Social media icons... YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Facebook
For someone who uses new and social media quite a lot, I must confess that I am still ignorant about some of the more nuanced aspects of these media.
It's not that I don't know about the power of media in general. I'm a former journalist after all. Sometimes I still fantasize about winning the Pulitzer in Journalism.
True enough, I could maybe win it in literature some day, but journalism has a special grit to it. There's nothing like breaking a story that is going to have real impact on the community. It makes you feel more intimately involved with the community. Like you're connecting with people.
Here's the challenge. Most of the time, you really don't connect with people personally as a journalist. Not like you'd like. True enough, sometimes you get feedback. Occasionally, people recognize you, but who can say if they think about what you wrote, participate in what you wrote, passed on what you wrote a day or two after you publish a story.
Who's to say they've even read it? Gasp.
Twitter… It's Like eHarmony for Social Media Socializers…
The reality of the matter is as intimate as journalism might seem to me, I've never gotten much feedback as a journalist.
These folks send me PMs, asking how I'm doing. Or when I'm writing particularly slowly, they give me a shout-out on my Facebook wall. This feels slightly embarrassing, but I could have worse problems than my readers wanting to know when my next book is coming out.
With all of this social proof, you'd think I'd be Johnny on the Spot about my social media activities.
Uh…Not so much.
I Don't Think Suzanne Collins Tweets… A Short List of Excuses…
Truth be told, I really haven't grasped the interactive nature of social media. At least not in a way that is effective. Also - and I'm being very serious here - there's still a part of me, even after having published a novel, who can't imagine why anyone would want to read anything I write.
So if I can't imagine them reading my stuff, why would I post on social media about a blog post or a bit of curated content or whatever. It's not like I'm Suzanne Collins or anything.
For the record, I don't know if Suzanne Collins even tweets. And that's not really the point. At one point, Suzanne Collins wasn't Suzanne Collins, whether she tweets or not. There's more than one way to make yourself famous as a writer.
I would be lying if I told you that it doesn't help writers. It does. My friend, Rachel Thompson, has more or less made herself famous by being on social media, and in particular, Twitter. She has even earned herself that fancy blue checkmark that tells people that her account is legit.
And in case you're ready to get all callous and such about Rachel's accomplishments, I feel inclined to tell you, gentle reader, that she has 164,000 on Twitter as of this writing. Her book is #25 in Women's Poetry on Kindle. It used to be #1 until she changed publishers. It'll be #1 again in short order. And journalist Emanuella Grinberg just quoted her on CNN for this hashtag:
Therefore, with all this success, you'd think my attitude would be, "Well, if Rachel's doing it, it must be working."
As before, the answer is still, "No."
For a smart girl, I'm a little slow on the uptake.
I shouldn't be, but truthfully, it wasn't until we had to participate in four webinars and four Twitter chats for EdTech 543 that I saw the value in doing the chat and webinar thing with any kind of forethought.
Tell Me Why Aren't You Chatting?
One of the challenges for writers trying to build their platform is getting introduced to people who might like their books. The problem, of course, is that if you don't approach this correctly, it will only look like you're trying to meet people so that they will buy your books. While people who get to know you may actually buy your books, I have discovered that people buy your books because they actually have a relationship with you ahead of time.
In my case, some people have been introduced to my work through my friends and readers. Others have found my books due to me posting on online forums like Facebook. But the question for me has become, "Can I speed up the process, and if so, how?"
Chatting seems to be key. Social media is social after all. People want to get to know you, provided you talk about something that interests both of you. Granted, the people who have really become fans of my writing want to hear about it. The rest aren't so sure. They want to know what's in it for them, and who can blame them? There's a lot of noise on the web today. Chatting helps you cut through the noise and talk about subjects that interest you both.
Here's Where Buffy Talks About Her Take-Aways... Part One
I'm no stranger to the idea of doing Twitter chats. It's just that I wasn't sure what good they'd do. Chalk it up to being a writer, who barely has time sometimes to write. And who despite seeming really outgoing is actually a recluse in disguise.
But I'm glad I was forced to do it. The results were pretty amazing.
Before the chats and webinars, I was lingering at about 2295 followers. The minute I broke the 2300 mark, someone would stop following me.
While meaningless followers don't mean much in terms of social engagement nor do they translate into book sales, followers that you do connect with are another story.
As of this writing, my Twitter count is at 2325. While I still get a number of followers that really aren't my audience (and who couldn't care less about my books or my writing), I am now getting people who would be. Either they're teachers interested in writing, English, and the Young Adult market, other writers who don't have books out, and bloggers, who just like pushing words around.
I also got one sign up for my newsletter, something that has been elusive for me for the most part. The list is gold in business. If you have no list, you have no gold. It's as simple as that. The same could be said of any profession, including teaching, I would wager.
Here's the thing. I'm not even good at this yet. That's just from doing what I was told to do for the assignment. Make connections. Talk to people. You know, socialize.
Here's Where Buffy Talks About Her Take-Aways... Part Two
While most of this post has been dedicated to the chat, I do need to comment a bit on the webinars. I've participated in a number of professional webinars in the past. In that regard, this assignment wasn't asking me to do something I normally don't do.
That said, something interesting happened that I didn't expect. I was able to fine tune something about my writer's platform due to one of the webinars.
I think most people who read my stuff know that I straddle both high-tech and low-tech topics in my books and blog post. But some topics like food and coloring books just don't seem to fit in with topics like SEO any logical way, so I don't write about them much.
I thought about creating a kind of "Time Out" post and keyword that would signal to my readers that I was getting out of the high-tech world and taking a bit of a breather. Lord knows that many people on my mailing list are actually on there because of my journals and coloring books.
But tying them all together…That's another story.
Until I watched a webinar about MakerSpaces. Turns out that these spaces dedicated to scientific deliciousness and exploration also have a low-tech version. Think Legos and you guessed it, coloring books. Food and recipes isn't too great a stretch in light of this. Your kitchen can be a MakerSpace after all.
(To learn more about MakerSpaces, watch the TED Talk below.)
True enough, the content from all the webinars was useful, though I wasn't as enthralled with what I got from my other webinars as I was with the MakerSpace one. However, they weren't a waste.
Rather, it'll be a matter of applying the lessons of the webinars to future posts and endeavors. For example, I know already that once I really digest what I got from the Generation Global webinar, I'll be able to tie it to such cultural icons as "Star Trek" and other topics I write about.
And that's really what it's about for me. I write about topics like "Star Trek" and "The Hunger Games" and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" because they reach people. Many people who may read my blog probably aren't searching for me at this juncture of my career, but they are searching for cool stuff about Spock and the Mad Hatter and Katniss Everdeen.
That was really one of the benefits I always saw in winning the Pulitzer. Such an accomplishment puts your work in front of people who otherwise might not be exposed to it.
It turns out that doing Twitter chats and webinars can do the same thing. Granted, it might not be the instant fame you'd get from winning a big prize like that, but then again, if your goal is connecting, truly connecting with your audience, then maybe building that audience slowly over time is better anyway.
You can also find chats by going through your favorite hashtags on Twitter to see if people are chatting about that topic. If it looks like people have made recent posts about that topic and in particular, on the same day, there's a good bet you're witnessing a potential chat. Also look for people responding to other people about the topic. Finally, the questions and answers for a chat with have a "Q" or an "A" in front of a question along with that chat's hashtag. This is a sure sign you've stumbled upon a chat. You can find out from there what the days/ times of the chats are by tagging the participants.
Here's Where Buffy Talks About Her Take-Aways... Part Three
(Unapologetic trip down memory lane... The original "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" movie trailer...)
If you're like me and want to attend a very cool Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer chat just for fun (and maybe profit) check to see if the chat still exists. (Don't judge. I love the Vampire Slayer.) Sometimes chats have been abandoned by their creators, and the only way you'll know this is if you actually check Twitter for recent posts. That's how I figure out that the Buffy chat hasn't been held since 2014.
The chat resources above give you a good jumping off point, but not all of them are vetted. So while you may want to connect with your fellow educators, a group of Star Trek or Buffy geeks, or just be, you know, social on social media, please keep this in mind.
Additionally, you'll want to look for more than just a hashtag. Look for the person/s on Twitter who run the chat. You can always give them a shout-out ahead of time to see if they're chatting on a particular day. This worked wonders for me with one of my chats for this assignment. It was held on the night of the presidential debates. The guy hosting the chat, Mack Collier, asked people if they still wanted to chat due to the event that night.
After getting a resound, "Yes!!" those of us who did chat used the opportunity to talk about using the election and other important events as a way to get our tweets seen. (This is called newsjacking by the way. That's a whole other post...)
Checking for a chat ahead of time not only ensures that you have a chat, but it's an awesome way to build connections with people in your PLN/ CoP along the way.
Finally, it should be noted that at least two of my webinars had chats that coincided with them. Although these webinars had an in-webinar chat feature within the webinar interface, they also offered an external Twitter chat.
I found this to be a tad confusing. I need to interject some information before I give you my advice about how to handle a situation like this.
According to Treci Johnson on DigitalGov.gov, people nowadays own more than one digital device and many will start a task on one device only to finish it on another. This means that they may watch TV while chatting on their phone. They may also be watching a webinar on their computer while chatting on their phone.
This means that while I had trouble paying attention to both the webinar and the webinar's chat on Twitter at the same time, this may not be the case for everyone. Some people enjoy multiple streams of chat on these events. I don't think I'm one of them. Therefore, my recommendation is that if you decide to do chat with a webinar, save your "extra" chatting for before and after the webinar. The webinar's hashtag will allow you to find other like-minded individuals while still keeping your eyes on the task at hand.
Here's a Sample of Some of my Webinars and Chats:
Look through the slide shows to get a glimpse of my chats and webinars. The slides are labeled with the name of the webinar and/ or chats that I attended. There are screenshots for four chats and four webinars.
I was especially excited to participate in the #BookMarketingChat chat. (Did you catch that?) I had an opportunity to talk about SEO or search engine optimization for Amazon. (SEO is a topic we covered in EdTech 543 as well, so I was glad that I could apply what I learned about that topic to this assignment's line-up.)
SEO for Amazon is something I am developing a bit of an interest in, which I will hopefully be able to share with others down the road. This chat developed a lot of good CoP connections for me, and allowed me to talk a bit about how I find the right keywords/ keyword phrases for Amazon. SEO is all about keywording, whether you're choosing the right keywords for your blog or for Amazon.
Needless to say, I'm planning on chatting regularly from now on.
If you click on the pictures below, the slide-show feature will be activated. You can then take a closer look at the chats and webinars I participated in.