Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy halloween

Happy Halloween :) I thought this was a funny picture.
:) Happy Halloween. We are cancelling all illness and turning the flu into pumpkins. Picture via Janet Liang: The Chemo Experience, from her blog Autumn in January.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm friendly but I have rules

I took a Saturday class, ‘Hands on Small Business,’ to understand how businesses can take advantage of social media. I dabble in what I thought was everything and wanted to see what I might be missing. Plenty. I received an introduction to Office Live, strolled through Kirtsy, and helped my proximity partner understand a bit about Twitter.

Twitter I get. I’ve got like a bazillion accounts. Well, two, me and my twin. She’s all about business, I’m all about fun.

When you’re a small business, your biggest issue is cash flow. Social media allows a small business, (and what is a writer other than a small business?) to reach beyond a geographical location (your butt in a chair in front of your computer getting inspiration from other writers). It offers ways to collaborate with professionals (publishing peeps), and research experts to pimp your publishable stuff (agents).

Social media allows you to jump in the stream without an outlay of cash.

The class taught us to use cloud computing (use products that don’t land on your laptop or your server). This stuff lives out there in the netherland and is managed by someone else. It is at this point I wish I had a lot more complicated words so I could really impress you that it was a hard class, and that I’m really smart. Just pretend: It was a hard class, I am really smart.

Katherine Gray, the teacher, is a ten-year veteran of online marketing. She is a social media maven who consults on web-design, site architecture, and she is a content strategist. In her Twitter life she is @thiskat and @dirttodish. (Oh, and @dirttodish is about food. Remind me not to cook any of her recipes. That is a two-way joke. I don't cook).

Katherine is really smart, and she makes it happen by being a woman mentoring other women, and finding sponsors like Microsoft who pitched in a prize: Office Small Business ($449.95 value). Katherine had a drawing. I didn’t need win. Here is where we pretend I am smart, an excellent student, and lucky.

Since we’re pretending, we shall also say I am a twitterable expert, and I will share what I have learned after posting 2,000+ tweets.

When I become a bit more adept at Office Live and Kirtsy (holding out for prizes here) I’ll post my experiences.

Twitter. Let’s define the basics.


RT = retweet, this is copying someone’s tweet. It appears like this:

RT @TheFirstCarol: she said blah blah blah (You may enter your twitter account and copy this exactly as written. I won’t mind and I might follow you).

The RT credits whoever originated the thought. People who originate thoughts appreciate when you repeat their words and give them credit. This is the smile factor. Make someone smile.

@ = The @ sign is coding. It comes before someone’s twitter name, it highlights their name. (Here’s the complicated stuff, so pay attention…).When you start a tweet with someone’s name @theFirstCarol, for example, only TheFirstCarol will see your message, and anyone who both you and TheFirstCarol follows. This excludes everyone who does not follow both of you.

.@ = The .@ preceeded by a period .@theFirstCarol, allows everyone who follows you to see what you are writing. This is inclusive.

If you want to see everyone who is talking about to you in a stream (on your wall), look on the right hand column of the Twitter screen and click on the words @theFirstCarol (or whatever your name on Twitter is). This will gather all the messages in a stream. This will make you feel good.

DM = direct message - this is like sending an email, only the recipient sees a DM message. It never appears in your twitter stream and it does not appear in the sender’s stream. To view a DM, the recipient needs to be on their ‘Home’ page they have to click on the words ‘Direct Message.’ To the right of the words ‘direct message’ there is also a number. This tells you how many direct messages you have received. You send DM’s by clicking on ‘Direct Message.’

Unless you are using a client such as Co-Tweet or Hootsuite you will have to check the ‘@’ sign on your home page to see a stream of your messages. Ms. Gray, recommends Co-Tweet for a business who will have more than one person tweeting. Hootsuite works well for individuals.

OV = overheard, something you heard in real life. You would write:
OV @TheFirstCarol talking smack about having more followers than @Scupperlout #whatabraggert (Sure, tweet THAT, I won’t mind. I like attention).

# = hash tag, organizes an event #bwe9 (Blog World Expo 2009), or thought #beatcancer It puts your tweet into the stream with others using the same hash tag. Our class used the hash tag, #hosb (Hands on Small Business). There is a white bar on the right hand side of your Twitter screen where you can type in a word such as #hosb. When you do this you will see the stream, who is using it. You can also simply click on these specific words, or click on anything highlighted in your Twitter stream, and it will take you to the specific stream or web-site.

The hashtag can also emphasize a thought, #newfriends #wierd #quote, or make one up, #iamnotdense

Follow Friday - on Friday’s you will see tweets saying #FF or #FollowFriday This means they like this person and are encouraging others to follow that person. It is important that you ALWAYS say #FollowFriday @TheFirstCarol, like every Friday, okay? It’s a good thing, just do it.

Who to follow and why I might not follow you:

When someone follows me, I get an email and I go to Twitter and check them out. I click on ‘Follows’ (who they are following). Eventually, I will find @TheFirstCarol in their list of who they are following. If I am too deep into their list, i.e., more than three pages back, I don’t follow them. I assume they are only interested in having a big number, not a conversation. If they later RT me or @ me and demonstrate they are interested in a conversation I follow back.

I also check to see if the person has a web-site. If yes, I go to the web-site and if it says, INCREASE YOUR TWITTER FOLLOWING, or if it’s a blatant sales offering, I don’t follow. They are more about pushing something on me so they can make money. That’s not fun at a cocktail party and its not fun on Twitter. If their Twitter streams says, “get whiter teeth” I do not follow. If they have naughty pictures or invitations to see them naked, I do not follow back. If they have no RT’s or no @’s in their Twitter stream I do not follow. That is someone pushing information and not engaging with anyone else. Boring.

If everything in their stream is the EXACT same post:

@adamflater Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

@Hannah899 Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

@LouisPagan Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

@avadakedevra Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

This is a bot. It is on autopilot. It sends an auto post whenever you tweet their magic word. Again, who wants to talk to a machine? I’ll pass.

Get a Picture.

You need an Avatar. An avatar is the picture that represents you on the social media site. If the person who follows me does not have an avatar I do not follow them. If no picture, they may be a short-timer, not that interested, not that interesting. They need to care about their Twitter adventure enough to invest the time to put up a picture.

Write a bio.

This is one in the settings mode. Let it represent your personality. Be who you are. If you’re not funny, don’t force it. You can re-write it, edit it until it’s perfected and you feel a need to re-write it again. It is not set in stone. Experiment.

Say Thank You.

I thank my followers. I plan this on Hootsuite which allows me to write the tweet and send it at a later date. I can do this at my leisure when I have time to do a batch of days. I choose the day and time within 5 minutes.

I prefer thank-you’s to run first thing in the AM, between 6-7 AM, at 8 AM when people log on at work it doesn’t mess up the Twitter stream for the people who don’t care, but the person who it is intended for will see the message and know that I acknowledged them. Everyone loves to see that someone is talking to them, don’t be afraid to do it, it will make someone feel good.

If you cannot think of anything else to say, say thanks followers and write their Twitter names.

Always include the @ sign before the name (no space) or the tweep will not see it.

A typical thank you message looks like this:

Thanks followers: @GlennGThater @joomlawebmaster @iflashvideo @GilAsakawa @namenick Party Favors! Remember 2 feed petrock!

The web-site link goes to a picture I’ve uploaded in TwitPic. Everyone who has a Twitter account automatically receives a Twitpic account. All you have to do is log-on using your twitter info and start uploading pictures. I copy the picture’s URL and paste into the window on Hootsuite to shorten the URL.

It makes this:

Look like this:

The uses 11 characters, the other 18. Since you only have 140 characters available you want to keep your links short. By including a picture I make the tweet interesting to anyone else who may have tuned in and makes it fun for the person included in the tweet.

But what do I get started?

Are you interested in advertising, web-design, jewelry, hiking, biking, writing, editing, publishing? Find a word that represents your interest or your business niche. Type the word in the white bar on the right hand column of your Twitter home page and see who/what comes up. Check these tweeps out. Pick a few that appear interesting. Follow them.

At the beginning of a Twitter adventure, no one thinks they have enough followers and some look for short cuts. Go for it if you want. There are plenty of people promoting ways to increase your following. That never interested me, I was more curious about how people found me, and then when they did, I checked out who they were following and followed some of their friends.

Ready to get started?

First, tell me who you want to find on Twitter... leave a note in the comments below. Come on, tell me the person that would get you so excited you’d tell everyone at work.

I'm serious, tell me. No one at work cares. Really.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

After the coffee comes the concussion

“Do you think anyone will show up who we know?” I asked Melanie as I jumped into her compact forest green convertible.

“Good Lord,” she replied, “I hope not.” She threw the car into reverse and sped out of the parking lot at a robust three miles an hour. Melanie is a safe driver.

We crossed the interstate bridge and left Washington State and the quiet life I lead and the exciting one Melanie leads—as an award winning writer—and within twenty minutes stood outside a big wooden 1930’s building in SE Portland. We glanced nervously at each other and I laughed like I’d done this a million times. “Come on, this will be fun,” I promised.

The door clanged open and the heady smell of ground coffee wafted our direction. We’d made it this far. We could surely cross the threshold. I tugged Melanie inside and we glanced around trying to locate a familiar landmark to shore up our quaking knees. There. We greeted Ed, our third friend, who was getting his head in the game by listening to his IPOD. He waved. Melanie and I drifted around the open tables and settled onto facing couches in front of the stage.

We fired up our laptops, clamped our jaws tight and flitted our eyes nervously around the room. Three of us, three of them—we had an audience—almost a full house. I took a picture to prove that point, but Teresa who tweets as Pdxsays made me take it down. I was ‘messing with her brand.’ (Note to self: ask before posting, not everyone likes their picture plastered around the internet, especially that one of me where I look like I’m a man, pretending to be not a man, or maybe pretending to be one, I don’t know it's kind of confusing. And don’t you all go looking for it. It sucks. Sheesh).

Melanie and I concentrated on our laptops, as if it were a life’s mission. We waited for software to load, for wi-fi to connect, whatever would help pass the time between now and the appointed hour. Tonight, the magic would begin. Ed would play microtonal music composed by his computer via algorithmic patterns, and we would read from our unpublished manuscripts. This was Monday, and this was Three Friends Coffee House and we were the entertainment.

By eight o’clock it’d be over.

Hopefully, I'd still have two friends. Teresa was already a goner.

Luke, the organizer, strode in and his deep, vibrant radio voice steadied our rattling nerves. He shook our hands, confirmed pronunciations of last names, and I noted, “Ed’s going first.”

Ed gazed at me, his kind eyes full of piss and vinegar, and said, “You should go first, you’re The First Carol.”

I was almost relieved and agreed way more faster than I would have suspected, thinking, that might be a good idea, I’ll get it over sooner...but I’ll be left on stage, better make a plan. I scribbled some ‘next guest’ introductory notes. Proving again that last minute planning is microcosmically successful in any venue.

I met Ed by stalking him on Twitter. During the day he’s all geek. Late at night he’d share what he was listening to: As a music major and geek wannabe I found the whole Ed package fascinating. I tried to lure an invitation out of him to meet a couple of times, he didn’t bite. Then all of sudden we were talking Linux and now I have Linux on my laptop and I have Ed as a friend.

Then it was 7 PM.

Luke welcomed the audience and welcomed me:

Hot pursuit of a career in advertising landed The First Carol a job in one of the largest newspapers in Southwest Washington. After numerous years of hacking out ad copy for the print ads she sold and making friends with everyone in her path, she can now claim connections in the highest echelons of covert government, Hollywood, and the janitorial staff (she works late). Welcome The First Carol!

I crawled on stage.

Took me awhile to stand up.

Took a little longer to find my voice, but I did manager to squeak out, “Take a good look around, pick a man, ask him to dance.”

Fifteen minutes later, three people clapped, (I suspicion they were Melanie and Ed and maybe Teresa). I nodded approvingly, although some people thought it was an avalanche of nervous shakes. Before I could actually decipher it myself, I launched into my Ed intro.

Ed explained the origin of his composition and we listened to the wild warblings of : "When Harry Met Iannis." When the tune ended I jumped back up dodging wires and Roland speakers and the chatter of the happy patrons waiting for this to end so they could get to open mic part of the event. I smiled benignly at Melanie who sat contentedly on the couch refusing with the utmost grace to come up on stage. I just as graciously introduced her from the stage. Maybe I had my hands on my hips and glared at her...maybe not:

Melanie is not sure why she is here, except she is my friend and I told her doing this type of stuff would save us from being boring. I convinced her being out in public was practice for Oprah, and we can use the experience for a blog post. If we’re a bust, we can make up that we were brilliant, in other words lie…because after all we write fiction.

Melanie adjusted the mic Luke had provided for her couch delivery, and we heard chapter three of Melanie's historical fiction work which plunked us on a brigantine in the Atlantic Ocean.

I listened and I'm sorry to say my mind wandered as I tallied the evening and my friends. Ed lives an exciting life of research, computer programming, music and social media. Ed has about 3 gadzillion followers on Twitter, znmeb is popular! Melanie is an award winning writer, with adventures to her credit from one coast of the US to the other (she recently moved her parents out west, which I deftly captured in the post: After the Rum, Comes the Reality). Her manuscript won second place in the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Assoction contest.

I am me and thus driven to compete amongst all this talent and seek attention.

And what am I telling my periphery friends who did not attend? Well, I'm saying, “I was absolutely brilliant.” (I don't mention I'm brilliant at convincing my friends down the rabbit hole). Then I try to divert attention away from my performance and dwell on how difficult Melanie was...a true complicated artist type, and I mention as often as possible, “Melanie's like all, ‘I'm not standing in front of these caffeinated hot heads, I'm staying on the couch. They can stand up to see me.’ Then when she finished, everyone started clapping and because they were standing she’s running around telling everyone she got a standing ovation! Can you even believe it.” Then I heave a huge sigh, like it’s such a problem dragging her anywhere.

And this is the truth, a guy chased Melanie out of the coffee house to shake her hand and thank her for coming and told her over and over again how much he liked it. I said, "Wow, you have a fan!"

Melanie said, "Yeah, but did you see him?"

I said, "Yes, and I smelled him, too." <-- I made that up just to be funny.

So, now the big question. Which two of your friends would go on stage with you?

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