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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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November 2012

Guest post: Twitter for musicians

A Vibraphone, Sheep and the BBC – Twitter for Musicians

by Nick Parnell – Vibes Virtuoso

Ever since the explosion of the social media phenomenon, I have wondered how I could utilise sites such as Facebook and Twitter to advance my performance career. I had heard of the incredible success stories of musicians such as Taylor Swift who have credited social media as the key component to their fame, but couldn’t help feeling cynical and thinking that it was more likely to be orchestrated by some clever marketing agency or was simply a fluke! Given that I am a classical musician, I wondered if classical audiences engage with social media in any significant manner and therefore questioned how valuable it would really be to me. Nevertheless, about a year ago I took the plunge and opened my own Facebook musician’s page (facebook.com/NickParnellVibes) and Twitter account (@NickParnellVibe).

To begin with it was all a bit of mystery to me and still is to some extent. I took some advice from two leading communication agencies, Vim & Zest and Prakky. These two organisations are experts in their fields and were incredibly helpful in explaining the basics from how to set up the accounts, to when and what I should write about. However, after a few months of posting photos of performances and what I thought were interesting updates about goings-on of the classical music world, I had accumulated very few followers. In fact when I went through the list most of them were personal friends, other musicians or businesses trying to promote their own work – not exactly the audience I was trying to connect with. Further to this, I found I was wasting a lot of time constantly checking my sites when I could have been in the practice room learning that new J.S. Bach sonata that had been on my to-do list for the last six months. This lack of outcome fuelled the return of my initial doubts on the effectiveness of social media for classical musicians.

However, a few months ago I had a breakthrough. Late one night after a long day’s rehearsal, I was lying on the couch half listening to David Letterman’s Late Show while aimlessly scrolling through the endless list of tweets on my iPhone when one particular tweet caught my eye. The BBC Music Magazine (based in the UK) posted a tweet that they were looking to feature musicians with strange hobbies for their next edition. I thought, “Well I’m a musician and I really enjoy working with livestock – that’s got to be a bit strange for a classical musician” (I grew up in outback Australia hence my connection to cattle & sheep). So I messaged them back and before I knew it I was in email communication with the Magazine’s chief editor.

They liked my story but required a photo of me working with the livestock, which I didn’t have. I was reluctant to spend a great deal of money on a photographer in case it came to nothing. So next time I visited my parents’ sheep property, I took my mallets and vibraphone, positioned them in the yards amongst the sheep and gave my mum a digital camera and asked her to take some shots. This was quite a risk as my mum has cataracts on her eyes and really doesn’t see well. That, combined with uncooperative sheep which didn’t seem to enjoy the sound of the vibes especially when they realised they could couldn’t eat it, made for quite a challenging shoot.

So I said to mum, “just keep pushing the button continually” and hoped that we might get lucky. By some miracle we did!

I sent it to the BBC Magazine and they loved it. Before too long they had published my interview and photo covering about a third of a page. Now having an article in a magazine isn’t going to change my life, but it was timely for me as ABC Classics had just released my albums in the UK which also coincided with my first performance at the Australia High Commission in London. The BBC Magazine is aimed at classical music fans and has an estimated readership of over 200,000, so it was some excellent PR in one of my key markets.

To gain this type of exposure one would normally need to engage a PR company who would pitch your story to the media. There is no guarantee that the agency would be successful and it could easily cost thousands of dollars. The fact that this opportunity came from lying on the couch late at night fiddling with my iPhone has caused me to revaluate the power of social media. I don’t claim to be an expert of any kind, I am certainly not. I still don’t have many followers on Facebook or Twitter. But this experience has shown me that if you engage with social media you never know what might happen. You may even end up in a UK classical music magazine staring a sheep down with a set of vibraphone mallets looking a lot like Crocodile Dundee!

To view the BBC article, please visit www.nickparnell.com.

Don’t fret over your LinkedIn requests

I hear a lot of gripes about LinkedIn. Heck, I’ve shared a few myself [see An Open Letter to LinkedIn].

One of the most common ones I hear from my audiences – and occasionally from clients – is this:

“I’m so tired of getting LinkedIn requests.”

It’s not unusual for them to worry about  whether to accept some LinkedIn requests, or to ponder someone’s reason for requesting the connection.

I think there’s a number of reasons for this:

  • For some LinkedIn users, LinkedIn is their only social network. They may tend to focus on ‘why is this person requesting a connection?’ and ‘who is this person?’ more than people who are using other networks like Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus.
  • Those same ‘social media lite’ users may not have adjusted their LinkedIn email settings, which means they receive emails every time there’s a LinkedIn request. This can be annoying for them, making LinkedIn more intrusive than it has to be.

So I’m here to say: Don’t fret over your LinkedIn requests.

It’s good to have boundaries and standards and plans for your social networking. But please don’t over-think things. There are a number of ways for people to come across you on LinkedIn. As with most social networks, LinkedIn does encourage users to find and connect with others. LinkedIn will serve up connection suggestions and there are many ways in which other people may come across your name, prompting them to send a request.

Prakky on LinkedIn
Prakky on LinkedIn

Let’s go back a step, and recall what you might use LinkedIn for:

  • To network with people you could potentially work with
  • To fill a job, or to look for a job
  • To promote yourself online, using LinkedIn as your shareable CV
  • To participate in Groups, learn and keep ahead of changes in your industry

Therefore a larger LinkedIn network can be valuable and beneficial to your work. Why would you want to be too precious, and accept few requests?

Facebook is different. Sure, keep your Facebook experience quieter and only accept requests from people you’ve met and want to keep in touch with. I keep my Facebook friends to a few hundred people that I interact with outside Facebook: when it becomes unwieldy or feels less private, I cull friends. It’s a place where I talk about my family and my personal life, so I don’t have thousands of connections there.

For me, there is no need to be quite so particular with LinkedIn.

My recommendations for LinkedIn:

  • Look at your settings (located under your account name, top right of the LinkedIn screen). If you’re getting too many LinkedIn notifications as emails, switch some off.
    Adjust your LinkedIn email preferences
    Adjust your LinkedIn email preferences

    Did you know you can limit who can send you a LinkedIn connection request?

  • Define what type of LinkedIn requests you’ll accept: do you need to have met that person? Or will you accept a request from someone who works in your industry / in your town and so on? Once you settle on your criteria, it makes it easier to swiftly work through your requests.
  • Remember that LinkedIn is a public space that focuses on industry networking, so maintain a high level of professionalism in your posts. When you can be confident in what you’re sharing, you can be more relaxed about having a large number of LinkedIn connections.

There’s a lot more you can do with LinkedIn. Today I’ve simply focused on how not to fall into the trap of over-thinking connection requests. Adjust your settings to suit your needs, and leverage LinkedIn for what it can offer.

How do you use LinkedIn?

What can you say in 140 characters?

I’ve seen it again.

That perennial query from a non-Twitter user who derides the character limit of a tweet.

Today this question was posed in comments following an online newspaper article about Twitter and its news breaking capabilities: “What can you say that is real in 140 characters?”

There’s plenty you can say in 140 characters and to suggest that something important or valid requires a lot of words is ridiculous, really.

Barack Obama’s recent victory tweet was simply “Four more years”. Below are screenshots of tweets which have been able to impart a lot in a few words and would have been very important to various audiences:

IDF Tweet
IDF Tweet
Guardian Tweet
Guardian Tweet

 

ABC news tweet
ABC news tweet
Adelaide Crows tweet
Adelaide Crows tweet


Within 140 characters, Twitter users can:

  • Ask for a recommendation
  • Alert people to an accident or piece of news
  • Organise to catch up with a friend
  • Let others know about something they’ve discovered
  • Share an opinion
  • And much more …

But don’t think that you need to be confined to one tweet. As I’ve written previously in Twitter is the headline, it’s valid to publish a string of consecutive tweets.  And many tweets contain links to another web page, where authors can expand on topics.

Of course, the 140 character limit isn’t the only consideration we have when tweeting. We might want to leave room for our post to be retweeted (which will also include our own Twitter handle), so 100 to 120 character tweets may suit better.

Related Prakkypedia reading: Length doesn’t matter

Don’t forget to use link shortening services like Bit.ly or those within your social media dashboards like Hootsuite, to shorten website pages you’re sharing. (Bit.ly can also customise the URL you’re shortening).

I work with a lot of clients to deliver Twitter training and plan their approach to this fascinating platform. I’m also running public workshops – ” Twitter 101 for Business” –  here in Adelaide. The next one is Tuesday 4 December. Just email admin [at] prakky.com.au if you’d like to know more.

3 overlooked social tools

It’s important to remember that the social media world isn’t all Facebook, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Here’s my list of three underrated and overlooked social media tools/platforms:

1. Quora

Want the answer to a question? Quite often you’ll be tempted to turn to Google for a quick answer. Sadly, this can turn up reams of ageing or irrelevant content that you need to sift through – or even worse, direct you to one of those Answer websites.

This is where Quora can come in. It’s a sensational question and answer forum. You can submit questions, or search for questions and answers that might already be relevant to you. What’s more, you can Follow a Question which helps you keep connected to any further discussion or opinions. I dig it.

Granted, Quora’s not a platform I visit every week and not a space where you’d chat with friends. And you’ll undoubtedly come across answers which you think are bogus, some incomplete content, and also people touting for work. But that happens in most social networks and if you can forgive that, Quora can be extremely handy and shouldn’t be overlooked. In great Quora tradition, see this Quora question about using Quora.

See my Quora profile here: http://www.quora.com/Michelle-Prak

2.  Socialcam

This is one of several video apps I’ve been playing with over the past year (the others being Viddy and Tout). Socialcam is probably my favourite, for ease of use and reliability.

I’ve said previously that I’ve been surprised that social video sharing hasn’t been adopted more widely. I did think that if tools like Socialcam were available, a lot of people would enjoy sharing status updates or observations via quick, pithy video. But apparently they don’t. Not yet anyway. Perhaps it’s another sleeping giant like Pinterest or indeed Instagram. It can take time for the wider population to adopt new tools.

The other thing that’s perhaps holding Socialcam back, is that it may seem a little more invasive or scary to use. It’s easy for us to write a text update or share a photograph, but with video there can be sound aspects we’re concerned about – the sound or our own voices included – and also some nervousness about appearing on camera. Our friends may be more reluctant to take part, too. A lot of people just won’t be enthusiastic about being ‘live on social TV’.

Prakky Socialcam example: thieving kangaroo
Prakky Socialcam example: thieving kangaroo. Click to watch.

Socialcam is a little Instagram-like, in that it enables you to add a filter. It also gives you the option to add a soundtrack and a headline. Pretty groovy. And then of course, users have the ability to share their Socialcam work on the usual social networks …

Here’s Mashable’s Beginner’s Guide to Socialcam.

I have a growing number of connections on Socialcam and some brands are taking it up; but as yet it’s a quiet experience for me and thus features on my ‘underrated’ list.

As with any new social network, if you sign up with Socialcam, please check your settings straight away. There are some automatic posting options you may want to switch off (do you want all your Facebook friends to see the videos you’ve watched on Socialcam?) Not everyone is a Socialcam fan for this reason, read this  piece in Business 2 Community for more.

3. Buffer

I love, love, love Buffer.

I’m always looking for easier ways to share content that I find on Twitter, and Buffer has certainly made it easy. Add the Buffer tool to your browser and it’s a great experience.

When you come across an interesting website article, click the Buffer button and a tweet window opens with the website article headline embedded. You can add a few words for context (which I usually do) and choose to post the piece now, or ‘add to Buffer’ which gives the app the ability to send the tweet at the time it deems best.

If you highlight a sentence in that article (which is often an even better way to curate what you’re sharing), Buffer will draw that sentence into the tweet rather than the headline.

You can use Buffer for Facebook and LinkedIn too. Read about the tool in more detail in this piece on The Daily Egg.

You may already use bitly or schedule your posts in a dashboard like Hootsuite (both of which I still use) however I find Buffer is the winner for general article sharing. I stick with Bitly for more important, ongoing links (for example links to my own work or website) and for historical metric value, because I’ve been there so long.

I know a few pals who use Buffer, but for most audiences and clients I come across, it’s a tool they’re not aware of. So it rounds out this list of 3 underrated social tools.

Do you have any underrated tools you’d like to talk about? Or do you want to keep it all to yourself …

ABC radio segment: social media common questions

As many of you would know, since January this year I’ve been part of a regular social media segment on ABC 891.

It’s been fantastic fun to join Michael Smyth on Fridays after 4pm to discuss social media news, trends and tips. Last week we discussed the US election, my answer to one of the most common social media questions I’m asked and my first birthday in business! Michael even played a special tune .. well, a few bars.

You can listen here to the recording from last week.

I’m on again this Friday: listen online via Michael’s Drive site page. And I recommend following Michael on Twitter – he’s fun.

Silly tweets don’t die … they get retweeted around the globe

You know when you say something silly to your husband / friend / colleague and you’re glad they’re the only one there to hear you?

You can laugh about it. You can be corrected. You can be embarrassed and swear them to secrecy.

But occasionally today, what we say and do traverses to social media and it can have astounding repercussions.

This post has of course been prompted by the recent tweet of American Kristin Neel. See a screen grab below:

Kristin Neel tweet
Kristin Neel tweet

A lot of Australians found this tweet hilarious and happily corrected Ms Neel. And while she certainly wasn’t the only American who tweeted about fleeing to the land down under (as Buzzfeed collated), she did get her facts remarkably wrong.  Sadly, the following day Kristin Neel had deleted her Twitter account.

This story had me pondering a few things:

  • Millions of people share a lot of silly things on Twitter all the time. How did Kristin’s tweet get pushed to the fore?
  • What compelled Kristin to share these views of the Australian PM which were so clearly wrong? She can use Twitter, but she can’t use Wikipedia?
  • Will she leverage this experience by returning and trying to capitalise on this 140 characters of fame?

But it also reminded me of other people whose lives were affected by what occurred on Twitter.

Remember @theashes? Ashley Kerekes, a young American woman (and knitting enthusiast) became drawn into the cricketing world when Twitter users mistakenly began using her handle in their cricket commentary. Her account was inundated, leading her to tweet: “I’m not a freaking cricket match!” (In fact, her Twitter bio still contains that phrase).

This turned into a campaign called #gettheashestotheashes – and Ashley did indeed come to Australia to see a Test match in Sydney.

The Twitter ‘humiliation’ story that most gives me the creeps revolved around a model tweeting about a married actor allegedly hitting on her during a plane trip. She even took photographs. The actor apparently wasn’t aware he was being portrayed live on Twitter as a sleaze, and later went online to say the entire episode had been made up.

In this piece on that Stetten/Presley incident, the author says “Twitter … is like The Hunger Games for narcissists, where egos must compete in real-time mortal combat, skilfully walking the tightrope between being interesting and provocative”.

I’m glad that hasn’t been my experience …

Have you ever come under fire on Twitter and wished you could hide under the quilt?

Erico Fletcher, International Spam of Mystery

I’ve  got a secret to share.

I’m embroiled in a world of intrigue, at the centre of an epic tale that touches the far reaches of the globe.

I’m about to be entrusted with riches, thanks to various international people of mystery who have – luckily for me – stumbled across my email address and reached out to me for help in the midst of various unfortunate incidents and crises.

First, let me tell you about my friend Erico Fletcher, who writes to me thus:

“I am Erico Fletcher, a solicitor at law. I was the personal attorney to Eng. Donald M. Reain, a national of your country who used to work with an oil servicing  company here in the England, thereof be referred to as my client.”

I was stunned to read that Eng (no idea what that stands for – engineer? Englishman?) Reain at the tender age of 62 sadly lost his life in an Egyptian charter plane Boeing 737 which crashed into the Red Sea early on January 3 shortly after  taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Now, foolish Eng Reain left no clear beneficiary as Next of Kin. (Which leads me to speculate that perhaps Erico Fletcher, solicitor at law, is not such a good solicitor).

However, Erico is battling on valiantly and has sought my consent to present me as the next of kin “so that my late client’s funds will not be confiscated by the Finance Company.” (And here we must shake our fists at that evil Finance Company, no doubt run by Mr Burns).

At the same time as I was pondering how to help Erico out of his predicament, remarkably, Mrs Regina Moore came into my life:

“I am Mrs. Regina Moore, the wife of Dr. Robert Moore  from Holland, Who work with a America oil company in Africa  for twenty years before he died in the year 2003.”

Sadly, I cannot Skype Mrs Regina Moore, for:

“I don’t need any telephone communication in this regard because of my soundless voice and presence of my husband’s relatives around me always.”

Mrs. Moore (no relation to Roger Moore) tells me that “when my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of 2 .5 Million with a Bank.”

(Which bank?)

She would like to distribute these millions to “churches, orphanages and widows propagating the word of God and to ensure that the house of God is maintained”. (Later, she changes her mind slightly and says “It is my last wish to see this money distributed to charity organizations and NGO anywhere in the World in helping human race”. I think she was a Miss World contestant).

I’m heartbroken because Mrs Moore is “in a hospital  where I have been undergoing  treatment for esophageal cancer … and my doctors have told me that I have only a few weeks to live”. Thankfully, she somehow has access to the internet and email.

I realise the clock is ticking for Mrs Moore and plundering relatives surround her waiting for her demise, but I also have the added pressure of wondering what to do with Mr. Marco Smith Foreign Transfer Manager of the SnsBank Netherlands.

Mr Marco Smith recently related a story to me, apologising that: “This may sound strange and Unbelievable to you, but it is real and truth”:

“On routine auditing last month, I discovered an account that has been dormant for almost one years … The investor died … I am of the settled conviction that using my insider leverage and working with you can secure the funds in your bank account and use some of it for charity purpose, helping the needy instead of allowing it pass through has a bonded fund for the Authorities to share within themselves.”

Those evil Authorities. I bet they’re the same people behind the Finance Company.

Thank goodness Mrs Sara McMil was straight-to-the-point with her request for help. It saved me a lot of time:

“How are you doing today? Hope you are fine and doing well. I got your e-mail through a comprehensive search for a dependable person who can partnership with me in transaction of (£15,200,000.00) Fifteen Million Two Hundred Thousand Pound Sterling Only.  This transaction is Highly confidential and absolutely risk free. Please if you are interested kindly contact me via my below private e-mail for more details.”

This is  just another reason I’m glad I registered my details with DependablePersonsDotCom.

International Letters of Mystery Keep Reaching Me ...
International Letters of Mystery Keep Reaching Me …

My most trustworthy new friend is perhaps Kwame Bongani, a military man from Accra Ghana, West Africa. I’m  not sure why he contacted a social media consultant and stated “ I rely on you for quality advise on the investment areas that you may propose, because I’m a novice to business / investment, but I’m looking at investing on telecommunications or building of hotels”  .. but hey, whatcha gonna do?

He needs help with a “long time” investment plan for $25m US dollars.

Oh, plus 30kg of Alluvial Gold Dust.

He says:

“Remember I’m a military man with little Idea about investment strategies.”

The pressure’s on, because he requests “that we have a conclusive arrangement on this issue”.

I’ll tell you something else.

I’m absolutely intrigued by an email about an apparent consignment box intercepted in transit which belongs to me. When scanned it was estimated that the consignment contains valuable cash between $4.5 to $5 Million Dollars.

I’ve been emailed the following details, but I can’t for the life of me remember owning this:

Type: SUITCASE

Wheels: 4 wheels. Handles: Trolley handle with top & side handles Approximate Dimensions: Height: 3.20 ft, Width: 2.50 ft, Depth: 1.90 ft. Weight: 180lbs.

I must get in touch and ask if there’s a little bright green ribbon tied to the handle. Because then it is mine.

Enough about me. How are you? Hope you are fine and doing well. Please send me your contact address details, date of birth and bank account details so that I can promptly and securely process your blog post comments and we can save the human race  and propagate messages of peace throughout the world.*

*Don’t do that.

Want help with spam emails  or more information? Try:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Google GMail Help
Microsoft Office Help
Scamwatch, Australian Government

Melbourne Cup: the social media preview

In Australia, it’s called ‘the race that stops a nation’.

The Melbourne Cup has been held since 1861 and for the thousands that don’t make it trackside, we enjoy feeling part of the race by dressing up as if we’re there at Flemington Racecourse, laying bets, and sipping champagne with friends in front of massive TV screens.

Want to keep up with the Melbourne Cup on social media?

There seems to be a battle of the hashtags on Twitter right now, but I’m predicting #melbcup will win out because it’s memorable and easy. The official Melbourne Cup Twitter account seems conflicted, as it’s using #melbcup but it has #melbcupcarnival in its bio. (It’s easy for us to forget what we put in our bio – often months or years beforehand – so let’s forgive them, shall we?) #MelbourneCup seems to be winning out on Trendsmap right now, but when things get hurried, shorter hashtags often win out.

The Flemington Racecourse has a good Facebook page bubbling along, and you can keep up with news on the official YouTube channel. See the barrier draw video below:

There are a heck of a lot of unofficial Twitter accounts, including @themelbournecup  and @melbournecupnws. Sportsbet has listed 11 horse racing experts to follow on Twitter, which is mighty handy of them.

I enjoyed this tweet from Tom Ballard (currently most popular for #melbournecup on Twitter.com):

Tom Ballard #melbournecup tweet
Tom Ballard #melbournecup tweet

Of course, the Melbourne Cup is also about trackside fashions, and what better place to share fashion coverage than Instagram? Search #melbournecup or #derbyday on Instagram now for some inspiration, if you need it … There are also some Melbourne Cup pins on Pinterest, but for more helpful pins perhaps search terms such as ‘fascinator’ which gave me the results below:

'Fascinator' search on Pinterest
‘Fascinator’ search on Pinterest

Good luck everyone. I’ve got my fascinator ready and I’m looking forward to the afternoon off. I might even post a photograph or two.

How to Beat Status Stage Fright

One of the things social media newcomers sometimes fear is: having nothing to say in their status updates, tweets or posts.

Twitter newbies in particular can feel a great sense of pressure, as if ‘everyone is watching’. They might believe that they need to tweet weighty and valuable information, otherwise they’ll be laughed at and unfollowed.

Even Big Nate has stage fright
Even Big Nate has stage fright

One of the ways to alleviate this is to remember: it’s not all about you.

When you join Twitter or any online space, there’s often a conversation that is already occurring. You’re not jumping onto a soapbox or grabbing a microphone. You’ve gathered with some other people  in a room and so listen to what’s being said.

It’s also useful to remember this when you’re having difficulty coming up with new social media content. The content doesn’t necessarily have to be yours. Social media thrives on sharing and the curation of content.

So here are my tips for anyone experiencing Status Stage Fright:

  1. Go back over your recent feed and read what people have been sharing. Look for a subject that interests you, and respond  or reshare.
  2. If you’re feeling timid about joining a conversation,  don’t be afraid to be extra-polite and type in phrases like *interrupts*
  3. Get to know subject experts in your field or trusted sources and visit them regularly to see what they’ve been sharing. You might reshare, retweet or have a conversation with them. The best sources of content can be saved to things like Twitter Lists.
  4. Note your favourite hashtags on Twitter and visit them regularly. This can be a Saved Search on Twitter, or a stream in Hootsuite.
  5. If you manage a Facebook Page, roam over Facebook and Like other Pages that have reliable, reputable and relevant content. Reshare that content on your page, like or comment on it.
  6. Ask questions. You might ask your Facebook Page fans what information, tips or photos they want to see from you. Or just send out a general question on Twitter about a subject that’s interesting you now.

Don’t be paralysed with trepidation. Join a conversation. There are plenty of those happening!

Also read: Content calendars are king

You’re not expected to offer gems of wisdom within everything you post. And people certainly don’t want to follow tweeters who only broadcast or talk about themselves.

Show you’re interested in others and we just might be interested in you.

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