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G.A.’s Quick and Dirty Social Media Tips

10 Oct

Everyone thought social media was just a sexy trend that would soon pass, but it’s looking like its here to stay for a while. I’ve had conversations with several people over the last few weeks about developing and implementing social media strategies for a variety of end goals. For the past year, I’ve been working as a freelance social media coordinator and have come up with some quick and dirty tips for your venture— whether it’s for your ice cream delivery service (someone please do this near me) or just to try to get all of your friends to like your witty commentary on your raucous neighbors.

The first thing I must do is make a disclaimer: Social Media is NOT advertising.

Repeat after me: Social Media is NOT advertising.

Think about it—people get on social media to “hang out.” They get on there to see their friends new haircut, share jealousy-inducing pictures of their fabulous vacations, Instacreep on their ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, etc. People don’t want hard sells on social media. They don’t want you to be saying “Buy this, buy this, buy this.” Don’t people DVR television shows these days just so they can fast forward through the commercials?

What people do want on social media is to feel connected. To feel special. To feel part of something. To feel like they know you, know your product, know your brand. They want to hang out with you—laugh at your jokes, hear your interesting stories, learn something or be inspired. So cater to them.

My four W’s: Who are you talking to, Where can you find these people, Why do you want to engage with them, and What are you saying?

Who:

If you don’t know your audience, you need to take a few steps backward and identify it. Be specific. I’m not going to go into outlining your ideal client/target audience, but what I will say is BE AS SPECIFIC AND DETAILED AS POSSIBLE. You really can’t move forward until you have an idea of who makes up your audience.

Where:

Once you know who you’re talking to, you’re going to know where to find them. Don’t waste your time trying to get on every social platform out there. Be smart. If you’re a retirement home, do you really think your ideal clients will be on Instagram and Snapchat? And if you’re a teen boutique, do you think they’ll be concerned with your Linked In profile? It’s more valuable to have consistent, tailored, knockout content on two or three platforms than one post every four months on a half dozen networks. Figure out with platform or two your audience is already hanging out on, and go put yourself in front of them!

Why:

What are you trying to accomplish with your social media presence? Providing customer service in real time? Letting your audience get to know the person behind your business? Positioning yourself as an expert in your field? I cannot say this enough: Be useful, be inspiring, or at least be entertaining.

What:

Like I said earlier, do NOT make your page all about yourself. Make your page a resource for your audience. If you’re a kitchen store, then post recipes, local foodie events, articles about area chefs, funny cartoons about cooking… be creative and have fun. If you aren’t interested in your content, chances are, nobody else will be either. I tend toward the 80/20 rule in social media: 80 % of your content is about your audience and 20 % is about you. Using the kitchen store example, only post store events, sales, and new products 20 % of the time. Otherwise, your audience will be bored and disinterested.

Be personable and engaging—ask questions, encourage response, and PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING RESPOND TO YOUR AUDIENCE. If you get a direct message, respond to it within a day or two. Comment back, favorite a retweet, tag other people or businesses…this is social media. Not “I’m a recluse sending things into Cyberspace on my iPhone” media.

 

This is not rocket science. It doesn’t require hours of work every single day. If you’re consistent and dedicated, you can spend 15 minutes a day on your social media strategy. But it’s like a sourdough starter—you must feed it regularly or it will not yield anything.

This is a basic overview…if you have questions or comments, post them here!

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On Blogging

2 Sep

I had a great conversation today with one of my best friends who asked me for some tips on starting her own blog. She said she wanted to write to keep her skills sharp and to have some clips to show to potential editors or employers and wanted some input on content creation.

Git up, git out, and git something

The first thing I told her was to just do it. Outkast was playing on the radio today, imploring the world to “Git up, git out, and git something,” and I think that applies to many things, blogging included. Like I talked about in “Creativity Training,” it’s often more about consistency than about trying to strike gold every time.

Git up, git out, and git something!

Git up, git out, and git something!

But “gitting something” aside, how do you pick what to write about?

Write about something that you’re passionate about

That sounds self-evident, but I think for a personal project like a blog, you should absolutely be writing about things that you genuinely care about. Whether it’s something funny that happened while getting your tires changed, an interesting conversation about the relative merits of using Snapchat for advertisting, or a Norwegian band that you can’t get enough of, make sure it’s something that you can easily sit down and talk to somebody about with enthusiasm.

It's easy to wr

It’s easy to write when you’re somewhere cool and foreign, like on the Malecon in Cuba!

My blog is my baby. I love blogging. I started this blog as a travel blog to document my adventures in Mexico and Cuba and found it was easy to write about all of the crazy experiences that happen when you’re traveling. Since I’m not traveling as regularly or for long periods of time like I had been, I’m finding that I’m struggling to create my identity for my blog, but I’m also having a ton of fun because I choose to just write about whatever is on my mind.

Don’t be afraid to test out several identities and voices

            One of the most liberating parts of blogging is having a chance to experiment with your voice, style, and subject matter. One of my favorite posts I wrote was a spoof on “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie,” a silly look at the headache of trying to get a cell phone in Cuba. Another favorite was a much more serious homage to my grandmother that I wrote in the airport, tears streaming down my face while I typed.

I recommended that my friend pick out a tagline for her blog that is open-ended enough to allow her to cover a broad range of topics. Mine, “Working to Eliminate the Word ‘Bored’ From My Vocabulary,” gives me a wide enough umbrella that I feel comfortable writing about a variety of topics. I’m not constrained by the label of “This is a travel blog,” or “This is a food blog.”

That being said….

Determine what you really want out of your blog

            For me, blogging is a creative outlet. It’s more about the process than it is about the finished product. Blogging is a more fleshed-out journal—

I don’t edit my posts very heavily (I’m sure you can tell). It’s partially an exercise in writing quickly and partially a way to just say what’s on my mind. I admit that some of my posts (this one included) are incredibly self-indulgent… but let’s be real, isn’t that just a lot of writing in general? But deciding what you want out of your blog is an important first step— are you trying to create a huge network of loyal readers? Be a teacher? Inspire, amuse, entertain? Are you giving advice on a topic you’re in which you have expertise? Are you making your own recipes and sharing them? Are you chronicling your journey training to pogo stick up Mount Kilimanjaro?

This is pessimistic, but I think when you blog you need to have a healthy amount of realizing that if someone who's not your mom reads your blog, you're doing great!

This is pessimistic, but I think when you blog you need to have a healthy amount of realizing that if someone who’s not your mom reads your blog, you’re doing great!

But at the end of the day…

It’s your thing—do what you wanna do

            If you’re blogging for yourself, it should be fun. It should be YOUR thing and an extension of your personality. So enjoy!

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? If you have a blog, how are you using it? Why did it start?

Creativity Training

9 Aug

This morning, I was having a discussion with a friend about writing. She wrote an excellent post for Elephant Journal almost a year ago about body acceptance, and the post has received around 450,000 views. She said she wanted to write more, but that posts like the one that went viral on Elephant Journal only came about when the inspiration struck—when she found something she was particularly passionate, angry, or excited about.

I told her that, like any skill worth having, writing (or any creative endeavor) has to be developed and practiced.

Even if you aren’t necessarily an athlete or “in shape”, sometimes a burst of adrenaline or a good night’s sleep could get you through a two or three-mile jog or a fitness class. But to be ready to run a 10K, you would have to train and dedicate time weekly to be prepared for the race.

Creative pursuits are no different. Let’s take writing. I’m going to use my own experience with this blog. I started blogging during the summer of 2011 when I spent a summer studying in Merida, Mexico. I tried to write a weekly post about my experiences and funny stories that would happen. I noticed that each week, it was easier, and (at least in my opinion), the quality of the posts improved. When I studied in Cuba during the spring of 2012, I was enrolled in an independent study focused on travel writing. One of the assignments was a weekly blog. Each week, the writing got easier. It took less time, I was able to stay focused, and again, I think the quality of the posts improved.

Whether you’re exercising your body or your brain, consistency is key. In the case of a blog, some posts are going to be better than others. For creative endeavors, it’s hard to make something that is just mediocre, or that, while passable, you don’t think is necessarily your best.

But it’s far worse to just stop altogether for fear that whatever you make won’t live up to your highest standard. Inertia is powerful, but it works both ways. If you stop, you’ll stay stopped. If you go, you will keep going and build up momentum and drive that will translate into some really phenomenal creations.

My favorite ballet teacher summed up this point so succinctly during the last class that I took with her.

“With dance, you’ll never be perfect. But if you do a step and don’t do it right, you can’t just stop what you’re doing. You have to keep going and try to do it better next time.”

I think about it in terms of doing any kind of balance in a dance class. Sometimes, you can hold a balance for just a split second, long enough to suffice, but nothing special. Other days, you are holding all of your muscles just right, breathing properly, and wearing the right shoes. You hit the position and balance ephemerally, suspended in time and only coming down when you have to. But you know what? You practice your balances in class multiple times every damn day.

Whether it’s writing a blog, balancing in passé, sketching a bowl of fruit, designing a logo, or playing the piano, you have to keep at it consistently. Only then will you truly be able to have those moments of sustained inspiration—a heart wrenching story, a balance that lasts for days, a masterpiece, a symphony.

 

What do you think? Can creativity be developed? How can you foster creativity in your own life? More importantly… has my writing improved over the years, or did I peak at 19? 😀

Should characters exist outside of their novels?

27 Jul

Most people who know me will know that I am a huge Harry Potter fan. When I say huge, I’m not exaggerating—when I was in third grade, I was sent to the principle’s office for an “intervention.” I just kept reading the first three Harry Potter books (the only ones that were released at that time) over and over again. My teacher got worried and sent me to the principle’s office. (I did walk out of there with “A Wrinkle In Time” so I guess it was a good trip).

I recently finished re-reading the seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series because I saw the buzz that J.K. Rowling had recently released a new Harry Potter story on her Pottermore site. As I commented to a friend, I skipped the epilogue of the seventh book as any sensible human being would do, and I also have to say, I didn’t particularly care for the recently released Harry Potter story.

“Why?” you may ask, “would a diehard fan like yourself not relish every bit of new information about your childhood heroes?”

Because, although I’m still forming a full opinion about this, I don’t think that characters should necessarily continue to exist outside of their novels. The novel is a snapshot, a look at a set of characters at a specific time, and more importantly, within the context of a specific story. We loved Harry Potter because we were engrossed in his seven-year battle against the darkest wizard in history. His story, and the backstories tied to his story, was important, interesting, and meaningful, because they all existed within the context of the larger story being told. Now, J.K. Rowling is essentially writing a tabloid about fictional celebrities, dropping nonessential tidbits that, while interesting to hardcore fans, aren’t contributing to the development of an engrossing new story.

Pottermore is a little bit much for even me. I don’t REALLY need weekly coverage of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup…

I look to two of my other favorite authors to discuss this issue: John Green (of “The Fault in Our Stars” fame) and Margaret Mitchell (Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Gone with the Wind”).

John Green puts it so well on his website when asked about the fate of the characters in TFIOS:

“It’s not my book. It’s your book. I don’t make decisions about things that happen outside the text of the book; I can’t read something that isn’t there any more than you can. 
Anyway, there is no definitive way to end it or any other book. No story is ever over, because every human life ripples into every other one, and there is no way to end a story definitively and the search for a definitive end is (imho) the wrong search.”

A good author, I think, inspires your imagination and leaves a story open enough so that you, the reader, have the power to decide how it really ends. Or doesn’t end. A good book will stick with you—you’ll hash out various endings in your mind and ultimately, you are left with the most beautiful gift the author could have left you: choice. The story leaves a stronger impact because you are given partial responsibility for its continuation.

One of my favorite quotes from "The Fault in Our Stars," illustrates this point I'm trying to make so well.

One of my favorite quotes from “The Fault in Our Stars,” illustrates this point I’m trying to make so well.

Or perhaps it sticks because it reminds you of real life. Nothing in life has a neat ending, a tidy epilogue. We are all constantly in the process of writing our own stories and there are endless possibilities for how the tale goes. A book that’s left open gives you hope—hope that those characters can continue on in their lives, in their struggles, in their relationships and triumph again. Hope that they have learned from what happened in the story and will apply it to the rest of their lives.

Personally, I think that’s why “Gone with the Wind” endures. Margaret Mitchell said she never hashed out a “real” ending for “Gone With the Wind.” But we all hope that Rhett and Scarlett have learned from their mistakes, from what went wrong between them, to either fix their relationship, or move on and use those lessons for the “next one.”

I love this—Mitchell is quoted as saying, “For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less—difficult.”

Though people have been wanting to know for 75-plus years if Rhett and Scarlett get back together, that was not part of the snapshot that Mitchell chose to put on display. Would “Gone with the Wind” have stuck around this long if the ending if there had been a neat epilogue where Rhett and Scarlett go to marital counseling, make up, and live “happily ever after”? Even stories that end “happily ever after” let you decide what that “happily ever after” looks like.

I think the ending lines of “Gone with the Wind” are perfect and leave us just what we need to know to continue our imaginings of the rest of the story… “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

Of course we all want them to get back together! It's Rhett Butler, immortalized by Clark Gable. But the decision is yours.

Of course we all want them to get back together! It’s Rhett Butler, immortalized by Clark Gable. But the decision is yours.