Friday, February 25, 2011

A Contrary View of Social Media

There is no question that social media is a powerful communication tool not only in this country but around the world. My focus in "The Writing Life" has been on helping writers tap into this power to promote your books. To that end, I have recently posted a series of essays on understanding and getting around the giants of social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.

I am frequently amazed at the amount of time many of my friends and colleagues spend on these networking sites, as well as staying current with countless blogs, news outlets, and forums. To tell the truth, I often fail to keep up with "friends" and "connections."

Why? Because my daily life is a juggling act of responsibilities and to-dos, and social networking is just one of the many balls I'm trying to keep in the air. I know I have lots of company in this lament.

There is one blog I subscribe to: Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. While I am striving to maintain my personal juggling act, Babauta is urging me to get rid of some of those balls and simplify, simplify. What a neat but seemingly impossible idea. To underscore his message, he has made available his latest book, called focus. It's online and on Kindle, and it's free—not only free but uncopyrighted. Use or copy or forward any part of it he urges, but please attribute the work to its Leo Babauta.

His point is that social media, blogs, everything online, and especially e-mail are addictive. If you can't stay away and you feel empty when you're not online, you are addicted. Breaking an addiction is tough but possible. Babauta is not advocating that you trash your computer, disconnect your Internet access, or close all your accounts. He is simply saying that all this addictive activity is time consuming and counter productive to the creative process. If you are a writer, that is not a good thing.

focus is a practical little book on how to break addictions, shed the superfluous in your life, and get off the gerbil wheel. I think it's worth a try.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ten Characteristics of an Outstanding Website

  1. A memorable identity: develop a clear, consistent message, a theme that is unique to you.
  2. New content: To generate repeat traffic, change something on your Website at least once a month (a headline, monthly feature, blog posts, special offer).
  3. Something of value: Make your content informative, entertaining, inspirational, educational, or provocative. Be generous; give stuff away.
  4. Appeal to search engines: Research and use Meta tags and keywords to help search engines and Web surfers find you.
  5. Link exchanges: Find complementary sites to link to and have them link back to your site.
  6. Interactivity: Provide a way for visitors to comment or provide feedback.
  7. Consistency with other social media: Be sure your identity on social networking sites, blogs, newsletters, and articles reflects the same person and style.
  8. Graphics: A picture is worth 1,000 words; 1,000 words are too many for Web surfers to wade through.
  9. Ease of bookmarking: Use widgets to ask people to bookmark certain Web pages to Digg, StumbleUpon, Sphinn, and other bookmarking sites.
  10. A way to capture e-mail addresses: Use a mailing list service to collect e-mail addresses to send out announcements, special offers, or a newsletter.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

[Video] 5 Reasons Wordpress Should Be Your Author Website Platform

This is a guest post from Russ Henneberry. Russ writes, speaks, consults and executes on Internet marketing strategies that make mighty profits for tiny businesses. You can read Russ's Internet marketing blog here or learn more about his Wordpress Website Design here.
Growing an author's platform starts with a powerful and simple to use website platform. It is the "hub" of activity for you as an author. This 8-minute video and the article below it details 5 reasons Wordpress should be your author's platform.

Reason 1 - Wordpress is Flexible
If you need to make a change to the text, images, video, etc., on your Website you will want to be able to make those changes yourself. Wordpress is the most intuitive and user-friendly platform available. In addition to making edits, you will also want to be adding new pages, articles, videos, and images to your Website. A living and breathing Website that is growing over time will build a community around you and your work.

Reason 2 - Wordpress is Discoverable
Google is a powerhouse, and you can grow your author's platform by taking advantage of the traffic that Google will send your way. Wordpress makes it easy for both humans and search engines like Google to "discover" the content of your Website.

Reason 3 - Wordpress is Shareable
The real power of the Internet is the remarkable speed and efficiency with which we can share things of interest and value to us. Wordpress is able to add the functionality needed to spread your message across the Web.

Reason 4 - Wordpress is Interactive
As an author, you will want your fans to be able to interact with you and with each other. Wordpress can be configured to be as interactive as you want it to be with commenting, voting, surveys, forums, and more.

Reason 5 - Wordpress can be Automated
When you add new articles, videos, and images to your Website you will want to let the members of your social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) know that you have something with which to interact or share. Wordpress can automate the "pushing" of this new content to your social networks. Learn more about Wordpress Web Design here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Getting Around YouTube

This is the eighth in a series on Social Media.

No exploration of the giants of social media would be complete without YouTube, the largest of the video sharing sites. There is no question that YouTube is responsible for some of the Web's most successful viral campaigns (messages that take on lives of their own). Once your video is on YouTube, you can import it into a blog post and embed it in your own Website, thus tripling its exposure.

There are two aspects to YouTube: posting your own videos and watching other people's. Yours can be as simple as sitting in front of a camcorder and talking or as professionally produced as you can afford. Two pieces of advice when you make a video: keep it short and make it memorable—humorous, genuine, out of the ordinary.

When you visit
YouTube, you will be prompted to set up an account or log in. In the upper right hand corner, under your name and a little drop down menu with My Channel, Inbox, Account, Subscriptions, My Videos, and Favorites. Your Channel is your public page. It contains your most recent uploaded video, your favorites, a place for comments, subscribers, and friends. You can edit your Channel page, Favorites, and Playlists by clicking on Account in the drop down menu.

There is always more than one way to get around a social networking site. Across the top of the screen are links to many of the same pages, plus some new ones:

  • My Videos & Playlists - where you will find your own videos
  • Favorites - other people's videos you have marked as your favorites
  • My Channel - where all of your information is in one place, plus the ability to change layout
  • Video Editor - an opportunity to edit or change your personal videos
  • Subscriptions - new videos you may wish to subscribe to and recommended channels
  • Insight - total number of viewers who have seen your videos, as well as more detailed information
  • Messages - from people who have viewed your videos, plus a chance to reply
  • Account Settings - includes profile setup, playback setup, e-mail options, privacy settings, activity sharing, and mobile setup
It is no wonder YouTube is popular and growing fast. If you haven't explored the many avenues for interacting with viewers and friends, you should set aside some time to do so. Every link leads to a whole set of opportunities.