I’m excited that the group project I worked on all winter, Twitter for Dummies, hits
stores warehouses next week and stores first week in July (correction from Wiley). I can hardly believe it is finally wrapped, after months of working with awesome co-authors Laura Fitton of Pistachio Consulting and OneForty and Michael Gruen of We Are Nom to bring this major project to your doors.
I didn’t talk much about the book while we were writing it, on purpose. Having three authors plus feedback from Wiley on a project was a fun, sprawling process. Toss in a few “minor” Twitter changes over the course of writing it and you have some added challenging components to the mix.
I am very excited to have the book in stores, finally. We will each be (and in fact, have been) doing some promotion for the book individually and together when possible (we are spread out over three states). If you want to order the book, please feel free to click the link in the side bar, this link here or visit your local book store. If you want to talk to one or all of us about doing events or promotion around the book, you can contact us individually. Find the spearhead for the project, Laura Fitton, @pistachio on Twitter. Find Leslie Poston (me), co-author, @leslie on Twitter, and find Michael Gruen, co-author @gruen on Twitter. You can also drop me an email for promotional activities.
What have we done to promote the book so far? Laura is speaking at Jeff Pulver‘s #140conf today, and has several promotional and speaking events planned around the country. Michael has spoken at the NYC Book Expo recently. I’ve just been filmed for a new TV show in Maine which will air July 1 or thereabouts (most likely on WPXT, but stay tuned), and will also be on another station here in NH soon (project not wrapped yet, will announce here once I can). You can also hear me speak at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce on June 18th. I also have some blog and print interviews lined up that I will link here as they happen.
Also, many, many thanks to Laura Fitton for wanting me on her co-author team with Michael Gruen. It was a blast to write a whole book about my favorite tool and favorite toy. It was even more fun merging our very different uses into one book to help YOU, the reader. If you look at our Twitter accounts, you can see that you are getting the blended best out of three ways you can use Twitter for yourself and your business – I think that ended up making the book a richer, more comprehensive guide (and proved a point I make often about Twitter use being a la carte).
This is a question I ponder frequently. Have you focused on building a micro network and a nationwide network, or have you isolated yourself by walling off your garden?
I’m big on the idea of helping people and networking at a hyper local level. I also believe that your network is most effective if it also reaches far and wide – across borders of city, state, country and nation.
Think about it for a minute. If your network is made up of only your existing friends and family and a few existing coworkers, you have built a walled garden. What’s inside my be your own lovely garden, with prize-worthy flowers that are well tended, but any bad weather or difficult event can shake it up.
What happens if you move for an illness or a job? Have you built a network that will follow you? If your company is ready to expand, will you have the support outside of your existing world view to do so? What if the perfect job is a tweet or status update away and you miss it because your eyes aren’t open?
People often wall themselves off out of fear. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of harm… there are a hundred different kinds of fear. Don’t let it rule you or your company. Add a gate to your garden and see who comes in. You’ll be surprised how it grows your network and where it takes you in life.
You have to be well rounded. You have to take chances, and stretch yourself past where you think you can go. Do you make sure to do this on a regular basis?
I am an idea person. I don’t like to see a good idea die on the vine, choked by excessive caution, hemming, hawing or general “over thinking”. Sure, you need to plan, but there comes a point where you also have to take that leap and try the idea out – set it free to roam the wild. It’s the only you can grow as a person or business.
Some ideas fly high, like Uptown Uncorked (now Magnitude Media), the Topics on Fire podcast (currently on summer hiatus) or the recent Twitter for Dummies project with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen that just wrapped (hitting stores soon). Some build momentum more slowly. Some struggle to get past the enthusiasm stage. Some end up being put aside as not viable after all.
Some of my projects are building momentum at a nice steady pace now, like a new book I’m going to be writing with Jim Keenan from A Sales Guy. Some are building momentum slowly, like Social Mic, a fun music side project I’m noodling on with Maria Thurrell and a new hush hush project I’m creating with Alexa Scordato.
A few took off like rockets, going much faster than anticipated. One of those was Social Media Breakfast NH. The people in the business community of NH have embraced this idea and are instrumental in how successful it has been, and I can’t thank you all enough for the enthusiasm you bring to each month’s meeting (next month: Education 2.0 part two, by the way – save the date: 7/17). SMBNH grew so quickly I had to bring on the fabulous Kevin Micalizzi and Matt Turner to help. Another of these is PodCamp NH, which is really starting to gather steam behind the scenes. It’s a good thing I have a good team helping with that (Thanks team: Kevin Baringer, Kevin Micalizzi, John Herman, Christine Major, Nick Plante)!
One of my favorite ideas is struggling to get past the enthusiasm stage, mainly due to unexpected issues with red tape. That one is Strong Women in Tech, which I discussed the other day. Luckily, I reached out and am now getting some fabulous responses to that cry for help, and this idea may finally push past Stage One and really take off.
Some people look at all of the irons I keep in the fire – clients, speaking, writing, side projects, blogging, and more – and ask how on earth I can do everything I want to and still have a life. Simple: my network. Every single project or idea, as you can see, involves me reaching out to someone (or several someones) from my network I think would be a great fit for the idea actually getting legs and growing. If I didn’t have a strong network, none of this would work.
It isn’t just about me tapping my network, either. My network taps me for their projects all of the time (case in point, Laura tapping me for Twitter for Dummies). Be helpful. Be willing. Be supportive. This collaborative culture and collaborative economy we are in now is a two way street. Grow your network, take leaps of faith, help, support, DO, be bold – and you will grow in return.
It’s easy in social media to find people talking about all of their clients who are doing well. It’s a bit more rare to find people talking about their clients when they struggle. To assume that you won’t struggle with implementation of your strategy in a social media campaign is a huge mistake, however.
I’m fortunate in that I won’t take a client who is not enthusiastic about integrating social media into their existing marketing plan. For someone to try and engage halfheartedly is a waste of everyone’s time and effort, and has a negative effect on the measure of both monetary ROI and interest based ROI. Even so, some clients still struggle. There are several factors that may cause this struggle, and it’s important to have a social media strategy that is flexible enough to address potential problems and adjust to fit the client as you go forward.
Problem 1: The Learning Curve
I know – for those of us who live and breath social media, the learning curve problem seems like a moot point. To us, it’s easy. Remember, though, that your client most likely won’t find it as easy as you do. Make sure you address the learning curve thoroughly from day one. In this case, thoroughly researching your client’s habits and the habits of the person or people who will be manning the campaign is essential.
By having a firm grasp of how your client prefers to get and give information outside of social media, and how they interact with customers, staff, friends and family, you can help them pick better tools. When things have a high learning curve or require being added to an already busy day, choosing the right tools will make a huge difference in how happy the client is with the additional time they will be spending incorporating social media into a campaign.
Example: A busy CEO needs mobile tools. A person who spends most of the day at a desk may prefer desktop applications. People who don’t like to write and who might not keep up with a blog might do better with an audio or video tool, or a combination. Someone on the floor at a service business might have a lot of fun with “interview” style tools like Qik for generating content and getting real time comments. Every client will have a different need to match their habits and passions. In some cases, you may need multiple and different tools for multiple people manning a campaign.
Problem 2: The Intimidation Factor
I see this most often. A client, enthusiastic about social media and raring to go, suddenly realizes the reality of having the internet paying attention to their words, photos or other content. This can create instant “writer’s block” as they become frozen like a deer in headlights. They worry they won’t say the right thing, even as you tell them that there is no “right” thing, it isn’t a test. They worry that they’ll talk and talk and talk and no one will answer back. They worry about legal issues, privacy, being liked, and more. The first week of a social media campaign often makes people feel like the first day of school, or getting picked last in gym.
It’s vital that you recognize this and help your client through it. Take a case in point, the client of mine who inspired this post today. Rick’s Restaurants is a NH business run by a nice family. They serve good food, they have loyal staff and loyal customers, but they need to draw in more business since the two restaurants are located in a bedroom community without a large shopping center or other tourist draw that only has about 5000 or so people living there. That number of people in a community can’t sustain a business. It’s vital that Rick’s Restaurants become a destination for more people in neighboring towns and people passing through.
They decided that social media in addition to their existing radio campaign would be helpful. We got them set up on a variety of networks after determining where their existing customers were and where they could reach new customers. The people manning the campaign are enthusiastic, but think they have nothing to say! Keep in mind, people want to see them on social media – their first week out they got a Twitter based reservation for a group of 36 people on a Saturday night at their Grille location on Main St, and since then have gotten several chef’s table bookings from it as well, so this is an intimidation problem they are having in spite of seeing measurable financial results, quickly.
We’ve been trying a variety of solutions behind the scenes for them, and I think that today we may have found a keeper. Going with the family feeling of Rick’s Pond View and Rick’s Cafe and Grille, we’re bringing Rick’s actual family on board to help. They have NO trouble talking about their son and brother and his restaurant and all of their friends who are regulars there. They want the Rick’s family to grow, because to them the customers are all part their family too. So after bringing them up to speed later today, you’ll see that Rick’s accounts are being manned by Rick (chef/owner) himself periodically, with help from Kim Boetti (his manager), Katie Hayes (bartender) and his parents, George and Joyce. I’m excited, and they are so happy to be involved. You’ll see them posting to the FaceBook Fan Page and Twitter to start, then we’ll bring them into the other social networks gradually once they get used to the extra time commitment (they have a company of their own that they run, after all).
Problem 3: Time, Time Time
Did you give your client an accurate picture of the time required to maintain a presence and listen and engage in social media? Did you take the time to go above and beyond simple training to help them make a schedule and learn to fit it into their day? Have you helped them create a good system so that they don’t feel like they are drowning in notifications, updates and reports? If the answer is no to any of those questions you did your client a disservice. If the answer is yes, and your client still struggles with time management, take your mentoring up a notch and help them review and revise their interaction so they don’t feel so overwhelmed by it all, so chained to their social tools. Maybe they need to implement a system like GTD. Maybe they need to delegate some tasks. Make it a point to find a way to help them be more efficient.
Problem 4: Changing Tools
Sometimes, a client finds a tool they like and use well, and the tool changes (or, as is often the case in social media, disappears altogether). This is out of their control, of course, but is something you can plan for in advance as their strategist. Always have a back up plan! If your client embraces a service like Utterli or Qik as a tool for content generation, for example, make sure you set them up on a similar tool from the beginning. Explain why.
A good company owner is going to embrace the idea of having a back up plan or insurance against problems out of their control. If the service lets your client back up the content they generate, do it! If not, perhaps reevaluate it until it does. An example here is Disqus. I didn’t recommend it to my clients as a comment tool for a long time – I was waiting for it to offer better options for backing up comments in the event of down time. Now that it offers better import and export tools for insurance, I can recommend this powerful comment service with confidence, AND teach my clients ho to back up their system regularly as part of their social media and online maintenance.
What have your clients struggled with? I’m fortunate to have had many successes and happy clients since I started doing this, but I embrace the few that struggle also. Those are the ones that teach me the most about being ever better at this job I love so much. Never stop learning.
That’s right, we’re bringing more opportunities to learn and grow in tech and social media to New Hampshire. I started off focusing on local clients in my push for hyper local development, then added Social Media Breakfast NH, and now am moving on to bring a PodCamp up this way.
All of these ideas may be my brainstorms, but they won’t happen alone! We introduced the new team for SMBNH the other day in this post. Now let me introduce the core team who will be helping bring you PodCamp NH this fall:
I am spearheading the movement, and acting as the main point of contact and maestro of this varied group. The full roster of people rallying ’round in support of my insanity, er, I mean, big idea, is:
Leslie Poston (me): Founder of Uptown Uncorked (Business Development and Social Media Consultancy), Writer (including co-author of the upcoming Twitter for Dummies with Laura Fitton and Michael Gruen), Founder of Social Media Breakfast NH, Thinker, Doer, Facilitator, Fixer)
Nick Plante is a programmer, author, community organizer and (most of all) a nice guy. As an independent consultant and a partner in Ubikorp Internet Services, Nick specializes in helping web startups accelerate their development with Ruby and Rails. Nick is founder and chief organizer of the Rails Rumble innovation competition, an annual event promoting entrepreneurship and developer productivity in the Rails community. He also heads up the NH Ruby Users Group, has spoken at industry events, and contributes to numerous open source projects. Nick’s book, Practical Rails Plugins, was published by Apress in June, 2008. (read more about Nick here)
Christine Major has more than 11 years of experience in high tech public relations, providing her clients with the very best in public relations strategies and tactics – through traditional PR and social media programs – that match the interests of key audiences and target influencers. Christine is also very active in the social networking scene in NH and Boston as one of the organizers for the Boston Twestival 2009 and is also the founder of Seacoast TweetUps and manager of the @NHTweetUp Twitter account. (read more about Christine here)
John Herman is busy bringing his Ford Fiesta for the Fiesta Movement home to NH, but he has lots of projects going on right now in addition to PodCamp, teaching, old favorite Gravityland and new favorite – OddNogginLand. His current bio will be added shortly. (read more about John here)
Kevin Micalizzi is currently blending his web leadership and know-how with his background in communications as Community Manager at web conferencing startup Dimdim (www.dimdim.com). Over the last 10 years Kevin has lead web teams at Rational, IBM and Avid Technology, managing web marketing, engineering, operations, and production. Kevin is loving his focus on making web conferencing available to everyone, leveraging the web and social media. He has also joined the Social Media Breakfast NH team recently, helping Leslie bring each month’s meeting to life, live streaming them to the public so out-of-staters can follow what NH is doing in tech. (read more about Kevin here)
Kevin Baringer After 15 years in software for mid to large size companies, Kevin is now focusing on smaller businesses and the flexibility, extensibility and just plain awesomeness of the web and social media. His passion is in working to blend creativity with technology in order to fashion the as-of-yet unimagined fabric of tomorrow’s society. He also likes to play make-believe. Kevin can be contacted through his site at kevinbaringer.com, which will hopefully soon be a font of relatively useful or moderately entertaining stuff, or on Twitter (read more about Kevin here)
For PodCamp we will be seeking sponsors so that we can keep attendance free, as well as speakers/presenters for this unconference. As soon as we get the first meeting under our belt, we’ll let you know how to contact us for a spot. Meanwhile – stay tuned, and don’t be shy! Leave any ideas in the comments for now.
One of my quick audio posts to get the thoughts out of my brain and onto the page. Enjoy!
Also, please note there is NO Topics on Fire tonight!
This morning’s SMBNH, hosted by UNH and sponsored by the college and their Executive MBA program, was all about Education and new media. We had a slightly lower turnout than planned (46 of the 82 registered showed up), which may have been due to this unexpectedly gorgeous day here in New England – the first in quite some time.
Professor of Economics, Evangelos Simos, opened the meeting with remarks from UNH. One of my favorites was his paraphrasing of one of his favorite economists in saying that some of the world’s greatest inventions have come about in times of recession or strife, fueled by entrepreneurial thought and think tank groups like ours.
Opening remarks by Mr. Simos (captured by Jeff Cutler)
I then introduced Kelley Muir, Director of Float Left Labs, who discussed the new intern economy. She taught us all things we didn’t know about everything from internships that only benefit those who can afford them because they are bought, as well as other types of internships. She also discussed how new media tools were changing the face of interning completely.
After Kelley I introduced Hans Mundahl, an educator at New Hampton School. He discussed bringing Mogulus and live streaming video into his classroom. He also touched on some of the other tools he uses like his classroom wiki and FaceBook.
We then had an open Q&A learning session in the spirit of an unconference, where everyone had a chance to ask questions and share their knowledge.
It was a fantastic meeting. I hope that the open Q&A comes through in the embedded video below, as the mic did not quite reach everyone in the room. If you were a speaker or attendee, I encourage sharing. Please embed the video in your own sites. all I ask is that a) you do not modify or edit the recording and b) you link back to this post.
The next meeting will be in Concord, NH and will focus on Marketing and New Media. We are currently seeking speakers.
As someone who manually reviews each new follower profile to see what they are all about, I can attest to the importance of having a link in your bio. I know I am not the only one who is less likely to follow you back if I can’t see more information about you than a few tweets (And if you protect your updates and are not my social-media-paranoid real life friend, forget it. No follow.).
I use the link in your profile page to make decisions that your existing interaction level can’t answer. Others who are newer to social media use it to decide your trustworthiness and online value, or how interesting you are. Following someone has a bit of a cost to it as far as time – the landing page you link to in your profile let’s new followers know you are worth their time.
Many people panic when I tell them they need a link to a landing page. They don’t want to start a blog or host a web site. They don’t want to sell products online or fuss with a CMS system. They prefer more lightweight interaction online and don’t see the point in committing at that level. You know what? That is totally fine. Even so, you still need a place people can go to see another facet of who you are.
So how do you have a social media landing page if you don’t want to have a blog or web site? That’s easy – cross link to your other social media profiles, or to a social content site or social network instead.
Social content is probably the best way to handle the lack of a dedicated web site or blog. If you have a Flickr account for your photos, a Qik channel for short videos from your phone, or even something like an Utterli profile where you record your old, angst-ridden teen poetry, link to it.
If you don’t generate social content, you should. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s often free. It takes less time than a blog or web site, and it is maintained by someone else. You get a profile page in a very no fuss, no muss manner, meaning that updating feels more like play but is still effective in getting what I like to call “snackable content” out there for the masses to consume, discuss and pass along (with credit and link backs, is the hope).
If you are strictly a social network participant and have no desire (or time, in some cases) to generate any kind of social content, no matter how small, you can still make one of your social network profiles into your landing page. Just tweak the content a bit to make sure it reflects a wider amount of your personality or accomplishments, then link to the profile.
To make a FaceBook profile your landing page, you need to make the permissions on the profile public. That’s a scary thing for some people, and not without risk. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can create a fan page for yourself or your company and link there instead, thus controlling access to your private life.
Just because MySpace has lost its luster recently doesn’t mean it isn’t a great landing page, especially if you are a band/musician. The custom URL feature makes it easy, and you can upload links, content, videos, commentary and more with ease, keeping your content interesting for visitors from other sites, like Twitter.
Don’t overlook some of the lesser known or niche social networks either (iMeem, Strands, MOG, LinkedIn or even sites like FriendFeed). However you choose to get another side of your personality or your company out there, that link in your profile is key to getting more response to your social media activity. Layers are vital. Show yours off.
Today as I read through the top tech stories listed on Techmeme, I stumbled on a little nugget: an Adobe AIR social aggregator I hadn’t gotten my paws on yet! Called Skimmer, the AIR application aggregates users’ social streams from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Bebo and Flickr into a a single continuous flow. And aside from a few stylistic complaints, I’m impressed.
The platform is attractive in its simplistic presentation. When scrolling through my stream on my Macbook Pro, the application reacted smoothly, and I’ve yet to experience any hiccups or delays in any functions. One of my biggest complaints with some AIR applications, such as Twitter platform Twhirl, is that they tend to be a little slow on the pick up and reaction time. No such issues here.
The platform allows you to work in a large-screen mode or in a “widget” mode, which shrinks down the feed to the bare necessities. Coming to my first issue with the platform, the smaller widget really isn’t what you’d call small. Though you can change the height of the window, the width is fixed. That wouldn’t be a big deal if the widget mode changed the size of each update displayed, but it doesn’t…and each update is sizable in display.
In fact, the whole platform, for all its clean simplicity, is a bit bulky in its presentation. There’s a lot of unused space that could be eliminated, making the platform more streamlined and aesthetically-appealing. For those of us with limited screen real estate, using every centimeter of space is crucial. Skimmer doesn’t have any skin or display options to change; if it did, I’d love it. But on a positive note, that’s my biggest gripe with the platform.
Moving right along, Skimmer allows users to update their various accounts from the platform…no suprise there. But unlike some platforms, where updating your status on a platform linked to multiple accounts doesn’t allow you to update each account differently, Skimmer lets you select which account to which your update will be posted. Or, if you like, you can post the same update to all accounts. Personally, my activity on Facebook is different than it is on Twitter or Youtube, so I like to update each individually, but to each his or her own. This feature earns a big check-plus from me.
Users can also filter their feeds easily, selecting which accounts they’d like to incorporate into their streams. Sometimes I just don’t care whether my friends are updating their Facebook profiles, or what they have to say. Uncheck Facebook from your stream directly the Skimmer application, and you’re set.
I particularly like that Skimmer renders pictures and videos uploaded to all the different services it supports right in the window. I won’t drop names, but I watched a particularly..unique..rendition of the Disney song “A Whole New World,” a YouTube post, right from Skimmer. If I’d had anything constructive to say, I could have commented on the video directly from Skimmer as well. Nice.
Continuing with more cool features, you can filter your stream down by keyword, friends, and platforms. Skimmer does display your friend avatars (or profile pictures, whichever you like), and next to the images are small little platform icons, indicating which platform the update is coming from.
I’ve just started using Skimmer, so I’m certainly not fully familiar with all of the platform’s features, but I will certainly continue using it. If you’re out there, nice folks at Skimmer, you’d have one very happy customer if you let me skin the thing or make the appearance a little less bulky. Pretty please?
UPDATE: Still, I guess Skimmer is really delivering on exactly what it claims to do. As far as viewing your social stream, the platform excels. But when it comes to communicating, such as sending messages on Twitter, the app is lacking. For instance, when I received a tweet from a friend, there was no indication that the entity in my feed was in any way different from the rest of the noise. Lucky I saw the tweet as it came in; otherwise, I would have had no clue that I’d been contacted.
Skimmer is just that. But, if the team over at Skimmer was to add in a bit of functionality that focuses on communication, such as differentiated postings so users can know when they’re being contacted, then we’d have a serious application on our hands. I think it is a contender against my partner Leslie’s preferred tool, Strands, or the tech crowd’s favorite, FriendFeed.