What Grand Budapest Hotel Taught Me About Blogging

I just got home from watching Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved it. It was everything I wanted it to be: quirky yet familiar characters (with delightful cameos), magical use of color, symmetry and music to paint a beautiful picture, and a story just absurd enough to still maintain some believability while making me laugh out loud. In short—unabashedly and unapologetically Wes Anderson. As I left the theatre, I began to think about what I love about Mr. Anderson’s movies, and it struck me. In your blog, you should be unapologetically and unabashedly you, too.

Image

Wes Anderson has haters, believe that. There are people who detest the precocious nature of his characters, the quirky, dry nature of his scripts, and the very specific look that makes sure you know it’s a product of his creative mind. That doesn’t stop him from continuing on that trajectory though, and this fact has won him a fan base that will follow his every endeavor and a group of talented professionals that are thrilled to work with him again. He’s not afraid to be who he is, tell the stories he wants to tell, or be true to the nature of what he envisions. The same can be done on your blog. 

Have you ever written a post, be it for your job as a content marketer or social media specialist or whatever, that you just didn’t really feel sounded like it came from you? Have you ever written something that just felt forced? On the other hand, have you ever sat down at your computer, or with your notepad in the park, and just felt like you couldn’t stop writing? Like the words were just flowing out of your mind faster than you could type or write them? That’s the person you need to be. That’s the voice and mindset you need to follow. That’s the dream.

Now, that being said, some of you may be in the same boat I am. I have absolutely no idea who I want to be, what I want to do when I grow up (at 32, mind you), or what kind of content quite feels right for me to continually pursue. I do feel passionate about some of the things I write, but not as much so about other things. Marketing will do that to you sometimes. Regardless of how much you want to enjoy what you do, you still have to sell a product, an idea, or a service when you work in marketing. But I do enjoy my job, I can say that. When you’re writing for a company though, you have to maintain their voice, their personality; which is why I still go back to my own blog from time to time and write what’s on my mind and what really comes from me. 

I hope to be as confident and steadfast in my voice as Mr. Anderson. I’m not quite sure how to find exactly what I’m passionate about, but I’m making it my goal this year to work on figuring it out so I can chase it. What about you?

Have you found your passion? Are you following it? Are you like me and are still searching for it? Or have you found it, but are afraid to go get it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

Chase your dreams. I plan to. 

Now, go get your social on!

Welcome to the Bribery Economy

I  just signed up for an account on Empire Avenue because I heard it was a great networking site for people who blog. The things I found left me shocked.

Shady business and bribery

Empire Avenue, as you may have guessed from the name, is kind of like Wall Street. People buy ‘shares’ in you, investing in your worth, and you’re expected to do the same. People can offer large sums of ‘eaves’ (EA’s digital currency) if you perform certain tasks, such as retweeting a tweet, sharing a Google+ post, or following them on Instagram. That is where some of the perceived ‘networking’ comes from, as far as I can tell. More on that later. People seem to swear by the networking opportunities here, and that it can drive traffic to your various pages.

First off, the spam-style comments I was bombarded with right from the get go almost made me leave. This stuff was the likes of what you’d see in the spam folder of your blog.

“Welcome. LIKE MY PAGE. FOLLOW MY BLOG. DO THIS FOR ME. CLICK MY LINKS. MY. MY. ME. ME!!!” Well, so much for quality networking. How does that Inigo Montoya quote go? “You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means you think it means.”

I did come across some great people, who I was happy to invest in and comment back. They talked like humans. They used proper capitalization and punctuation. The seemed genuine. The EAbot must not have eaten their brains yet.

The real slap of disappointment came to me when I realized what was really going on. With these ‘missions’, people are pretty much bribing others to engage with them on social media and blogging sites. Not necessarily prospects, potential customers, or even people in your field of interest. People are heading in droves to ‘Like’, comment, +1 and share, retweet, etc. For digital, fake currency. Now. Does it spawn worthwhile conversation and new visits? Sure, but that’s not the point that bothered me.

I look to others in the industry for inspiration, guidance, perhaps some best practices. I feel like I’ve been fed lies. Social media posts that I see that are super successful, blog posts that get tons of comments and shares, so many predicated on bribery. Here I am, thinking I’ve been failing at blogging because I’m not getting tons of engagement, just some, when it turns out I’m apparently just not bribing people. How much engagement would those other folks’ blog posts and updates have seen without bribery? Would the mighty be not quite so mighty? Am I not as much of a blogging failure as I thought, but just comparing myself to impossibly stacked odds? I’m not sure whether to be inspired by this, or completely crushed by a system of underground engagement trading.

Will I still participate? Damn yea. I want a piece of this seedy underbelly of engagement pie. Now that I know how the game is being played. However, THIS guy below. No. Companies just got fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for fake reviews. Buddy, you’re doing it wrong.

Paying for reviews is never cool

Are you a devout user of Empire Avenue? Am I completely wrong in the way I’m viewing this? Tell me in the comments below. Do so, and I’ll give you ONE MILLION DIGITAL HIGH FIVES! They’re worth it. You can spend them high fiving EVERYONE ON THE INTERNETZ!

And I’m done.

A Career in What You Love Ain’t So Easy

I’ve never been fired from a job. Up until recently, I’ve kind of considered that a badge of honor. It meant that I was never bad enough at a job that someone couldn’t bear to keep me on, that I wasn’t hard to work with, or, let’s face it, that I wasn’t unlucky enough to be at a job that had to severely downsize. I’ve only failed hard once, and that was when I tried to sell knives. Kudos people who can make a living at that stuff. I couldn’t hack it. Recently, however, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. Some of them have featured great speakers like Seth Godin, C.C. Chapman, and Mitch Joel, who’ve all talked about how much they’ve learned by failing. Have I failed myself by not failing? Have I not pushed myself far enough out of my comfort zone cocoon and simply made it too easy? These are the questions I’m stuck with at the moment.

This about sums up my carrer direction

This about sums up my carrer direction

It’s easy to say “Find what you love and get paid to do it.” There’s very little out there that tells you how to find what you love to do, if you’re not exactly sure what that is. This is my boat. I have no idea what I love. Some people innately have a passion for something that drives them toward a goal. I just sort of move forward in a general, indistinct direction. I haven’t found that *spark* or that aha moment. I’ve been pretty apt at most jobs I’ve tried my hand at, and I’m a quick learner. You can’t really look those skills up on LinkedIn and narrow a job search, though. They’re skills that everyone wants from an employee, sure, but they’re not an interest. Not a passion. As a community manager, I love the social aspect of social media, but I’m not a numbers guy. Trying to calculate metrics and ROI and advertising dollars sort of makes my head spin. It makes me question my longevity in the industry of social media as businesses continually want proof that this will bring money in the door, and community managers become more intwined with marketing manager roles.

Failure IS an option, as it turns out.

A different way to look at failure.

So I think I’m going to try things, and if I fail, I fail. They don’t have to be big things. Maybe a blog post that I just want to throw out into the word will fail. Maybe acting on an idea to see if it sinks or swims. Failures that move us forward, I think, don’t have to be large, life-altering fails. Just something to help us make forward progress. I guess I’m understanding that we have to give ourselves permission. And that’s hard. As Chris Brogan said in his short podcast I recently listened to, you just have to do it, and it doesn’t have to be perfect every time. So there you are. Be imperfect. Go fail. I guess we’ll all be better for it. Let’s discuss how this works out for us respectively, ok?

What about you? Have you had some failures that have made you better? Are you struggling to find our aha moment? Share your perspective below.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Sometimes, you have to blog naked.

Nope, I didn’t stutter. You heard me right. Sometimes, you simply have to blog naked. Let me explain.

Maybe don't go quite this far...

Maybe don’t go quite this far…

I’ve been blogging for just over a year now. Each post is not only an opportunity to share the things I know and am interested in, but also opportunities to learn and grow as a blogger. Some of my posts are carefully crafted, pined over for weeks of adding notes into Evernote or saving and resaving as drafts. Some post ideas come to me in the shower, and I’ve literally sat down at my computer still wrapped in a towel to get my ideas down before they leave me. That’s kind of the idea behind this post.

Laptop in shower

I don’t recommend this method. At all.

Not all your ideas have to be carefully crafted. Many of my most successful blog posts have been rather off-the-cuff, and written more in the moment. An idea strikes me, or is really timely, so I just get it in a format I feel good about and send it on to the world. Maybe that will work for you, and maybe it won’t. When an idea hits you, however—act on it. Waiting until later may reduce the salience of your idea, or potentially have it lost altogether. I highly recommend some sort of idea-saving tool like Evernote, or even just your portable device’s notepad feature (most have them). I’ve even considered putting a dry erase board in my shower, so I can jot down ideas when they come to me in the shower (as they so often do!). So yes, sometimes you have to blog naked to make sure that your ideas are getting out into the world. Go do it!

Do you have a recommendation on an app or method that works for you? Share you thoughts and ideas with a comment below!

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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What does a Twitter ‘favorite’ mean to you?

I love Twitter. With my oft short attention span (which I blame partly on the vast barrage of information/distractions/GIFs that social media throws at me), the 140 character limit is a fun way to engage in quick conversations. It’s also led to some amazing digital and real-life dialogues with people I’d never have imagined (more on that in an upcoming post). Alas, there are still things that I don’t understand. One of them is Twitter’s favorite button.

Favorited Tweet on Twitter

They like me! They really like me!

Not too long ago, I read an article speculating that Twitter planned to either lose or completely overhaul the functionality of the Favorite option. That’s either still in the works, or was complete heresay. Regardless, favoriting seems to hold different meanings to different people I’ve asked, and thus I often don’t know how to respond when someone favorites a tweet. Twitter describes this function as such:

Favoriting a Tweet can let the original poster know that you liked their Tweet, or you can save the Tweet for later.

That seems to be a general consensus. It’s the equivalent of the ‘Like’ button on Facebook. It can also be a list of people you want to catch back up with, but aren’t sure you want to follow just yet. It’s also a less public high-five than retweeting, so it works if the content isn’t quite what you’d like to present to your audience. Still others use it as a curation collection tool, putting together tweets they enjoyed to share later. How do you use the Favorite button?

As a follow up question, do you feel obliged to do anything else after someone favorites your tweet? Reply with a thanks? Does it encourage you to check out their account, potentially to follow them? Or has it become so blase that you hardly even recognize a favorited tweet? Do you favorite tweets as some nefarious, reverse psychology method of trying to get them to notice YOU, and follow you (you sneaky, sneaky devil, you!).

Tell me what you you think. What’s the voodoo that you do when it comes to Twitter and favorting? Also, if you want to see some of the other stuff I don’t understand about Twitter, check out the ridiculous business in my formerly weekly Found Tweet Friday posts and my post on Twitter spammers stealing your tweets.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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The Internet Is Out of Control This Week

SXSW announcments galore, major changes to the things you know and love–ladies and gentlemen, the internet is out of control this week.

First off, I had an awesome SXSWi experience. I met some awesome folks and I’ll be writing a blog post about that soon.

If you haven’t heard already, Google has announced that it’s getting rid of Google Reader. It’s not worth their resources anymore, so you have until July 1st to get it together and aggregate elsewhere. For the full story, click below.

Also, just when you thought you knew Twitter’s format, it’s changing things up. You can now use line breaks. This could be awesome, or it could make your Twitter feed the most annoying thing on the planet. Let the unfollows begin. More information below:

OH, and then Facebook was all like “Hey guys, what about me? I’ll start working on allowing hashtags!” The internet is no longer as we knew it.

 

What do you think about these two developments in social media? Has this week completely disrupted your work flow, or could you care less. Share you thoughts with a comment below!

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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A Blogger not Blogging

Confused  Face

Mind…boggled…

If you’re a blogger, I don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to keep pumping out interesting and relevant content. I haven’t posted in a while. Partially, it’s because I’ve been swamped with a gazillion other things, and partially because I’m having an existential meltdown. These things happen, I suppose.

Whenever I work out, I listen to podcasts: Marketing Over Coffee, The Human Business Way, The Content Warfare Podcast, Social Media Marketing, and others. Sometimes, I have no idea what they’re talking about when they dive too deep into the true marketing and analytics side of social media marketing. I’m a people person. I love the people and social side of this digital stuff. The numbers and ROI and analytics are all things I’m struggling to pick up. Recently, there have been a slew of interviews with Seth Godin and C.C. Chapman, both promoting their respective books. These interviews have been inspiring, invigorating and terrifying…

Podcasts worth listening to

Some of my favorite podcasts from geniuses on the internets

Both of these guys are pretty into the human side of things. They also tout the mantra of “find what you love, and go make money doing it!” I love that. It’s brilliant. It’s obviously the key to happiness. Just one problem…what if you have no idea what you want to do with your life? How do you commit gung-ho to something when you have no idea what it is? This is the conundrum that I find myself in.

I write this blog. I feel I’m ok at it. I’m not terrible, but I’m no Mitch Joel or Chris Brogan and don’t believe I ever will be. I work in social media as a community manager. I’m pretty good at it. I write some content that gets engagement, and I love the interactions when it does happen. I’ve worked in retail and was pretty good at that, often loved by my customers. Nothing ever seems to fully click, however. I never feel like, “Yes. This is what I should be doing. This is that gratifying thing I’ve been searching for!” Now, I’ve never been fired from a job, so maybe I’m not experiencing Seth Godin’s idea of having to fail to succeed. How does one push oneself into new and dangerous territory, when you just don’t know where to start? This, readers (all, like, 8 of you), is the situation I find myself in. Any advice for a lost soul? If you made it to the end of this post, and my existentially grasping questions, thanks for hanging in there. I’ll get back to writing about social media soon.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Twitter Spammers Are Stealing Your Tweets

Twitter, followers, tweets, spam, fake, accounts

Never tastes as good as you hope it will…

With each technology that advances our culture, there is the inevitable down side. With the telephone came bad telemarketing and phone scams, with the television came crappy infomercials (and in my opinion, reality TV), and with the internet came spam. Each of these has advanced in their own way, and the typical scheme has been to sell you something. Twitter spam is becoming it’s own beast and seems to serve multiple functions. Some are pretty obvious, like the:

“Hey @robzie81, how would you like 1,000 followers in 5 minutes? Click here —> http://bit.ly/clickforgarbage”

Or one of my recent favorites:

“@robzie81 Someone is spreading vicious rumors about you http://bit.ly/clickitstupid”

These ones get the delete pretty quickly, but there are some that I’ve seen becoming pervasive in the Twittersphere that are a different breed. They’re Twitter accounts, obviously made by people who’s first language is not English, with stock images as their avatar and occasionally very poorly written bios. These accounts typically have a handful of followers, likely from their own circle, pretty legit sounding names, and the content of the tweets is typically flush with keywords. Some are copy/pasted from other users’ tweets, with any @ references removed and thus making them make no sense, like:

“Can’t wait for my training session with #itsbeentoolong”

Something seems out of place there, doesn’t it? I also come across some other copy/pasted versions that seem legit at first, until you see them show up 30 times in a search, word for word. Examples:

“Dear shaving commercials, stop shaving hairless legs. If you want impress us, please shave a gorilla.”
“I’m so hungry! “Didn’t you just eat?” “Yeah… So?””
“My poor school :( I have lost everything in my classroom. Floods up to my waist took over everything. God help us. :(“
“I wasn’t that drunk ‘Dude, you were in my closet yelling “where the heck is narnia”‘

There are some tweets that are poorly written, but are obviously targeted to show up in business searches. Keywords for everything from spas and salons, gyms and restaurants are planted in tweets like the below:

“It’s my lucky day..I buy new bikini with 50% off :)”
“hello friends…,is there anyone ever try acai berry, i heard it’s good for diet and health”
“I am thinking about getting a 1971 Ford Pinto for a new car”
“Oh no, my dog pee on my pillow again…twice this week grrr…”
“On early call out for a military exercise, one of my colleagues used this excuse: I had to round up a group of Giraffes on the motorway (…”

Twitter, tweet, business, keywords, spam

Hm. Do we see a trend developing in this search stream?

My guess is that these accounts directly relate to the first example I mentioned: Paid Twitter followers. This then leads me to my final point, and please excuse my use of all caps, but: NEVER PAY FOR TWITTER FOLLOWERS. The likelihood that your account will be followed by the garbage accounts above is pretty high, and they will do nothing for you. Organically building your Twitter presence will get you real followers (and the occasional bot that will follow you, but what can you do?) and will create a community of conversation that will actually be useful to you. Take the time to put out interesting, relevant content, follow other people and businesses that you find interesting and they will often return the favor if they find your content worthwhile.

What other kind of Twitter spam have you seen, besides the notorious bikini-clad porn accounts? Any other creative things you’ve seen? Have any of you bought into the ‘pay for followers’ scheme already, and if so, what kind of followers did you see?

Let me know below with your comments. Also, be sure to check out some of the best/worst REAL Twitter users have to offer by checking out my weekly post, Found Tweet Friday.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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That Social Media Mojo

For a while, I lost my mojo. I became disillusioned with the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t keep up with blogging, social networking and my job, and I didn’t think blogging was getting me anywhere. I didn’t think anyone cared, wasn’t sure if anyone was reading and I felt like I was just pumping out my content to no one. So, I stopped. I haven’t written a blog post for weeks. I wanted to, but then I would just get flustered and tell myself that it didn’t matter anyway. I considered deleting my blog, but I didn’t. I’m glad that I didn’t.

I received a comment out of the blue this week on a post I did a couple months ago. It was an engaging comment and in the end the person thanked me for writing the post. This small gesture reminded me why I blog. I don’t do it for constant comments, retweets on Twitter or raving fans. I do it so I can connect with people who are interested in the same things I am. I do it to share information with those who are seeking it. The glory of the internet is that posts just float out there, and can show up again when people are looking for them.

I sometimes look at the big names in blogging, the social media pros, and I wonder how the hell they have time to still have a life. I realized it’s because they don’t try to do everything. They focus on the things that are most important to them, keep the peripheral in mind without completely fragmenting their focus, and thus are able to have time to do other things. I’ve wanted to be so “engaged” that my focus has been in too many directions. I haven’t been able to give anything enough attention, because I was trying to focus on everything. And so, just in time for Halloween, I’m coming back from the dead.

blog, blogging, blogger, zombie, social media

The horror! The humanity! The blogging!

Also, I’m currently reading a pre-published copy of Chris Brogan and  Julien Smith’s “The Impact Equation” (affiliate link) and I’m already telling you to pick it up when it hits on 10/25. You’ll love it, and be inspired by it. These guys are no b.s. about how to make an impact, and it’s not the same old crap you hear everywhere else.

How do you keep your social media mojo going? What inspires you to blog, even if you’re not getting the engagement you wish you were?

Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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3 Tips for Doing Twitter Outreach Without Being a Creep

By now you’ve probably heard that social media does not follow the Field of Dreams mantra: “If you build it, they will come.” (I know, for all you die hard Field of Dreams fans, that’s not the factually accurate quote. But that’s what it has become in pop culture so bear with me.) Simply setting up your social media profiles and waiting for people to come swarming to them will just not happen. You have to give them a reason to come to your page. You have to seek them out by knowing your business, knowing your customers, and knowing your community. One great way to seek out potential customers is by doing Twitter outreach. I’m not going to go through the use of Twitter’s search features here. Those articles have already been written by much more knowledgeable bloggers to varying degrees. I did recently write a guest post for Main Street Hub, a social media management company that focuses on local businesses, in which I discuss three tips for doing Twitter outreach without coming across as a creep or spambot. Twitter is fraught with both, so differentiating yourself from them is critical. You can read the post here:

What are your thoughts on Twitter outreach? Have you been reached out to or poached successfully? What did the person do that worked, or didn’t? Do you have any more tips to add? Let me know below with your comments. Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on! Follow this blog on Google Currents! Download the app in your app store or marketplace and click here to subscribe.