Look Who They Got Their Hands On Now

Posted on January 9, 2009. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , |

Twitter, like other new things, has both its fans and its critics. I happen to be a fan. Some people take longer to be convinced of the effectiveness of a tool. I want to share an experience I had recently that would not have happened if it were not for Twitter.

I use Twitter for a variety of things:

  • to connect with new people
  • to reconnect with old friends
  • to share things I find interesting
  • to chat
  • as a newsfeed
  • as a tool to promote my blog
  • as a tool to promote my business

I am sure that these cover most of the usual reasons people use Twitter. But where is the ROI I hear the business users scream (some of them are my clients!). Well because of my use of Twitter a fellow Twitter user @gillianK contacted me to see if I would be willing to help her & her company Weber Shandwick communicate the power of Social Media to a potential new client (you might be able to figure out who from the title of this post).

Now as much as I have a high opinion of myself and my abilities, its unlikely that a company the size of Weber Shandwick would have immediately sought me out to help them in a pre-Twitter world. But because of that approach I ended up in a video with some really cool people, who also happen to be pretty influential in Social Media – Melanie Notkin of www.SavvyAuntie.com (@savvyauntie), Audrey McClelland of www.momgenerations.com (@AudreyMcClellan), Peter Shankman founder of http://www.helpareporter.com/ (@skydiver) and Howard Greenstein of Harbrooke Group www.harbrooke.com (@howardgr). We were asked a set of questions about Social Media and to video our responses.

You can tell two things from my appearance in the video – 1. I need to invest in a better quality webcam, 2. Video is not my preferred medium.  For now I can’t share the actual video. The project has definitely got me thinking about adding video to this blog and how it might add another dimension to some of the things I am doing.

But overall I was very pleased with the outcome, I loved taking part and I actually learned from the experience. Now tell me Twitter isn’t worthwhile.

How has Twitter benefited you?

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Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Posted on December 13, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations | Tags: , , |

A Wham-O Professional Frisbee
Image via Wikipedia

This post was motivated by Terry Morawski who Tagged me. Tagging is a fun blogging event to get people behind the blogs to open up a bit and put the human face to their blogs. The rules are fairly straightforward:

The rules(courtesy of Vedo):

  • Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  • Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  • Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  • Let them know they’ve been tagged
    (Hat tip to Beth Harte for the rules).

I copied these directly from Terry’s blog.

So seven things about me:

1. I believe in experiential learning

I have always been a big believer in trying things out. Especially things that interest me or make me wonder. I guess that’s what led me into the military as a young man and led me to the Airborne. I wondered what it was like to jump out of a plane. Right now I am using some of my spare time to qualify as an Armed Bodyguard, I was recently certified as an Armed Security officer. Why would I do this, because I want to know what that feels like, to stand next to someone and be responsible for their safety. I can read a lot of books or watch movies or the learning channel, but getting out there and doing it is a much better learning experience. As a volunteer firefighter I got as many certifications as I could. Ditto as a Volunteer Search & Rescue technician, I just love learning.

2. I believe that if I want to be successful I should do what it takes

I decided two years ago to go into business for myself. At the same time I continued to make job applications. After being rejected by several companies that I really felt I was a good fit for I decided I needed to take my own business seriously. I also recognized that it might not immediately bring in cash and so I needed to think about what I was prepared to do to ensure my success. To that end I have driven school buses, worked for a second hand car dealership chain and a new car dealership and sold cars. I have done yard work, dismantled cars, and delivered packages during a Christmas rush for FEDEX. I get made when business people let their situation or the economy define their success. Get out there and make it happen.

3. I Read Voraciously

Yes voraciously. I never stop, I multi-task, I will read while watching TV. I read before sleeping at night. I read novels, non-fiction you name it I read it. I love History so I read history books, historical fiction(Patrick O’Brian), but also murder mystery (James Patterson), Fantasy (Tolkien, Charles De Lint), biographies. I love magazines for quick reading, everything from GQ to Inc, Fast Company to Men’s Vogue, Maximum PC to Practical Mechanics.

4. I played Ultimate Frisbee in my 30’s

I lived in Scotland and that meant leaving work on a Friday night driving for several hours in a bus or car sharing down to England to play in Tournaments. I did this for 18 months, sleeping on floors, playing against 18 – 21 year olds. I miss it but haven’t been able to get back into it over here in the US in the same way, I guess the hours spent in a car or crashing on someone’s floor is the piece that is missing. Its quite the bonding experience.

5. My hero’s are all real people

I don’t have any fictional, or hollywood heroes. The people I admire in my life are all real people and I admire them for both individual reasons and for the traits that they all share. These people range from my Mother, to friends parents to my daughters. Each of them has inspired me to try to become a better human being, each of them has no idea of the impact they have had on the world around them and yet they continue to have those positive impacts.

6. I am living the American Dream

Wow what a provocative statement. But actually its true for me. When I was 8 years old I told my friends that one day I was going to move to America and live there. I was an America addict all my youth. I didn’t get to make my first trip to the US until I was 29 when I was an exchange student to Central Missouri State University, I was there for one semester and loved it. Took me a further 10 years to finally make the move permanently to the US, now its where I call home.

7. I love to cook

Its true, I love to cook but not regular meals. I find regular meals really boring to cook. I do it occasionally but only if I really have to. Now cooking at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthday’s. Baking, fancy deserts, anything like that I love doing. Co-ordinating 4 dishes to all be ready at the same time, love it. I guess I am just a control freak and the kitchen gives me a great way to express that control.

I tag the following people:- Tawny Press, Cheryl Phillips, Christa M. Miller, Jack LeBlond, David Brown, David Lano and Sarah Guy (http://mypenrunnethover.blogspot.com/) WordPress wouldn’t let me add the 7th link for some reason!

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Mommy blogs:Why you should read them

Posted on December 7, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Business, Observations, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , |

Sharing Mommy's Breakfast

Do you read Mommy blogs? No? Perhaps you think they are only for other Mommy’s or that they have no relevance to your business or communication strategy – think again.

The first Mommy blog I started reading was TheDailyblonde, written by Cheryl Phillips. I honestly can’t remember how I found her but I was an instant fan. She writes honestly openly and very frankly. Since discovering Cheryl I have been finding others who are also a lot of fun to read. Just yesterday I came across Elle on Twitter. She started following me so I did as I always do, checked her Twitter profile page and followed the link to her blog. The first post I read was a note to her daughters teacher explaining her daughters homework. I got a great laugh from reading it.

More Than Just Laughs

I am sure I don’t need to tell you that it is acknowledged fact that women are stereotypically better at nuturing than men. Social networking is all about nuturing relationships. In my experience Mothers are extremely good at building networks especially with other Mothers. They have a common interest, they share common experiences, they have similar concerns.

Chris Brogan wrote a post on 40 ways to deliver killer content to your blog audience. He makes great points about how to create a dynamic blog and generate followers. When you compare his list with most Mommy blogs, there they are, all his tips in action. Why? Because for the most part, Mommy bloggers aren’t trying to be clever, they aren’t trying to be seen as “better than”, they are focused on sharing.

What Has The Menopause Got To Do With My Business?

Now if you clicked the link to Cheryl’s blog at the beginning of this post you will have found yourself reading about the menopause. Why is that at all relevant to your business. Because it meets all the measures of how a blog should be written. Brogan’s rule #3 – ” Use small words. You don’t have to impress people. You have to be clear.” Check. Cheryl isn’t writing a medical paper she is writing for other women. Brogan’s rule #8 ” Make your point from the reader’s side of the fence. Who is your audience?” Check. Cheryl and other Mommy bloggers know their audience. They understand them, they know their issues and concerns and they know how to communicate with them.

Honestly?

Brogan’s rule #22 ” Don’t mince words. If it’s a “pissing match,” it’s not a disagreement.” Trust me, no don’t, go read for yourself and you will find it harder to read a more honest group of bloggers than Mommy bloggers.

If you are writing a business blog, definitely follow the tips that you will find at Chris Brogan’s blog, Darren Rowse, Guy Kawasaki or any of the other big name bloggers but don’t forget to read blogs that have implemented these rules, sometimes without even knowing it. Put yourself in their shoes, are you as in tune with your audience as they are? If not then perhaps you should spend sometime reading Mommy blogs.

On Twitter there is now a MILT movement starting – Mom I’d Like to Tweet. Who would you add to your MILR (Mom I Like to Read) list ?

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Guest Post: Twitterberry – Caryn Brown

Posted on November 24, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Technology, twitter | Tags: , , , , |

Blackberry in Repose

I realized recently that although I had been reviewing a lot of Twitter apps I had missed out on a complete section of them – the Mobile apps.

I decided that this would be a great area to open up this blog to guest bloggers. This is the first in a series that are being written by other authors who have agreed to post here. All of whom responded to a Tweeted request for guest bloggers.

Caryn Brown describes herself as a system administrator and helpdesk goddess (which means I’m a geek) with 2 crazy sons and a wonderful husband. Oh yeah, I’m a HUGE foodie, cosmetics junkie, and twitteraddict. You can find my it’s all geek to me blog at http://helpdeskgoddess.blogspot.com

These are her thoughts on Twitterberry:

Once I discovered twitter and really got into “tweeting”, I knew that I was going to need an application to run on my blackberry to let me use Twitter more easily when I was away from my laptop. After some searching, I decided on Twitterberry from orangatame software. It was very easy to use, and I got up and running with it very quickly.

Improved upgrade

The first version of Twitterberry that I installed was the 0.6 version. It worked pretty good, but it was limited. Basically for me, the only real advantage to Twitterberry was that I could easily “tweet” and read my friend’s “tweets” from my phone.

Recently, I upgraded to twitterberry 0.8, and I am very impressed with it. The first thing that I noticed and liked about the new version was the ability to ‘favorite’ a tweet from within twitterberry. This is really nice if there is something or someone you want to look into more when you have time and aren’t working from your little blackberry screen.

Another improvement with this version is that it caches your updates. When you go into your friend’s timeline, your replies or your direct messages, you will see what was pulled down the last time you connected. While you are waiting for your new updates, you can look though the updates from your last connection.

The increase in the list of tweets it displays from 20 to 200 is a great improvement.

The last new function I have used in upgrade is the integration with twitpics. You can take a picture with your blackberry and tweet it with a link to the picture through twitpics.

What Mobile Twitter app do you use? Have you had experience with more than one? Would you like to share those experiences here?

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Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?

Posted on November 20, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Personal Branding was long the preserve of the Hollywood celebrity. To have a personal brand one needed a publicist, a manager, a PR agency and of course the ubiquitous “People”, as in “I’ll have my people talk to your people”. Social Media is changing all of that. People who would have once gone unnoticed now have a channel through which they can reach thousands of people.

With a million new blogs launched everyday in the US, the competition for audience share is ever more challenging. Skills & tasks that were once only aqcuired by and the concern of product managers, brand managers & marketing managers are now being acquired, honed and practiced by everyone from school teachers, stay-at-home parents, to police officers and computer geeks.

I Know How You Did That

There are two main implications of this change that Social Media is bringing. Firstly, everyone taking part in this surge in communication now wants, not only their 15 minutes of fame, but enduring celebrity and they want it now. The second implication is that having started to realize how brand’s are built the curtain has been drawn back and so these same people are less susceptible to traditional marketing techniques, after all they are using them themselves to attract their own audience.

I have seen recently, a undertone of what could be described as “resentment” against Social Media stars. In some cases I believe that people look at these so called stars in the same way that people sometimes view musicians who gain a place in the public consciousness. The term “overnight success” gets thrown about because people don’t realize the years that a musician might have spent playing spit & sawdust bars, for little more than beer & tips. In the same way a lot of the so called Social Media stars have in fact been practioners of their craft for years. Dorian Carta (aka Paisano) recently celebrated his 10th year as a blogger, hardly a Johnny-come-lately.

A recent NPR interview contained the snippet that it takes about 10,000 hours to become good at something. 10,000 hours that’s just over a year. So if you haven’t been blogging consistently (e.g. more than once a week) for at least a year, you haven’t even begun to get good at it.

Credibility is Key

What is missing from a lot of these Personal Branders is the sense of differentiation. Its a clear case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. The desire to achieve some form of recognition is a natural human instinct, but Social Media is allowing some to seek recognition well outside of their normal circles. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows all of us to experience points of view, to share knowledge with people we would otherwise be very unlikely to encounter. That differentiation is and has always been, credibility, whether blogging or branding, building consumer trust is central to developing a brand as opposed to building celebrity.

However, this has to be tempered with the knowledge that not everyone will be, or should be recognized as a rock star. Even those who are admit that they are human first, they have good days, they have bad days. Chris Pirillo famously ranted about Microsoft on his blog, given that he had been a high profile employee previously and that he was saying everyone should go and buy a Mac, it had the potential to be quite influential. When asked about it, he admitted, he was just having an off day, he was frustrated by things he saw at Microsoft and shared that frustration with the world through his blog. More now than ever, we can’t believe everything we read.

So when people embark on a blogging career, whether professionally or personally, they need to understand that building a brand is not an over night event. Popularity might come quickly, but it also has the ability to fade quickly, the test of brand success, whether it is corporate or personal is its ability to endure. How many of those 1 million blogs that will launch today will you be reading in a years time, let alone 10 years time?

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Who I am I reading?

Posted on November 16, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

summer reading

Most people know who the “Rockstars” are in blogging these days. With an estimated 1 million blogs being created everyday in the US you would think that it would be very hard to get noticed or have your voice heard. Those who have been blogging a long time have already managed to differentiate themselves or have disappeared.

But what about those who are not necessarily rockstars, who aren’t the top of everyone’s list but still have a lot to offer.

Chris Brogan recently decided to give back to his followers by creating an awesome list of his “Rockstars”. In effect a blogroll, but of huge proportions. The list was “self created” in that everyone on the list (myself included) submitted their websites and were just listed.

What I wanted to provide here was my list of personal “Rockstars”, more than just a list, a reason why these are the people I look up to and read on a regular basis.

Christine Gilbert – writes at almostfearless.com Christine left her job as a manager at a Fortune 500 company to travel the world. She sold her belongings to travel the world, to write & take photographs. Some might think this an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially in the current economic climate, others yet might wonder at the bravery that it takes to undertake a journey like this. I love to keep up with Christine’s travels. A real world, Where is Waldo?

Amy Derby – writes at Write From Home Amy writes in a real world style. She is both engaging and though provoking. Her blog is ostensibly aimed at aspiring or new freelance writers, but her messages are as equally important to anyone, writer or not.

Cheryl Phillips – writes at The Daily Blonde Cheryl is part of the group referred to as “Mommybloggers”. I am always uncomfortable with terms like that, firstly because it seems to be exclusive, as though the writings of this group will only appeal to other Mommy’s. This is definitely not so with Cheryl. Her blog is about being human, about being real. Sure a lot of what she writes about is her family, but she writes in an unapologetic, real world, take it or leave it style that appeals to me.

David Lano – writes at davidlano.com I am a new reader of David’s, he started following me on Twitter a few days ago, and as I do with anyone who follows me there I go and check out their blog. I really like David’s writing style, accessible, informative and he asks good questions.

Tony McCune – writes at What I See From My Window This is not so much a blog as it is a photo project. Tony invites you to send him a picture of what you can see from your window and a few words about the scene then he posts it. Its a simple idea, which is what makes it so brilliant. I love going here everyday and seeing a new view from someone else’s window. Tony has been sent pictures from across the world and all of them from someone’s window. Go take a picture from your window and send it to Tony.

Tawny Press – writes at Innoventions Tawny & I met through LinkedIn. She has been my Social Media mentor and encouraged me to get back involved with Twitter after I had given up on it. She is “officially” a corporate educator, but her ability to educate the rest of us regarding the best practices in Social Networking is what will keep you visiting her blog. She has some wonderful How-To’s on using Twitter and associated tools. She writes these not from a mechanical perspective but from the practitioners perspective, she has used the tools, documented her use and then written the How-to, saving the rest of us hours of trial and error.

Christa M Miller – writes at Vocational Duality Christa & I met through LinkedIn when I answered a question she had posed about using Twitter. She represents that great dynamic of professional non-fiction freelance writer (Law Enforcement is her specialization), mother, wife, fiction writer. All of these influences make appearances in her blog which makes it all the more readable. She can discuss items as diversse as personal branding issues using great personal examples of googling potential collaborators, to discussing the challenge of writing with a two-year old on your lap.

David Brown – writes at neo1seo David has a really interesting idea about how to respond to your followers on Twitter. He has a video that is sent to them via an auto-response. He says he has only received on bad comment back and lots of positive ones. I guess the auto-response part is slightly less human, but I must admit I love the idea of a video introducing yourself to your follower, that part is really human.

Of course I read the Rockstars too, but these are the people I read not because I should, but because they give me a reason to at the personal level. So who do you read?

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Keep Blogging Weird: Not Wired

Posted on October 23, 2008. Filed under: Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

In a recent article for Wired Magazine Paul Boutin declared the Blog dead. His argument is that blogs were good while they were being written by the little guy but now that the blogosphere is dominated by the likes of the Huffington Post and other magazine style writings, the little guy should move over to tools like Facebook, Twitter & Flickr.  I spoke with Robert Scoble last night at the Austin Tweetup about the so called “death of blogging”. He reminded me that this article appears on a regular basis and that there are always people claiming to have found the reason why blogging is dead.

I have to take issue with this.  I am a transplanted Austinite, originally from London, England.  Here in Austin we have a slogan “Keep Austin Weird”, it refers to the area south of Ladybird Lake downtown where you will find an eclectic mix of independently owned stores. No big box chain emporiums but rather odd and yes sometimes rather weird places that, be you resident or visitor, will make you smile, laugh and quite probably part with your money.

If we were to talk Paul’s advice then we would simply shutdown this eclectic mix of stores and invite in the big boxes because after all they have the marketing budget, they run ads on TV and in the Sunday inserts, so how can the small single owned store possibly compete and yet they do.

In the article Paul argues that the only feedback you will receive for blogging will be naysayers and hecklers and that your chances of appearing on page one of Google results for any given topic that you blog about are zero.  I think Paul is sadly misled as to why most bloggers blog.  Certainly speaking for myself I do not blog to end up on page one of Google. 

Perhaps Paul would be well guided to pick up the classic “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser.  Chapter Two addresses the most relevant point in any writers mind – “Who am I Writing For?”

“Dont try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience – every reader is a different person….. You are writing primarily to please yourself…if you lose the dullards back in the dust you don’t want them anyway”

I do not write with the expectation that thousands of people will search for my article on google.  Those who enjoy what I have to share know where to find it and some of them are kind enough to pass on the location to their friends, just as many people, having visited the weird shops in Austin pass on their location to others.

I agree that Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are great tools but they do not replace blog writing, they augment it. I am an avid user of Twitter and have written about it several times, as I have Facebook.  But they do not provide the outlet that writing a blog does.  Twitter takes me little or no discipline.  I post here 5 days a week, I write 7 days a week ( I post to Dad-O-Matic on Sundays), that takes discipline.  I am a better writer for it and I feel as though I am providing something for those who like to read.

So to Paul Boutin I say, Keep Blogging Weird.

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