.
Transitioning to the In-Person Experience
My husband and I once met a fellow we had know for a few years from online. He was passing through Boston on his way home from Maine. And one thing he mentioned was – my online friends and my offline friends are pretty well-integrated. I like that.
After all, consider some of my closest friends who I didn’t meet online. Most of them either attended school with me at some stage or another, or they worked with me. In some fashion or another, we hit it off. However, the same is true of the cyber world, is it not? You meet someone, and you hit it off with them, and you thereby become friends. No great mystery there. The only remarkable thing is that the lines are being forever blurred between people we met physically first, and people we physically met later, if at all. And we care less and less about how we met our friends, these days.
With cyber friendships – as with all friendships – there can be loss. And we all know that it is going to happen sooner or later. A voice will be stilled, a timeline no longer updated. We may or may not know the correct or full name. We may never have heard that person so much as speak on a video or on the telephone. Yet we feel a sense of loss just the same.
I have found that, as this has happened on Able2know (and it has happened several times now, a function of both the size of the site and its skew in the direction of more elder demographics), people have wanted to rally around. It is not necessarily a formal obituary type of posting or topic. Instead, it can be a topic that’s more like a wake in its layout, verbiage and intent. There is no real template for this. You just go with what works. And recognize that there are people who grieve in their own ways. There may even be hostility (“You were never kind to him until it was too late!”) or one-upmanship (“I got to meet her in person!”).
The If I Die app allows for a final status update once three people (you choose them) confirm to the service that you’ve shuffled the mortal coil off to Buffalo. It almost seems like a video will, where the rich uncle leaves everything to his parakeet and, while the cameras are rolling, also tells the assembled family that they’re all wastrels.
But it’s not just that. It’s also – look at the data that’s out there. What sort of a legacy are we leaving for future generations?
A tour through Facebook reveals an awful lot of appreciation for cute cats who can’t spell, George Takei and political soundbite memes. And if future generations only look at that (which might happen, as it could very well be the only thing that survives long enough and is complete enough), they might just that cyber legacy and feel we are rather shallow people indeed.
Forums Tell a Different Story
However, if they dig into communities, I think they’ll see a rather different picture. A picture of real caring. Of reasoned and impassioned debate. Or of rabid fandom. Of people who help each other by answering questions or offering advice on things like repairing a fan belt on a ’68 Buick or ridding a computer of spyware. And of some fall on the floor humor as well.
So, what footprints and fingerprints will you leave behind for your cyber legacy? And what digital fossils will await future archaeologists’ discovery? What will the people of 3017 think of us? What’s your cyber legacy going to be?
What can Twitter do for you, the independent writer?
What’s the big deal about 140 characters?
Twitter is essentially a microblogging service. You broadcast your thoughts to the ether. Some of those thoughts, to be sure, are more interesting than others.
Many of us know someone who tweets about everything in their lives. It’s dull, it’s dumb, and you want to throttle them half the time. Their cheesecake is not fascinating. Their slow bus to downtown is not riveting. You don’t much care why they didn’t buy a particular pair of sneakers.
We may also know someone who’s a lot more fascinating. I’m not talking about celebrities, who have other sources for their cachet. Instead, I am talking about people who just seem to be more interesting, or at least their tweets are. Or at least they are funny or relevant.
Guess which one you want to be like?
On much of social media, when you are an independent author, you lead two lives. There is your personal life where you have friends and family, but there is also your professional or semi-professional life. Even if you never sell (or never want to) a syllable of your work, if you want to improve, you’re at least in the realm of semi-professional.
That might not be such a bad idea. One for yourself, for your political opinions, your questions about the universe, your tweets to customer service when something goes wrong ….
The other? For writing. This can be for talking about what you’re doing, and even teasing it a bit. For reporting your NaNoWriMo progress, if you like, to your cheering section. Also, for #PitMad and #MSWL. For the hashtags #amwriting and #amediting, too.
There is more, of course. I’ll get to it soon. So stay tuned!
As a (hopefully) former data person, I can relate to the idea of needing web analytics. E. g., the measurements of how your website does. Why do you want to measure with web analytics? Why, you need to see whether your message is actually going anywhere.
For e-commerce sites, the ultimate test is, naturally, whether you’re getting sales. But it’s hard to tell – particularly in a complex organization – whether the website drives sales or offline marketing efforts. And even measuring orders via these channels may not tell the entire story, as customers may see offline advertising and then come online to buy, or they may do the reverse and buy in-store after researching a product online. Or they could just be coming online to think about it and compare and mull it over and could convert to a paying customer days or weeks or months later. Or never.
What if You’re Not in e-Commerce?
And what about sites (such as my own) where nothing is offered for sale? My ultimate customer becomes, of course, someone to hire me, either permanently or temporarily. And this would mean as a consultant or a partner or a founder or a director or whatever, but that might be months away. What happens in the meantime? I might be able to dope some of that out with SEO and seeing where I am in search engine rankings, but just because people can find my site doesn’t mean they’re going to convert into hiring me or are even in a position to do so. My mother (hi, Mom!) can find my site and read it, but she won’t hire me any time soon. Unless I want to come and clean the gutters or something.
How do you or I know what’s happening?
It is, admittedly, still an imperfect science. But Mr. Kaushik breaks it down and describes the reports that you need to understand what’s happening with your site. He talks about what is essentially a Trinity strategy: experience, behavior and outcomes.
It’s not enough to just track sales (outcomes). It’s also about user experience and behavior. This is much like in the offline world, if you think about it. Going to a restaurant is an experience and many of them are packaged as such. But it is a far different experience going to a McDonald’s or a Chik-Fil-A versus a Bertucci’s. And that experience differs from going to Legal Seafood’s which in turn is different from Blue Ginger (celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s restaurant). You can intake the same amount of calories. You might even be able to get in the same quality and types of nutrition. And you might enjoy a Big Mac as much as you enjoy one of Chef Tsai’s specialties. Aside from price, what are the differences?
What Sort of User Experience?
When you go to a McDonald’s, a part of the price is wrapped up in the experience. For chain entities in particular, it’s about sameness and predictability. If you find yourself in rural Oshkosh and have never been there before, you see the golden arches and you realize what to expect. For Bertucci’s, even though it costs more and there’s table service, there’s a similar vibe. You go there because you can depend upon it to be a certain way. And Blue Ginger is also dependable in the sense that it’s very upscale so you know you are going to be treated a certain way and it will look a particular way and presumably the food will taste in a way that reflects that kind of investment, both by you and by Mr. Tsai and his team.
Enhanced User Experience
Mr. Kaushik shows how understanding analytics can help you to enhance user experience. And this, ultimately, drives user behavior. While conversions (sales) are the ultimate in user behaviors, he doesn’t forget about other valid behaviors.
Hence for the e-commerce site, product research is a valid and valuable behavior. So is printing a map to a brick and mortar store. Or comparing prices.
And for a non-e-commerce venture (again, I’ll use myself as an example), valid user (reader) behaviors are things like reading my writings and getting to know me. I put myself out there in order to be known, because that’s a piece of the hiring puzzle (why are there interviews — it’s not to know about skills, which should already be known. It’s to see if there’s a personality and a culture fit). Plus it enhances networking. Know me, think I’m worthwhile (at least, I hope you do) and you might think of a place where they might need me, or someone I should meet. And I do the same, in turn, for you. And cosmic karma gets us both into better places.
Back to the Book
But I digress. Let’s get back to the book.
The book has a lively, engaging style. It’s long but I sailed through it. And Mr. Kaushik (who is very gracious and seems to be very approachable, by the way) is clearly having fun and loves what he does. It’s a refreshing joy to read a book where the author is constantly delighted.
Read his book. Learn about analytics. Make the web a better place.
May your bounce rate be low, and your conversion rate high!
If you are interested in creating your own covers, or if you are a part of selecting your cover in your published work, you need to understand something about color theory.
Color theory is the associations and impressions we get when confronted with a certain color or set of colors. Color matters.
A wheel and some hex
Your computer generates colors based on combinations of basic colors. These are written in RGB (red-green-blue) or hexadecimal. Once you know the code, you can replicate any color.
Using RGB or hex is particularly important as you replicate your colors and branding across multiple platforms. What looks like pure fire engine red on my monitor may appear more like brick or tomato to you. But at least with a uniform color code, I can get it right if I need to copy the red from your page or cover.
Imaging programs such as GIMP and Adobe InDesign both have color picker tools which look like eye droppers. Select the tool, click on the color you want to replicate, and the tool will grab the correct hex or RGB coded color.
How does color make us feel?
As with a lot of the marketing issues surrounding books and book covers, a lot of this will depend upon the buyer persona or demographic associated with the most sales of your genre. Let’s say you are a science fiction writer. Then a lot of your readership is probably going to skew male, although if you write LGBT science fiction, you may find more female readers in the mix. Either way, how do they feel about colors? Furthermore, if you mainly have an American readership, their associations with colors will to differ from if your ideal readers are Canadian or Swedish.
Reinvention is such a lonely word, isn’t it? We are so used to being one way, and the world is used to it, too. But then there we go, screwing it all up.
I mean, changing it up.
Oops, I mean, improving ourselves.
For quite a while, Adventures in Career Changing ended up somewhat stagnant. At the same time, I ran a blog for independent writers called Lonely Writer. The numbers for that other blog were not so great, and they fell off dramatically after I graduated in the summer of 2016. Furthermore, it was costing me some bucks. Hence I decided to simply not allow that URL to renew when it came up again.
Instead, I decided to combine the two works, back here, on Adventures. Because career changing, for me, has also been about writing.
You may have noticed me making some housekeeping changes. There is a lot more color. The theme is considerably livelier. But beneath the surface there is another change, and it is not merely a cosmetic one. For these changes also contain adding the Lonely Writer videos, updating what I post here, and what I put on Facebook as well. And Twitter (or Twitter here). Plus of course there is still a YouTube channel, although I may eventually figure out a way to rebrand it.
Some things cannot be changed (such as the audio in preexisting YouTube videos). But for the most part, I have changed anything that can possibly be changed.
These transformations are folding Lonely Writer into my professional social media brand.
But please do not worry! What is free is still free! Rather, I want to introduce you to what I can do. So, that is another purpose behind this particular blog post, okay?
I can blog about virtually any topic. I can create WordPress sites, and I can develop and manage them. See, I can get you started on social media platforms. And I can help you with SEO.
As a freelance blogger, my job is to write about maritime law one day and ad retargeting the next, and then about real estate a few days later.
In the old, pre-Internet days, people like me would put out a shingle.