Category Archives: Best Practices
Across the social media board, perhaps the heaviest of heavy hitters in your online initiative is the house that Zuckerberg built — Facebook. Whether you run a Group Page that nurtures a strong community, a Fan Page granting your brand a new feed, or just a personal page where people can keep tabs on what you’re up to, Facebook remains the most popular of social media initiatives; and with all the up’s and down’s and slings and arrows of trips, stumbles, and “Why did they change that?!” protests, getting the most out Facebook is essential. In my time online though I have noticed a trend that tends to go overlooked. What I see are people stressing the importance of a “Like” on their respective pages. Don’t get me wrong — “Likes” are great and all. It is definitely serious bragging rights when you get a truckload of “Likes” for a posting on Facebook. What I stress to folks when it comes to Facebook — instead of people liking what they see, you really want people to share what they see.
What’s the difference? Quite a bit, actually.
First, you’ll hear many seasoned social media consultants go on about the importance (or, no kidding —ROI or Return on Investment) of a “Like” on Facebook. The “Like” is very important in that it is easily trackable. At a glance, you can see how many times your page or news item has been liked, and your own profile page lets your network know that you have liked something today.
This is where a “Like” on its own falls short. How? Let’s say a posting like “What’s Your Social Media Plan?” goes live on this blog. As you do, I post its link on Facebook, and you like it. The statistic shows up on the article itself and might appear on your profile page, depending on which “look” your Facebook timeline falls into.
Now ask yourself — how is that statistic helping to spread word about or bring new readers to your blog?
When you “Share” an item on Facebook, you have a far more effective method to promote your brand. A “Share” will take the entire item — link, title, associated images, and more importantly its page of origin — and place it in both news feeds and profile walls. This way, not only is your link and Facebook home page appearing on their news feed and personal page, your links are now offered to everyone in their respective networks.
Sharing an item is just as easy as liking an item, provided Privacy Settings allow for sharing. Look at the options on a Facebook post, and you should see they read from left-to-right: Like, Comment, and finally Share. Click on “Share” and add your own note or comment to the item. (You don’t have to. Sharing an item without commenting will still share both your article and your Facebook homepage.) Now instead of just a public statistic, an item when shared is distributed throughout your network and, potentially, networks of your friends.
“Sharing” is tapping into the networking potential of Facebook; and with enough shares, it is very easy to see how quickly one story can go viral. This potential all starts with one person sharing. The more people sharing status updates, postings, and photos and videos, the more assurance you can take that your brand is extending beyond your circles and reaching new audiences. So the next time you are visiting brands you enjoy on Facebook, go one step further and “Share” that item. It may surprise you just how far-reaching that simple gesture will go.
Besides, it’s something we’re taught all through life — it’s good to share.
It doesn’t matter what the profession — public speaker, audio engineer, musician, writer, artist — there is a trend that if you want to be a professional creative, you’re better working independently. You are truly a working artist when you are free of agencies, publishers, or labels.
That is all well and good, but there is something to be said about being an artist and being a successful working artist. Sure, the battle cries of “Take control of your artistic career! Do it yourself!” and “Stick it to the Gatekeepers!” sound seductively empowering, but you might be destined for disaster if you don’t know what you are doing. Across a decade of writing, editing, and book layout, and reflecting on another lifetime where I was a professional actor, I’ve collected a few considerations for any artist — new or seasoned, corporately or independently creative — to keep in mind when it comes to managing a career.
1. Accept the fact that no matter how good you think you are, you need an objective critic. There are some authors I’ve met who have a real resentment when it comes to editors, and I can even think of one or two editors who have voiced their disdain for successful writers. I have always been a writer who respects the editor as well as the editorial process. Why? Because I know when I get to writing, I get attached to a story so objectivity is chucked out of the window. When you’re a creative you are human, making it difficult to take a harder, critical look at what your creativity hath wrought. Objectivity is not a curse or an unnecessary delay on your work. With the right critical point-of-view, your work becomes a diamond cut from a creative rough.
2. Giving Your Creative Work Away for Free (or Even for 99¢) Should Have a Plan behind It. So how often have you been asked to give a presentation in exchange for great exposure? How about creating a blog or website in exchange for compensation of equal value? And how about giving away your writing online for free in order to build an audience? Back in 2005, I was one of the strongest supporters of free fiction. Now, over eight years later, I’m still a big advocate for giving ficiton away for free, provided there is a plan behind it.
Giving away free works has proven successful for writers like Scott Sigler and Cory Doctorow, but for whom else has this tactic worked? Even as author Chuck Wendig points out in his “Making Sense of 99 Cents” blogpost, it’s not the best strategy to price everything the same. Free can work as part of a larger plan, but remember when you are building a brand be it for a production or for yourself, you are placing a value on your creativity. Don’t short change yourself.
3. Some People Will Never Want to Pay for Your Work. In a recent episode of The Shared Desk, around 28:38, I made a really dumb remark: “A little bit of book piracy is okay.” I said this before receiving the Google Alert notifying me that The Case of The Singing Sword: A Billibub Baddings Mystery was being torrented. Not the podcast, mind you. A PDF of the print book.
So, to be clear here — a novel I am already giving away for free in audio was being pirated.
I also made that less-than-thought-out statement before I wrote this article on why I did not want people to pirate my book
The business model you set for yourself needs to include boundaries for your work and how you deal with Internet Entitlement.
4. Consider a Double Life for Your Career. My wife, author Philippa Ballantine, is insisting I use here her “Many streams make a river…” quote when talking about an artist’s income. In between developing creative works for a corporate setting, why not create your own brand as an independent artist?
Is it possible? With patience, time, and a strategy, yes.
Breaking into the mainstream can open doors that still remain closed to smaller to the independent; but being independent does offer a maverick freedom as well as valuable lessons in building a brand. I have been published in both mainstream (Wiley, Que, HarperCollins) and independent (Dragon Moon, and my own Imagine That! Studios) channels; and while it is extra time invested in the independent label, I’ve been able to leverage the independent work in order to promote the mainstream work.
The creative independent is not only possible, it is a reality; but there is a method to the madness. At the center of this methodology is patience and time. Financial success does not happen overnight. You invest time in researching your art, time to create, and time to produce. Be prepared to also spend time in finding out if your investment is indeed working. There’s no magic formula for success, but you will know when your investment is coming to fruition.
Here in Virginia, we’re getting a reminder that Summer is about to begin. (Enjoy those two days of Spring? Seriously, it was in the 30’s last week, and today it was in the 80’s!) Right now, our thoughts are planning for vacations. They could be getaways to places for off or day trips on spontaneous whims. No matter where you might be headed—domestic or international—the excitement of new adventures and new experiences might leave you open and vulnerable to identity theft and data breach. So in the days before hitting the road or checking in with your airline, you might want to stop and consider how secure you are.
Before setting off, make sure to follow these few tips:
- Reconsider geotagging features on smartphone apps and other devices while traveling. Geotagging and Facebook check-in’s are a great way to share your travels, but remember each check-in gives thieves information they need to target your empty home. Photos are fun to post as well, but always remember each tweet, each status update, and each check-in shares GPS coordinates of where you are and where you are not.
- Secure your computer. Protect yourself by making sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date. This will allow you to use hotel hotspots safely.
- Exercise caution when logging into public networks. Avoid free hotspots as they can be insecure and susceptible to viruses and malware. Consider turning your own smartphone into a hotspot, complete with its own password. (The more passwords, and the more varied they are, the better.)
- Be aware of potential phone scams. A popular method for thieves to practice on tourists is to call unsuspecting tourists and claim they are Reception, needing confirmation on a credit card number after a “problem” has occurred. If you receive such a call asking that you confirm a credit card number, tell them you’ll be happy to provide the information at the front desk in person.
- Limit the number of credit cards you bring with you. Carry just one with you when sightseeing, but consider keeping a backup in the hotel safe. (Just remember to collect it when leaving!)
- Back up your documents. Before leaving, scan your identification, credit cards and essential documents. Save the images in a secure folder or file, either on a cloud service, smartphone, or tablet. Be sure to be able to access them just in case your wallet is stolen.
- Carry emergency contact numbers. Keep a copy of emergency contact numbers for your credit cards and bank accounts handy in case you find your wallet lost or stolen. If traveling internationally, keep the address and phone number of your country’s embassy accessible.
It’s okay to relax when you are on vacation, but it never hurts to remain aware of your online security and how your identity and all that is associated with it still matters. Consider these tips outlined above as an investment for you to be able to enjoy yourself and time with your family and friends while away.
Safe travels to you.
Sidenote: If a client calls you at 7:30 in the morning, something is wrong. Very wrong.
“A client isn’t satisfied with a class we began yesterday,” the client told me. “We need someone to go in and give a seminar on Social Media initiatives. Kind of a ‘speed dating’ approach to what’s out there. Can you do it?”
A seminar on Social Media. No background on the client. No preparation. No planning.
You might be thinking “Woah, I could never do that!” My retort to that would be “Why not?” Think about it: The majority of planning and preparation a presentation happens the first time you give a talk. When you are called on again, you simply repeat your earlier performance, maybe with a touch more polish and finesse. Right? Later on, you’re asked to give that presentation of yours, a client may ask you “But, could you make the focus less on Topic A and lean more towards Topic B?” After some brush-up and a few deep dives into research, you then create a variation on your original theme — same subject matter, but different focus point for varying audiences.
My own log of presentations dates back three years. While that may deem me something of a “digital packrat,” it actually provides me an invaluable resource pool for building brand new presentations. For that unexpected wake-up call, my (sleep-riddled) mind sifted through numerous Keynote files on my laptop. I reviewed the following seminars I’d already successfully delivered:
- Technology for the Technologically Challenged
- What is Blogging?
- What is Podcasting?
Ten minutes of editing and rearranging slides yielded the presentation Speak Geek to Me: Social Media in a Nutshell, a talk I have taken across the country and around the world.
My client told me en route that I would probably wrapping up no later than 3:00 p.m. I did not leave the client until 6:00 p.m. on account of the questions, the answers, and the strategies that came from my seminar. One of the students was so energized, she walked me to my car, still talking up the potential of Social Media in her workplace.
Safe to say, the talk was a hit.
When putting together presentations, keep this in mind: Success hinges on how ready you are, not just for today but for tomorrow. Thinking quickly is essential in providing a client solutions; but results happen when you act, and the ability to act and react even faster on your feet is not a talent but a skill that can be honed and mastered. Give yourself time to rehearse a presentation but plan out variations of that alpha seminar. Prepare two or three alternative versions of your talk, and keep them at the ready in a running log of files. That way, when that call comes, you have a pool of resources to pull from.
Be prepared, because you never know when that wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. is Opportunity in need of your unique talents.
I see businesses big and small jump into the Social Media fray, and sadly watch as their signal deteriorates into one of two things: Noise, or Silence. The reason why so many attempts at Social Media fail is an easy one — there is no plan in place. Why exactly is this so common? Because of the very nature of Social Media being part of the Digital Native age. Twitter and Facebook are for the younger generation. High school and college kids do this, so how hard can it be?
General Patton didn’t push through Nazi-occupied Europe without a plan. The Doctor never goes up against the Cybermen without a plan. (Alright, maybe the Doctor is making it up as he goes, but track with me…) Your Social Media strategy shouldn’t be any different. You need to know what you want to accomplish, how you want to reach those goals, and what you want your online profile to be. Sounds simple, but if it were so simple why are these things so quickly overlooked? Why? Because people are clamoring to sign up to Social Media to show how connected they are.
Without a plan, there is a dramatic disconnect. If you are launching a Social Media initiative without some sort of plan in place, you are doomed to repeat the present history of so many corporations, non-profits, and small businesses.
You might not think there is wisdom for business in something like The A-Team; but even in the over-the-top schemes that Hannibal Smith would cook up for his team, there was a plan in place. Hannibal is given a goal. He assesses the environment. Then he plays to the strengths of his team. Not a far stretch from how you should be approaching your Social Media. Your goal is to get your business, your product, your title, your property into the eyes of consumers. You want them to come to you as a reliable resource for what they need. Then you play to your strengths, be they blogging, podcasting, or social networking. From here, you build on your connections and your voice is heard.
See? Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
Don’t do something simply because it’s cool. Take action with a plan in place. By keeping a clear head and a sharp vision, you prepare for pitfalls while at the same time achieving results. Success happens when you set a direction and a process for reaching it.
What is your Social Media plan? And if you can’t answer that, then it looks like you have something to do today.