Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide


January 2012

Carrie on Blogging

Did you ever watch Sex in the City?

I was a fan of the TV show. One of the aspects of the show that appealed to me most was Carrie’s writing career. There she’d be, tapping away at her laptop at the window of her New York apartment, happily (and apparently, easily) earning a living by analysing the single life and putting keystrokes to paper.

It was a romantic notion that I enjoyed dreaming about, now and then. And sometimes I get close to replicating it.

Take now, for instance.

I’m at a holiday house in Normanville, beachside South Australia. But I’m not perched at a gaping New York window. Rather, I’m at a laminate kitchen table, tapping away while my husband reads a novel and my two sons saunter to the holiday park ‘games room’ with some gold coins in their pockets. We’ve had a hot day at the beach, followed by boardgames, and now it’s time for us to do our own thing.

So I have the laptop open, a Clare Valley Riesling beside me, and I’m going to say a thing or two about blogging.

Like Carrie’s lifestyle, blogging can have a certain romanticism to it.

These days, we can easily become our own columnist or writer simply by opening an account with WordPress or Blogger or the myriad other blogging tools available now. I think that’s fantastic and provides hope and happiness and excitement to many writers and would-be writers around the world.

Sex and the City character Carrie loves writing
Sex and the City character Carrie loves writing

But a blog is also a commitment.

Done well, a blog is published regularly and provides quality content. It is original and provides something of interest or value to its readers.

This means it’s not something undertaken lightly – otherwise, you’re letting people down. It also takes time and effort  to create that quality content, again and again and again.

So how do I maintain a blog?

Number one (and this can’t apply to everyone): I’ve always loved writing. That’s the first big hurdle of blogging and if you don’t enjoy writing, blogging will be eminently more difficult for you.

I usually mull over topics over a few days or even weeks (such as social media, communications, and People in General). But sometimes, a flash of an idea comes to me and I write an entire blog post immediately.

When I the fragment of an idea, I write it down on whatever’s available. It might be a few words, a sentence, the headline or even the first draft of the blog post …

Then I return later and flesh out that idea.

The boring stuff

The ‘boring stuff’ comes later. That may include finding other references and hyperlinks. It may be a little bit of research to make sure that I’m not sharing something that’s factually incorrect. It includes proofreading.

Good blog posts often have images, too. It can be difficult to acquire a copyright-free image, so I’ve taken to using (often naff) Instagram images that I’ve taken.

Although I use WordPress, I write the first draft of my blogs in Microsoft Word. I have a folder called ‘Blog Drafts’. Then I paste the finished copy into Notepad, then WordPress and preview it several times – it can look very different on your blog page, so this is important.

Have purpose

Overriding all this, I have a ‘blog purpose’. I’m not just blogging about anything (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The purpose of my blog is to provide commentary and tips on social media and to grow a community of readers to interact with. I’m a social media consultant, so it makes sense.

But I wouldn’t blog if I didn’t enjoy writing.

I’d stick just to Twitter or an app like Instagram, or interacting in communities like Quora and LinkedIn.

Blogging comes easily because, like Carrie, I enjoy tapping away at the keyboard and sharing things I’ve been musing over. I just don’t wear skimpy clothing while I’m doing it …

Recommended reading

For the  world’s best blogging tips, I highly recommend Problogger (Darren Rowse). Follow him on Twitter @problogger or subscribe to his wonder blog where guests contribute all sorts of learnings.

Twitter: Pet Peeves

Twitter is my favourite social media platform. I appreciate how it brings new people into my life, enables me to keep learning and keep up to date with breaking news.

But like anywhere you spend a lot of time, there are some things that are annoying about Twitter. I recently asked online friends what vexed them about the Twitterverse, and it turns out we share a lot of the same dislikes including:

  • Twitter spam
  • FFs that are a riot of names – and retweeted FFs
  • Auto DMs
  • Conversations that aren’t connected (ie not using Reply properly)
  • Tweets that make you visit Facebook
  • Tweets appearing in LinkedIn

I think many of these fall under the same umbrella – they deliver a bad Twitter reading experience. For example, a long list of FF names is hard to read. It’s plain ugly.

Twitter pet peeves: crowded FFs
Twitter pet peeves: crowded FFs

Twitter conversations that aren’t linked are frustrating because you can’t read back and discover the context.

Tweets that take you to Facebook may be all right occasionally, but in the main, why do it? People are in Twitter to read tweets, or head to web articles that don’t require a login. Many Twitter users don’t even like Facebook. And when you’re using it to prop up your Facebook strategy and drive people to your business page, it feels like cheating. It’s a similar case in LinkedIn. If you really care about your LinkedIn audience, you can post occasionally. Why run all your tweets through there? Tweets usually don’t make sense in the LinkedIn environment.

[An update on this: LinkedIn is removing the Tweets Application on 31 January. The option to use #in to display tweets in your profile will remain, so surely this will make LinkedIn users more discerning with their tweet-sharing).

Auto DMs are a bad strategy. Occasionally there’s a creative, funny Auto DM that might make you smile or click a link to learn more. However Auto DMs are usually trite thank yous or pleas for you to connect with the tweeter further. If you have already followed them, it’s unnecessary but also intrusive and overbearing.

Of course, spam was also cited as a major pet peeve. Spambina can be funny sometimes, but we’d rather see a genuine connection than spam that’s wasting our time or keeping us spooked about the words we use in case of another spam attack. “Block and Report” becomes  tiresome housekeeping.

Twitter pet peeves: spam
Twitter pet peeves: spam

Thanks to everyone who contributed their peeves. I think we need a blog about ‘Things I love about Twitter’ now?

How to Recognise the Signs of Venting

It seems you can’t switch on commercial TV without seeing an advertisement discussing the signs of ageing.

Stuff the signs of ageing! They’re written all over our face for everyone to see.

I’m more interested in the ‘signs of venting’, which are more difficult to recognise and which can lead you into trouble.

So, what do I mean by social media venting? It can take the form of:

  • Complaining online about your employer, colleagues or customers
  • Complaining (or arguing with) your family online, from partners through to children through to parents
  • Prolonged sharing of complaints about your personal health / the weather / the neighbours / what’s on television and so on

Some venting is fun. That’s why we get positive responses. The “I secretly want to smack slow-moving people in the back of the head” Facebook pages aren’t immensely popular for nothing. And if you tweet about wanting to stay in bed rather than head to work on a rainy day, you’ll get plenty of empathy.

But venting – particularly about your work – can occasionally lead to serious repercussions. We’ve seen people being fired over Facebook posts,  tweets being critiqued in the next day’s newspaper, friendships and relationships crushed and more.

If repercussions don’t bother you and you cherish your venting powers, of course feel free to continue on your cathartic journey. But if you’d like to be aware of The Signs of Venting, here are some:

a)      You’re posting while angry.

b)      You’re posting  immediately after a break up.

c)       You’re posting immediately after working with a grumpy customer or client.

d)      You’re using social media to raise something you’re too afraid to discuss offline.

e)      You do All of the Above, often.

So why do people vent online?  Is it because:

  • Social media is easy to use and often readily available, via our phones or the laptops right front of us? The screen is our accessible, anonymous Agony Aunt.
  • Social media can become a diary of woes and, combined with a gaggle of sympathetic friends who are ready to listen, venting is often quickly rewarded.
  • Online venting feels somehow disconnected from ‘the real world’, as if there will be no repercussions.
  • Many social media users simply aren’t aware of their account settings and the extent to which their posts can be found and  shared.

Venting. Get it? Terrible play on words ...
Venting. Get it? Terrible play on words ...

If you’d like to stop venting and think things are getting dangerous, here are some tips:

  • When you’re feeling angry or frustrated, Do Not Go Online
  • Try to think of other ways to share your feelings: whether it be a chat with a friend or colleague, a phone call or even an email (remembering that they may be published or shared  with ‘the wrong audience’ too)
  • If writing makes you feel better and  helps you unload, consider keeping a good old fashioned diary – you don’t need to share everything you’re going through with your social networking friends
  • Don’t post about it, sleep on it
  • Ask yourself why you’re venting online. Is there another outlet besides social media, or your socmedia friends, that can help relieve your stress? Does your life need some major changes?

Do you have any anti-venting tips to share?

The overlooked benefit of social media for business

 When you use social media for business, there are a lot of benefits.

But one of those benefits is often overlooked. And that drives me nuts.

And that’s the benefit to yourself, as an individual.

Take one of my clients as an example. Last year I worked with a government health body to deliver a social media strategy. And as we worked through  the plan, as so often happens, the team I worked with learned more about social media and became bolder in how they used it.

I taught them how to use Twitter. I encouraged them to connect with others. We found hashtags they were interested in, and we found trustworthy tweeters from their sector that they could learn from.

We also looked at similar government bodies who were using social media, and in fact we ended up having a face to face meeting with one. The professionals around the table found they were working on a lot of similar projects, and there were opportunities for them to share resources. They are now working more closely together.

Now, as a result of knowing more about social media, those clients are:

  • Using Twitter to find and share industry news
  • Finding different ways of doing things, through conversations with peers they trust
  • Following conference proceedings via Twitter hashtags
  • Raising their own profiles within their sector and building a name for themselves

So remember, when others may be bagging social media when it isn’t achieving overnight sales or building a brand, there are many other uses for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. And a lot of those will be at an individual level, benefitting employees and employers (and eventually clients and customers).

I’m sure you have a few stories to share, in terms of how social media has helped your workplace learning and connections.

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