Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Social Media Can Make You A Better Writer

Earlier this month I was asked by the good people at Scarritt-Bennett Center to host a conversation on social media for writers during their Room to Write retreat. Having had the privilege of attending one such retreat myself in December, I was honored to accept.
The familiarity with social media ranged from "What's Twitter?" to network-savvy folks who just haven't quite figured out how to get all the cogs in the wheel working together.

The biggest questions concerning most of the group were these:
1. "Which social networks do I need and why?" This question consisted of everything from, "Do I really need a Blog" to "Why do I need a Facebook page if I already have a Profile?" and more.

ANSWER: The first step in knowing what social networks you need, is defining your goal or goals. Are you trying to get an agent, editor or publisher? Are you looking for a writing group? Are you looking for tools to help you with your writing? Are you trying to promote your new book? Are you building your brand or author platform, as one of my favorite authorities on the subject, Joanna Penn stresses in her must-read blog The Creative Penn, as well as in her FREE ebook Author 2.0. It's slightly dated, but choc full of nutty goodness on what you need to know. You must know your goal(s). Write them down. You're a writer, do it. The goal or goals determines how you maneuver within your social profiles.

2. "Okay, so I know my goal. Now What?" 

ANSWER: This answer in and of itself could be a whole e-book. However, the quick answer is this -- I believe that all writers benefit by starting with a blog. You're in a comfortable zone, writing, and it's the first logical step for a foray into social media. In addition, blogs these days really can double for mini-websites where you can build your personal brand by designing and packaging it to communicate your personality and goals.

Others feel more comfortable starting on Facebook because they already have a profile there and know the platform, so they start by joining or group or starting a business page as a next step on the social ladder, depending on the goal.  Facebook business pages can do a lot more than groups, but groups are key for feedback, sharing and more, and are a bit easier to wrap your head around if you're just starting out.

TOOL to help: Check out this post from Social-Media-For-Writers, a handy blog for those who live by the inky sword, called Facebook for Writers.

3. "How will I ever find time to write my book if I'm always having to promote myself on social networks?"

ANSWER: Remember the 3 C's -- Communication, Commitment, Consistency.
  • Communicate by letting your audience, readers or friends know when you're available. Have an auto-reply in your emails letting people know when you return them. Have the times you participate on Twitter easily readable in  your bio section of Twitter. Make it clear on your blog how often you post...and so on. 
  • Commit by getting down on one knee and saying "I-freaking-do." Promise yourself and your audience that this is important to you. Show them. 
  • Finally, be consistent by showing up, and becoming part of the process. Flex your social media muscles. They might be all flabby and awkward at first, but in time, they'll get in shape.
TOOLS to help:
  • Threadsy -- email, chat and profile aggregator -- Twitter, Facebook, IM and more all in one beautifully easy-to-use location. Downside -- no tracking with their URL shortener as of this post.
  • Hootsuite -- SM profile aggregator. Also have the ability to manage teams, schedule tweets, track and measure popular tweets and links with their URL shorteners. I'm a BIG fan. Others in this area that I hear good things about are Tweetdeck and Social Oomph.
  • Wordpress -- Yeah, yeah, I know I'm on Blogger, but not for long. This is THE place to host your blog (or mini web site). It can help you monetize faster and easier (if that's your goal), it works extremely well with email marketing apps like my fave, Mailchimp, it's got great design themes, can hold many pages, user-friendly and more.
  • MailChimp -- integrates easily with Wordpress, Twitter, Salesforce and more; has one-click Google analytics tracking, the templates are VERY easy to use for first-timers, and it is FREE if your mailing list has less than 500 people on it.
4. "Social Media is gonna make me a better writer? Prove it."

ANSWER: Here is a wee sampling of how social media can up your writing game --
  • RESEARCH on book topic -- search.twitter.com, wikis, groups, blogs on topic
  • FELLOWSHIP-- you're not alone...just look at this from Mashable
  • FEEDBACK -- join online writing groups
  • TALK to PROS on Twitter -- #askagent, #litchat
  • you can find your AUDIENCE
  • writing coaches, newsletters and blogs with TIPS ON THE PRACTICE AND APPLICATION OF WRITING, as well as the wacky lifestyle coaching that goes hand-in-hand with that. -- #writegoal, #amwriting, @wordstrumpet
  • PROMOTE yourself, your book, your blog, your iPhone app and more. One great example of how video can promote a book.
  • WRITE your book online at places like The Book Patch where you get many of the listed above
  • it can INSPIRE you -- check out Inspiring Authors on YouTube or Authors@Google is a great resource here, too.
I have a talking points presentation with a little more information on this topic of social media for writiers, which I'm happy to share with you here, but it is only a place to start. Also, it was written pre-"Like" button on Facebook for Pages, so just as everything else in the fast-paced world of social media, this is an evolving topic.

If I haven't completely overwhelmed all the writers out there looking to dip their big toes in the social media pool, I hope instead I've given you the tools and the tips to rather dive in, and join the party. It's summer after all.

Okay, so what did I miss??

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

MEIEA Conference Recap

Several months ago, I was asked to moderate a panel at the MEIEA Conference for Advanced Social Media Strategy. It was a great opportunity and I was thrilled to be asked to moderate. The conference coordinator asked me to put the panel together as well, and frankly, that was the hardest part! None of the panelists were compensated for their time beyond admission to the rest of the conference so imagine my surprise when all of my top candidates for the panel agreed to sit on it. Here they are:

Fran Vincent – Retro Island Productions/MySpace for Musicians
Katherine Stimson – Bennett Law Office/Suman Entertainment Group/Farm to Market Music
Janet Hagan – Social Deviants/Naxos of America
Tony GrotticelliTOGA Entertainment

Each panelist I invited has exceptional experience in social media marketing. Fran even wrote MySpace for Musicians, and the 2nd edition is about to go to print! (Highly recommend the book for anyone looking to get into MySpace – she even has medium-advanced HTML code and actually EXPLAINS what it means in lamens terms. I do own the 1st edition and have used it for many projects).

The questions I had for the panelists were all questions that Janet and I receive on a nearly daily basis. You have profiles – now what? What are the tools that you use to maximize your time spent online? What is the next big thing?

Now what? – Have a plan. Know why you're on the networks. If your fans aren't there, why are you wasting your time? If your fans are there and want to interact with you (as evidenced by their timid interaction on your profile), then how do you interact with them? Every company should have a marketing plan in place – social media is no different.

Helpful tools? - Tools I use to help streamline my social media initiatives are:
Twitter: Hootsuite | Posterous | Bit.ly | Ad.ly
Facebook: Hootsuite | Mashable has great articles on what applications to add to your facebook page that will not only enhance content you post, but will keep fans coming back
MySpace: MySpace for Musicians (disclaimer: I know Fran & bought the book!)
Discovery: Search.Twitter.com | Technorati | Google | BlogCatalog
Blogs: Google Analytics | IceRocket.com | Digg | Delicious | StumbleUpon | Technorati
Bloggers you should follow: Check out Mashable's article
Video: MeFeedia | Vimeo | YouTube

NBT? - Location based applications! Enter Yelp, Hot Potato, and FourSquare. I personally am an avid FourSquare user, and there's nothing better than checking into a location and getting the inside scoop on what to do and not do at that location. I've gotten some pretty great food recommendations that way!

Other companies are starting to use location based applications to enhance their incentive programs. Others are using them to shout out to their fans to increase brand awareness. Still others are incorporating them into a larger strategy where fans communicate to each other at live events over those platforms, and exchanging pictures, comments and experiences at the live event with everyone at a location. Use your creativity to tap into the potential of social media, especially location based apps as they are the future for at least the next year.

What apps are you using? Have you jumped on the FourSquare/Yelp bandwagon yet? Is there anything out there that you're using?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Musicians & Social Media: Who Makes the Grade?

Taylor Vick and I are at the University of Miami where Taylor, a UM alumnus, moderated and I sat on a panel Saturday at the MEIEA (Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association) Conference. It was a gorgeous sunny 80 degrees, and I wondered (while laying on the lawn outside the Frost School of Music after our panel) how any UM students get any work done. This campus is more like a resort than an institution of higher learning. I grabbed my venti skinny caramel iced latte that I bought at the on-campus Starbucks, and watched students sunbathing while a light mist that blew from the fountain in the center of the lake cooled me. I heard one of the student guides, while he escorted a UM hopeful and her parents around "Yeah, we have every sport you can think of here...even sand volleyball."

But, I digress, which is easy to do in this weather. Our topic was advanced social media strategies as they pertain to musicians and music businesses, and several interesting points came up during our discussion, which you'll see in a couple posts from me and TV.

One of the questions asked was which musicians did we think were using social media well. The panel, which included Fran Vincent of Retro Island Productions, Tony Grotticelli of TOGA Entertainment, Katherine Stimson of Suman Entertainment and Bennett Law Office, Taylor and myself, while offering up different examples seemed to agree on a few key criteria --
1. Authenticity
2. Engagement
3. Just Doing It (Aka: Risk & Experimentation)

While we agreed that Lady Gaga owned YouTube (you can't swing a cat without hitting one of her videos), we also agreed that she wasn't very engaged with her audience. OK Go! are successful because of their incredibly creative and original viral-on-steroids videos that have led to a big community of fans and followers who are championing the band just waiting to see what they'll come up with next.

Tony mentioned Run DMC's Rev Run who has an honest extension of his reality show brand in his @RevRunWisdom Twitter feed. He broadcasts rather than converses, but his use of the platform is original and certainly makes my day a lot.

Disappointments by celebs who were at the forefront of social media, but who have disengaged (Miley Cyrus) or have not used SM to its best potential to help in crisis management (John Mayer) were mentioned, as well. Our hope is that other celebs learn, improve and stay engaged with fans.
Last, but not least, Ben Folds brings home the recent honors of ballsiest user of SM by engaging his live concert fans with the ever-growing in popularity of Chatroulette. His piano improvisations of the people he "nexted" on the site take the trophy for risk vs. risque experiment.

Which musicians, artists, bands, etc. do you think are using social media well? Who is missing the point in your opinion?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So a Maven, a Ninja and a Guru all walk into a bar...

We've all heard the thousands of terms used to describe social media "experts" - so what's in a name? Here are 3 of the most popular terms and what they mean:

Maven (n.): "Maven" comes to us from the Hebrew, by way of Yiddish. In Hebrew, "mavin" means "he knows". So a "maven" is someone in the know, a real expert, or maybe sometimes just a self-styled expert. - Sharon Ann

Typically - I reserve Maven for any woman who is a social media expert. This means she leads the way in developing new ways to do social, and stays on top of the new sites that are coming out.

Ninja (n.): a person who must assume many roles, navigate the darkness, and stay on the path of the true. - SocialMediaNinja.net

Ninjas are definitely new to the game. They're more excited about new products and marketing ideas than either the Mavens or the Gurus. They also tend to be more prone to the work hard, play harder mentality! Additionally, they seem to be more about the "sneak attack;" surprising you when you least expect it. Definitely up and comers.

Guru (n.): an intellectual or spiritual guide or leader; any person who counsels or advises; mentor; a leader in a particular field - Dictionary.com

Gurus have been in the social media marketing game for 10+ years. They have the best understanding of what works and why. They also have a more traditional marketing mind-set.

What do you consider yourself? A maven, a ninja or a guru? Or perhaps I should introduce you to the term n00b?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's Your Story?

Everyone is heading to South By Southwest, and in addition to great bands, the new rock stars of social media will be there, including my social rock god @ChrisBrogan . You want to know why I admire him? Because he knows who he is. He's the author of his own story. You will get the opportunity to meet him and many others I admire, like @Tessa . When you do, you'll need to know your story.

Know why you're there, why you want to meet them, and what you have to offer the brief conversation. Don't sell, but know your pitch. Brogan wrote a great piece about a year ago called Be Sexier in Person with great tips from him AND the commenters on how to present yourself in person in a brief amount of time. Tom Truitt created YourElevatorPitch to help individuals and companies develop this crucial tool in an extremely crowded marketplace.

I just did a presentation with @TaylorVick at Podcamp Nashville this past weekend. Amid technical difficulties, we stayed true to ourselves, and found humor in the fact that our social media tools weren't being very social. After the presentation, we were surprised by the number of people who came up and complimented the session. I know now we shouldn't have been. The tools we shared were solid, and our hearts were in the right place. We know our story, our value, and we know where we're headed.

Our presentation was about how to make friends while keeping the ones you already have on the web, which you'll see in a series of blog posts to come. I'd like to share a few of the tips from that session with those of you headed to SXSW who aim to meet your idols:
1. Idols are people too. If they are rude, don't waste your time.
2. Be Yourself, but be the BEST version of yourself. Be the person your mom and your kid think that you are.
3. Know your story.

Practice here in the comments. Tell me your story in a nutshell.

photo credit: Emily Starbuck Gerson

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lessons Learned from Classical Music

I used to hate practicing. At 12, there is nothing worse than being forced to sit at the piano for thirty minutes on a summer day, when the rest of your friends are outside playing in the sun. I think that playing solo piano is one of the loneliest instruments a child can play. However, those thirty minutes a day taught me something invaluable.

1. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
If you continuously practice something incorrectly, that's how you will remember it for the rest of your life. Always strive for perfection when you're practicing. It is truly the only way to get better.

2. Someone will always be better than you, and someone will always be worse.
There was nothing more terrifying that playing right after someone who was great. But it was even worse if you performed right after someone who was horrible. Surround yourself with great people who continuously challenge you. If you ever feel like you are the best at something, chances are you're just becoming lazy.

3. Small bites finish the sandwich.
I always hated this expression, but usually because I was gorging myself on something delicious in huge mouthfuls. However, this is definitely true in business and in life. Whenever I find myself struggling with a daunting project, I find people or the time to break the project into its' simplest tasks. I typically do the easy stuff first, so I can spend the most time getting through the hard stuff. If you knock one or two easy items off your list, you will feel more accomplished and more motivated to get through the tough stuff.

4. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself.
Don't do something simply because it sounds easy. I watch many friends and colleagues maintain the status quo and complain about how little they're getting paid, or how bored they are. Don't be that person. Companies can always be improved, and when you feel overwhelmed with the challenge you gave yourself, see #3.

5. Seek advice of others.
If you don't know how to do something, no one is going to fault you for asking questions on how to achieve your goal. I learned that by listening to recordings of pieces I was to perform, I better understood the piece that just by sight reading it. Emulating something that works, but adding your own personal touch to it works.

6. Go for it.
Never do anything half-assed. Everyone can see right through it. Trust me. When you don't give it 110%, conductors, instructors, teachers, colleagues will remember it. You truly get to make a first impression every day, because every day is a new day.

7. You can't be everything to everyone.
I have small hands, so Rachmaninov and I do not get along. I had to learn the hard way that there was no way I could play most of his pieces. If you simply can't do it all, it's okay. Learning to say "no" is one of the most powerful tools a person can have in his or her arsenal.

What is a life lesson you learned early that's stuck with you?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Social Deviants Invade Podcamp Nashville!

Come say hello and check out our session at Podcamp Nashville where we will discuss ways to grow your audience while maintaining the level of engagement you have with your current fans and friends...and have a blast while doing it.