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
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