Why I Don’t Use Social Media For Business Communication

I didn’t really want to end the week on a somber note, but I wanted to share about my communication style, because this is part of what I think about when I manage careers (both mine and John’s) online.

Social media is great and it definitely has its uses. More and more I’m finding that casual conversations with “experts” are invaluable to writing research, as I dive into the wonders of virtual reality and economic instability for a story. Connecting with friends and family, also great.

What’s not so awesome, is the fact that social media was never designed with a celebrity or a creative professional in mind. I have very deep concerns about lines like this:

“For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.” — Facebook Terms of Service



That doesn’t mean I think Facebook or Twitter or any other site out there is “bad.” What this tells me, is that these sites weren’t constructed with creative professionals (who craft their own content) and celebrities (whose image is their office) in mind. Content is invaluable to these services, but it’s the foundation of my career and many others. I have to be careful about where I publish anything online because to some publishers, posting a story on a website may count as “first time publication rights.” I have to be careful about what I post on Facebook because long-term? As my career continues to evolve, I want to ensure that I maintain record of my e-mails and I have a preferred method of conducting business communication for management purposes. Facebook is not it.

Facebook’s messaging system is fantastic for event coordination and the initial reach out — provided you’re contacting someone ON Facebook. But, one can’t archive Facebook messages or automatically transfer them to GMail. There’s also a question as to what/how you can upload (your content) to share via e-mail and what happens after that message is out of your hands, how to categorize/label it for record-keeping purposes (e.g. you can’t) and what the legal ramifications are if you do use the platform’s e-mail to conduct a deal and that falls through. The system was initially designed for in platform use; if the conversion to a Facebook.com e-mail domain is any indication, the service realizes how valuable its usage is or could be. I found this gem of an article which puts e-mail in the context of marketing value; incidentally, this is the same reason why the platform continues to make changes to its pages. The article is a little sarcastic, yes, but as we all come to realize sooner or later — nothing is every truly “free.”

Like many people who are public-facing, I have some privacy concerns about mixing personal time and pleasure with business. I’m no celebrity, mind you, but I have enough visibility and long-term goals that I want to try things out and continue to mold the business. To some extent, I’ve given up on pouring efforts into Facebook because I’ve seen and experienced significant financial/traffic/usability drop-offs as Facebook moves toward a pay-to-play environment. My motto with Facebook now is: if it (going viral) happens? It happens. I still use it, yes, even moreso than Google+, but it’s not as valuable as spending time pouring that same effort into some other way of connecting with readers — like a newsletter, for example. It takes time to build an audience and I think that’s why social media is so alluring, because it promises to be instantaneous without actually being instantaneous. Not to mention, story must come first.

Twitter I use for quick contact, person-to-person communication, getting in touch with people I need e-mails from (funny, but true!) updates, writing research, event/meet-ups, and mini-snippets. I love Twitter, but I have to manage it, because in the past it’s replaced blogging and I’m very bad about following up on favorited links. BAD WRITER GIRL. I don’t make business decisions via Twitter nor do I commit to anything there, partially out of respect for other people, and partially? Because I have no memory. I have multiple e-mail addresses, yes, but everything is coordinated through one service and I have a system in place should I need to retrieve something important. (I’m also working toward getting caught up on my filing, but that’s another story.) We may get the initial interest portion worked out, or I may share what I’m working on, or whatever. . . You know, in many ways Twitter is like hanging out at the bar at a convention. You can have all the bar talk you want, but until it goes through e-mail? It’s not a real business deal.

To some extent, there’s also an “age” factor. I say this with the greatest amount of love and sincerity, by the way, because I don’t feel that this is an “age” factor because of how old people are; I feel this has everything to do with technology levels of experience and when certain elements the user first encountered. In my experience, people who use e-mail to conduct business, proper punctuation and grammar, and follow submission guidelines and basic forms of politeness are taken more seriously. I can err on the side of formality, yes, but I’d rather be polite than risk coming across like a beyootch to someone I’m hoping to do business with and/or get money from. Even so, communication styles also depend upon the relationships of the people involved. (I had a funny conversation with someone about that last week. He asked me: “Why so stiff?” And then blunt Monica came out. And then all was well. But I feel people don’t get to be “at” that friendly/sarcastic/banter level right away. Certainly, there’s something to be said for getting to know someone and ensuring that e-mail tone is appropriately geared. As I’ve learned: e-mail tone is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.)

Anyway, that’s why I don’t use social media for business. It may not be a perfect solution on your end, but it’s what works for me. It’d be *very* easy to spend all day every day managing communication and parsing out personal, business, opportunities, etc. but the more I put that sort of thing first? The less the words flow, and the more chance I have of never getting done what I need to. It’d be different if I had an assistant, sure, but I’m not there yet. Even then, I feel that some things are just too important to be managed by a platform known for baby pictures and Failbook.

    Mood: Oh, so serious. Need to find a cat to snorgle.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: There was something in my coffee, which now requires me to drink more of it.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Stay on Target.
    In My Ears: A Japanese title I can’t pronounce correctly
    Game Last Played: Tetris
    Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Day 25: Face Yourself

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from going dark, is that there’s a lot I can learn by talking to other people about their experiences with social media. This time, that insight comes from Ann Voss Peterson who recently conducted our local writer’s workshop about characterization. Ann and I were talking afterward about social media, in part because she has co-written a thriller novel with J.A. Konrath entitled Flee and I was wondering what she was doing to promote it. We were talking about my 100 days experiment and I mentioned I’ve noticed a positive impact on my writing. She said something to the effect of: Well, of course. Because you wind up facing yourself.

Ever have one of those moments where everything starts swirling and you wind up in a scene from Mortal Kombat?

Yeah, okay. I did.

What does that mean? Face yourself. Shutting out social media means turning the mute button on two types of voices. First, you turn off other people’s voices that sing/yell/whisper across your screen. By doing so, though, you are automatically shutting off a second voice. YOURS. The one you use to interact with people on these tools. Which is not the same as your author’s voice, but a separate one. (And before you ask, I view blogging to be yet another voice.)

Just how profound is this? Well, I feel understanding what this means is crucial to self-promotion, time-management and good storytelling. After all, if you don’t have any words on the page, then you have nothing to revise. If you have nothing to rewrite, you have no manuscripts to polish. If you don’t have any finished manuscripts, then you don’t have any stories to submit or hand in for your deadline.

Sure, every writer is different. Some can write fast; others not so much. Still others have no problem pounding out the words, connecting with people, and making it all work. For me, though, I need to have a foundation. I have to figure out what time I need to process my work, to wrap my head around my story, article, etc. I need to listen to “the Monica voice.” To do that, to listen to that crazy girl, I had to tone down the number of voices and have a care to what she’s saying. The more voices I jam into my head, the less I can hear my gut instincts. My inner girl o’ awesome.

Is there some truth to this? That in order to be a better writer you need to face yourself?

For me? Yes, yes it is. Many other things have changed for me during this lights out period, because I wanted that silence to work on other goals. I feel like this simple phrase (“Face Yourself”) sums up not only why I needed to do this, but also solidifies what is happening all around me as well. More on that later!

About 100 Days: From April 4th to July 13th I’m turning the lights off on Facebook, Twitter and IMs for personal use. Read 100 Days: Turning off the Lights on Social Media for more information. You can also read the 100 Days post archive.

Is Blogging and Social Media Affecting Your Ability to Write What You Want?

Juggling BallsIf you’ve been following my blog, you may have seen my earlier post about Write First, Sell Later where I express how I feel it’s important to separate your promotional time from your writing time.

One of the things that I’ve found is that a timer isn’t “enough” to discipline me to get off of social media or blogging channels to write, write, write. Why? Well, blogging requires one mindset for me; social media requires another. In many ways, blogging requires a “voice” which may vary depending upon the blog. Here? I typically use my “professional voice” which doesn’t include all the random creative bits that tend to float around in my head. I’m much more random when I use Twitter, partially because it doesn’t take me any time at all to shoot off a thought. Blogging, on the other hand, can take me a bit, especially if I’m feeling particularly coherent. Fiction is a lot different than blogging, because I try not to worry about that coherency as much when I’m writing the first draft. Rather, I’m more concerned with having a cohesive plot or consistent characters. Subsequently, I’ve learned that blogging + writing stories = a recipe for disaster. If I’m not careful, blogging can actually hurt my writing because I spend more time on the first draft than I normally do. Like every writer knows — you can’t edit a blank page.

This month, I started using a different method of assessing what projects I want to complete. As geeky as it may sound, I set up a project management plan and assigned blocks of time (Yes, just like you did when you were in college) to different writing styles. Then I prioritized these chunks into what I needed to get done first. What I’m finding, is that this prioritization method is helping my mindset stay where it needs to be. I don’t feel as pressured to get something done, because I’ve got a crystal clear picture of what is important to me based on its intrinsic or financial value. Obviously, paying gigs come first, which is one of the reasons why my novel revisions are a lower priority during the first half of this month. I also add in my free time, to ensure that I’m not killing myself with work, and I bump “new” or “unpaid” opportunities to the bottom of the list.

It may sound strange, but this form of organization is what is working for me on several levels because I know that I have to cater my language to the audience I’m writing to. To help keep me focused on where my priorities lie, I am becoming the mistress of mini-tasking which, in turn, is also helping me to pace myself and manage my work load.

It’s no secret that I’m working on a hefty round of revisions for a novel, but what you may not know is that I’m also planning ahead. “If” the novel sells and “if” I’m able to write another one, I’ll probably have to manage writing a new novel while working for my day job. In my mind, establishing discipline is really important to a writer’s life, regardless of how busy or how successful you are. This is just my way of doing just that.

What about you? How do you juggle blogging with social media and your writing?

Social Media for Beginners: 15 Tips to Consider

Before the words “social media” became a buzzword, many writers like myself were engaging in adding content via places like message boards, forums and LiveJournal. Often, the phrase has become synonymous with the major social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and GoodReads, where users generate their own content to interact with one another.

When marketers talk about social media promotion, they are addressing ways to leverage the free tools that are out there to build a trendy “buzz” to get people talking about you, your business or your product to help you achieve a definable goal. There are quite a few marketers out there recommending that you jump into the social media fray, but before you do I highly recommend you keep these things in mind:

    1. You’ll Need to Budget for Time — If you’re thinking about jumping in with both feet, keep in mind that building a social media presence is a very time-consuming activity. Not only will you need to add content and review followers, but you’ll have to design a “look” that fits your brand as well. The more websites that you add to your “social media channel,” the more maintenance they may require. On top of it all, the tools are not static and often receive enhancements as well. If you don’t stay on top of what new changes occur, you might find that your presence is no longer functioning, appears outdated or is not taking advantage of an aspect that could increase sales or traffic for you.

    To sum up, engaging in social media has four components that can eat up a lot of your time: the content you provide, interaction with others, the tools you use and overall maintenance.

    2. Be Prepared to Get Personal. — I talked a little bit about this in my post that describes how social media is about being social. Basically, if you do not have a well-known brand or celebrity name, the way that you engage in social media should help people get to know you in the way that you’re comfortable with. (Remember, a social media strategy for McDonald’s will be night-and-day different from a local hamburger store that no one is familiar with.) Many people who follow me online have met me in person at different events, so keep that in mind when you’re jumping in. You don’t want to be “that guy” who has an online persona that is wholly different from what you’re like in real life. When the two worlds collide, it will reflect very badly on you to the point where you may find your online persona ruined as a result. I joked about that a little bit when I wrote how to ruin your online reputation in 10 easy steps.

    3. Remember that Social Media is often about Trends. — If you’ve been part of a social media trend, you understand that in many ways it’s “here today, gone tomorrow.” I’ve experienced this first-hand professionally and personally, and I have to say that since topics are constantly shifting in social media (in part due to the technology that’s able to deliver it) you’ll see more “micro-trends” than ever before. These “micro-trends” may be based on old or new content, and may be something I consider “flash flood” marketing, which in my mind is a subset of viral marketing. Basically, it’s what happens when a topic overpowers the social media space extraordinarily quickly, but it ends up disappearing just as quickly, leaving a mess in its wake.

    4. A “Good” Social Media Campaign is a “Customized” Campaign. — I highly recommend that you take a hard look at why you want to create a campaign in the first place. Social media may not work for every writer or business, no matter what someone else might say, because throwing “content” on a website without any sort of a goal — tangible or otherwise — is a big waste of time.

    Additionally, since you have the ability to test “responses” to your campaign through your web analytics package, don’t be afraid to edit or revise old content to leverage new social media trends. By this, I mean that since social media often has a “content component” based on your web presence (e.g. website, blogs, products, videos, etc.), don’t be afraid to revise old content to be more contemporary with a trend.

    This is especially true if you have a page on your website that gets a lot of search engine traffic. Often, many readers don’t look at the date when they’re researching a topic or getting hooked on a trend, so be sure to keep that in mind. I’ll add dates to my content revisions to help people understand when I’m editing a page and for what reason, so that I can leverage social media when it’s appropriate.

    5. Not Every Goal is about Getting Followers or Traffic. — As a web analyst, I’m often amazed to watch how a website might increase their visits by 1,000% or more, and then notice that their sales remain unchanged for weeks afterward. Visits, followers, fans, friends, etc. are not the end all, be all of social media because the numbers don’t mean anything unless you can tie them back to something you can hang your hat on — conversion.

    For example, say you’re a small pizza restaurant in New Jersey and you offer a really awesome social media campaign that attracts fifty thousand plus followers on Twitter. All of a sudden, you have a great number of followers! Do you have the personnel to manage your popularity? What happens when, in a day or two, the campaign buzz dies off and Twitter has moved on to something else. Now you struggle getting anyone to interact with you and you notice that your sales haven’t really picked up. Why? Of those fifty thousand plus followers, how many of them live near your restaurant? Do you offer online delivery services to accommodate sales? Were you prepared for both success and failure?

    Regardless of your situation, remember that social media success is often in the eye of the beholder. In many ways, social media can be “just” about brand awareness. As long as you have your goals defined once you do your homework and understand how social media may work for you, you’ll be very successful because you’ll understand the “reality” of the tools.

    6. Think Long-Term. — If you’re going to get into social media, be prepared to grow your channel over a longer period of time. There is a time (and place) for attaching yourself to trends, but that solely depends upon what you (or your business) wants to get out of social media. Regardless, this is not a place where you want to have a set-and-forget mentality. When you “forget”? That’s when your followers do, too. The flip side, is that if you’re in-their-face too much just tweeting about your online catalog, be prepared to get ignored. Social media wasn’t created for businesses, it was created for people.

    7. Social Media does not Work on Your Schedule. — Are you a nine-to-five business? Have you budgeted a half an hour a day for social media? Remember, a social media buzz can happen when you least expect it. It doesn’t happen on your schedule, and it can often occur when you’re not on the clock. For this reason, if you’re active in the space you’ll need to teach several people how to monitor your social media accounts (even if they don’t have log in) to see what others are saying about you so you can respond appropriately.

    8. Social Media Crosses International Borders. — Internationalization is a topic on many people’s minds. One “hidden” benefit of social media is this: just by signing up for a popular tool’s account provides you with the means to interact with someone from the U.S., Germany, Brazil, Japan, England, etc. Keep this in mind if your product is only available in the U.S., you might want to make your product’s availability clear. I recommend listing that up front in your bio and prepare your customer service department to handle those types of questions. Why? Well, this relates to my next point about how people on social media don’t want to feel cheated. Don’t engage a potential customer if you can’t deliver your product. They’ll walk away unhappy and might just talk about you in a negative way.

    A good example of where you might often run into problems is for social media-based “contests.” I recommend offering digital coupons or gift certificates if the winner is outside of your targeted locale.

    9. Don’t “Trick for a Click.” — While there are cases when you want to incite people to click on a link, you never want to trick someone for a click. When a reader or a customer feels cheated, they don’t feel engaged with your brand (or your personality) and they leave with a bad taste in their mouth.

    You can see this effect through your web analytics package. If you know you’re intentionally being vague or not offering enough information, you might notice an increase in traffic visitors to that one link, but only that one link. Of course, one-click traffic can be a frequent occurrence with social media even if you didn’t trick for that click, but it is a potential “why” behind your data. For that reason, I recommend providing genuine content and a frequent review of your conversion goals to target your visitor’s “second” click rather than just the “first.”

    10. Consider the “Spam” Effect.” — Remember that spammers also use social media, and not every tool is effective blocking against spammers. Over the past, few weeks, I’ve noticed spammers infiltrating real-time trends via Twitter. These “fake” trends are not only annoying, they can often turn people off from different forms of marketing if they think it might be spam. In many ways the spam effect has affected legitimate campaigns and businesses, because spam mirrors traditional viral or in-your-face marketing tactics to manipulate algorithms and get noticed. Keep the “spam” effect in the back of your mind. Sometimes, the difference between a “click” and an “eye roll” is about how you deliver the message, not necessarily what it contains.

    11. Experiment with “Content-Specific” Tools. — Even if you go into social media in order to leverage trends, keep in mind that you might get more success out of tools that specifically relate to your goals for social media or your core functionality as a business. If you’re a bookstore or a writer, get on GoodReads. If you’re a professional or a job seeker, leverage LinkedIn. In other words, you may find that your “social” success comes from a targeted tool on a topic that relates to you and not through a generic tool.

    The flip side to this argument, is that even if you don’t want to use the tools, it’s a good idea to avoid getting “brand-hijacked.” I recommend signing up for the tools to ensure your name or brand is protected even if you never plan on using them. If you do leverage tools like Facebook or Twitter, though, be aware that you can do some content customization based on your social media goals.

    12. Emotion is a Strong Motivator. — Remember when I mentioned trends and how social media doesn’t work on your schedule? Well, sometimes when you engage in social media you may find that you get poor results not because the timing wasn’t right, but because you didn’t emotionally appeal to people reading your content. For example, you may offer innocuous or “fun” content that has absolutely nothing to do with your business and get a ton of responses.

    If you want a good example of how emotion can effect a trend (and subsequently) sales, consider the Susan Boyle phenomenon from the show Britain’s Got Talent. Here’s a press release from Musicnotes.com about how Susan Boyle impacted sheet music sales.

    13. Do Not Just Talk About How Great You and Your Products Are. — I do not care if you have the best product in the world, do not use social media to just add content about how great you are to sell your gadget. Just like your website might have “lurkers” (e.g. people who visit your site but don’t buy anything) your social media accounts might also. Your number of followers is not any indication of how successful your content is, because quite frankly social account maintenance is time-consuming for anyone.

    I should point out that “brand” social media account might get a little more leeway, but once your customers find you online they do expect some interaction. I recommend incorporating how you’re going to address customers via social media as part of your overall campaign. In this case, it helps to be proactive rather than reactive.

    14. Check the Terms of Service for Every Tool. — I cannot stress this enough. The ownership and distribution of content on the web is a very sticky point for many content creators (e.g. writers, artists, companies, etc.) and we are still in the wild frontier where internet law is still developing in many cases. I mentioned a few terms of service in my post about Who Owns Your Content When You Blog, Facebook Twitter?. If your content is important to you, please do yourself a favor and check out the terms of service before you engage. This will help both you and your social media professional (should you hire one) tailor a campaign customized to your goals, including where you want to drive your traffic. For example, if you’re a photographer and you typically send people to Picasa but you don’t like their terms of service? You might change your web strategy and send them to Flickr instead.

    15. Social Media is Almost Impossible to Track. — Last but not least, please remember that social media is almost impossible to track. Your web analytics package will offer you a three-dimensional view of how a visitor comes to your website and what they do when they get there, but it does not tell you what the visitor is doing before they get there.

    Many metrics for “social media reach” have been created based on sheer mathematical numbers; e.g. #of followers vs. #of replies or #of fans and visitors. These metrics are exceptionally misleading because they do not take into account a) how often someone logs into their account to see your content and b) when they view it. To put this in perspective: just because you might have 10,000 people in your network does not mean that all 10,000 people read all of your content, all of the time, exactly when you post it. Additionally, since there are a ton of different ways to use these tools, it is quite possible that someone can view their social media activity and appear “active” without ever logging into the tool. If web analytics tracks three-dimensional visits, consider that social media tracking is about the fourth dimension — TIME. Until the social media tools offer a premium service where they allow you to see data for your particular profile, you will only be able to see the effects of your efforts, but not the data you’re used to seeing for your own site.

    In addition to the reasons listed above, try not to get too worked up over your number of followers. Why? Well, not only may your followers change frequently, it’s quite possible that not all of them are valid accounts. Having said that, if you want hard numbers that you can test there are ways to be able to do that based on your end goal — conversion.

    If you are selling something, consider that a social media-specific coupon could turn into a viral promotion in and of itself. Compare that to your other (non-social media) offers and see if they are more (or less) successful, then refine your technique based on timing or trends. I recommend fostering a base of content first, so that your coupon is a frame-of-reference for your potential customers.

    If you don’t have something to sell, your social media goals are probably different. For example, you might say that you want X number of new followers by a certain date or that you want to use social media to increase your RSS feed subscribers. Regardless, think “long-term” to achieve those numbers and you’ll have better success. Your network will be more engaged and refine itself over time, because the people in your network will get to know “you” rather than your “account.”

For all of these reasons and many more, if you’re serious about starting a social media campaign, you might want to consider hiring a social media professional to promote your book or product. A professional’s job is to stay on top of social media so you don’t have to. Based on what I’ve said here alone, you could end up saving money by hiring someone to help set up your campaigns for you.

Hope this helps! Feel free to pop in your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂

Breaking News: Using Facebook Pages? Log in ASAP

Just wanted to give everyone a heads up who is using Facebook “fan” pages. Yesterday, Facebook changed those pages to look more like profile pages, and added some new functionality. 3rd party ads are now more visible, you can provide a status update and they look more like a personal page. (Additionally, there is no ability to update your status message automatically by adding an “app” to connect with Twitter, either.)

However, if you have an existing account this new functionality is a hindrance rather than a benefit. The profile information that you had filled out to go underneath your logo is shifted to a new tab, and most of your customization has shifted.

If you’re using a Facebook page, I recommend logging in to see if this works for you. Otherwise, you can join me today while I dig around and see how I can make mine look better.

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