Archive for September, 2012

Social media- The invisible cost of ownership

Posted by on Wednesday, 26 September, 2012

Social networks and social tools have done wonders for our ability to share information quickly and easily, to the point of revolutionizing traditional media, as well as governments and society at large. I can wax philosophic about all the wonders and benefits social media brings to the world now, but I’d rather chat for a moment about the side of social media we don’t often consider; the true cost of ownership of online accounts.

While it is amazingly easy to create new accounts in social spaces, rarely is consideration given to what it really takes to be successful, especially from a social business perspective: time.

I’ve seen many a person start a new blog or Facebook page with intent to promote their business, only to abandon it months later once the shine wore off and the realization that maintaining these pages takes time and actual work. This is even far more common in personal blogging; and while the items below are also relevant for individuals blogging for fun, I’ll be focusing on this from the social business aspect:

First and foremost, before creating an account with any intent on using it for social business, stop and consider the time and effort you will be able to put in to maintaining that space and driving it to success. If, after this consideration, it all seems like too much to handle, then perhaps an individual blog or account isn’t the right way to go. Instead, look for a community, group blog, or page that might be better served by the time you can spend.

Here’s some quick ideas specific to blogging to help you see what level of effort it may actually take to show value:

  • Set aside a few hours to build your blog’s site with some customizations to help you stand out. (If you use a WordPress self hosted blog like I do, set aside 30 minutes per month for maintenance.)
  • For every blog post you publish, expect to schedule at least an hour to write it (more if you take a journalistic approach of fact checking and validating), another 30 minutes to promote it, and yet another 30 minutes to respond to any comments.
  • Build a pipeline of content to keep 4 or so posts ahead of yourself, and set a schedule for when you post. This reduces the probability that you’ll abandon the blog because “I’ll just post tomorrow” and also helps build your audience’s expectation for when to see a new post from you.
  • Consider posting at least once per week to retain your audience, fewer than that and they may forget about you. Frequency is critical. Most successful blogs post at least weekly if not daily.
  • Don’t forget to include the time it will take you to find the perfect image to make your post visually interesting and therefore more likely to be read. Sometimes this takes me 5 minutes, sometimes I spend a whole day, on and off, looking for just the right picture.
  • Make sure you prioritize time to respond to comments. Yes, I’ve said it twice in these bullets. It is just that important. Ignoring comments or actively avoiding them is one of the quickest ways to turn readers away from your blog. Take the time to reply to commenters wherever those comments may be posted. If you use twitter to promote your blog and you get a comment there, reply to that person via twitter. Facebook? Same story. Meet the conversation where it is happening.

While the numbers presented are VERY flexible, they are only a good starting point to understanding how much effort it will take to maintain your blog. All in all, a weekly post to your own blog could be expected to see a 2.5 hour commitment at a very basic, general level.

Of course all this is fine if you just want to maintain your blog. I’m guessing, however, that you may actually want to grow your readership… Then tack on an extra half-hour per post to comment on other relevant blogs and build your network of readers through building your own digital eminence. Just remember that social isn’t about constantly pushing your own messages, but engaging with others around their content. All of this works towards that larger ideal of open knowledge sharing and helping ourselves grow by helping others grow.

You can start to see how blogging may first appear as a simple, easy thing to do, can quickly become a burdensome and daunting entity to tackle if you were expecting wide success from only 30 minutes a week. Successful blogging is hard work. I should know. I run three blogs and multiple other social accounts. Of those, only one could be considered even mildly successful, and that’s the one for my full-time job; the one I put the most effort into. The more prepared you are at the start, the better off you will be in the long run to maintain the level of effort needed to run a successful blog or social business account.

A lot of the same concepts and effort above can also be applied directly to social channels like Twitter, Facebook, or GooglePlus. After all, every network is a living thing and requires care and feeding to stay vibrant. The moment other priorities take over and you don’t carve out the time to nurture your networks, those spaces will slowly stop providing the value you once saw when you did have the time.

Likewise, if you don’t have time to handle replies, comments, or mentions, you probably shouldn’t post in the first place. If you are going to use social spaces, and especially if you are doing so to build your personal brand or your company’s revenue, then you must make the time to engage with your network. At the very least address the reactions to any of your posts or comments appropriately.

Ownership of social accounts or blog spaces does not end once you press “publish”; that, in fact, is really where the work and the true cost of ownership begins. Take the time upfront to make sure you can devote the time on the back-end to be successful.

The art of unfriending- humanism in social media

Posted by on Tuesday, 18 September, 2012

Recently a friend shared out this article titled “Facebook and Twitter: the art of unfriending or unfollowing people” 

A captivating title to be sure, and one that did its job: it got me to click into it and read. For the most part, I agree with the article’s basic premise: social media has changed how we connect and increased how long those connections stay around us. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, these longer lasting, or rather lingering connections raise that important question of what to do when they are simply no longer relevant.

If you are reading this post, I can guarantee you have at least 3 of these lingering connections which you’d be better off without. We all have them; some, more than others. Each, of course, should be dealt with in their own way.

But, as you’d guess, I do take issue with a few points in the article as well.

The first, and of least concern is the complain made by the author’s music industry friend who laments the bus load of people he brings along with any twitter interaction. This, to me, just seems like someone who may not understand the medium or the ramifications of using it for more private conversation. The simple basis of twitter revolves around open sharing. What is even more amazing is that this person, from an industry upheld and focused on audience, seems to forget he always has an audience in social media platforms; a simple break in logic that really defeats any argument against the platform.

More problematic, however, is the advice on how to handle ‘defriending’ provided by Anjali Mullany, social media editor of Fast Company:

“…. She advises making a public proclamation on Facebook in which you specify the criteria by which you’ll henceforth be defining people as “friends”. Maybe you’ll resolve only to remain Facebook friends with people you’ve met at least once in real life, or maybe you’ll use a stricter standard, such as whether you’d invite that person to your wedding. Explain, in the same proclamation, that the consequent defriending shouldn’t be taken personally, and that you’re doing it to a number of people at once. Then start clearing out the clutter….”

It is precisely this attitude, this perspective which engenders such a growing vitriolic distrust of social engagement by the public. The explanation is simple: this advice wholly removes the human aspect. It treats your followers as a number, a non-human entity easily discarded. This concept flies directly in the face of the basic tenets of social engagement: connecting people to one another in open and authentic ways. So, of course you should take it personally! It IS personal. Social media is hinged on being personal. But, that doesn’t mean defriending or decluttering your follow lists is a bad thing. Attentive curation of your social feeds is indeed necessary, but also requires a better level of thought and empathy. Of course, attentive following is a great start to maintaining manageable social streams.

Proclamations like the ones advised above will do nothing but serve to reduce your friends list. Likely with no further effort on your part as it will show the world exactly the kind of person you are. The world is not so striated as to fit every person into these neat little compartments, even though we try our best to do so. Announcing a friends/following cleansing only serves to publicly display callousness. A more human approach? Quietly unfollowing without making a big noise about it. For those who have simply drifted away, they will likely not even notice. For those who do notice, a simple explanation, if asked, is all that is needed. No drama, no lengthy apology, just treat them as you’d wish to be treated. We can’t all be friends with everyone, regardless of what the founders of Facebook believe or want. Knowing and accepting that not everyone will like you is not only freeing, but it will help you address some of these tougher social media issues as they arise with deeper empathy.

This may be odd to hear, especially coming from a misanthropic curmudgeon like myself, but callous and cold proclamations are not the way forward. Embracing the human element is the path to success, both for individuals at the personal level, as well as for businesses engaged in social activities.

WaywardCelt Photography: The official launch

Posted by on Thursday, 13 September, 2012

I am quite pleased to announce the public launch of:

Photo.WaywardCelt.com

This new site is my outlet for selling unmounted prints, framed prints, gallery wraps, a multitude of other physical product options, as well as downloads for both personal and commercial use.

I consider this a rather large milestone, as it not only achieves a goal I had set for myself at the beginning of the year, but also has helped my overcome what I refer to as debilitating self-doubt. In putting my work online on my social channels I’d already broken through one aspect, but selling prints is a whole other animal that scared me: all of a sudden, other people’s judgements and views become much more important to me. But, if I risk nothing I gain nothing, and the time had come to take that next step.

So, I hope you enjoy browsing my portfolio, and if you’re struck with an image, and so inclined, please don’t hesitate to find a frame you like and purchase a print for your own walls; I consider that the most flattering and deepest honour of which I could possibly think. Of course, you can also “Like” me on Facebook to get periodic updates on new images, new products, and coupons too!