How I overcame my Twitter guilt

I love to blog, argue about serial commas on LinkedIn and find out what my friends are up to on Facebook. But I don’t get Twitter.

I tweet mostly about new posts, which don’t happen frequently enough to stake my territory. I tried to feel more part of the gang by tweeting more about my upcoming book, Write like you talk–only better.

The trouble with Tweetdeck
I even got around to moving to Tweetdeck. Mind you, I have to keep turning it off, as the sounds and flashes interfere with my concentration.

Sadly, I couldn’t stick to my plan to tweet about the book several times a day, excited though I am.

After all, I don’t yet have a place to send people to buy the book, my tweets weren’t all that profound and they didn’t attract many new followers who weren’t looking to hawk nude photos, singles events or other stuff I’m not interested in.

The angst of selling
Besides, I always feel people should come to me and beg me to work, which may be part of the reason my billings were down last year. It’s a miracle I have run my own business for more than 15 years, bought a house and raised two kids, mostly on my own.

I detest hard sales, which is why I love the content marketing philosophy and blogging so much.

So I stopped the buy-my-book tweets.

Still, I felt guilty, like I didn’t measure up to my colleagues who are up there all the time: Donna Papacosta, Sue Horner, Cyrus Mavalwala, Bernard Hellen and more.

The lack of time
I don’t know where they find the time to tweet, let alone do all that reading. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big reader. But by the time I get through my emailed posts and my RSS feeds, the good stuff has already been hyper-tweeted.

Then there’s all the time consumed by clients, book revising, worrying about my son’s dodgy school attendance and the rest of my life.

I’ve told Donna I could spend most of my day exploring her links. Yet she manages to accomplish a lot of billable work and have adventures in the rioting streets of Athens. Must be a super woman.

Breathing easy
I was so relieved when I heard Rob Campbell, aka Smojoe, speak this week. Don’t worry about Twitter, he told our group, the Professional Independent Communicators, a bunch of Toronto writers, designers and other indies who belong to the International Association of Business Communicators. Long exhale.

Blogging is where the action is, Rob insisted. Let me confess I’d heard Rob before and hired him to help me, as he puts it, pimp my blog. The plan is to finally turn this time-sucking labor of love into the money-making machine I require to send my daughter on that school trip to Paris and replace my aqua bathroom fixtures.

The funniest part of his presentation was when he parodied the countless social media seminars you’ve probably attended that start with a call to raise your hand if you’re on Twitter, Facebook etcetera, then a bunch of Power Point-disenhanced stats about how they’ve grown.

What have you sold on Twitter today?
Raised hands and stats are always impressive, but they’d be a lot more meaningful if they were in response to questions about what people have accomplished, aside from another way to work for no money and have fun.

Sure, there are lots of excellent examples of social media spurring sales for beer and other products intended for that consumer demographic. But I agree with Rob that the benefits for many of us have been over-hyped. It’s the tulip-mania of 2010.

Social media I love
I’m sticking with blogging because it’s an amazing showcase for writers like me. It should also help me sell my book and give me a forum to discuss the feedback I receive.

I’m staying with Facebook too. Many of my friends are strictly social and don’t really care what I do for a living. I will continue to resist their pleas about Farmville and Mafia Wars, which don’t interest me at all. But the updates, photos and groups are a great way to stay in touch.

I may even spend more time on LinkedIn. I’ve yet to attract any business that way, but I enjoy connecting with people who have the same interests as me. Maybe I’ll find a group to help me live with the aqua bathroom fixtures a little longer.

I’ll continue to tweet my new posts, after 3.00 p.m. on Friday, as a study Cyrus tweeted advised, when people are goofing off and more likely to read and retweet you.

But that’s it, for now anyways. Twitter, you are the acquaintance I talk to briefly and occasionally, not a friend I’m fired up about hanging out with all the time.

Don’t take that personally, Twitter. It’s all about me, not you.

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Let me entertain you

This post has been updated and moved to http://www.stickycommunication.ca/2010/09/direct-from-hollywood-3-ways-to-write-to-entertain/

Packing up to move to a grown-up blog site

This is almost as exciting as getting my first place. I’m finally psyching up to move to a self-hosted blog.

I’m moving this blog over to Sticky Communication, which will be revved up on a WordPress.org platform.

Thank you, WordPress.com, for letting me practice. But nearly 100 posts later, I’m on to bigger and better things.

As a long-time corporate writer, I was not fazed about the content creation part. But I’ve listened to so much confusing strategic advice.

Is it really all about quality content or should I do more to persuade Google and the other bots to love me? Is it not pushy to ask friends to Digg me? Is it really so important to include often-unrelated photos just to add a link? I’m still uncertain. That’s why I’m getting outside help.

I am thrilled by the freedom to stretch myself with a more conversational, creative style than I could get away with for clients and employers. And I am elated when people comment or I have a breakthrough stat day.

The trouble is the blog has taken a lot of time and not directly paid me any money–yet. But now I have edited some of my posts into a book called Write like you talk–only better, 3 steps to turn good talkers into great writers.

In addition to payments for the book, I’m planning to add another stream from related corporate training. What’s more, I dream about having enough page views to generate advertising revenue.

Just because I’m going to start making money doesn’t mean that I will get into those hard-sell manipulative tactics I loathe. After all, blogging should be about helping other people, in my case good talkers who want to become great writers so they can connect to more people.

People who fill needs don’t need to manipulate. They just need to get their name out.

I’m also excited about creating a reader community. The feedback will inspire new posts and new editions of the book, which buyers will automatically receive. Plus I like making new friends.

I wreak at design and techie stuff. So I’ve hired the talented cast at Rapport to help. I think too many bloggers try to do too much themselves. Another grown-up step.

I feel like I did more than 30 years ago, when I sat in my university dorm room, surrounded by suitcases and boxes.

I knew an exciting new chapter of my life was about to begin. I feel like that today too.

Learn about your customer’s subconscious: think of a close friend

This post has been rewritten and moved to. http://www.stickycommunication.ca/2010/11/imagine-what-makes-your-customers-tick/

What do you think about all this writing for work and fun?

Almost everyone is a writer. That’s one of the dramatic changes that computers have created in our work lives.

More recently, the growth of social media has many people writing for pleasure, which had been out of fashion since the telephone was invented.

People are handling the writing themselves for two reasons: (1) With writing volumes so high, most companies save only the most important work for the professionals. Many small businesses try to do it all themselves. (2) Blogging and other social media expect everyone to be their own author.

Recently Darren Rowse at Problogger asked his readers whether they outsource any of their blogging activities.

Only 29 per cent of his nearly 2,200 respondents outsource at all. Writing trailed technical work and design on his list of outsourced activities. He didn’t attach any numbers, though I’ve asked, but I’m assuming that means the vast majority of people write their own blogs.

This suggests that most blogging is done by people whose core competence is not writing. And of course almost everyone on Facebook, Linkedin or other social media does something else for a living.

What are the implications?

Are people getting results and enjoying this writing or is this one of the reasons so many blogs are abandoned? As the people commenting pointed out, the more successful the blog, the more likely are people to outsource.

Are these amateur writers willing to sharpen their skills, much as they would if they started coding their blog? My experience is that the better writers love to learn, but the bad ones are often convinced they’re doing just fine.

Does the ease and brevity mean that micro-blogging will outlive longer blogs?

What writing styles are emerging?

Just as we’re seeing fewer people tweet about what they had for lunch and more about helpful insights and links, will Facebook become less about dull scores and whining and more sparkling updates? Some of my Facebook friends, who aren’t trained writers, create the most intriguing updates. I’m watching you so I can learn.

Will these vast social media archives be mined for posterity, much as personal letters and diaries became part of the literature and history of pre-telephone times?

Lots of questions. Any answers?

How to find your voice: look under your nose

This post has been revised and moved to http://www.stickycommunication.ca/2010/11/stop-looking-outside-for-your-writing-voice/

Ladies, start your search engines

Today Margaret Wente wrote a column in the Globe and Mail asking Why are bloggers male?

According to Margaret, it’s because men like to express opinions, similar to their yen for extreme snowmobiling or ranting on Fox News.

She pointed out that most women who are comfortable expressing their opinions, which blogging requires, no longer have all that estrogen hushing them up.

She’s right. Most of the popular female bloggers I read are women of a certain age, as the French so nicely phrase it.

I regularly read Dr. Patsy Krakoff, who recently admitted she’s in her sixties. Just this morning I clicked on the photo of Mary Jaksch at Write to Done and saw she’s no spring chicken either.

In my case, dwindling estrogen levels aren’t the whole story. Being outspoken is part of my DNA and upbringing. My mother has never been shy. Neither was hers. Although I grew up in Mad Men times, it did not occur to me that women weren’t in charge. My father still obeys my mother’s every wish, even though she’s in a nursing home and can barely speak.

What a shock it was to realize I was not supposed to ask boys to dance or argue with my boss, usually a white male. Women’s lib came just in time.

Margaret didn’t go into the sex discrimination that takes place in internet marketing. She should read the post by James at Men With Pens (the title says it all) about how a male pseudonym dramatically boosted her web writing revenues.

Yes, sometimes it seems like it’s a man’s world wide web. I’m always taken aback when I read semi-literate comments from guys boasting about how they achieved 1,000 page views a day. They are either lying or tricking Google, which will end in tears.

Then I realize many of their comments are simply pissing contests. I can’t see the point.

When I meet men my age or older at Third Tuesday or other local web 2.0 events, they are usually quite proud that they blog. They frequently volunteer their age, something even an opinionated woman like me won’t do. For them, blogging seems like a fountain of youth or a Viagara substitute.

They are onto something. Blogging has in no way smoothed the wrinkles or revved up my sex life. But it has given me a new lease on life.

After many years writing for business people and politicians, finally I can tell you what I think. In my own way. Hallelujah.

My corporate experience was a wonderful way to learn the tricks of my trade. Creatively and personally, it was stifling.

Of course Margaret Wente doesn’t need to blog because she writes for the most influential newspaper in Canada. But for women like me, blogging is a blast.

After a year, I’m not getting as many page views as I’d like, so I have hired (no surprise) a guy to, as he calls it, “pimp my blog.” I’ll be moving over to my new and improved self-hosted site soon.

I’ve been using some of my posts to write a book, Write Like You Talk–Only Better, that I’ll soon be selling at Sticky Communication. It’s fulfilling to distill what I’ve learned over the years and share with other people who are not having as much fun writing.

But even without the book, I would blog. I love being a mouthy broad.