Planning to write a book? Attend our workshop!

Last December Kira Henschel invited me to present on blogging at her publishing workshop. Kira runs HenschelHAUS Publishing, and offers workshops to help people get moving on their book ideas. She asked me to speak on blogging and social media from a how-to perspective.

It was a lot of fun, and quite successful too — one of the attendees has already finished her book and begun the process of marketing it. Jill Baake’s got an I Love Me Mom blog, and I Love Me Mom available at Amazon.

Writing a book is surely a difficult thing to do, but marketing seems to be the hidden valley of challenges for many authors. I know I always thought that being author went something like:

  1. Write really great book.
  2. Sign deal with grateful publisher.
  3. Wait for phone calls announcing each successive step up the best seller list.
  4. Enjoy being rich.

Seriously, I think most folks believe that the writing is the hard part. Actually, it’s editing the book into its most productive form and then marketing it effectively.

What’s also interesting is that while it used to be there weren’t too many publishers that was the only way to get a book in print aside from paying to have the book printed directly. Between changes in printing technologies, publishing technologies, and all the rest of the technologies there are now a lot of new options and many hybrids.

Kira’s invited me again for her next workshop on July 23rd. If you’ve got a book in you that needs to get out, this is a great way to develop a plan to make it happen. From Brainchild to Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Birthing and Publishing Your Book will untangle the mess for you, and leave you with a clear path to follow to your book.

Why did my bounce rate go down?

I’m not really that much of a stats junkie, but I do try to keep an eye on what my sites are doing. I noticed this little item in my Analytics, along with a coincident 100% increase in page views:

Screen shot 2011-04-22 at 7.08.53 AM.png

As you can see, my bounce rate has plummeted. I’m not sure if it’s because my traffic is now all some kind of new spider or what, but it’s pretty dramatic, no?

Anyone else see this kind of trend?

Online Bully Defense

Yesterday I wrote about how one’s email address has become their online identity. As I think about online identity, it occurs to me that a difference in strength of identity might be enabling online bullies. Just as a physical bully seizes initiative to exploit another’s physical weakness & lack of vigilance, online bullies can operate in the same way. If your whole online life revolves around one site, and the bully has a stronger presence, bullying is enabled. It’s a difference in strength of online presence and reputation.

The internet is so new, has moved so fast, its not surprising that this is happening. Even well-funded corporations who have devoted huge resources to PR are still challenged to manage their reputation online. No wonder kids can find themselves exposed.

Helping my kids develop a stronger online identity, in advance of them really needing it, will help them be more bully-resistant. Having their own place to publish content is also a hedge against social sites changing terms or moving from free to paid. At the end of the day, what will matter in the long run is what comes up when someone types my daughter’s name into a search engine.

I’ve pulled their firstnamelastname.com domains, and when needed we’ll develop sites for them. They have control over the content, and can build whatever presence fits them. They can probably manage the SEO of their own site well enough to make it place higher than Facebook or other pages, which is a hedge against the inevitable, regrettable social media content. It can be the site they mention to prospective employers (preferably, investors) or whoever else they need to impress.

They can still enjoy all the fun and drama that comes with Facebook and other sites, but they will have their own presence on the web as the anchor. This is the same strategy recommended to businesses, and the same logic is applicable to personal brands as well.

Anyone else need a good blog photo?

I took the photo I use on my blog, and for all the other innumerable sites, myself. I’ve gotten a few compliments on it, but I really don’t love it that much.

I also need a different one for instances when I’ve got some space – like on my blog – and instances where I don’t – like twitter, linkedin, etc.

But I’m finding that making a good photo of myself is far more challenging than I thought. Everything I shoot looks the same, and it’s boring. The first one was taken using my little Canon P&S camera, but I’ve now got the remote for my Nikon D70, so the camera isn’t the issue. It the lack of imagination.

Sara Santiago has an awesome photo. So does Bruce Schneier. Kevin Rich has a good one too. There are lots of them out there, and the only thing I see that they have in common is that they a) aren’t the usual studio portrait, and b) convey the person’s spirit.

I want to hire a photographer but the family coffers have no funds for that. I do have a few skills, so barter is an option.

I need someone willing to take a good photo of me, or failing that, willing to take a poop-load of photos on the theory that one of them will be good.

I’m more than willing to return the favor.

Any takers?

Using the Thesis theme

I spent some time with Jim Raffel tonight, and one of the things that came out of it was a reminder to fix my blog theme. I’ve bounced through a lot of themes on this blog, and Lornitropia before that. I’ve never found one that really made me ecstatic, but part of the problem is that it’s hard enough to design, let alone design and implement.

So I decided to give Thesis a try. It gets rave reviews, and it seems pretty nice.

But anyone who’s used it before will notice that I haven’t done much with it. Please give me some time 😎

Slicehost vs. Rackspace Cloud, first impressions

I thought I would save a few bucks by moving to a Rackspace Cloud Server. It was a rocky start, but so far, so good.

Back in July I made the jump from GoDaddy hosting to a virtual private server on Slicehost. While it was intimidating at first, there was a lot of online help and a responsive forum. Once I got things going, it was smooth sailing.

The biggest difference between Slice and Cloud is that the Slice folks include a pretty hefty amount of bandwidth. The thing is, I don’t use most of it. Cloud doesn’t include any bandwidth, and charges a small amount for every GB used. For me this is a better deal. It would actually cut my monthly costs in half, so I decided to start up a Cloud account. It was a bit of a rocky start.

First, when I signed up I was told they’d call within 15 minutes to activate my account. Why they need to call when I’ve signed up for far more expensive things without a call I don’t know, but it’s not a big deal. Except they don’t call. I fire up a chat session. I find out I’m #3 in the queue and will get a call shortly. Some time later I do. I wasn’t in a big hurry at the time, but in a day where most online purchases that can be fulfilled immediately are, it’s odd.

Second, the knowledge base is not as complete as Slicehost. For instance, when I looked up installing MySQL + PHP, I got a message saying that article wasn’t available.

Then I realized I could just restore a tar of my other server, so I did that.

But that left DNS, so I went to make those entries. Yikes! No edit button. No duplicate button. CNAMES require the full domain, not just the subdomain. This is gonna be a LOT of typing compared to Slicehost. So I figure I must be missing something and go to the forum (as the KB doesn’t have much) to learn what it is that I’m missing. I mean, I only have a dozen domains – surely the folks with lots and lots of them would be going nuts with this simplistic interface.

<rant>

Why is it that EVERY software or service company that has a forum requires you to register SEPARATELY from the account you used to buy their product?

</rant>

So I get into the forum and I’m very puzzled. I find that there is exactly one post. After a while I realize that there is no ‘Post New Topic’ button, and I figure my account must not be activated yet. But I can’t find anything saying so. I check my email. I check my answering machine. I check my driveway for a telegram delivery guy. Nothing.

Out of curiosity I read the one post I can see – Posting Guidelines. I expect to read the usual boilerplate, which is there, but at the top it says that if I can see only one post I should open a live chat session and get my account activated. I would have thought this would be automatically requested when I created my forum account. I guess not.

I open chat. My wait time is 13 minutes. Then a message shows up apologizing for the extended wait time, and suggesting I should open a service ticket. So I open a ticket. The text there says that if I want service quickly, I should open a chat window and mention the ticket number. Sure enough, I try chat later and after a wait I get my account activated.

I do a search for DNS edit, and find several posts from people asking about how to edit & duplicate DNS records. From March of 2009. Then I find out that they don’t allow TXT records, which are required to make an SPF record.

A few deep breaths later, and I realize that I don’t need to do my DNS with Cloud, I can do it with GoDaddy, which has a pretty darn functional interface, allows everything under the sun, and I realize I should have been doing this stuff there to begin with.

Once the DNS stuff got sorted out, and my server tarball was unpacked, all was well. I can’t tell a bit of difference between the performance of the Slicehost and Cloudserver servers, except for me the Cloudserver is a lot cheaper. Since both are owned by Rackspace, I suspect they may actually be the same server.

I’m happy I’ve made the choice, and if you’re looking for virtual private server capacity, give Cloud a look.

Yep, blogging will make a comeback

Blogging is coming back.

Via Rick Klau I learned that Don Loeb thinks that blogging will make a comeback. I agree, for more reasons than Don cites. Yes Twitter will spawn some new bloggers, but I think we will also see a researgance of old bloggers.

I, like many I suspect, was caught up in the social media fervor and ditched a lot of blogging time to play with facebook and spend more time on linkedin. Now I look back and think I might have put that effort to better use.

I’m going refocusing on blogging more.

Why?

  • I own the content. No spelunking through terms of service or worrying about who owns what, or when it will dissappear, or how to delete it.
  • I control the terms of use. If I want ads, I can have them. If I want to block a user, I can.
  • I get metrics. It’s a joke to call linkedin a marketing platform when you have no metrics on how it’s working for you, more importantly how it isn’t.
  • It’s all me. Good, bad, or otherwise I’m it. Blogging is an expression of ego, and I don’t want to share the screen with others 🙂
  • Less distractions. No hurling sheep or poking people, or another channel of distribution that calls for more content. No new applications to figure out, worry about, or maintain.

If social media hasn’t jumped the shark already it is on the ramp. Facebook, Twitter, and linkedin will continue, but as folks learn the real value proposition for themselves their usage will diminish, and blogging’s value will be rediscovered.

The Death Of Social Media Marketing

Social media is a popular subject in marketing, and has been for a while now. As we see usage of Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and similar sites rise, people can’t help but see opportunities for advertising and marketing in general.

In many ways it would seem to be ideal. We’re trying to build relationships, after all, and these sytems embrace relationships – actually they depend on them. They are measurable in many ways, viral, or potentially so, and are cheap.

The problem is that their success is their downfall. As they become more popular their use is increasing limited in business environments.

As the economy crumbled and people feared for their jobs social networking has become more popular to build an insurance policy against a layoff. Folks who have ignored networking for years are suddenly getting interested. Of course in tough times companies work harder to eliminate waste, and activities like social networking are often viewed as waste. It’s silly, as networking can be very powerful, but we’re dealing with perception here, not reality. Apparently when a company networks it’s powerful, when an employee networks it’s waste.

The ironic part is that the same companies that are banning these sites are probably starting social media campaigns. They hope to woo customer personnel to join their networks, read their tweets, and generally be good pals, all to the benefit of the bottom line while at the same time they’re denying their own employees the ability to do the very thing they ask of others.

How long do you think this will last?

Social Media Has 18 Months…

I predict that within 18 months the use of social media on company networks will be banned by most of American business, and the participation by business people during working hours (and thus the 80-90% of the marketing value of social media) will collapse.

When this happens, it will change. It will become far less focused on companies, and lot more focused on individuals. As people lose the ability to administer their networks on company time or with company resources, they will also lose the urge to use their networks to company benefit. If you’re busily trying to keep your Linkedin page up to date at 10pm, are you going to worry first about how you’re representing your company, or yourself? When you’re sitting at your desk you’re far more likely to keep the company’s interests in mind.

Similarly, when your participation in these sites comes purely at your own expense, are you going to follow your vendor’s or customer’s pages, or stick to family & friends?

I hope I’m wrong.

An interesting Linkedin question

An ex-colleague of mine asked an interesting question today:

What are your observations regarding AEM member companies’ 1) attitude toward social media 2) adoption rate of social media 3) ‘wiifm’ based interest in social media?

This was interesting to me because when I listen to Total Picture Radio, or read many blogs, it’s easy to get the idea that only a few gnomes living under rocks have yet to get onto Linkedin. Everyone else has been indoctrinated that social media is a Must Do, therefore the adoption rate is exponential, and of course ‘What’s in it for me?” is a punch-line.

The people on TPR and on most blogs are enlightened, web-savvy folks who’ve been using social media since its birth. It’s second nature, and we’ve all been using this stuff for so long it’s easy to brand the folks who haven’t as backward.

The problem is that the ratio of us to ‘normal’ people is still 1:50,000 or so if you consider the whole population. Normal people look at us as, well, hobbyists. Over enthusiastic technophiles. Maybe even cult members – which is easy to understand when you listen to the most vocal zealots for social media. Normal folks don’t quite get social media yet. They hear about a lot of not-quite-tangible benefits, but hard evidence that being on social media is a must is not easy to come by. I even know a Gen Y’er who didn’t really know what Linkedin was, even though Facebook was old territory.

It is easy to see how social media carries risks. We are drowning in stories of teenagers posting stupid things and getting in trouble so bizarre our legal system doesn’t quite know how to handle it. It’s easy to see this stuff as scary. With no clear upside, it’s easy to see the people who are deep into it as a bit reckless.

So, while the questions asked above might seem a little silly, I don’t think they are. Most of the working world still doesn’t see social media as a Must Do, and that’s a fact that all of us enlightened web savvy folks need to keep in mind. For every dot-com startup or tech company there are hundreds of small manufacturing and service companies. Internet use is widely restricted, and many social media sites are blocked.

In answering the questions I will first state that AEM (my employer) has nothing to do with my replies, although they have a social media effort underway. I will also restate (as I do in the ‘About’ page) that these are my views, not my employer’s.

The attitude about Linkedin seems to have shifted from ‘What’s Linkedin?’ to ‘Yeah, I heard about that. You aren’t actually on that, are you?’ to ‘Yeah, I probably need to get on that one of these days.’ Maybe it’s more accepted lately. In the current economy, everyone will flock to anything that might give them an edge in the job market.

I see the adoption rate as generally inversely proportional to age and level within the company. Older folks higher on the ladder arguably have less need for social media, and they certainly have more to lose. They do have a lot to gain, but most of them didn’t get where they are by being stupid, and social media isn’t yet something all smart people do.

Overall though, the adoption rate is higher now than it was before. I see people joining Linkedin now who never would have a year ago, and many seem to be paying attention and doing it with their eyes open. I see less dead accounts than I used to, but part of that is less usage of Linkedin on my part (I don’t do as much research as I used to) and that I shrank my network a while back.

The ‘What’s in it for me?’ attitude is there, but it’s there in smaller quantities than you might expect. Unless you are a spammer it takes a lot of work to be a visible pain on the internet, and it takes a lot of effort to get a network large enough to really cause annoyance. Most WIIFM people aren’t so industrious, and even so once they make it clear they’re in it only for themselves, they’ll see their network shrink faster than it grew. The good news is that for anyone who wants to make an extra buck or two coaching people, these folks will be easy customers who probably won’t require much after-sale support.

In my experience, the benefits from blogging and social media have been totally unexpected and unpredictable. Along with persistent effort, social media and networking take a lot of faith. The lazier folks just don’t stick with it.

This also makes social media in general a hard sell for some people. They want to know what they’re going to get out of it – that’s only logical, right? The idea of putting personal info on the web seems crazy, and therefore the payoff must be immediate and huge. When they hear that it isn’t, they balk. It’s not hard to see it from their point of view, but it can be hard to get them past that.

Did I answer the questions?