Category Archives: Social Media Tips

Six Essential Social Media Tips for Writers

 
 
 
 
Graphic: Technorati

I met today’s guest blogger Alison Sky Richards at DragonCon this past Labor Day weekend. She led a one-hour Social Media 101 workshop for writers. Her tips were on target and based on real experience building her own fan base for her fantasy writing.  Below, she offers writers six indispensable tips for carving out a place for themselves in the social media landscape.   

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If you are a writer planning on using social media to help you create and connect with your fan base, there are a few basic rules that you need to remember:
  1.  Understand that you will only get from social media what you put into it.  Don’t think you have to be famous to start building a fan base; however followers will not show up overnight either.  They won’t remember you or stick around if you don’t post regularly, talk about your projects, and interact with them on a “personal” level.
  2.  Make sure you interact using your author persona.  Just like you don’t reveal all of your personal data to complete strangers, don’t feel that you can or should tell your audience everything.  Avoid topics like politics and religion unless that is part of what you’re writing is about. 
  3. Choose your accounts wisely.  You don’t need to be on every single social media out there.  Find two or three that you are most comfortable with and focus on them.  Facebook and Twitter are the most popular ones, so having at least one – if not both – is advisable.
  4. Claim your name in your URL’s.  That not only includes your website, but also your social media accounts.  It will make it easier for fans to find you as you expand onto new sites.  And make sure you have links to all social accounts on your website so people can friend you there.
  5. Make sure you manage your time wisely.  Social media can become addictive if you don’t manage yourself, and then you will lose precious writing time.  Make sure you schedule it into your day, and then keep yourself on that schedule to get off the sites as well.
  6. The internet is forever.  Once something is posted on a social media site, don’t expect there to ever be a “take back” function.  Always think twice when stating a personal opinion or talking on a “controversial” topic, as once you say it, those comments will follow you for the rest of your career.
If you want additional pointers about specific social media websites, please feel free to follow my Social Media blog ( http://alisonskyrichards.com/site/social-media-for-writers/) where I break down 1-2 sites a month with tips on how to make the most of the site as a writer.

About Alison Sky Richards

Originally from Yonkers, NY, and currently living in Nashville, TN, with her best friend Bethany and her cat Jojo, Alison Sky Richards is an upcoming fantasy writer who draws her inspiration from the creative energy surrounding the vibrant music community. When she isn’t working her day job at the Legal Aid Society, she is either at her local Starbucks working on her next writing project, or down at Bridgestone Arena cheering on her beloved Nashville Predators hockey team – when there isn’t a lockout. She can be reached on both her Facebook page and Twitter, as she operates both in the few remaining free minutes of her day.

Curation for Communicators

 
The Writing Well’s guest blogger today is Donna Papacosta of Toronto-based Trafalgar Communications. A social media expert specializing in content marketing, social media, and corporate communications, Donna is active in the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and frequently speaks about content curation. 
Here, she shares highlights of her time at last month’s IABC World Conference in Chicago and some tips on why content curation is an important tool for communications.
 
 Donna Papacosta
At the recent IABC world conference in Chicago, I was gratified to meet so many communicators interested in curation. What’s this hot topic about? Simply stated, curation means finding, selecting, organizing and sharing the best of relevant content.
I believe that most communicators can benefit from curating content. First of all, the act of curation increases your own knowledge as you discover interesting information. Then, sharing this content can help to position you as someone “in the know,” perhaps even a thought leader. If you deal with external audiences, curation can add value to your existing content marketing efforts.
To do it right, try balancing original content with curated content. If you publish only material developed by others, your audience doesn’t get to know your voice. Here are some other best practices:
  •  Understand your own purpose for curating, and be sure it’s integrated into your overall communications strategy.
  •  Focus on a niche topic; “communications,” for example, is too broad. Better: “crisis communications in the energy sector.”
  • Be sure to follow leaders in your industry via various social media platforms.
  • Automate some of your content discovery through Google alerts, Twitter and Google Plus searches and others.
  • Pick your curation tools. As a starting point, I recommend http://delicious.com for keeping track of content. You may choose to publish your curated content in a blog, microsite or newsletter, or via Paper.li, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or GooglePlus or a combination of these.
  • Always attribute content to the original author; don’t steal!
  • Share your content freely and make it easy for others to share, using widgets and buttons.
One of your goals as a curator should be to discover and share content that others haven’t yet seen. One of my favorite ways to do this is through Twitter lists. I subscribe to a variety of them that lead me to smart people on Twitter who may not be widely read. To find Twitter lists, check out http://listorious.com.
Another handy tool is http://www.news.me/, which delivers by email the top stories from your Facebook and Twitter contacts. As a communicator, I’m also a fan of http://paper.li, which allows me to publish nice-looking newspaper-like recaps of Twitter and/or Facebook posts based on lists of people or hashtags. For an example, check out the IABC/Toronto Twitter News at http://t.co/BFx2IAbg.
If you’re interested in this topic, you might want to see a video recap of my presentation at the IABC world conference at http://vzaar.tv/1026165
 
Happy curating!  
 
A quick list of selected curation tools:
          Delicious
          Clipboard
          Pearltrees
          Diigo
          Storify
          Scoop.it
          Paper.li
          Google+ Sparks
          Bundlr
          Magnify.net
          Pinterest
          Curata
          Curation Station
          Scribit
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Reach Donna Papacosta via her website or blog or follow her on Twitter.
 

In the SEO Game, Key Words and Strong Content are King

Ever wondered how to maximize your online presence through Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Stacy Williams, Search Advisory Net blogger and president of Atlanta-based search engine marketing firm, Prominent Placement, Inc., recently shared her best practices with an audience of Atlanta-based technologists with the International Association of Business Communicators.

The most important step, according to Williams, is generating strong and on-target keywords. “If you target the wrong keywords, then nothing else works. Use the verbiage your target audiences uses, not only what your industry or internal experts use.”
Stacy Williams, president of Prominent Placement.

Her company has a lot of B2B software clients, and many of them don’t like to talk about software; they like to talk about solutions. But their target audiences are searching for software instead.

When thinking about what keywords to use, the more detailed the better. You should think about the buying cycle of your prospects you’re trying to reach. The more specific you are with key word choices, the  higher probability of higher rankings and of connecting with people who want to make a purchase decision.
 
What do you do once you’ve figured out what keywords to target?  Williams says her team then takes one or two key search terms and assigns them to the key pages of the site.  “We like to work it into text headline when we can and the copy on the page – these are real important places to put your keywords.”  She also points to the title tag in the blue browser bar as a key place to put keywords.
 
Search engines don’t just look at the web page itself when determining rankings, Williams emphasized, rather, they also assess the quantity and quality of links pointing to that web page.
“Creating a well respected, authoritative site with lots of links pointing to it is the goal. Google knows which websites (and links) people want to read.” She considers link building one of the hardest tasks any SEO firm pursues.  Ideally, you want to get links from sites that are in your industry, on the same topic and are related.  
 
“The easiest way to get links is to not go out and ask for them, but to create really good content whether it’s a widget of some type, an article a lot of people refer to – something cool, something funny, something that goes viral.”
 
WebStoreSEO.com
One way to build links is through so-called “optimized press releases.” This is not “doing PR. But, it is taking a PR tactic – a press release – and using it for search marketing purposes. For example, using a service like PR Web, you can embed keywords in the headline and press release lead – you can dictate your anchor text. “These releases show up in search engine results and serve as search engine results agents,” Williams says. 
 
Another factor that can affect a company’s rankings is its level of activity on social media, including posts on Twitter or blogs, as well as a company’s Facebook and LinkedIn presence.
While your search engine ranking – how high your site is referenced on a page compared with competitors — is important, it’s not as critical as the number of visitors who actually come to your website and are converted into a customer.   For this reason, Williams advises that companies invest first in the content of their website, before investing in an SEO service to drive traffic to their site.
 
Hear Williams’ podcast on  the latest in social search. The 10-minute presentation covers how social media has changed the search landscape, Google+ and what marketers think about its chance for success, and how businesses can improve the SEO value of their Facebook page.

Reading, Writing and Tweeting – Not a Winning Combination

Judd Apatow’s appearance last week on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno prompted a thought-provoking Ragan.com PR Junkie post, “Is Twitter bad for writers?” 

Judd Apatow, courtesy of IMDb.

Apatow, a Hollywood screenplay writer behind hits such as Funny People and The 40-year-old Virgin told Leno why he’s so active on Twitter, explaining, “I’m looking for any distraction not to write.” 

Twitter has its place for connecting and even finding sources, but it also can be a huge time drain — especially if you are on a writing or work deadline. I have fallen prey to the lure of tweeting or online surfing …it’s even preferable to sleep sometimes (like right now as I write this post).  It’s documented that the internet has ‘rewired’ the way our brains absorb information. The reading experts at Reading Horizons blogged about the web’s role on people’s reading and writing skills back in February 2010:

“When you are searching the internet how long do you think you spend on a single page? (Hopefully you’re still on this page at this point!) Probably not very long. The internet offers so many gateways to other pages, that it has made it difficult for us to focus on one piece of information at a time. In other words: the internet is making us all a little more A.D.D.”

It also, writes the authors, decreases our ability to comprehend what we read.

Without question, we are in a time of digital overload, 24×7. The New York Times, in their 2010 article, “Attached to Technology and Paying the Price,” found that in 2008, people consumed “three times as much information each day as they did in 1960.”  

The constant interruptions in focus — from work to tweeting to whatever — leads to multi-tasking, which is bad for your mental health. “Excessive use of the internet, cellphones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic,” writes New York Times “Well” blogger Tara Parker-Pope.

What can be done? We need to wean ourselves off our digital addictions — one medium at a time. For my family, we make a habit of reading. We also rid ourselves of one huge digital distraction — satellite TV — with all the myriad of channels (and God-awful commercials). Instead, we listen to baseball games on the radio. We read the newspaper.  We’ve gotten into the habit of going swimming as a family before bedtime. 

But we are not over the hump, yet — not by a long shot. With two computers, two smart phones, one iPad, a Wii game system, and a movie club, my family has plenty of ways to feed our digital addictions. The computers are here to stay (job requirement), but the others need to be managed in moderation — like other addictions like fatty foods and chocolate. I know we have a way to go, but we owe it to ourselves and our kids to set limits on technology’s place in our lives.

30 Posts in 31 Days – I Made It!

Michelle Rafter

Today marks the conclusion of the 2011 Wordcount Blogathon. I was among 200 bloggers who accepted the challenge to post every day in the month of May. Michelle Rafter, a Portland-based business editor, reporter and blogger, organized this event to bring together professional writers and anyone else with a blog to help them improve their blogging skills.

“This year, people embraced the challenge with more enthusiasm and camaraderie then I’ve ever seen, which was evident in tweets & Google Group posts,” Rafter told me over Twitter. “There’s something to be said for spending an intense period of time working on blog improvements and also on doing it as a group=big rewards.”

It feels great to have seen this challenge through – the only day I missed was when Blogger.com had a technical glitch that prevented me access to my blog. This experience allowed me to connect with other bloggers and writers, while also stretching my discipline and creativity. Before I started this challenge, I was fortunate if I posted every two to three weeks; now I feel confident that I can post twice a week without too much effort!

A few of the varied topics I tackled this month included:

Bonnie Daneker

I also invited colleagues to be guest bloggers. On May 23, Bonnie Daneker became my first guest, offering tips for turning your blog into a book. On June 20, I look forward to a guest post by Judy Stone-Goldman, creator of The Reflective Writer, a blog on writing to achieve personal and professional balance.

Through my participation in this year’s blogathon, I wanted to more clearly find my own voice as a blogger through daily posts, and to explore what I love about writing and storytelling. I realized both of these goals.
I also improved my skills at “content curation” — a technique where you comb the web for useful expert articles on your topic and reference them in your own blog. A third goal still in progress is expanding my blog’s reach to a broader audience — I was able to link up my blog with my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts so everything is in sync.  Now, I want to find other ways to drive traffic to my blog.

While I have more to learn about this medium, I got a very big boost this month in my confidence that I have something to contribute to the blog writing community. Thanks, Michelle, for creating this opportunity. I look forward to what’s in store for Wordcount blogathoners in 2012.

‘Yepisodes’ — Video as a Storytelling Tool

My blog seeks to celebrate examples of great storytelling. Without question, the explosion of social media allows many ways to tell your company story. 
 
One company that’s taken video storytelling to a fun new level is Yepser, a hip, Internet marketing company started 2 1/2 years ago in Atlanta that has grown quickly and now supports the social media presence of just over 100 clients.
 
Earlier today I caught up with Matt Gardner, Yepser co-founder and dream weaver.  Our discussion focused on a series of videos — dubbed ‘Yepisodes’ — that his team put together and posted on their Facebook page.
 
Inspired by the hit NBC comedy, “The Office,” the video snippets take you inside Yepser’s offices in north Atlanta to see what really goes on.  Their video treatment is a fresh, fun and engaging way to reach customers and show a lighter side of Yepser’s culture. Gardner agrees.
 

“That’s us,” says Gardner, of his company’s laid back culture. The videos gave his eight-person staff a chance to showcase their creativity, while providing customers and prospects a unique “inside” view of the staffs’ interplay and sense of humor.

“Our existing customer base knows us and knows our personalities and got a big kick out of it.”

Gardner was surprised when prospects who saw the videos contacted him, complementing the out-of-box approach. “It’s rejuvenated past relationships. Many of our clients says they want to be featured in the next Yepisode.”

With three Yepisodes released, Gardner says more are coming once the busy staff find the time and the right creative spark for the next installment. No doubt, they will take their lead from their fans and customer base who want to get in on the fun. 
    
For companies still unsure about whether social media is for them, Yepser’s success makes a compelling case for getting out there and taking a few risks. And using video — as the explosive popularity of YouTube attests — is one of the best ways to connect, engage and talk about your brand in a way that gets attention.

 “Social media is a requirement almost in order to communicate with your potential customers and keep your existing customers loyal to your brand,” Gardner says.

Blogging the Top Media Tool of 2011

According to Social Media Examiner, blogging is the top media tool for 2011, based on a survey of 1,900 marketers that the blog site interviewed in 2010. Half said they wanted to learn more about blogging.

This finding may be surprising to those of us who thought Twitter, Facebook or YouTube were the dominant social media channels.  It’s great news for professional communicators who want to launch a blog for their clients in 2011.

Need more motivation? A recent HubSpot study shows that companies that blog achieve far better marketing results that the ones that don’t blog – attracting 55% more website visitors than non-blogging companies. (HubSpot is an innovative internet marketing company founded in 2006 by two former MITers who advise small businesses on how to  leverage the disruptive effects of the internet to “get found” by more prospects). They offer some practical advice on software feature choices for those just starting a business blog.

Increase Press Release Pick Up with Video, Tweeting

Whether it is photos, video links or tweeting, PR writers will be well served to take another look at these tools and techniques to get their client’s or organization’s news noticed online.

“Some 30 billion views of video are happening every month. When you attach a video to a press release, you get two and half times the pick up,” notes Jeff Karnes, new media executive and product advisor to MEDIAmobz, BusinessWire’s new video production service. Karnes was part of a panel focused on convergence, citizen and social journalism, sponsored by Business Wire Atlanta on March 25.

The average length of the videos is under two minutes and can be produced significantly cheaper than in past years, thanks to the growth in online video production houses that include a network of writers, producers and video staff.

So, how much are Atlanta-area news outlets relying on video (as well as social networking sites like Twitter) to tell their stories to an increasingly digital readership?

Phil Bolton, the founder of Global Atlanta, a three-person news service that covers international business from a local perspective, is a true believer, regularly posting short video clips on stories Global Atlanta covers to YouTube. Bolton, who also is a big user of Skype, says “every reporter in the future will not only have a pencil and pad, but also a digital camcorder.”

AJC: Selective with Video

Shawn Mcintosh, public editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), pointed out, “we do have video and the payoff is huge when you pick the right topic.” She cited as an example, coverage of natural disasters such as the 500-year flood that occurred in Atlanta last September. She doesn’t advocate widespread video use for every business story a company wants to place. She also says it’s important for PR people to “deliver the message in the most effective way.” Attachments won’t get past the spam filter.

Facing a tough business climate, and the migration of readership to the Internet, the AJC has experienced significant staffing and coverage changes, but it remains focused on the metro area, and on investigative journalism.

She believes the hardest period of change is past the AJC, with the adjustment to being a smaller publication in terms of staffing. Today, the paper has the largest investigative team in its history, Mcintosh says, noting that the AJC is focused on providing “comprehensive local news” – something she says is difficult to get anywhere else. The paper has bolstered staff in key beats such as business – including adding beat bloggers.

Connecting with the Media: Twittering ‘More Intimate’

The panel also discussed the growing use of Twitter and social networking to connect with readers (and for PR pros to connect with the media).

Every beat reporter at AJC uses Twitter for reporting and distributing information, notes Mcintosh. She described the paper’s Twitter breaking news feed as highly engaging and the cleverly worded tweets by AJC reporters show a “fun” side to up-to-the-minute reporting. She adds that even with the increasing focus on digital, the paper remains committed to producing a high-quality print product as well.

Mark Meltzer, executive editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, says his news organization is much more focused on digital – and even with a smaller staff trimmed from the difficult economy, each staff writer devotes time daily to the paper’s blogs.
 
Meltzer tweets about key news stories, calling the vehicle very important for driving traffic to the paper. He says it’s also used for research, where staff can send queries out and get questions answered. “It’s a great way to promote the Chronicle and I think since it’s free publicity, anyone who is not using it that way is making a huge mistake.”
 

Meltzer adds, “I have closer relationships to some of the people in the PR community who follow me on Twitter. If I get an e-mail from somebody on Twitter, I will probably return it. There’s something a little bit more intimate about that.”

 
Meltzer isn’t the only journalist embracing Twitter – Mark Senak, JD, a lawyer and health industry PR executive at Fleishman-Hillard, talks about the growing number of tweet-reporters on his Twitter site focused on pharmaceutical industry communications and planning, Eye on FDA. He even maintains a list of reporters on Twitter.

If you are a PR pro or journalist, are you increasing your use of video and Twitter? Share your experiences here.

 

Communications Vital in Mobilizing Haiti’s Humanitarian Relief

 

 

For the first week of being on the ground in Haiti after the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake that leveled much of the country, staff with the NGO CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, relied on only one functioning means of communication — text messaging — to coordinate relief efforts.

 
“Texting has just been revolutionary in terms of how we’re communicating,” Rick Perera, press officer for CARE, told a group of Atlanta-area professional communicators a day before his return to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Within a short time, CARE’s IT team had set up adequate IT infrastructure on the ground to enable volunteers and home staff to coordinate logistics easily over mobile phones and high-speed Internet.
 
The relief work of CARE, working with corporate partners, has touched nearly 200,000 Haitians as of mid February. The need is immense, especially for shelter, clean water and o ther basic necessities. The toll from the quake has left more than 210,000 dead and 1.2 million people displaced.
 
Joining Perera at the IABC Atlanta February luncheon was Delta Air Lines’ Frank Wrenn, who manages external affairs and communications for the world’s largest airline. Both shared their organizations’ role in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake, and how vital communications is in mobilizing and funding relief efforts.
 
Delta, which has one Haitian employee who lost everything in the disaster, has flown five missions to the Caribbean island state, three under the US military and two to transport supplies, the news media and personnel from key NGOs such as CARE. 
 
Worldwide, Delta’s employees have raised funds to help Haitians, including supporting a new NGO, Yéle Haiti, a foundation started by Grammy-Award winning musician, producer and social entrepreneur Wyclef Jean. Employees raised $10,000 by buying t-shirts for the NGO.  Groups of employees working overtime in a reservation center donated their overtime hours, which totaled $40,000, to the relief effort.
 
“A lot of what we’re doing isn’t just financial, it’s about employee volunteerism, too,” says Wrenn. Delta’s corporate responsibility program, “Force for Doing Good,” allows employees to get involved in initiatives that support the company’s community outreach in four key areas –advancing global diversity, global wellness, improving the environment and performing arts and culture.
 
A key priority at CARE is reaching the estimated 37,000 pregnant women in the earthquake zone by providing “safe-delivery kits” to midwives and o ther women in the community.  It’s a tough challenge in a country that has one of the highest maternity mortality rates — 670 women die out of every 100,000 who give birth under normal circumstances.
 
Building Connections One Girl Scout, Mo ther at a Time
 

 Awareness of the work of CARE among the general public in the U.S. remains low, notes Perera, who estimates that “unaided awareness” has gone from 3 percent up to 10 or 12 percent in recent years.  CARE is trying to change that through storytelling and connecting with women in the United States.  The organization has formed media partnerships with Meredith, publisher of women’s magazines such as Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal.

 
“In our communications, we are looking to help the American public understand at a very personal level what the lives are like for the people in Haiti,” Perera says. “By appealing to women in the  United States, we’re working very hard to create those connections.”
 

CARE has begun to share stories of local Boy and Girl Scouts throughout the country who are helping CARE with relief efforts as a means to make sense of the tragedy and do something positive for their country.  One Haitian Girl Scout, Joanie Ystin, barely escaped her home before it crumbled. She lives in Leogane, a city an hour from the capital that was at the epicenter of the earthquake. Her fa ther died in the rubble. She later found her Girl Scout uniform and joined in the volunteer efforts (her story is chronicled on CNN.com). According to Perera, 90 percent of the buildings in Leogane were destroyed.

 

 
Doing Good? Storytelling has an Important Role
 
Wrenn described how challenging it was in the beginning to balance the desire of Delta employees to know what was being done in Haiti, with the desire of executive management not to “blow our own horn.” 
 
It’s a common corporate dilemma that many PR and communications staff must address – but in times of humanitarian need on the scale that we are seeing in Haiti, companies that are making a difference shouldn’t be reticent about sharing their efforts and lessons learned — not necessarily through a press release, but through o ther communications mechanisms (face to face, video, web, social networking). Personalizing these efforts through the eyes of real people – whe ther it be a Delta pilot who flew into Port au Prince or the volunteer spirit of a Girl Scout in Haiti — tell a powerful story that can influence and inspire, as well as enhance brand reputation and create broad-scale support. Communications and engagement should be the overwhelming priority. 


Edelman Trust Barometer:  Trust in NGOs on the Rise
Not surprising, NGOs are  the most trustworthy organizations, according to results of  the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer.  In its 10th year, Edelman’s annual international study of opinion leaders aged 25 to 62 found that trust in  U.S. business rose 18 percent while trust in  the government remained stable. Technology remains  the most trusted sector, while trust in  the media continued its three-year decline, now ranking lowest of  the four institutions studied.

 
“Although trust in business is up,  the rise is tenuous. Globally, nearly 70 percent of informed publics expect business and financial businesses will ‘revert to business as usual’ after  the recession. – Executive Summary, Edelman 2010 Trust Barometer 
Read  the full summary.