The Secret of Social Media

The Secret of Social Media

Right now, I’m working with the U.S. part of a major corporation to plan their social media strategy for the next twelve months. We’ve identified buckets of topics to discuss, like insider info on their brand, fun contests, debatable questions and lots, and lots, and lots of photos. We’ve selected people from the various departments in the company to contribute content so it’s not all one person. But after developing all that social media content, I told the client we were only half done.

“Half?!”

My client was a bit upset.

“What more do we need??”

“You need someone that you trust to listen and reply to every comment, every retweet, every mention, every question. Social media is a party. Sometimes it’s a business party, sometimes it’s a cocktail party, sometimes it’s a Sunday afternoon football watching party. When you go to a party you don’t stand there and shout out all your thoughts. If you did that, you’d be called a jerk and never invited back. You need, as a brand, to have conversations. And that’s the secret of social media.”

“What? What is the secret?”

“Listen, and then let your customers know you heard them.”

social media secret

Good listening is hard.

Why brands and businesses are like little children

This client conversation was especially important to me right now because I am having the exact same conversation with my children. I am trying to train my children on the art of conversation and building relationships with people, including their family members. And that means when someone (like Mom) speaks to you, you acknowledge that you heard (‘Yes, Mom”) and answer the question (“Yes, Mom I was the one who unrolled all of the toilet paper. I was trying to see how much was left.”).

The secret to social media is simple. Talk to your customers the way you would -hopefully- talk to people in real life. You would listen to what they say and reply.

Many brands are not practicing good listening on social media. A recent study by Simply Measured showed that 98 of the top 100 brands on Twitter tweeting daily, but only 54% replied to messages. Like my little children, this makes it seem like they are simply not listening.

Good listening is hard. Really, really good listening is a learned technique. It involves certain body postures and skills like repeating back what you have heard someone say to validate their comments. It can also involve asking more questions instead of jumping to the conclusion that you already know the real issue. Lots of adults are not good listeners.

I’m not saying parents are the best listeners. But I am saying when you’re looking for someone to manage your social media, it’s not really about whether they understand ‘the technology.’ The secret to social media is to find a skilled listener.

Twitter and Women: The Right to Vote

Before Thanksgiving, I was excited to be a panelist at a meeting of the International Association of Business Communicators of Pittsburgh. The topic was “Applying Traditional Communication Skills to Social Media.” I do love using social media and I’m a firm believer that skilled communicators of any age can be effective on many different social media platforms.

Being a panelist was fun, but I was more excited to hear the questions from the audience. Other people’s questions spark some interesting ideas in my brain. Sometimes I blurt out those interesting ideas. And I did that at the IABC event.

A gentleman in the audience asked, “What historic events would have been different if we had social media when they happened?”

Before anyone else could answer, I said, “If we had Twitter, women would’ve gotten the right to vote a lot earlier!

Here’s why I think that.

Twitter and Women

Women and men like using social media, but trends show that women use it a bit more than men. A colorful info graphic on socialmediatoday.com states that 71% of women use social media sites. 62% of Twitter users and 58% of Facebook users are female. The ladies would totally rock the vote using these platforms, but especially Twitter.

Herland feminist utopia

Imagine if women could read this as an e-book.

I’m a historian by training and the Progressive Era was the focus of my studies. I know how hard it was for women to organize, travel and communicate back then. We’re seven years away from the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and it’s still hard for women to organize, travel and communicate. But social media makes it a lot easier for women – whether at home, at work, wherever- to share ideas with other like-minded women and to get educated. I like to think there would’ve been tweets like “Fed up with the federal gov’t! Suffrage Now! #SenecaFalls” and “The U.S. doesn’t yet include US #Suffrage.”

Twitter users tend to have higher levels of education and higher income. I’m not saying that makes them better than non-Twitter users, but I do believe it’s likely they’d have more free time and financial resources to begin the organization and advocacy for the right to vote. And women working their butts off to make ends meet wouldn’t be able to take off work for marches and sit-ins and fancy conferences, but they’d also be able to engage in the debate, send tweets to elected officials, get donations, and raise awareness through social media.

So there are a few simple reasons why I think Twitter would’ve lead to women getting the vote quicker. I also think that Twitter would’ve made it harder for suffragists to jettison African-American’s right to vote. While many women fighting for the vote back in the 1920’s argued that giving white women the vote would counteract giving black men the right to vote, 25% of Twitter users are African-American and there’s no way their equality would be undermined if Twitter was a part society back then.

So what historical events do you think would be different if social media had existed when they happened? 

 

Organize Ideas For Writing

organize ideas for writing

Tools of the Trade

How do you organize ideas for writing?

It is not easy for me to keep track of ideas. When I read, listen or run ideas and inspiration often overwhelm me. If you are a freelance writer you probably have this same problem and probably have some system in place. Maybe you’ve tried several different systems.

One that works for me is a centralized, somewhat disorganized notebook. I carry it everywhere and put everything in it. It turns out I am using a system developed centuries ago.

Do you commonplace?

I commonplace! And a lot of other writers I know commonplace. But I don’t think we knew we were commonplacing. I actually have several commonplace books and I think I’m going to keep commonplacing for awhile! What is commonplacing? I first learned about it in a book by Steven Johnson. Here’s his description:

Scholars, amateur scientists, aspiring men of letters – just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book. The great minds of the period – Milton, Bacon, Locke- were zealous believers in the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book. In its most customary form, “commonplacing,” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from one’s reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations. There is a distinct self-help quality of the early descriptions of commonplacing’s virtues: maintaining the books enabled one to ‘lay up a fund of knowledge, from which we may at all times select what is useful in the several pursuits of life.'” – Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From

This is just what I’m doing, carrying around a notebook scribbling down thoughts and ideas that erupt in my brain throughout the day. But I admit I use more than just one notebook. I also use the Notes and Voice Memos apps on my smartphone. And I tear out pages from magazines. And I snap photos with my smartphone. And cover my wall with sticky notes. And writing up lengthy thoughts on looseleaf in my binder. And highlighting text in ebooks. And folding down page corners in print books. Sometimes I actually sit down and gather all of this information into one place and think about how it connects and leads to new insights.

And that, writing friends, is commonplacing.

This is a good time of year to think about how your organization system works (or doesn’t) and what style suits you best: plotting or pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants.) National Novel Writing Month is coming in November and you definitely want to be ready. I failed my first year but learned valuable lessons and had a great system in place for 2012 where my novel was based off of daily writing prompts. I plotted and pantsed and planned and prepared and finished the month a winner!

But organizing ideas for writing isn’t just for fiction writers. Business owners need to have some organization for their web copy, newsletters and social media content. The fancy term is editorial calendar – does your business have one?

Maybe I don’t have the perfect system in place to organize ideas for writing, but I think it would be much more difficult if I didn’t have any ideas to organize. I’d rather be overwhelmed than dry. So how do you organize ideas for writing? What systems have you tried that failed? Still using the old index card system or have you updated to Scrivener?

 

Apps for Freelance Writers

apps for freelance writers

Don’t lose that thought!

Here is a quick review of three apps for freelance writers that make my life easier.

  • Voice Memos – There are lots of audio recording apps out there but this one is included on your iPhone so you had better be using it! I use it to record ideas that pop into my head while driving but don’t hesitate to use it during interviews or while you’re exercising for inspiration. It has also come in handy when I read manuscripts as a part of the great Facebook group Readers Aloud.
  • Easy Release – Many editors want you to include photographs with your story ideas and photographs mean you need photo releases. This app costs a little bit of money, but a lawsuit costs a lot more.
  • Square – I have three self-published books and host workshops, attend events and network. And I never have cash on hand. So I make it easy for potential buyers to become actual customers by always carrying my Square card reader. I can take payments anywhere and never have to worry about providing change. There is a fee per transaction, but for me, if someone didn’t have cash I wouldn’t sell a book at all, so I’ll take the fee.

[Update about Square: If you have upgraded to iOS7 you may need to adjust your microphone in order to swipe payment cards with your card reader. The steps are: 1. Go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone 2. Turn on the Square Register slider 3. Relaunch Square Register and swipe away!]

If you don’t have a smartphone and you’re just starting out as a freelance writer, the cost of the phone may seem prohibitive. But I have found that my smartphone makes it easier for me to make money and better serve my clients. I do contract work that would not be possible without my RingCentral and Dropbox apps. I use my camera all the time to snap photos of magazines I want to query, possible sources I want to interview, or something that inspires a fiction piece.

I’m not claiming you can only be successful as a freelance writer if you have a smartphone and rely on technology but I do think there are serious benefits.

There are many other apps for freelance writers that are useful. What app do you use the most?

Recipe for Success: Studio 30

I’m a big fan of accountability when it comes to writing. Daily or weekly prompts in my inbox trigger my instinct to check a task off my list. So I write more and love the feeling of accomplishing a goal. If you want to increase your blogging, business writing or personal writing, I highly suggest visiting Studio30 and becoming a member.

I’m a member and have had valuable discussions about promoting my writing on social media, pushing myself to write beyond my comfort zone, and learned about querying and publishing.

How to Be A Better Blogger (Part 1)

The Guilt Pen

The Guilt Pen

This is the guilt pen. I forgot it at a client’s office one day, and when I came back, noticed it on her desk.

“How’s your blogging going?” I asked.

“Slow,” she replied. “I just can’t seem to sit down and do it. I’m more motivated when you’re here to push me.”

I noticed my pen there and picked it up and transformed it from a little pen into a powerful talisman.

“See this pen? This is my pen. I love my pens. But I am giving you this pen and every time you see it, you will think of me and you will sit down and do another blog post. And if you don’t, you will feel guilty because I gave you a pen that I love!”

I gave her the guilt pen before Christmas and when I returned to her office in mid-January, she was extremely proud to share with me 8 completed blog posts ready to be edited and scheduled!

The pen is indeed a mighty weapon.

Perhaps you need a guilt pen in your life? Maybe you know what you want to say but need a nudge to actually get the words out? Find one on your own or give me a call, I have lots of very powerful pens to share.

Review for “The Bumpy, Grumpy Road”

Is there anything nicer than a great review from a expert in the field of dealing with emotions? 

I’m lucky enough to be part of an amazing group of women as a contributor to  30 Second Mom. I found many other moms running their own businesses, writing books and dealing with grumpy kids! Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist focusing on women’s health, postpartum health, and parenting issues. Her post on handling whining really hit home with me.  She was kind enough to review a copy of The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and sent me her thoughts:

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road is an adorable book that will help children of all ages learn to navigate feelings of anger, frustration, sibling rivalry, and plain old grumpiness. It not only entertains, it teaches practical skills children can apply to help them overcome their “big feelings” and find their way back to the “smooth path” of sharing, caring, and feeling happy again. I will read the book to my younger kids. I particularly loved your “signs”–what a great way to teach kids how to stop and change their behavior. A really great idea!”

Thanks Dr. Hibbert!

 

Social Media Bootcamp for Freelance Writers

How to Use Social Media to Get Freelance Gigs

If you’re looking for guidance or training on how to boost your freelance career using social media, this is the bootcamp for you. Sign up before all the spots are filled!

Gilda’s Club Name Change?

How do you feel about the imminent change starting in the Madison Gilda’s Club organization to the Cancer Support Community? To me, it feels a little like someone not interested in explaining their brand and instead choosing a name that is more SEO-friendly. But I could be wrong.

Language and word choice is very important to the folks at Gilda’s. I worked with them for many wonderful years when I was a full-time non-profit professional and remember when they shared with me the document that explained the very specific terminology they used in all Gilda’s Clubs programs. One big difference from my employer’s terminology was that folks at Gilda’s Club staff and volunteers avoided the phrase “battling cancer.” They didn’t like that phrase because a battle implied that someone might lose.

The official explanation is that young people don’t know who Gilda Radner was and they want as many people with cancer to find them and utilize their support services.

Here’s a comment from Lannia Stenz, Executive Director:

Like many of you, I have been a fan of Gilda and SNL throughout my life. However, Gilda’s Club Madison is part of a larger organization, the Cancer Support Community. After a great deal of discussion and deliberation our local board of directors chose to make the change for a number of key reasons:

1. In 2013 we are beginning the outreach process to offer education and support programs to outlying areas. Our service area is a 14-county region in SW Wisconsin. Our new name incorporates the entire region.
2. Our parent organization, Cancer Support Community is now the parent agency of all Gilda’s Clubs and Wellness Communities. As of this year, all of the Wellness Communities have changed their name to Cancer Support Community. Gilda’s Clubs across the county are beginning to follow their example.
3. There will be no new Gilda’s Clubs created in coming years because Gilda’s Club Worldwide is now Cancer Support Community.
4. By incorporating what we do into our name we are eliminating confusion and will be able to more effectively raise awareness about our programs.

Finally, although the name is changing, our mission remains the same. The spirit of Gilda’s Club will stay alive in the clubhouse. We have one goal: to ensure that all people affected by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community.

It is my sincere hope that our community will continue to support our work through this challenging change and cheer on our efforts to provide emotional support, cancer education and hope to men, women and children who are impacted by cancer. As an organization we have a great deal to celebrate and we hope you will join us as we move forward.

Regards,
Lannia Stenz
Executive Director

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/health_med_fit/gilda-s-club-changing-name-as-fewer-know-namesake/article_0893171c-53c8-50bd-900f-6381aee41f71.html#ixzz2DZKDZ7Ii

 

 

Can You State Your Business Goals?

Start today. Thanks to Runkeeper.com for helping me track my progress towards my running goals!

Early in conversations with potential clients, I ask them to state their goals for me. If they can’t state a measurable goal, I encourage them to work it out and then come back and continue the conversation with me.

It’s not that I don’t want the business. I just don’t want a dissatisfied customer. And if my customer can’t state their goals – in an objective way so it’s obvious whether we’ve reached them or not – how can they ever be satisfied?

You’ve probably heard of “SMART” goals before. If not, here’s a little tutorial from Stanford University:

A SMART goal is:

Specific (and strategic):  Linked to position summary, departmental goals/mission, and/or overall School of Medicine goals and strategic plans.  Answers the question—Who? and What?

Measurable:  The success toward meeting the goal can be measured.  Answers the question—How?

Attainable:  Goals are realistic and can be achieved in a specific amount of time and are reasonable.

Relevant (results oriented):  The goals are aligned with current tasks and projects and focus in one defined area; include the expected result.

Time framed:  Goals have a clearly defined time-frame including a target or deadline date.

This is the perfect time of year to take a good chunk of time – not a fleeting moment – and state your business goals. And if you need a writer or social media coach to help achieve some of these goals, just ask!