Social Media “Guru”

I came across a post on Tumblr from Wil Wheaton that talked about how social media “gurus” are pretty much just money-grubbing gits who fill your head with terms like ‘Klout score’ and ‘brand’ etc when in fact, social media isn’t that hard and you don’t have to pay these doofuses money to be involved in it.

I mostly concur.

Here’s the full quote:

“Social media ain’t that goddamn hard, people. You know how, like, you’re a person who walks around and talks to people at the mall, or at work, or at the dinner table? And how it doesn’t behoove you to be a total fucking asshole there? Do the same thing online. There! Ta-da! I just saved you from hiring a social media guru who will take your money in order to infuse your social media presence with the rank snot-curdling odor of sour douchebaggery (“brand!” “platform!” “Klout score!”). Also: piss on anybody who wants to take your money to give you 10,000 new “followers” in the blink of an eye. Five hundred awesome followers are better than 10,000 non-followers carved out of the quivering meat-gelatin that is digital spam. Now, if they’re offering you 10,000 artificially-intelligent hunter-killer robots, hey, hook me up.”

This is “Bullshit Social Media Services” from 25 Things Writers Should Beware by Chuck Wendig. It is applicable to more than writers. (via wilwheaton)

and here’s my take on it:

An excellent comment that I, as a social media editor, mostly concur with. However, while I don’t deal with celebrities in social media, I do deal with local small businesses, as well as readers (I work for a newspaper) who constantly tell me they just “don’t get it” and would rather pay someone to worry about it for them. OR they simply don’t have time to manage their social media presence. In that case, I’ll happily be paid to manage your presence for you.

What I won’t do is give a toss about raising your Klout score (I despise Klout and its ilk), or treat your account like a brand, or behave like a douche. If you like, I’m happy to just train you on how it all works (it really isn’t rocket science. I don’t know why people make it harder than it is.) and let you run wild on your own if you prefer.

What I will do is infuse your account with a personality. I run multiple Twitter/Facebook accounts for my newspaper and I do it all manually. I crack jokes with our readers. I used to do Haiku Tuesdays and tweet the headlines as haikus. I handle incoming news tips. I help people who didn’t get their paper that day and want to bitch about it. I’ve been doing this for years and I’m pretty damn good at it.

If I’m tweeting for your small business, I won’t automate your tweets. I won’t ignore customer queries or complaints. I will pimp your latest project/special but I won’t be spammy or douchey about it. I will be a real person managing a new avenue for customer or fans or whatever to access you.

I’m not an expensive ‘consultant.” I’m not a “guru.” But I do know what the hell I’m doing and I can explain it to you so that you understand it, or if you don’t want to bother, I can manage it for you. That’s what I do. I do enjoy helping people understand how powerful social media can be, especially for small businesses. I dig seeing that moment when they realize it’s more than just telling people what you had for lunch. It’s like seeing that click when you finally grasp a difficult math or science problem.

If that makes me a pretentious douchenozzle in the social media world, well ok. I’ll live with that.

The all mighty page view

Pageviews. We need to constantly think of ways to generate them – some legitimate, some not so much. It’s the ‘not so much’ pageviews that for some reason are really starting to get under my skin. The ones that don’t irritate Google, but are still blatant in their intent.

You’re obviously just out for views if you:

  • Use slideshows that refresh the entire page.
  • Split a ten paragraph story onto two separate pages. (Hint: Your site is pretty much infinite. It’s not like print where you have to worry about space, or continuing ‘after the jump.’)
  • I’m sure there are more sneaky ways used to get pageviews that don’t piss off The Google, but I can’t think of any more at the moment.

Slideshows are irritating anyway, but I can deal with well-coded ones that seamlessly transition to a new slide. It’s the ones that refresh an entire page (and make me wait for new ads to load) that bother me the most. And while I’m at it,  If your article has more text than art, it doesn’t need a damn slideshow.

Splitting a story into separate pages is more likely to make me navigate away from your website completely than bother to click, wait for it to load, and continue reading. it’s jarring and unnecessary. I’d rather just keep scrolling thank you.

 

Twitter has a long way to go

Working with journalists on social media initiatives and devouring tech blogs that post a lot of social media analysis caused me to lose touch with reality a little. It’s easy to be in my bubble surrounded by people who easily switch between Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus while happily trying out whatever new social media wagon comes along next.

This morning on Facebook, my favorite chef, Michael Symon posted the following:

Chef Symon sends his tweets to his Facebook fanpage automatically, but still monitors comments and wall posts when he has time. Recently, he had shut down fans’ ability to post on his wall because of the ever-present troll factor that got to be too much to manage. I can see why he would prefer Twitter over Facebook for communication.

But the comments on his post above are interesting and eye-opening because his fans are not journalists, or tech mavens. They are teachers or stay-at-home parents, or students, or clerks – in other words they are a cross-section of the majority of everyday people. And boy, quite a few of them hate Twitter. Or they refuse to learn it.

Check out some of the comments:

All of these popped my little bubble, so to speak, and made me realize that as much as I love and adore Twitter, I really am not sure it will ever be what Facebook is (or what Google Plus hopes to be.) While frustrating, these people make good points about communication and ease of use. To me, Twitter is easier to understand than Facebook, but then I’ve been on it for years so of course I “get it.” Coming into it cold, however, I can now see why it seems overwhelming. There’s no immediacy of feedback like there is on Facebook. If I join Facebook it’s because I already know friends and family using it. If I join Twitter, I can pretty much follow celebrities I like but finding my friends and family there is not easy and if I tweet anything it feels like I’m tweeting in a void.

Now, I have always said that Twitter is what you put into it. That is the mantra for any social network. If you barely use it, of course it will be useless to you. You have to expend some effort – especially on Twitter and I think that’s where Twitter degrades for new users.

Twitter needs to educate “newbies” when they sign up – not inundate them with famous people they can follow. It feels like Twitter expects people to “get it” from the outset when it should be investing time and screen space in ensuring that they get it once they are fully signed up. It needs to find a way to hang onto new users and find a better way to connect them to people they already know and who will @reply back to them. Perhaps a dedicated group of Twitter employees to engage with new users or I don’t know, someone code a ‘bot or something that tweets back and forth with newbies and walks them through the language of ‘tweets’ and ‘mentions’ and ‘@replies’ and ‘retweets.’

I just don’t think Twitter is helping itself very much by just signing people up and expecting them to get it.

 

Moving to a new CMS

In all of our ownership changes, I think this is actually just third time we’ve switched our entire website from back-end to front-end. We’ve gone through many iterations of the website itself, but the back-end hasn’t fluctuated much. And until now, we’ve always been sort of “stuck” on out-dated and clunky systems. Every time I have bemoaned Town News’ NewsSys software on Twitter I generally get a lot of sympathy.

At the end of 2011, we began working on a transition to Town News’ much improved BLOX system, complete with a fair bit of website revamping (but nothing too drastic that would freak out our readers.) But most of all, it required a fairly big change for the way we publish stories online. The copy desk had to alter their routines quite a bit, and while BLOX is much nicer and definitely more powerful, there’s a learning curve that we’re still traversing.

But gone are the days of having to publish the website every time we update the site. Gone too are the constant re-ordering of priorities to position stories where we want them. We still struggle with the new way of prioritizing, but we’ll catch on and get it flowing smoothly. And because we don’t have to publish the site when we add a story (once a story is added either manually or via .xml, it is live on the website) we now need to change the publish date or set a story as Do Not Publish if it’s not ready for public viewing. Learned that the hard way after some lifestyle stories went up on the site with our internal slug as the headline. Oops 🙂

Some of the things I really like:

  • Searching for articles, images – anything really in the back-end just became a whole lot easier. Love it.
  • The ability to move ‘blocks’ around easily according to our needs is fantastic.
  • The incorporation of ‘If you go’ boxes, bio boxes, youtube videos etc into a story is wonderful.
  • Not having to publish all the time is a timesaver.
  • It just *feels* refreshing, both the back-end and the redesign. I am a fan.

Some things I either don’t like or am still learning:

  • Prioritizing for the slider and the subsections is confusing. Still learning.
  • The whole caching issue Town News has is, well it’s irritating. I understand the reasons for it, I really do. But waiting anywhere from 1 to 30 to sometimes 60 minutes for a story pushed from InCopy/Falcon and never knowing which it’s going to be is agonizing in the news biz. And even cut & pasting a story manually yet still having to possibly wait 5 minutes before it’s live on the site is agonizing when you’re waiting to tweet the story. I understand they offer a preview function so you can check it before it goes live, but that doesn’t mean anything if you’ve got a breaking story, competition from other news outlets, and no way to send readers to the story as soon as it’s proofed for web. I hope this is something Town News will consider addressing in the future.

Other than that, I’m really pleased with BLOX as a whole. We have had a few readers complain about the new look, but I’ve never heard of a redesign that didn’t have people that simply dislike change. For my part, the transition was fairly smooth, with a few bumps, but I know it was rockier for my boss and the tech manager in my department as they worked with Town news to get everything we want. But I would like to say Town News has a great team and has made this normally painful process easier.

Learning valuable lessons in the newsroom

Yesterday, I learned a few things about the ever-uphill road of getting reporters on board with Twitter and/or Facebook.

Here is an email I sent out to everyone that, I swear, started off with just wanting to share a helpful link with them and keep Twitter in their minds:

This is an EXCELLENT resource for the newsroom and using Twitter to research, mobile tweeting, hashtags and more.

http://media.twitter.com/newsrooms

Some of you have Twitter accounts – even if you didn’t know it – and I have your login info and am available *anytime* you want to learn more about this important and really valuable tool. Come find me. And to those of you who don’t have an Indy Twitter account yet (like our awesome new photog), I’d be happy to get one set up for you.

Please consider learning more about Twitter and social media in general – I can sit with you one-on-one if you like. Lately, we are constantly getting scooped on Facebook and Twitter by other media outlets, and while I know it’s important to get the story for print, in today’s media, a breaking story is old by the time the reporter gets back in, writes the story and someone reads it before it’s posted online. Our readers are starting to turn elsewhere when something breaking happens.

Even just a quick tweet saying, ‘Accident at 281 and Webb – details online soon’ would help. We have to shift our thinking just a little bit if we’re going to stay relevant in the future. So that’s why I might seem a little aggressive in this email. I may go into nag mode until I get all of you using Twitter, even just a little 😉

I hit ‘send’ before I could talk myself out of it and for the rest of the day, I went from frustration to elation when one of the reporters I believed was the least interested in social media approached me and told me that her concern wasn’t the technology – it was that she felt she didn’t have access to the technology. Blew. My. Mind.

It’s something I bemoan a lot here. I believe every reporter should be provided with a smartphone – or at the very least, access to a smartphone to take out in the field when needed. We managed to get a Droid that is used by our online reporter/videographer and he often tweets as @girightnow when he’s out. And that is fabulous and that is a LOT more than some small newsrooms get. But some of my journalists are using Razr phones with no texting plans. I mean seriously. Razrs. And while it’s awesome that we have our online guy, we also need our beat reporters to be more involved in tweeting.

So we gave the Droid to the reporter going to a board meeting today to see if she could manage a few tweets – so far she is rocking it and I am over the bloody moon. As I talked with my boss about this yesterday, I learned that we need to make sure the reporters will actually use the technology before we go out and splash a bunch of cash on it. We’ve been burned before (I’m looking at a dusty Zi8 video camera we bought in hopes of having the reporters grab it and go all the time) and so this time, we’re not going to get all excited and get ahead of ourselves until we’re sure they are on board.

The last thing I learned was that our paper’s Twitter/Facebook follower count has reached 1/5th of our print subscribers. That doesn’t include our “audience reach” of course, just the hard number of current subscribers, but that fraction also blew. my. mind.

I think we are finally past the “I don’t get it” stage or the “Who cares what they had for breakfast” stage. We’ve moved onto the “I need the technology first” stage. They get that Twitter and Facebook aren’t frivolous and unimportant. Now they just need to learn how to use them to their advantage.

Today I have two three reporters tweeting – one who had never done it before, and one who usually has trouble getting it to work for him. Today is a good day.

This is an EXCELLENT resource for the newsroom and using Twitter to research, mobile tweeting, hashtags and more.

http://media.twitter.com/newsrooms

Some of you have Twitter accounts – even if you didn’t know it – and I have your login info and am available *anytime* you want to learn more about this important and really valuable tool. Come find me. And to those of you who don’t have an Indy Twitter account yet (like Matt, our awesome new photog), I’d be happy to get one set up for you.

Please consider learning more about Twitter and social media in general – I can sit with you one-on-one if you like. Lately, we are constantly getting scooped on Facebook and Twitter by Steve White and 10/11 and other media outlets, and while I know it’s important to get the story for print, in today’s media, a breaking story is old by the time the reporter gets back in, writes the story and someone reads it before it’s posted online. Our readers are starting to turn to NTV when something breaking happens.

Even just a quick tweet saying, ‘Accident at 281 and Webb – details online soon’ would help. Another example is at big press conferences – Steve White is livetweeting all the info from them now and by the time we get something posted, everyone already has the info. Maybe it’s my inner competitor talking, but I want our 4.100 fans and followers getting their news from us, not Steve. We have to shift our thinking just a little bit if we’re going to stay relevant in the future. So that’s why I might seem a little aggressive in this email. I may go into nag mode until I get all of you using Twitter, even just a little 😉

If my mom was here…

My mother wrote stories all her life. Every year my dad bought her the latest Writer’s Market book for Christmas and she’d spend a lot of time submitting and resubmitting her stories and poems to magazines and publishers. Occasionally she’d get published, more often than not she’d get the dreaded rejection letter. It never stopped her though. She wrote because she was driven to do it. Creative urges boiled in her like a mad sea and she had to find ways to soothe it. She was a painter, a crafter and a writer.

It’s why I wish she was still alive to experience what’s happening in the book publishing world right now. E-readers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Lulu… She would be in her element and the ability to self-publish would have delighted her beyond belief.

It delights me too. If you hadn’t guessed, I’m deviating from my usual newsroom/journalism/social media/freelance stuff here to talk a little bit about self-publishing. Like mom, I often feel overwhelmed with the need to be creative. Writing is my favorite thing to do, followed closely by photography and fiddling around with mixing audio loops into serviceable little tunes. A couple of years ago, I participated and actually completed NaNoWriMo (after a couple of failed attempts in previous years) and I’ve been working on that story refining/editing it since then. I will be selling it on Amazon when the editing is done. I don’t care if I only sell copies to friends and family – just the fact that I actually finished it makes me happy.

This is something I never would have tried to do if I hadn’t known I could publish the thing myself when it was completed. Years of watching my mom receive letters of rejection from publishing houses made me a little gunshy. Not now though. We truly live in an amazing time. I wish she could be here too.

Anyway, the book is called Revenants (Facebook, and Twitter), and it’s got elements of things I love. Like zombies. I love zombies. And a heroine with a funky name. And I had a blast making this book trailer:

And while I wait for my beta reader to do their editing magic (Read: wait for my sister to scour for typos and grammar errors), I am occupying myself  by writing (very) short stories and selling them for a buck on Amazon and B&N. Just one up so far called Everything Will Blow which is a story I wrote a few years ago and updated so I could get a feel for the self-publishing process. I have to say that Barnes & Noble is the easier/quicker process. Amazon’s isn’t bad but there are a couple of programs you have to download for conversions/previewing so it adds several more steps to the process.

I’ll be adding more while the book’s being edited, so if you have a Kindle, Kindle app or Nook, and need some quick reads, just search for me on Amazon or B&N! 🙂

Missing the point

A fundamental thing that Newspaper Journalists Against Twitter fail to remember is that while live-tweeting a presser or breaking news event is important, it’s never the whole story. Also, not all of our readers are using Twitter. Granted that number is dwindling every day, but there will always be someone who prefers to read the actual paper, or who will read an update online on their own time. That’s when it’s essential to take those tweets and the questions you got answered and turn them into a full story with details and facts and research and everything reporters actually do.

I just overheard a reporter say, “I hate that tweeting shit” in reference to the fact that the questions he had answered for his story were already tweeted. My heart died a little because I feel like I must not be doing my job properly.

I’ve been tweeting for the paper since 2007 and have trained and advocated and occasionally nagged everyone to get on the Twitter train. Some did, and some never ever will. But this person has a love/hate relationship with it and I can’t make him understand a) how it works and b) why it’s a good thing.

Things have changed. People want their news and information about 2-10 seconds after it happens, so that they can simply know about it. Once they are interested in an unfolding story, they will usually take the time to look for the in-depth articles that our reporters are so good at. They will want more details that can only be provided after everything is verified, fact-checked, sourced, and put together in a cohesive story. There’s room for both instant news, and fuller, in-depth news. One reaches a certain audience, and the other reaches them and everyone else.

Journalists should be embracing this stuff because it’s not going away. Learn how to adapt already, because I’m tired of banging my head against brick walls.