Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The fun of Twitter and my own Twitter renaissance

I first signed up to Twitter in March 2008. Like many social media sites, I think I just signed up because I thought I should, long before I knew if it would prove useful or whether I would even enjoy using it. (By the way, you can quickly find out how long you've been on Twitter by checking at the How Long Have You Been Tweeting site).

@amandakendle on Twitter - for nearly five years, so far!
Over the past five years, I have had phases where I've been obsessive about checking Twitter constantly, and phases where I may have barely looked into it for weeks at a time. Of course since I started working more seriously in social media I spend a lot more time there but it still comes in bursts - and right now, I'm having another Twitter renaissance. (Where does the time come from, you ask? Mostly because I'm not using Instagram quite as much right now.)

There are numerous reasons why I find Twitter so much fun, but I know when you are first thinking of stepping into the tweeting realm - or worse, when someone like me tells you that for the sake of your business you perhaps "should" be on Twitter - it can all seem a bit hard to imagine. The practicalities of how, what and when for Twitter are coming in a future post, but the fun? Well, I want to tell you all about that now.

So let me finish this sentence a few times: I love Twitter because ...
  1. I've "met" people on Twitter who I've later met in real life and they've become friends. I may not have come across them at all without Twitter; I certainly wouldn't have been friends with them so easily if I hadn't already "known" them online.
  2. When I really want to know something that's happening right now, Twitter is the best place to find out about it. I remember finding tweets from people in Korea when tricky North Korean incident wasn't yet in the news; when a police helicopter circles my suburb I head to Twitter to find out why, and usually do.
  3. The best advice comes from Twitter: a while back I asked for local recommendations for web designers for a client and got stacks of excellent info. Twitter users have also given me advice for dealing with a house accidentally emptied of chocolate.
  4. I get to talk to and find out about writers I admire. I especially love reading good fiction by Australian women writers and I love the chance to interact with them on Twitter - people like Kylie Ladd, Allison Tait, Sara Foster and Natasha Lester.
  5. There are fun and games. Like this:

  6. It's quick and easy fun. If I'm waiting for an appointment I can pull out my phone, open up Twitter and quickly read and tweet a little; it's something I can then put away without feeling like it's not finished.
  7. People are funny on Twitter. Even I can be funny on Twitter. I can't really explain it - something about writing such short updates, or something about how the culture of Twitter has grown over the years - but so many people are so funny.
  8. Last but very definitely not least, I get work via Twitter. People contact me because the see the kind of work I do, and want me to do the same for them. Can't complain about that!
I could go on, but those are some of the main reasons that I enjoy using Twitter. It's quite unique among social media tools, I think, in that you really can feel like you're building a direct one-to-one relationship with someone who you previously had no connection to - without spending a heck of a lot of time doing it. If we haven't met up on Twitter yet then come and find @amandakendle and say hello. I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The best social media podcasts which follow me around ...

Working in social media means that it's pretty important to stay on top of the latest news. Things change constantly and FAST. But, as well as work, I have a toddler and two shouty cats to deal with so I don't have a whole lot of spare time for reading. Thankfully, I recently rediscovered that I love listening to podcasts (I was a real podcast addict when I worked in the city and commuted on the train) and not only that, I've realised that there are a few free moments for listening - mostly while driving or doing housework.

It's taken me a couple of months to finalise a few podcasts that I reliably and consistently love but I've done it, and I thought I'd share them. (I'd also love some reader recommendations if you listen to something fantastic that's not on my list.) By the way, rather than linking to the not-friendly-to-everyone iTunes feed for these podcasts, I've tried to find a suitable web page where you can either listen straight away or get a link through to iTunes if you want.

  • Social Media for Small Business (from the Australian Businesswomen's Network). This is easily my favourite and probably that's because I really fit perfectly into the target demographic, and I think that the majority of my clients would find the same - so if you only listen to one podcast, make it this one. Each episode focuses on an interview with an expert about one topic (perhaps Twitter; maybe Facebook ads; always useful) with a bit of chat about current social media news at the front and some recommendations for apps afterwards. The presenters, Suzi Dafnis and Cat Matson, are both Aussie women and so I guess it's no surprise I feel an affinity towards them! Plus unlike pretty much every American-produced podcast I listen to, this one doesn't have a scarily-hyped intro (just some nice music) and ... well, it just really suits me. Try it.
  • Online Marketing Made Easy (Amy Porterfield) - I've long followed Amy Porterfield for quite a lot of useful social media stuff, and she has just recently started up this podcast. It's really listenable and includes lots of information - I thought the second episode on Content Marketing on a Shoestring Budget was especially useful.
  • The Human Business Way comes from Chris Brogan who is totally famous to internet geeky people like me. He's done all kinds of social media and blogging stuff in the past and this podcast comes out of his newish business "Human Business Works" which is perhaps a broader business/marketing kind of deal, but in any case the podcast has all kinds of interesting content that's relevant to many of us. Fan tip: keep listening after you think the podcast has ended because Chris always includes a little bonus bit!
  • Copyblogger: Internet Marketing for Smart People - Copyblogger is another "totally famous to internet geeks like me" site and recent episodes have featured gurus like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan, whose names may not mean much to all my readers but they do to me - enough to recognise that there's some quality stuff in here. 
Podcasts are pretty handy ways to keep in touch with what's happening and changing in the social media world but also to be inspired by some amazing people who are really at the forefront of it all - this crazy new world! I heartily recommend you try some of these - let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Ballerina Syndrome, or how keyword-rich titles are better than beautiful ones

There are two kinds of bloggers in this world: those who title a blog post based on what is about ("How to cook a lamb roast", for example) and those who believe a title should be clever, arty and/or beautiful ("What to eat even if Tom Cruise invites you to dinner" - watch this old Aussie TV ad for lamb if my clever title doesn't make sense to you).

Left to my own devices I am definitely the second type of blogger. Unfortunately, however, more successful bloggers are the first type. And this is all because of search engines.

For many (perhaps most) bloggers, the way the majority of your readers find your blog is by searching for you in a search engine. In other words, if you are looking for lamb roast tips, you may type "lamb roast", "cooking a lamb roast" or even my exact title, "How to cook a lamb roast", and Google or your search engine of choice will return a bunch of web pages that it believes are closely related to that topic. It doesn't take a genius to realise which of my two original title ideas will work best here.

Lots of people find this very difficult. So do I. If you have an interest in or (worse) a love of writing, then composing a fairly bland, accurately-descriptive title just doesn't sit well. Where is our chance to be creative, to show off our cleverness? Well, not in the title I'm afraid. Not in the age of the internet!

I've made plenty of mistakes in the title realm. Just look at my travel blog's name: Not A Ballerina! What on earth does that have to do with travelling? Worse, I end up with far too many visitors who have been searching for something related to ballet (search engines aren't very good at sensing the "Not" part) - can anyone tell me why people are often searching for "hairy ballerinas"? You can read the story of how the name came about, but it doesn't make it any better - it might be a nice story, but it doesn't make the name choice any more appropriate. I'm just too sentimental to part with it (and lose followers by changing domains, and so on) after eight years of blogging there.

However, I strongly recommend that you do what I say, not what I do. In class I've dubbed this problem of wanting beautiful titles and names "Ballerina syndrome" and I don't want you to succumb. As painful as it might be to some of you, give your blog post a title that sends a clear message about what the content of the post is about, and you'll find that a lot more people come along to read it. There is room enough to be clever and witty inside a blog post; don't be tempted to go the Tom Cruise route.

Although sometimes, like me, you can try to cram everything into the one title. It's my compromise approach. But ... you know, do what I say, not what I do.
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