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9 Tips for Social Media Success

There is a lot of buzz in professional circles, especially in media and communications, about building your platform or your brand. That’s just another way of saying you have to market yourself online to get your service or medium noticed. Social media technologies, in their myriad forms, are a useful means to that end.

I’ve been playing around with social media for a long time, and while I have learned a lot, I still have quite a way to go before I consider myself truly savvy. Part of the problem is that it’s always evolving. Just when I think I have one thing down pat, something new pops up that I need to learn and master. Luckily I love learning and staying up on current trends, so I guess it’s not a problem so much as it’s a challenge. As with everything else in life, I struggle to find a harmonious balance between learning new things to stay up to speed and focusing on the tasks that need to be done right now.

It’s a good thing, then, that there are plenty of social media pros out there who are willing to impart their advice for free or for the cost of a book. There are also lots of free online tools available that can make learning about and managing social media fun and easy.

Here are 9 tips or tools that I have used or am using to try to achieve social media success:

BLOGGING

1)      Read other blogs. This is generally a given, but it bears repeating. The best way to learn what works and doesn’t work from a blog reader’s standpoint is to be a blog reader. If there is a particular blog you have gone back to repeatedly, ask yourself why. What content does it offer that you find useful or interesting? Is the blog visually appealing? Is it easy to navigate? Is it updated regularly? Examine your answers to those questions and use them to inform how you create and maintain your own blog.

2)      Support other bloggers.  What goes around comes around. Pay it forward. All of those clichéd sayings still impart some value. It’s good if you regularly read or subscribe to someone’s blog. It’s better if you leave comments on their blog, tell them why you enjoy reading it, start a conversation. That’s why it’s called social media.

Tell bloggers if you want to know more about something. Help them to help you. If you have your own blog, you know what I’m talking about. Do the same for others and you will reap the rewards.

Also, bloggers, respond back to people’s comments. It continuously works both ways. Let your readers know you value the time they took to read and respond to what you wrote. Keep the conversation going and give your readers another reason to come back to your blog. The resulting back and forth may even spark an idea for a future blog post, so it’s all good.

3)      Read books and online tutorials. I learned and continue to learn how to create and maintain my blog by reading books and consulting free online tutorials. My blog is self-hosted and done in WordPress. I have found TEACH YOURSELF VISUALLY WORDPRESS to be a great beginner’s guide (click on it to read more about it):

Also, it’s not necessary to know HTML or CSS to have a nice blog, but it can help if you want to achieve a certain look not available in any of the numerous free WordPress themes that are available (if you decide to use WordPress). Or maybe you just want to tweak things a certain way and can’t afford to pay a web designer to do them for you. I actually took a beginner’s class in HTML/CSS and we used an excellent book from the Head First series. A newer edition of the book is coming out in September: HEAD FIRST HTML AND CSS. It breaks things down quite nicely and is cheaper than what you’d spend on a class or web designer.

 

As far as online tutorials are concerned, one go-to person who has a very informative blog is Jane Friedman, former editor of Writer’s Digest. I find myself bookmarking her tweets an awful lot, too. Her blog is geared toward writers, but she gives some great advice here about getting started blogging that just about anyone with a blog could find helpful.

TWITTER

4)      Learn how to Tweet well. There are a bevy of Twitter tip tutorials online.  A few that I have found offer valuable guidance on how to get the most out of your Twitter experience are:

5)      Practice good Twitter etiquette. Besides trying to follow the tips offered by the sites in #4, I recently picked up this book up by JS McDougall. He offers ideas on how to use Twitter to your advantage without turning into a human spam-bot and annoying your followers. It’s a good resource and at the very least is worth the money you would spend on the Kindle edition (which you can download to your PC).

6)      To follow or not to follow? Try not to be concerned with how many followers you do or don’t have. I don’t follow everyone who follows me. I’m not followed by everyone I follow. That’s just how it works. I have had to become very particular with my follows because it is just too much to manage, even with the use of lists and Twitter dashboards like Hootsuite. If your personality comes through in your tweets, if you tweet about things that inform and/or engage, if your timeline isn’t just a series of re-tweets, people will probably follow back. I like to keep the number of people I follow to a minimum so that I can interact with them more meaningfully.

FACEBOOK

7)      Personal vs. professional networking. I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It can either be a great networking tool or a big pain in the tool. I know people who have created separate accounts for their professional self and their private self. I have one account and use it solely for professional reasons. With all of the other responsibilities I have in life including being a mom, freelance writing, maintaining a blog and my Twitter account, I don’t have time for a personal Facebook page. The most personal I get on there is posting pictures of my dogs.

That said, Facebook can be useful for posting a link to your most recent blog post, to announce good career-related news, to promote your book, etc. I try to vary what I post on Facebook from what I put on Twitter. If the same people are following you on both, they may be put off by reading the same thing over and over in two different places.

LINKEDIN

8)      Make meaningful connections. LinkedIn is a powerful professional networking platform. Keep it professional. It’s probably not a good idea to invite everyone in your email address book to connect with you. With a few exceptions, it’s best to only link up with those connections who have or will have first-hand knowledge of your professional expertise and can vouch for your work ethic and job performance.

Also, there are most likely many professional networking groups that you can join on LinkedIn that are related to your career field — and if there aren’t, why not start one? I belong to a few LinkedIn groups and have been able to communicate with other writers not only in my geographic area, but around the world, which has proven a great learning experience.

9)     Avoid oversharing. Think twice about connecting your other social media platforms with your LinkedIn page. Hopefully you’re smart enough not to publicly bash your boss or complain about clients on Facebook or Twitter. You really don’t want that info to show up on LinkedIn. It’s unprofessional and may sabotage your chances of being taken seriously.

 

So that’s my list, and it’s a dynamic one at that. Ask me six months from now which social media resources I recommend and the list could look completely different. It’s reflective of what I find useful right now and of course I am still learning. I have not mastered all of the good advice given in the books or on the sites I recommend, but I’m trying. Hopefully you’ll find something beneficial on the list. Please also share your own tips and resources in the comments below.

Focusing on Success

As a writer, I am always interested in hearing what other creative people do to get themselves in the mood.

No, not for that — I would rather not know — unless, perhaps, it would make for a funny story.

On second thought, I would rather not know.

No, I am talking about project mode. Is there some kind of ritual they follow to spark ideas? Hearing about other creative-types’ little quirks and routines is fascinating to me because it makes me feel okay about my own and it gives me insight into what makes other people tick, especially people I really admire.

For example, do they only get started after they have had their morning coffee? Or maybe they do their best work late at night? Do they always work facing a certain window or a blank wall? Do they take a morning walk along the same route before starting their day? Do they do a yoga routine to get themselves feeling invigorated and ready to take on a project? Or do they just dive in and get it done?

And what constitutes a successful day’s work? Is it the completion of 1000 written words, or a sketch of an entire painting, or a relatively error-free music or play rehearsal?

For me, it’s not so cut and dry. My biggest challenge, to begin with, is finding good long stretches of uninterrupted writing time and using them for all they are worth. One might think, “Well, gee, you’re a stay-at-home mom whose kid is in school for six hours a day. What’s the problem?” I’ll tell you what the problem is. Actually, I have a few problems.

Problem #1: I am highly distractible. I can’t even bear to have my two adorable dogs staring up at me when I am trying to write. Look at them. Wouldn’t you be distracted, too?

Felix (left) and Daisy (right). They may look innocent, but they are distractor extraordinaires.

They have to be stowed away in their crate at the top of our stairs. Until the male dog, Felix, starts to whimper because he is a tad obsessed with me and wants to follow me everywhere. If he weren’t so cute I would find it creepy. So then my guilt sets in and I feel badly because here I am at home and I am locking my dogs away in their crate.

So I stop what I’m doing and go up and let them out. They rough-house with each other for a bit (which is also distracting) and then sit down and stare up at me again. The cycle continues.

And don’t even get me started on the lure of the Internet. Curse you, Al Gore.

Problem #2: To counteract Problem #1 I have attempted to sequester myself away in our home office. You’re probably thinking, “Bingo! That’s what you need to do. Problem solved.”

Not so fast. I never said life with me was easy. No, my friend, my issues run deeper than that.

You see, once I am securely locked away in the office, butt in chair (a mantra every good writer should chant obsessively to him or herself), I start to think about all of the things I should be doing instead of writing: laundry, ironing, washing the floors, vacuuming. You get the picture. This leads me to…

Problem #3: I have a very supportive husband.

“That does it,” you are probably saying. “How can having a supportive husband be a problem?”

Well, for one thing, he works full-time outside of our home. His job isn’t exactly stress-free, either. He works really hard so that I can continue to work from home pursuing my writing career and be available for our son, who has special needs. He is a wonderful man and I am very lucky.

So when the housekeeping tasks I listed under Problem #2 don’t get done on a regular basis, I start to feel guilty again. This is self-imposed guilt, mind you. My husband does not complain that he might not be taken seriously by his employees when he wears his Beavis and Butthead T-shirt to work because I didn’t get to the dry cleaner’s before it closed. Instead he is happy that it is at least clean and reasonably wrinkle-free.  He kisses me goodbye and tells me to have a great day. What a champ.

It’s hard for me not to feel guilty and blessed all at once. I am trying to get better about not beating myself up, though, because I don’t want all of my husband’s hard work to be in vain. I know I just need to get over it, keep writing, and eventually it will pay off.

So that brings me back to my original point. Guilt feelings pushed aside, what does it take to get my creative vibes flowing so I can have what I would call a successful day?

It depends if I’m working on nonfiction or fiction. If it’s nonfiction, I need complete silence. Locked in office, butt in chair, staring at blank wall. Leave me alone. I just start typing and eventually the ideas present themselves. I wish I had something more dramatic or profound to offer, but it really is that simple. When I am really in my zone, it’s not difficult for me get 700-1000 words down in an hour. For me that’s a big accomplishment and I feel successful afterwards. And then, of course, I set about editing what I wrote, which can take quite a bit more time, but I am happy just to have the words down.

My fiction pieces are often more challenging. I wish could go sit on a beach every day with my notebook and pencil in hand, because that has always been a productive setting for me. Unfortunately, the closest beach is two hours away, a trip that would not work on a daily basis, so I have sought out other sources of inspiration here at home. I often find it beneficial to listen to some music before I start to write. This helps especially if one of my characters is giving me a hard time. I may have an idea of the type of music that character would listen to, so I create a playlist for him or her. I listen to some or all of the songs then get writing — in silence.

Eight out of 10 times, it works. So well, in fact, that I lose track of time and realize I will never make it to the dry cleaner’s before it closes.

(What do you do to get yourself psyched to complete an important project? It doesn’t matter if you do creative work or not. Is there some kind of ritual you follow? Do you listen to a certain type of music, work out, or just get to it? If you work out of your home, how do you deal with distractions, self-imposed or otherwise, and stay focused?)

 

Writer’s Digest Writing Website of the Week – July 27, 2012

Yesterday, Brian Klems, online editor for Writers Digest magazine, notified me via Twitter that Vox Laurus has been named the magazine’s Writing Website of the Week. Yay! That was some nice news to get to end my week. If you go to www.writersdigest.com and scroll down, you will see the announcement and the snapshot of Vox Laurus near the bottom right-hand corner of the page.

 

S-U-C-C-E-S-S, That’s The Way We…

Sorry, got a little carried away. I’m just really excited about the launch of this blog. It’s the product of several weeks’ worth of work so far. I’m really impressed by the people I’ve interviewed — such intelligent, creative professionals — and am grateful for their time. I also appreciate the trust they’ve placed in me to convey their stories in a meaningful way.

Now I just need to get some female interviewees to even things out a bit.

I’m keeping this very brief because you have a lot of reading to do. I’m going to be trying different interview formats as time goes on, so future posts shouldn’t be as long as some of these. I have one more interview I’ll be posting this week, so stay tuned. Be sure to check out my ‘About’ page to get a better idea of why I started this blog.

I hope you won’t be shy about leaving comments and don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll get an email update when a new post is up. Thank you for stopping by!

Why An Interview Blog?

A few people have asked me why I decided to start an interviewing blog, as opposed to a blog on writing or editing, since that’s my thing. Well, I am revamping my freelance writing business blog, but I plan on keeping it focused on just that. Plus there are a lot of writing and editing blogs out there. It is difficult to come up with a new, inventive way of saying something about writing that hasn’t already been said numerous different ways. I chose to start this blog mostly because I wanted to do something a little bit different. My interests are so wide-ranging and varied, I didn’t want to be relegated to only writing about writing.

Additionally, I really enjoy meeting and speaking with new people, so I thought it would be fun to have a blog to reflect that. I love to hear others’ stories about how they got where they are in life, what things they would do differently (if any), and what they have learned along the way.  I enjoy exchanging ideas with smart, creative, motivated people and learning something new in the process.

I’m not the only one who stands to reap the benefits, though. As a freelancer I know how costly and time-consuming it can be to market yourself. This blog can help with that in some small way. The professionals I interview can link back here from their own websites, blogs, and Twitter and Facebook pages and share their stories with a wider audience. As for my readers, my hope is that you will feel inspired by these individuals’ success stories. Their achievements, regrets, and helpful tips may prove beneficial to you, especially if you are also hoping to become your own boss.

So sign up and read along. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading the interviews as much as I enjoy conducting them.

If there is a particular career field that interests you or a self-employed professional whose interview you would be interested in reading, shoot me a message via my Contact page.

 

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