Five Tips to Improve Your Social Networking

First, you have to know I’m not a self-proclaimed social networking guru, genius, or miracle maker. I’m a writer, and social networking is largely about writing well. Whether you are a beginner or have been on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Tumblr, Flickr and Pinterest as soon as they launched, these quick tips will make you better at it. Some of the tips may be completely opposite to what you’ve heard. Writers learn differently from other people.

I love this image, but I still believe content is king. Image: http://www.digitopoly.org

1. Social Networking is about content. Cheap, starchy filler may attract followers, but it won’t keep them. Choose something you know about and care about and stick to writing about that.  At a book signing, I heard Martha Beck say, “Information is not power anymore. Attention span is power.” Content commands attention. Comment communicates.

2. Be curious about the world. No one loves a know-it-all. Even if you are an expert, there is plenty left to learn. Keep reading, keep researching, keep being curious. Learn from your readers and your audience. It’s contagious and your readers will love it.

3. Deliver what you promise. If you write a how-to article, make sure you show your readers how to do it. Too many articles that promise “how” simply tell you “what.” Be specific. Include steps. Imagine your how-to article being used to train your dog. If the dog is off chasing a squirrel at the end of the article, you either have a lab or your article needs re-writing.

4. Don’t be a tease. Tweets or Facebook posts that start, “Check this out. . .” or “Here’s what I think. . .” and then a link is not nearly as fascinating as you hoped. Give people a reason to click, a juicy temptation to leave the page they are on. And reward their decision with a great photo or article.

5. Don’t link all your accounts. Twitter is a different medium than Tumblr or Pinterest. If your audience overlaps, they really don’t need to see the same thing twice. Or six times. Automatically re-posting your Tweets on Facebook insults your friends and confuses your audience. If you are too lazy to re-write for a different audience and a different objective, do not expect your audience to find you fascinating.

A bonus tip: Size isn’t everything, particularly in audience numbers. Having a huge number of followers and thinking they care about you is the same as standing on top of the Chase building in Phoenix and thinking you are influencing the Valley just because you can see from Goodyear to Gilbert.

Social networking is about influence, and that’s not necessarily about numbers, it’s about what those numbers do, think or say.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who finds social media fascinating, weird, unpredictable and wonderful, frequently simultaneously.

QuinnCreative: Changes Coming in July

Usually when I say “changes” people cringe. I’m going to do something different. It may be hard. What if you hate the change? Upcoming changes will make sense to you, because they are, well, sensible.

1. One website. When I began to write the book, I opened a website, RawArtJournaling.com to talk about he book. Then I moved all the creative work over to that site. I had a business website, QuinnCreative.com which covered my training, writing, business coaching. The time has come to combine the websites.

2. What are you going to call it? My business name is QuinnCreative. My one site will be at QuinnCreative.com (There’s no link now, so I can put in the new link when the site debuts).

3. Are you designing it? No. I’m not an expert in web design, so I hired Jen Wolfe, who created my logo, is designing the site. Target date for the new site to open is July 15.

4. One person, one site. For a long time, I thought my business clients would run if they knew I was an artist. Turns out, I show up as a creative all the time, and the clients who appreciate creativity want to bring that part to their business as well.  The clients who don’t want a creative approach discover my type withing two minutes of talking. If they don’t want a creative approach, they will be unhappy working with me.

5. Say goodbye to the newsletter. For years, I’ve had a newsletter. With social media taking the place of newsletters, I’m depending more and more on my blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to keep in touch. With the book coming out, I need more time to concentrate on creative work. I want to develop more classes, both online and in person. That requires time, and a way to get back some of that time, is to discontinue the newsletter. I’d suggest subscribing to the blog, either via RSS feed or email.  There will also be a “what’s new” page on my website, allowing you to check in and see updates. More convenient all the way around.

6. Coaching prices are going up, and two gifts. As a gift to current clients, I will keep my coaching prices where they are for now. Coaching prices for new clients will rise (to $350 for 3 sessions a month and $150 for a one-time occasional coach) when the new website opens.

Second gift: To celebrate change, I will hold the old prices ($275 for 3X a month and $100 for a one-time occasional coach) until the end of July for anyone who mentions the blog. The old prices will stay in effect until the end of 2011 for anyone who begins coaching by the end of July.

I hope to see many of you at the new website as well as continuing on with me here. This blog will not move. It’s been here for almost five years and 1,500 blog posts, and it will stay right here.

What I Learned from Social Networking

Social networking hasn’t been around that long, and I’ve been using it for maybe two years. In that time, here are some important lessons I’ve learned, largely from making mistakes.

1. You will not change someone’s mind by replying to a post. This is true about their opinion on politics, religion, food, music, or anything else about their life. Trying to explain it just one more time in another comment doesn’t work either.

Image from: vaibhavtiwari.wordpress.com

2. Do not turn the angry person who posted a nasty comment into a pen pal. Do not answer them at all. Seriously. You will not make them go away or (see #1) change their minds. They will have another quote, another link, another argument. If you don’t answer them at all, their comment will just hang there.

3. Do not get off the high road to wrestle with a pig. You will get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it. The late Gordon Bowman gave me that advice the first week I was working for him, 20 years before social networking.  It was brilliant then and it is still brilliant now.

4. When someone whines, is looking for sympathy, or is proud of an achievement, be nice. Do not tell your own story in the comment section. Empathize with the person posting. Instead of “I know how you feel,” say, “that must have been really [great, awful, fun, no fun].  You may then unfriend them, if necessary.

5. Be useful. Be helpful. Re-tweet interesting messages. That includes your own blogs. “Includes” means there is more than the thing listed. Don’t link to just your blog or website all the time. It’s a big world, find other interesting sites to share.

6. Strangers become friends in a strange way in social networking, but they may not act like friends. Practice one of the following: “Thanks for the feedback,” “How kind of you to offer,” “Interesting information, I’ll think it over.” You really don’t know these people well enough to say, “Are you crazy? You don’t know my mother! That will never work, she will never, ever love me, and you don’t care either!”

7. Say half of what you think. The practical, useful half.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and social network user. She learns slowly.

Social Network as Family Substitute

Every time I read a post that says, “Goodnight tweeps. See you in the morning,” I wince. It seems unspeakably sad to think that people who are strangers, connected by 140 characters of communication, think it creates a family connection, and feel obligated to tell all those connections goodnight, to assure them they will be back the next day.

What would happen if they weren’t back the next day? Would anyone notice? If you follow 10,000 people—or even a fraction of that amount— and have as many follow you, how long does it take you to check up on them all in the morning? And is that really how you start your day–by seeing who checks in and who doesn’t?

Do the people who sign off so tenderly do the same for the people they share a house with? Or do they use Twitter (or Facebook)  because they are lonely? And if we can have a Second Life can we also have a pretend family?

There is no judgment here, just curiosity. When I was a teenager, we listened to the radio—to our favorite DJs, and to the songs they played on dedication hour. It was a community of strangers, much like Twitter, but it was run by one personality day after day, and the main purpose was to listen to popular music. We listened for dedications we had made and those that mentioned friends we saw every day at school.

The people on Twitter don’t know their thousands of contacts personally, so isn’t the connection an imaginary one? Like the imaginary friend my son had when he was five years old?

It’s a new meaning for social networking. It’s a new definition for social. And perhaps its connected with our willingness to give up privacy  for security.

Someone will point out that blog posts are no different, but I think they are. (Of course I think they are, I’m writing them.) But while I’ve gotten to know many of the people who leave comments, there are a handful of regular posters, and I don’t think they are my family. If no one read the blog, I’d still write it. I write it for writing practice, to think things through, to settle my logic.

But it’s an interesting thought: as we get drawn closer to strangers we will never meet, we still feel a huge need for connection in the most personal way.

–Quinn McDonald is a life and creativity coach as well as a writer and writing trainer.

Network Your Way to Anything

Here’s the good news: you can network your way to a new job, to being interviewed on radio or TV, to a quote in the newspaper, to teaching an art class. Yes, you can.

Here’s the bad news: there is no master list of opportunities with names, phone numbers and urls that make it easy. No one will show up at your front door with a limo and whisk you off to fame, much less fortune. To network your way along, you are going to have to do a lot of hard work for a long time. There are no shortcuts, no instant gratification.

Now that I’ve lost most of the readers. . . if you are still reading, you are the one I want to talk to. Luann Udell, a friend and gifted colleague, share an experience that I’ve written about before that demonstrates the results of networking. You work your brains out for years, volunteering, pushing a project, researching, showing up, waving your hand. When you are almost dead from exhaustion, the interview falls into place . . .and appears in the paper. It’s good. And you get a hundred grumpy calls and emails that all start, “You are so lucky. . . .”

Easy street via keded.wordpress.com

Easy street via keded.wordpress.com

Here are the steps to networking your way to success:

1. Start with a project you are deeply interested in and know a lot about. Yes, you start with what you know best and are deeply interested in.

2. Decide who you want to reach and what the goal is. This is an important step–if you don’t know what you want, no one else will, either. “Successful” isn’t  clear enough. What is success for you? Getting the interview? Knowing  a celebrity? Making a potful of money? Write down what success is for you. Once things start happening, you forget. Let’s say you want an interview on a radio, TV station or newspaper.

3. Do research. Let’s say your goal is to be interviewed on your topic. Research every radio station in your area. Community radio, internet radio, dig ’em all up. Use Google, get on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Ask people you know.  Go to the library. Ask there. Once you have a list of potential stations,  look them all up to see what they say about themselves. If your expertise is Celtic instruments, you can skip over the stations that focus on politcal talk shows.  Look for shows at odd times–early morning, Sundays, late at night. Find out who the disk jockey is. Listen to the show.

Cave Creek sign, photographed by Q. McDonald

Cave Creek sign, photographed by Q. McDonald

4. Act on your research. Phone the station and ask who the producer of the show is. Be prepared to ask for what you want in a direct way. “I have a collection of Celtic Instruments and I thought it might be interesting to Dee Jockey because she has a Celtic radio show on Sunday mornings at 5 a.m. Yesterday she played a series of songs written for the Uilleann pipes, and I’m an expert. I wonder if she would be interested in interviewing me about the resurgence in pipe popularity.” Yes, I’m using odd example—to other people, your expertise may sound odd.

4. While you are waiting for fame, talk to other people. All the time. Waiting in the grocery store, in the movie lines, at the bank and post office. Listen more than talk. Who are these people? What do they know? Listen your brains out. Ask for cards if the people interest you, even if they don’t have a job or an interview for you. Stay in touch through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. That’s how you build your list of people to follow.

5. Write useful, interesting articles on your blog. Answer every comment. Be nice even when you don’t feel like it. At this point you are the Little Red Hen–doing all the work. That’s OK. 

6. Volunteer or do a project around your area of expertise. This is a project you choose because you need to learn something or want to talk to more people. Do more listening. Sometime around now, people will ask you to do work for free. Become discerning. Don’t believe everyone who tells you about “great marketing opportunities.” Great marketing opportunities are rare. They should put you in front of your eager audience. They should produce qualified leads.

7. Around this time, you will have some good opportunities show up. A producer will return your call and set up an interview. Show up for them. Be on time, be polite, do your best work. After the interview, follow up with a nice email or note. Get the card of everyone you talk to. Have your own cards ready.

8. Make the most of your interview. Get tear sheets, a recording, a video. Promote it on your website.

9. Reach out to the program chair of groups that might be interested in your work. Speak to groups. Be interesting. Get paid.  Send them to your website for more information. Post good tutorials on your website.

10. Once you have done all this, you will begin to see success. People will call you for favors, for speaking gigs, for information. Help others, keep track of the people you meet and who are in your field. Don’t give away your expertise to just anyone. Be selective. Ask to be paid for your worth. Don’t be greedy.

And that’s how it works. I wish there were a secret, but for most of us, success comes from hard work, showing up, being prepared, working our skills, learning as much as we can, being nice and listening. It’s neither simple or easy, but it works. If it doesn’t work, do more of it till it does.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and training developer in writing and soft skills. She assumes she’ll get some snarky comments to this post complaining that it didn’t offer any shortcuts or sure things. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. © Quinn McDonald, 2009. All rights reserved.

How to Make Twitter Work for You

Twitter annoyed me at first. I didn’t get it.
So brainless, so thoughtless. Who cares what you are eating, wearing or listening to? But wait, that was just the people I was following.

One tweet

One tweet

At first, I followed everyone who followed me. That seemed polite. It also seemed like third-grade behavior after about three days.  People follow you for a variety of reasons not having anything to do with intelligence, humor or excellent sources. It took a few peculiar people (women with numbers after their names) following me to figure that out. They had a huge number of followers, followed as many, but had no updates (posts to the general public at Twitter.) I found the website of one of these woman, and I hope that no one investigates my computer in the near future, because it will be hard to explain why I was looking at such a variety of ummmm, exotic images involving preternaturally blond women and animals.

Many twitter

Many twitter

Back to Twitter. Here’s how I found people to follow: Three times a day, I’d go to Twitter and read what various people said. Anyone who wasn’t helping got removed. “Wasn’t helping” included people who posted 40 tweets, each 15 seconds apart; used incomprehensible sentence fragments; hyped their own ability as experts in Web marketing; posted links to their own Websites that required registration or giving up private information. Those were obvious as were people whose purpose on Twitter is to get 10,000 followers. It simply wasn’t what I was interested in.

Before I removed them, I’d click on some of the people they were following. (Each person has a visible list of people they are following.)  Often, I’d find interesting people to follow. I concentrated on people who do what I do–write, coach, speak professionally, create art, read books.

In other words, I started with what I knew, and branched out from there. I add people as I find them through others Re-Tweets, I drop others who aren’t helpful or interesting.

I started out following 50 people, and slowly built it to about 200 people or organizations who were thoughtful and posted good links and information, explore areas I know a little (or a lot) about. They are not carbon copies of me, but they are in my field. Another name for this is networking. Not a bad idea, overall. I’m not interested in numbers, I’m interested in quality. Just like before Web 2.0.

And it works. Is everyone a genius? Certainly not. But you get ideas that work for you, and that’s the point.

And here’s a good article about using Linked In if you are a freelancer. One of the people I follow on Twitter wrote it.

Other articles on finding the right people to follow on Twitter:

WebWorkerDaily includes Twello, a yellow pages for Twitter fans.

CreativeWisdom also talks about Twello, but has some other great ideas.

TechLifeWeb uses a method like mine, but it’s funnier.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life coach and teaches writing and communicating clearly. She also teaches people who can’t draw how to keep an art journal through raw art journals.

Navigating Twitter

Last time, I gave a quick overview of Twitter. This time, let’s see how to use it.

If you have an account (you can sign up at twitter.com) you can post and answer other’s posts.

The best way to get attention is to post useful links or facts, along with a link to those facts. Sure you can post something like “In a Major League Ball Game, the home team has to have 90 new balls available for the game,” but the statement is more effective if you post a link proving your statement. Most links are long, so you can go to tinyurl.com and type in the long link, and instantly get a much shorter link. That’s important when your post can’t be more than 140 characters long.

The idea on Twitter is to “follow” people–read their posts. And have them follow you.

Who to follow? Depends on what your interests are. There is a search engine on the Home page, and you can type in any topic to see what people have to say about it.

You can organize all your social media and search and connect through TweetDeck.com

You can find out who is no longer following you and un-follow them with Twitoria.

Kristine Wirth explains a lot of Twitter very well. When you use Twitter you’ll see this symbol a lot: # It’s called a hashmark and it works the same way as tags on WordPress.  Here’s how Kristine explains it:

“The hash mark (#) before a word in a post allows you to tag that post for that word. However, in order to get tracked via a hash tag, you need to opt-in and follow http://twitter.com/hashtags.  Once you’re following Hashtags, every time you make a post in Twitter and tag it with a hash mark like so:  #iPhone, it will then show up as a real-time post on http://www.Hashtags.org.

If you then visit Hashtags.org, you can click on any tag and it will show you all of the posts that have been tagged with that keyword.”

Some other notations, courtesy of AdventCreative’s Marshall Thompson:

@ = Placing this before a person’s Twitter name (i.e. @sethjenks) is an open conversation directed toward that person. Anybody can see this communication between you and the person your @ing.  You can @ anybody on Twitter, even people who are not following your updates.

D = A private conversation between you and a person who is following your updates. There is a space between the ‘d’ and the person’s name and you don’t need to use the @ sign. You can only direct message people who are following you.

RT = Re-tweeting means, Sweet! I like this! Passing it along. Always give props to the original tweeter.

Some people I follow also have blogs worth reading:

Maria Schneider is helpful and concise. She’ll tell you how to use the 60/40 rule on Twitter  as well as how to get street, or maybe it’s Tweetcred. Schneider also has tips on good follows for writers.

Liz Massey, over at Creative Liberty, writes on creativity, but she also is techno-savvy. Check out posts on her site for great ideas on social networking. One of my favorite of her posts is information on creating a creative dashboard.

That should help, I hope. Have fun Tweeting!

Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/QuinnCreative

–Quinn McDonald is a life and creativity coach who owns QuinnCreative.