Saturday, December 22, 2012

Farewell 2012 and let's bring on 2013 for some blogging and social media fun!

It's not quite the end of 2012, but as far as my business is concerned, I've been nearly on holidays since last week. "Nearly on holidays" is as good as it's going to get because this holiday season is actually a great time to fit in some preparation for 2013, having an extra babysitter at home for a fortnight! And that's fine by me, since I actually love what I do - having a bit of time to do some work is quite a pleasure, and I can always interrupt it by going out for a splash in the pool if my office gets too hot. Or just indulge on the chocolate gifts I hope Santa is bringing me (I promise I've been good).

For the first time, I've been trying to do some more serious reflection on the business year that was, and think harder about the business year ahead. Given that my business kind of started itself back in 2010, and that since then I've been juggling two lives as the mother of a toddler and a small business owner, I've never really stopped to think about these things and it's been a really valuable exercise. Especially in an area like social media which changes just SO rapidly, it's probably important to do it even more than once a year.

I've had lots of favourite bits of 2012, but some of the highlights were probably being asked to speak at the Media140 conference (especially because the venue, outdoors at the Northbridge Piazza, was pretty cool!), starting up my Kitchen Table Social Media workshops and having all the courses fill up quickly (thanks gang!), and continuing to meet new bunches of beginner bloggers at my UWA Extension Becoming a Blogger courses (and I'm very proud that each of these sold out. Go blogging!!).

So, what's in store for 2013?

If I knew the exact answer to this I'd be a squillionaire but I figure a bit of daydreaming doesn't hurt (and I dare my clients to do it too - go on!).

One of the things that I know is happening that I'm really excited about is almost more back in my freelancer days but is still definitely in the training field and that's the Globejotting: Learn to travel write course that I'm teaching from January. Also at UWA Extension I'll be running my regular Becoming a Blogger courses, some social media for business, and my advanced blogging course will get an outing too (one of my favourites!).

I've been thinking about how to focus my business on the parts of it that I love the most, and face-to-face training keeps coming to mind and because of that I'll definitely be running some more Kitchen Table workshops. Particularly since it's another great excuse to eat cake (see a new possibility for workshop cake below - I trialled it today and my not-particularly-cake-mad mother asked for a second piece!). My absolute favourite of these courses so far was "Writing Better Blog Posts" because I got to combine my love of blogging and social media with my love of writing, so I'm going to look at some more of these kinds of workshops in the future too.

What else? Well, since I'm heading to Europe for a month (yay!!) I'm going to need to figure out some more "location independent" ways to operate my business and taking off on a trip gives me excellent motivation to do this. And yes, there's a contradiction there in wanting to do lots of face-to-face training and then be location independent to travel but I figure it's all just a continuation of the juggling act of life.

Thanks and see you in 2013!

So, to all readers, clients, friends and anyone who's stumbled across this blog post hoping to learn more about social media or cake or both, I wish you all the best for the festive season and most importantly a fabulous 2013. Who knows what changes in social media await us in the coming year? Watch this space!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Kitchen Table Social Media workshops: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and chocolate cake?

It all started with a sudden urge to bake more chocolate cake.

Okay, that's not quite true. My Kitchen Table Social Media Workshops started when some of my previous blogging and social media students and clients started asking me if I did workshops on topic X or subject Y; and in particular when Jenny from A Taste of Travel sent me a wish list of courses she'd like me to run!

I had a think about my favourite way to run workshops and realised that I do love small, hands-on events, and even more than that I like a pause for cake where everyone can relax and chat! I wanted to run a series of workshops on quite specific topics that were both affordable and fun, but still financially worthwhile for me (although not so healthy ... I seem to be eating a lot more cake these days).

My very first Kitchen Table workshop was on Social Media Strategising and Scheduling - held with three very lovely Western Australian travel bloggers. I could tell you all about it but one of them, Jo from Zigazag, has written up a fantastic post about the workshop so hop over to "5 Tips for Social Media Strategising" and take a look (go on, I'll wait for you!).

Thanks to Jo/Zigazag for the pic!
Just as I'd hoped, the four of us could fit comfortably around (literally) my kitchen table, we could all hook up our laptops to the WiFi and we even managed to get through all of the workshop content I'd devised despite having three somewhat talkative women as my participants! And nobody complained that the chocolate cake was terrible.

Since then, my Kitchen Table has hosted a couple more workshops and has two more coming up for the year, a sold out one (Writing Better Blog Posts - probably my favourite because at heart, above everything else, I'm a writer) and one with two places remaining: LinkedIn for Bloggers and Small Business - I'll add the description below for a bit of marketing! High on my to-do list now is to plot out the workshops I'll be offering during 2013; I have several more topics that have already been requested and, just like a friendly radio DJ, I'm still taking requests - leave a note in the comments if there's a topic you want to learn about. In the meantime, I'm off to defrost the last piece of chocolate cake for my afternoon tea.

LinkedIn for Bloggers and Small Business
13th December 2012, 9.30am-12 noon - TWO PLACES AVAILABLE
LinkedIn used to just be for recruiters and job-hunters. The game has changed!
This 2.5 hour workshop will cover:
  • Optimising your LinkedIn profile
  • Strategies for connecting with others
  • Content to share on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn company pages – setting up if needed
  • Developing a schedule and strategy for your LinkedIn interaction
You’ll leave with the best possible LinkedIn profile and a list of actions and goals to continue to utilise LinkedIn in the future. You may also have a belly full of chocolate cake.
Maximum of 3 participants.
Cost: $100pp, payable in advance to secure your place
You’ll get the most out of this course if you’re able to bring a laptop with you, plus your LinkedIn username and passwords – if you don’t have an account, set up the bare basics before you come. WiFi is available.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So you want to know all about Instagram?

Hi there! It's me! On Instagram! I've been getting lots and lots of questions about Instagram lately, and no wonder, because it's got at least 100 million users, and even amongst my circle of friends it's used by a few people who otherwise don't have much involvement with social media. So there must be something good about it, right? It is definitely fun. I've been using Instagram since December 2010 (and only just realised that it only started in October that year - for once I was right on the money!) and I know that if I had a few more minutes in each day, it's something I'd use a lot more, mostly because of the fun aspect. So, to answer all those people who've been asking me: What on earth is Instagram?

Instagram is an app - which means you need to have a smartphone to use it (iPhone or Android). It's an app that helps you turn normal looking photos into something either more fun or more beautiful or both. You can take a picture while you're in the Instagram app, or you can use it (on your phone) to edit a photo you've got stored there.

Once you've either taken or chosen your photo, you can apply (just by tapping) different kinds of filters. They alter the colours, shades and style of your photo, and often add different borders too. I found it especially useful with my old iPhone since the photo quality wasn't that great, but I could make a pretty bad photo look a whole lot better using Instagram filters. And not just better, but funkier! There are a few other editing tricks you can use like hitting the "tilt-shift" button (it looks like a raindrop) and making just one part of the picture remain in focus - like my cat's eye, below. The other special thing about Instagram is that its images are all square - think back to the Polaroid days.

After that you can publish your photo to your Instagram stream (so other Instagram users can see it), you can email it to people, and you can share it on other social media like Facebook and Twitter (it's a pretty simple matter to connect your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts to your Instagram account).

Once you've shared your photo, then that's where the "social media" bit of Instagram comes into play. Other people can "like" your photo, or leave a comment, and you can "follow" other users whose images you like, as well. Just like any old social media, really!

The big news last week was that Instagram has finally released profile pages that you can see on the internet, not just through the app on your smartphone. It'll be interesting to see where that leads. Oh, and you should know that although Instagram was started up by some clever Californians it was acquired by Facebook this year although they say they'll allow it to "operate independently", whatever that means.

If you're on Instagram, or you download it to have a play after reading this, then connect with me so I can see the beautiful pictures you make - my username is the fairly predictable amandakendle. Happy Instagramming!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Being polite and formal enough in the social media age

Of the many varied jobs I've done in my life, quite a few of them have allowed me to exercise my "stickler-for-correct-grammar" gene. I've proofread academic journals, and I've taught English as a second language. I have emailed committee chair people to complain about a document that uses "it's" when it should be "its". Yes, it can be said, I like things to be correct, at least most of the time*.

Spotted in a bookshop, apparently! Eeekk!
With the advent of character limitations for text messages and for sites like Twitter, there is a kind of excuse out there for being lazy or slack about grammar rules, correct spelling and the like. And of course there are all those companies who use "R" in their name to represent "are". Would an extra two letters really have killed you? But despite these excuses, I think that a good 95% of the time there is no reason not to use good English when you write something - especially if that something is going to be published online for all the world to see for eternity.

It's not just about grammar and spelling, either. You have to use the level of formality and politeness that the situation demands. Call me a boring old Generation X-er but there is nothing wrong with being polite and friendly at the same time.

My rant: Replies to an advertisement

And I have some examples. Every year or so, I have to advertise to find a new tenant for a small apartment I own in Perth. Every year or so, I complain for days on end to anyone who'll listen about the quality of the replies I get.

Just a few examples, with names changed to protect the not-so-innocent (oh, hang on ... most of them didn't even include their names!) ... and note that the snippets below aren't extracts, they are the entire email messages these people sent to me (yes, emails, with no limit on how many characters they could use).
is this place still available?
Hello, Interested in this Rental. Would be able to rent ASAP. please contact me as I would like to view this property. 
 Hi there. Curious about this apartment As me and my partner are looking for somewhere to live. It seems perfect for the both of us. Willing to pay rent every week as we both work fulltime. Please get back to me. [This is better than others, but I love the fact that they are willing to pay the rent every week! Fantastic!]
The first thing that strikes me is this - if "ur" too lazy to use a few extra keystrokes, are you going to be too lazy to keep my unit clean? Or to pay the rent on time? And if they don't feel introducing themselves is necessary, what's that all about? I should add that there's a massive demand for rentals in Perth at the moment so they really should be thinking about a better approach. Honestly - I just delete all of these ones and focus on the people who bother to introduce themselves.

What's this got to do with social media?

So what about if you're posting on Facebook or Twitter, or writing a blog post? It's the same: get it right! Use correct spelling, check your grammar. Don't use dumb abbreviations unless absolutely necessary (even on Twitter, I generally just rewrite an important tweet to avoid using "u" or "r" to stand in as words).

A lot of people confuse the idea of writing in a casual style with not caring about writing correctly. I can't emphasise enough that they are totally different things. Even if a proportion of your readers don't notice your spelling mistakes or aren't annoyed by your abbreviations, I promise you that plenty of them will be annoyed by it. In a well-known example, online shoe store Zappos paid people to correct grammar and spelling errors in customer reviews and this increased their revenue - people place more faith in something they read when it's accurate.

This may mean you need to get a friend to proofread your work ... this may mean you need to get back to basics and brush up on grammar. I think it'd be worth it. The way I see it, the way what you write is perceived on social media is a vital part of the perception that people have of you and your business - and you definitely want that perception to be good, don't you?

*And I hope to goodness that there are no such errors in this blog post!

Image credit: via Flickr/CC

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New bloggers and new blogs on a sunny October day

One of my favourite ways to spend a Saturday, I have to admit, is running my one-day blogging course for UWA Extension. I know, it's not exactly cool to love working on the weekend but it is honestly just heaps of fun to meet a dozen or more bloggers-to-be and turn them into published bloggers by the end of the day.

New bloggers working hard
So as you might guess, today was another one of those days. I was trying to count how often I've run this course in the past two and a half years and this might have been the tenth time, I'm not sure! I feel like we should have had cake! Of course, we did have some chocolate to keep us going, although of all the bloggers I've met, these ones liked chocolate the least. Which is not such a terrible thing because it means I have a couple left over to munch on while I write this post.

Every group of new bloggers is different - last time, for example, a big proportion of them were planning to blog for very specific business-related reasons. This time was different again and we had a number of aspiring novelists, people with passions to share and a couple of business bloggers with some fun ideas. It was also interesting that we had lots of bloggers come in pairs - two sisters, an aunt and nephew and an aunt and niece - I love the idea of keeping blogging in the family!

View from lunch
What impressed me even more was that as well as not wasting precious minutes eating chocolate, this group were by far the most conscientious I've ever had. Despite enjoying this amazing view over lunch, they all raced back as soon as their last mouthful was done and got straight back onto their blogs again, writing their About pages or fiddling with their design. I have a good feeling that a large number of today's new bloggers will still be blogging in a few months' time.

Without further ado, let me introduce some of our brave new bloggers:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Using social media on your travels

I spent yesterday evening at the Scarborough Library here in Perth chatting with a bunch of travel-mad locals about how best to use social media on your travels. As usual at these kind of library talks, I get to meet a variety of people with varying levels of expertise in social media but this group had another interest in common, which made for lots of interesting interaction.

What I hadn't expected (although it's logical, in retrospect) was that most of these attendees are planning incredible trips for 2013! One is headed to Everest Base Camp, another to scale Kilimanjaro, yet another to drive around the United States for a year, someone spending six months backpacking around South America ... the list goes on. To say I was a little envious is an understatement!

Fortunately, I managed to (more or less) get over my jealousy and continue to tell them all about the possible social media tools they might consider using to keep family and friends back home informed about their travels, and to reach new friends (and even strangers!) to get information to help them on their trips.

We covered enormous ground in just an hour, talking about Facebook, Twitter, blogging and Instagram and you can imagine I was rather thrilled when it sounded like a few new blogs might be some of the aftermath of the talk! As usual, I also learned a lot - for example, I hadn't realised to what extend Cuba blocks social media and this will be a communication stumbling block for one of last night's attendees who's planning to spend a month there as part of her South American jaunt.

Of course, being there is the best option but if you couldn't make it, here's the overview of what we talked about.

Thanks to Stig Nygaard for the Kilimanjaro pic

Monday, October 8, 2012

Basic but essential Facebook: Checking your privacy settings

Whenever I'm working with a client on their computer, or I have students in a computer lab and we even vaguely mention Facebook, I'm very vigilant on teaching them one thing: how to check their Facebook privacy settings.

Depending on when you set up your Facebook account, your privacy settings may or may not be private - if you've never done anything about it, then it's well worth spending a couple of minutes checking, and this is how.

Thankfully, the system is much simpler than it used to be, and the "average" private setting is to allow only your friends - that's the people who you approve to be friends - to see what you post. To do this, click on the little (almost hidden!) arrow at the top right of your Facebook page:

Yes, you should be able to find it with my huge big orange arrow pointing at it, right?! Once you click on that you'll get a drop down menu, so choose "Privacy Settings" from toward the bottom of the list.

Your Privacy Settings screen will look something like this:

The important part is the second half of this image - Public, Friends or Custom. You can basically ignore Custom - it doesn't offer anything that's important to many people - but I strongly recommend you switch your Privacy Setting to Friends instead of Public, if that's where it is.

During my courses, the only other tweak I strongly suggest to Privacy Settings requires a scroll a little further down the page to the second section labelled "Timeline and Tagging". This can give you the option of screening stuff (photos or updates) your friends post before it ends up on your profile page. The default options are a bit less private than what I (personally) think is OK - of course, it's up to you! But if you're interested, these are the options I choose:

And one last word or two. Whatever you put on Facebook, make sure you're theoretically OK with anyone in the world seeing it. I don't mean that you should be paranoid and complain about Facebook, but you should realistically remember that once something's "out there", it can theoretically end up anywhere - whether your friend leaves their Facebook page open at work and someone else sees it or someone forwards your status or photos to a friend - anything can happen, even though it probably won't, but just be smart about what you post online.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The "dip in" theory of social media

After asking me "how can I unfriend someone on Facebook and will they know?", the second-most common question I hear from clients and course participants is "How do you have time to keep up with social media?"

I have a few answers, starting mostly with tapping my smartphone and suggesting they might need one too (honestly, I need all the help I can get and a smartphone makes me a tad smarter, or at least more able to do stuff when I get a spare moment), they may well need to lock themselves in the bathroom to read their Twitter stream but most importantly, you don't have to keep up with everything!

Using smartphones on the train (to keep up with social media?!) via Retinafunk
When I show people how to use their Facebook news feed or to follow people on Twitter, they often ask "How can I delete all those updates when I've read them?" People want to start again with a clean slate. They want to think they've seen everything or, perhaps more importantly, not missed anything. I always try to explain that social media just doesn't work like that. You have to "dip in" when you can, have a look around, have a few conversations, share something, find new people or pages, and then head back out again into the real world. Whether you have time to do this for five minutes a day, or thirty minutes twice a week, or whatever, that's your social media time budget and that's fine.

In an interesting piece on social media rejection, the ever-wise Valerie Khoo has some sage words:
For those of you getting overwhelmed by the number of Tweets you are viewing, just remember … you don’t have to read every single one of them. That’s just insane. I thought Twitter was best described by US technology journalist and uber-podcaster Leo Laporte. He suggests that you think of Twitter like a river. And every so often you stand on the bridge that crosses the river and watch what goes by. You don’t have to keep up with what went past a few hours (or days) ago and you can step off the bridge at any time. But while you’re on it, you may choose to interact and respond to whatever you see going past at the time.
My sentiments exactly! Never, ever feel like you need to keep up with everything on social media. That's not the point of it. I know, for example, that on Twitter feeds I manage, I schedule the same message to run a few different times simply because that's the way it works - people just pop in now and again and see what's there at the time.

So relax. Dip in, enjoy, then get out and do something else. That's social media. Easy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thanks Facebook: A school reunion made even more fun

Over the weekend, I attended my 20th high school reunion. (Yes, go on, do the calculations, I already know the answer: that makes me OLD!). Five years ago, I went to my first reunion, having been overseas when the ten-year reunion took place. There was a huge difference between these two events, and funnily enough, the reason for that is simple: Facebook!

Back in 2007, Facebook was just starting up (it only opened up to the general public in 2006) and I had got in touch with a handful of old school friends there. In the vast majority of cases at the fifteen-year reunion, I knew nothing of the life and times of my old classmates and they knew nothing of me, so I felt like I spent the entire evening regurgitating my life-story-since-high-school and asking other people for theirs. To be honest, that got a bit exhausting and I ended up not saying hello to at least half of the people I would have liked to catch up with.

Twenty years ago ... of course we all look just the same now ;-)
Wind the clock forward to now, and Facebook is as invasive and pervasive as ... something that's really, really pervasive! The reunion itself was organised almost exclusively via a private group on Facebook, and I've become "friends" with nearly all of the classmates I could remember from high school. While we may not have physically seen each other for a long time - in quite a few cases, the full two decades - we knew quite a lot about whether or not we were married, how cute our various children were, and all kinds of other things that we'd gleaned from various Facebook updates over the years.

And I think this made the reunion extra-wonderful. I could go up to a long-lost friend and say hello and we could skip the boring "What are you doing now?" and cut straight to the "I loved the pictures of your Bali holiday" and "Did you decide what to do about that job offer?" kind of discussions. Conversations that mean a bit more than just regurgitating your CV. Conversations that were different for every person I spoke to. And there were even people who told me they often read my blog! I had no idea (and was so excited to hear it).

When I run Facebook talks and courses, there are usually a couple in the crowd who want to harp on about all the "bad stuff" about Facebook, and I counter with a big list of "good stuff". The reunion on the weekend proved it to me again - there is definitely some really "good stuff" about using Facebook.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social media is evolving. Fast!

Every month or two on a Saturday morning I get to take a lovely drive along the river to get to the Futuresphere at Christchurch Grammar School here in Perth - it's the venue for all my computer lab-based courses for UWA Extension. Without fail I pass by large bunches of cyclists enjoying the relatively quiet roads and the scenic route along the Swan and it always puts me in just the right frame of mind to meet and teach a new group. It's become quite a nice routine over the last couple of years!

Part of my driving view - thanks to borkazoid
This morning I headed off in beautiful sunny weather (yes, slightly jealous of those who could enjoy one of the first warm days here) and taught a half-day course called "Facebook, Twitter and more". It's basically an introductory course to Facebook and Twitter with a little preview of other social media thrown in (this time, that included Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+).

Anyway, what struck me about this course on my drive home (not so scenic - I drive a more direct way then, keen to get home to my family) is how much it and its audience has changed over the last couple of years. Sure, Facebook specifically and social media in general have both changed a lot since I started teaching this classes but what's changed more is what people know about them. They really know a lot.

(Computer lab pic from FailedImitator - not the same computer lab that I teach in!)

Back when this class began it was called "Safe social networking" and it was squarely aimed at parents of teenagers. It sold out for the first three or four runs. Then the parents stopped needing to come. They were all on Facebook already, I think! So we rejigged the course a little and it became a social media introduction (and Facebook in particular) for pretty much anyone. This kind of worked, but this morning at least half the class already had some experience of Facebook and Twitter and even more surprisingly (for me), they didn't need it for personal use, but they wanted to learn how to use Facebook and other social media to help promote their businesses. I was pretty amazed - this is a huge shift in knowledge in probably less than eighteen months. But it does make me feel like I'm in the right business ;-) As long as I can keep up with all the changes!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My bewildered blogging friend proves content is king if you want to "go viral"

Every now and then one of my clients will send me an email or casually ask me at the end of a session something along these lines: "How can I go viral?"

They've seen a photo or video or blog post go wild around the world and produce incredible amounts of promotion for someone else, and they want to do the same. And they hope - and I can understand that hope - that there is some magic formula to make this happen.

Of course, when you sit down and think about it for a few moments, you know there can't be. There's a combination of factors that will help some little piece of the web go viral but really the only thing you can control is quality. If you create lots of online content that is high quality, then you're increasing your chances of people wanting to spread your little bit of the web to friends and colleagues across the world. And I have a great example to prove it!

A few months back, I was sipping my cup of tea in playgroup when I overheard some of the other mothers talking about "some internet thing" they'd be forwarding to all their friends. My ears pricked when I heard them mention it was about having three kids. I asked them for some more details and sure enough, it was the blog post I suspected it might be, written by my blogging student (and friend) Shannon, owner of the parenting blog Relentless.

Shannon wrote a post called The Brutal Truth About the Third Child when she was pregnant with, as you might guess, her third child. It's a beautifully-written comparison of parental experiences as the first, second and third children are born.

She didn't promote this post in any unusual way - she posted it on her Facebook page as normal, and that was it. Suddenly, it started getting massive amounts of internet traffic, and the reason was simple: people loved it and wanted to share it with their friends. Shannon started to email me with questions like "Should I reply individually to every single comment?" when it began to get dozens and dozens of comments, well more than the usual half a dozen she would feel lucky to get. I watched as numerous of my friends shared it on Facebook - and not because I'd told them about it, either. Her Facebook fan page follower number jumped dramatically, enough to make me rather jealous, I must admit!

Half a year later, Shannon's blog goes from strength to strength, but the massive boost she received from that one post going viral is still having a huge effect on the amount of interaction she gets, both on the blog and her blog's Facebook page. And for me, it's absolutely proof of what I always tell clients who ask me "the viral question" - it's all about quality.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Save some time with Facebook scheduling

I work with all kinds of different clients, but increasingly, a whole swag of them have a Facebook business page, and complain that they don't have time to update it as regularly as I'm advising them too. In the past, I've advised them to use scheduling sites like Hootsuite, but in most cases, I can already see their eyes glazing over as I'm explaining how it works, and I can see them thinking - *another* site I have to remember how to log in to?

Thankfully, Facebook seems to have figured this out and have implemented a reasonably workable solution. It's not perfect and it's a bit cumbersome but it works (nearly all of the time ...) and the post comes out looking how you want it to.

You can now schedule posts from within Facebook - and that means posts with images, links or just simple status updates - for up to a year ahead. This means you don't have to log in to Facebook twice every day to post something, and you can sit down for a half hour or so at some stage during your week and schedule content for the days ahead (or up to a year ahead, if you're super-keen!). If this sounds like something you need to try, here are some instructions:

1. Log in to your Facebook account and "Use page as ...[your business page]" from the drop-down arrow at the top right of your screen.

2. Click in the "What's on your mind?" box on your page profile and create a post as normal (add a photo, a link, write a status update).

3. Behold the magic schedule button: this small clock that appears at the bottom left corner of the status update box. Click it!

4. This part is the cumbersome bit, but it works - choose the year, then the month, then the day, then the hour, then the minute (I did say it is cumbersome!). You can spread our your content across the week and also try to post it at the optimal times for your "likers" to see it.

5. Ta-da! Done! And you have no more excuses for not putting out some at least semi-regular updates on your Facebook business page.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How do delete a friend in Facebook ... and will they know?

"How can I unfriend my Facebook friend?"

If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked this question at one of my social media talks or courses, I would be quite a lot richer. I must say, it makes me giggle that people who are just learning how to use Facebook are already so keen to know how they can "unfriend" someone they allowed to be friends with them in the first place - but I know that in the flurry of seeing familiar old faces it's easy to "friend" people who you later don't really want to have so much contact with.

So, the simple answer is: go to your friend's profile page by clicking on their name or searching for them. Under their cover photo, on the right, next to "Message", you'll see a drop-down arrow - click on it and you'll get this box:

And then just click on "Unfriend", and they're gone!

"Will this person know that I have unfriended them?"

This is the second most popular question at my courses, always following close on the heels of the first. See, we're all still wanting to be polite about this, and that's fair enough!

Fortunately, the answer is - probably not. They don't receive any notification that you have unfriended them. However, if they think of you (perhaps when they think they haven't seen your updates for a while) they can go to your profile page, and they will then see that you're not friends. That means if you're considering "unfriending" someone who you know well or who has only a handful of friends so a missing one will be quite obvious, then you might need to reconsider. I save "unfriending" for people I don't know, or who I've forgotten! - for example, former ESL students who I don't have any contact with anymore (and they've probably forgotten me too), or primary school friends who I haven't seen in twenty or (gulp) thirty years! There is another solution.

"Can I reduce what I see from certain friends?"

And finally, a lovely gentleman who came to one of my library talks on social media, Ron, emailed me recently to ask how he could "tone down" the amount of updates he sees from a friend who was flooding his news feed. You know those friends - either they update sixteen times a day, or they post every internet link they've visited, or worst of all, they're playing some of those annoying Facebook games and have their every move posted for us to read. It's an excellent question.

So, when you are looking at your news feed and you see a post from a friend you'd rather see less from, hover your mouse over the post until you see another drop-down arrow in the top right area of the post (you can see it below - it doesn't appear until you hover over the post). Click on it, and you get the following options.

Choose from "All updates", "Most updates" or "Only important updates" and you should see either more or less updates from that particular person. Similarly, if you don't want to see updates from Facebook games, hover over an update in your news feed, click the drop-down arrow and you'll have options for not seeing posts from various games. The best part about this solution is your friends have absolutely no way of knowing that they've been "toned down", unless they steal your password and log in as you! PS, to my friend Anita, shown in the example above: no way am I unsubscribing from you! You're just the example that popped up in my news feed ;-) We are definitely "All updates" kind of friends!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Speaking at Media140's DigitalMe conference: "Let's blug - putting the "u" into blogging"

The Media140 DigitalMe day took place last Friday and I spoke in the afternoon - and I have to admit that before I showed up I was a little nervous about speaking at the Northbridge Piazza. I don't know why it felt any different from a lecture theatre or conference hall but being outdoors with a giant screen above my head seemed to change things! Of course, once I arrived and discovered 99% of the audience were sitting on beanbags, I relaxed. The only bad thing was that as a presenter, I had to stand on stage rather than sit in a beanbag. They should look at that for next time round ;-)

Anyway, I wanted to reiterate some of the main points I made in the presentation - all about putting voice into your blog. The title, to be accurate, was "Let's blug: Putting the "u" into blogging"; I wanted to talk about how it's not just enough to have a cool design and post regularly, but that also the way you write is still a really vital part of blogging. I'm a "words girl" at heart, and the words of a blog are important to me, and I want them to be important to other bloggers, too.
My minimalist slides below will give you an overview of what I spoke about ... more details underneath.
Basically, the most important point that I hoped people would take away from seeing the examples I gave was that bloggers who people really take notice of and keep going back to are the ones that have figured out their blog's voice - they've managed to inject their personality into their blog in such a way that readers feel they have a trusted relationship with the blogger, they want to keep reading them and they want to tell their friends about them. When I explain it as putting "you" into your blog, I certainly don't mean that you need to divulge personal or private details, but that you need to write in such a way that readers feel they know you, and they can recognise your writing style, too. The examples I gave came from varied niches, and I also mentioned during the talk that the public-outdoor-venue G-rated nature of the conference meant I'd had to exclude a number of my favourite blogs! This is not to say that I'm usually a reader of Adult-Only blogs, but G-rating is a pretty big restriction. Some of the blogs that lay on my cutting room floor because of that are on this list - the first five are the ones I featured in my talk:
  • Edenland - particular Eden's posts on her World Vision sponsored visit to Niger, Africa - lots of honesty (a good way to have "you" in your blog, but not the only way)
  • Life in a Pink Fibro - from multi-talented freelance writer Allison Tait, and I must admit to calling her the Seinfeld of blogging because some posts are kind of about nothing but I am utterly compelled to read them - that's voice!
  • Why Evolution is True - recommended by a male friend when I realised the target demographic of all the blogs I'd chosen was women - but I agree thoroughly with his recommendation.
  • Aussie on the Road - one of many travel blogs that sound like someone's just having a chat with you - a good way to develop a voice.
  • Styling You an award-winning blog in Australia and actually makes me want to read about fashion despite having no interest in the topic - that's voice, too!
  • Parenting, with Crappy Pictures (I wonder if Amber realised that using "crappy" would mean people would have to exclude her from G-rated days?) - one of the "voiciest" blogs I know!
  • Jeff Goins, Writer - Jeff writes a lot about blogging and even includes some great posts on voice now and again.
  • Free-Range Kids - I've seen a few videos of Lenore speaking and she writes exactly like she talks - and gets her (important) point across.
Hmm. I'm sure there are a stack more great blogs that I eliminated from my presentation for various reasons, but they fail to emerge for me right now, so I'll come back and add to this list later. In the meantime, I summed up the day with a list of "secret rules" to get some voice into your blog, and I think they're worth repeating: 
  • Blog for yourself - not trying to impress, and don't expect everybody to like you - thinking it's a popularity contest will severely limit your ability to have a natural voice 
  • Write what you'd like to read - if I read over my post the next day and actually enjoy it and want to keep reading, I figure I'm doing OK 
  • Blog like you talk - without the ums and aahs - but if you are stuck writing too formally then try to imagine you are just on the phone telling a friend all about the topic, then write it down like that 
  • Break grammar rules (but know them first) - a good rule of thumb for many kinds of writing but works especially well for blogs 
  • Read your posts out loud - this will help you catch posts that sound too stilted or formal 
  • Don't be too slang, and don't be too formal - don't write like it's a text message, but it's not a business report either 
  • Be honest, be daring, be a little afraid - if you're anxious when you hit publish you're probably on a winner 
  • Have your own style (format, word choice) - make an effort to be consistent with how you write so that it sounds like "you" 
  • Write from the heart, no matter what topic - you can be passionate about dishwashers if you want to be! 
Anyway, the presentation went well and generated a bit of talk on Twitter, and some of that's below:

If you've got any examples of your own of blogs with great voice then I'd love to hear about them, so please leave the URLs in the comments below.
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