How often do you unplug? How many social media platforms do you participate in? Are you feeling a bit burnt, overloaded and stretched thin trying to keep up with it all? Yeah? Then, quick, read this short post by Simon Mainwaring at Fast Company: Top 10 Ways to Keep Social Media from Driving You Insane. I like #7, Refresh.

Cindy King collected advice from several Social Media Examiner writers in 21 Dangerous Blogging Mistakes (and How to Fix Them). Don’t steer away because the post focuses on mistakes, it’s really an excellent primer on effective blogging. Pay attention to Mistake #9, Bad Writing. (Said with just a bit of self-interest.)

Instead of a blog post, my next recommendation is a Prezi. What’s a Prezi? A more visually appealing alternative to PowerPoint. Maddie Grant at Socialfish shared a Prezi by Carie Lewis of The Humane Society. It’s the best advice I’ve seen about Facebook in a long time: Why I Don’t “Like” You. You need to read this if you, your business or your organization has a Facebook page. You’ll thank me, or Maddie, or even better, Carie, later.

You can always count on Andrew Hannelly at TMG Custom Media for good advice, the kind of advice that people normally pay for. If you want to know why your email subscribers stop subscribing, he’ll give you seven reasons. And, he’ll tell you what you can do about it. If you follow his advice, and it works, at least buy the man a beer.

I’ve always been a language nut. I’ve studied Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese, and learned enough of a few others to get by as a tourist. Can I speak any of them now? Heck, no, if you don’t use it, you lose it, cliché, but true. One of the cool things about studying languages is the insight it gives you into how other people perceive and deal with the world around them. When you study Chinese, it’s like traveling to another culture’s brain without leaving your living room.

I was reminded of that when reading this interesting post by Emily Badger at the Miller-McCune blog, Rescuing Endangered Languages Means Saving Ideas. Here’s what she means by that:

“Language systems don’t merely translate universal ideas into different spellings; they encode different concepts. And when we lose a language, we risk losing those concepts. A lot of concepts are on the edge of oblivion — out of about 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, half are projected to disappear by the end of the century, if not sooner. That’s an amazing amount of knowledge.”

That’s all for this week. Go learn a language and happy reading!

raleigh freelance writer blogger copywriter

photo by Mike Licht

It’s a big week here at Reid All About It, I’ll tell you why later.

But enough about life for now, let’s get back to business. If you have trouble coming up with good content for your organization’s blog, you’ll like these 5 Sources for Great Blog Post Ideas by Joseph Wesley Putnam at Blogtweaks. Sources #1 and #4, concepts you explain and questions you answer, both rely on listening and capturing. Make it a habit to capture post ideas whenever and wherever you get them — in a computer file, on a notepad or in your phone. The more you train your mind to listen, the more ideas you’ll get.

Once you have a good topic, review The Ultimate 8-Point Checklist for Remarkable Content by Pamela Seiple on the Hubspot blog. There’s no use writing about something unless the topic is worthy of your readers’ time.

I love Twitter. It’s my favorite social media platform by far. However, many people on Twitter don’t know how to use it, don’t give a hoot about their followers or suffer from a combination of the two. Peter Shankman lists The Top 10 Things That Need to Die on Twitter. I don’t usually like “rules” posts that mandate how we should and shouldn’t tweet, but I agree with Shankman’s list, except for #6, Foursquare check-ins. I don’t mind seeing where my friends are, unless they’re checking in at the office (seriously, who cares). However, I stop following people if their twitter stream contains more check-ins than any other type of tweet.

Claire Celsi asks us to: “Challenge yourself never to send another standard press release again.” She wants us to use our skills and creativity instead to get our news in front of reporters, and gives Six Alternatives to Sending a Press Release. If you absolutely must send a press release, I wrote earlier this year about ways to improve a press release’s chances of piquing interest.

Gayle C. Thorsen shares Ten Time Management Tips for Nonprofit Communicators. Don’t pass her by because of the word “nonprofit.” Her tips apply to anyone whose plate is too full, to-do list is too long and schedule is too busy. I can vouch for #3, Monday morning me-time. Give it a try.

You’ve strategized, read how-to posts, made editorial calendars and stressed over it, but still you can’t find the time or talent to write your organization’s blog posts. Don’t worry, the folks at Calvert Creative explain how busy leaders can blog without really blogging in The Number One Way to Kill Your Business Blog. The number one killer is not writing at all, turning your blog into a ghost town. Their answer: get help. Agencies and freelance writers, like me (ahem), can help you get your blog up and running again.

I have a very big special birthday coming up on Thursday, so I’ve been more reflective than usual. A few younger friends also celebrate birthdays this week, so this morning I imagined what words of wisdom I’d share with them, if they asked. “Fly your freak flag,” that’s what I’d say. I can’t take credit for those wise words, they’re from Joe Gerstandt, who every Friday encourages his readers, followers, friends, acquaintances and friends-he-hasn’t-yet-met (like me) to let their freak flags fly. You’ll have to read the “love note” he wrote to us last Friday to find out what that means: Put It Up In The Air. Hoist it up, friends!

raleigh freelance writer blogging content copywriting

photo by nataliekbeats/flickr

What’s the old saying? For every three people who praise your business, ten others complain about you? That may be hogwash, but I know from experience that the last thing a business owner wants is someone running their mouth off about a bad customer service experience, especially if we were never given the chance to make it right.

Social media gives us a platform to bitch about the ways we’ve been done wrong, and that negative buzz spreads quickly. The good news is we also use social media to rave about our good experiences. If businesses are smart, they’re listening and will turn a negative into a positive by responding, taking action and learning.

But I’m not here to talk about the bad guys. I’m focusing on businesses (and non-profits) whose customer service or marketing has impressed me lately. I’ll shine a monthly spotlight on a few smarties whose actions, large or small, made me smile.

Small gestures start relationships.

I never expect to get anything for free. If I do, I’m instinctually suspicious. What’s their angle? Sometimes, however, generous gestures are made with good intentions.

Days before vacation, my reading glasses fell apart. With a pile of new books to read, ack, what a disaster! I searched for a local eyeglasses store with hopes they’d fix my glasses for a decent price without trying to hard-sell me into buying a new pair.

If you’ve worn glasses a long time, you might think this experience isn’t so unusual. But I really didn’t expect Oasis Eye Care to repair my glasses for free — in less than five minutes and with a friendly helpful attitude. I would have paid, what do I know? When I’m ready to buy a new pair of glasses, guess where I’m going?

Lesson: Small gestures that don’t cost much and don’t take much effort mean more to your prospects and customers than you realize. We’re grateful and we remember. We also remember when you nickel-and-dime us. And we talk.

The next examples are inspired by a conference I didn’t attend because I was at the beach reading books with my repaired glasses. However, I read enough recap blog posts and tweets to form an impression about these three organizations. Social media is some powerful stuff, huh?

Give back, get buzz, have fun.

DelCor Technology Solutions, a member and exhibitor at the recent American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) conference, found a way to donate money to a charity while creating buzz and attracting attendees to their exhibit booth for a bit of fun.

Their blog and tweets invited attendees to visit their booth and have their photos taken with a life-size cardboard cutout of one of their advertising characters. If the visitor tweeted her photo, she was eligible to win a $500 donation for her favorite charity. I have no idea how successful this was, but I love the spirit (and savvy) behind it, so that’s enough to get them into the Smart Set this month.

Lesson: While the competition tries to create awareness and traffic by doing the same old things (visit our booth for a chance to win an iPad!), offer a different experience, one that makes everyone feel good – good about themselves and good about you. Appeal to our hearts and tickle-bones, our mind will follow.

smart marketing

DelCor's booth at #ASAE11

Listen, learn and improve.

The blogosphere’s reaction to last year’s ASAE conference was mixed. Many people, including myself, were hesitant about attending another unless changes were made to improve the learning experience. After hearing reports about this year’s conference, I’ve moved back into the positive camp.

ASAE obviously listened to complaints about last year’s conference and took them very seriously. Several blog posts, for example, here, here and here, praise ASAE for the improved attendee experience.

Lesson: Never get complacent. Don’t live in a bubble. Keep your eyes and ears open to new ideas. Listen to your gadflies. What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try a few new things? Let your competition sit on their butts, you’ve got new trails to climb. Think how good it will feel once you’re on the summit.

Make a lasting impression.

St. Louis hosted the ASAE Annual Meeting and went all out for the “association for associations.” #ASAE11 was their audition for the executives who choose cities for future conferences and trade shows. They knew it and they didn’t miss a beat. Their well-coordinated efforts to welcome and help attendees were a topic of discussion on Twitter and in session rooms. Even the mayor sent out an alert to city businesses.

st louis marketing

And he kept on tweeting throughout the conference, replying to attendees and retweeting tourist tips.

marketing smart set

The locals tweeted back, making suggestions for restaurants, bars and other places to visit. They helped to sell another one of the city’s charms — helpful friendly residents. I’d be willing to bet that the St. Louis CVB will receive a lot of calls from meeting planners in the near future.

Lesson: Know when to make a big impression for the long-term. Your job is to not only serve that customer tonight but to get him raving about you to his friends and colleagues and get him back in the door for another visit.

That’s the Smart Set for this month. If you’ve been impressed by the marketing or service of a smart company or organization lately, let me know in the comments. They might be candidates for next month’s Smart Set.

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Just one more thing: Someone asked me about the phrase “Color Me Impressed.” It’s the title of a Replacements song from 1983. Were any of you at their 1989 show at the Warner Theater in DC?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a curated post. If you or your organization have trouble finding time to write a post or figuring out what to write about, consider publishing a weekly curated post. As a reader, I love them – my favorite bloggers filter their information stream and select some of their best reads of the week. It’s just like Twitter but instead it’s all in one place and delivered via my Google Reader.

So how do you find great content? Well, it’s funny you ask. Mike Stelzner wrote about eight ways to do just that on Social Media Examiner.

I’ll let you in on my little secret for having great content to share on Twitter. You can scoff if you want but it’s been working for me for years. I explain it all in my post about tweeting like a real tweep.

Bob Leonard shares good basic advice on how to repurpose content you already have – speeches, white papers and sales presentations. He also explains how to find and curate content.

Now you might be thinking, “Nice, but how do I find the time to do all this stuff?” The Nonprofit Blog Carnival, hosted this month by Britt Bravo at Have Fun Do Good, gathered several posts about time management. I haven’t yet dipped into it but wanted to share it with you. I’ll pick a few favorites for a future You’ve Got to Read This post.

Or, you might be thinking, “Ok, I get the need for fresh useful and interesting content. But I don’t have time to write.” No problem, you can tell your story through a ghostwriter. The Winn Group (more accurately, their ghostwriter) explains what to look for in a ghostwriter. But, psst, you don’t need to contact them to find a ghostwriter, give me a holler instead.

If you write about social media, you might wonder how to spell some of its newfangled lingo. ReTweet or retweet? Fear not, Kerry Jones of Bluegrass Media gives us The Grammar of Social Media. Turn it into a one-pager and tack it up on your bulletin board.

And now for something completely different, the most awkward 404 page on the Internet (love it!) by Steve Lambert. Save this one for when you have several minutes to watch, it’s worth it.

raleigh freelance writer blogger content blog ghostwriting ghostwriter

Steve Lambert helping lost website visitors

I know that you’re all on the edge of your seats waiting for the next installment of the Writing for the Web series, but first I want to catch you up on some of my blog posts elsewhere.

Over on Grabbing the Gusto, my food blog, I’ve posted recipes in the last few weeks for some very tasty dishes: Coconut Citrus Tilapia, Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (the critics swooned), Kung Pao Chicken with Vegetables, two hearty dinner salads (just what you need in this hot humid weather) and more.

Here’s the best of the rest:

The Decline of We-to-You and the Rise of You-to-You

I’m not ready to declare the end of traditional marketing. One-way broadcast marketing will continue to serve its purpose with web, print, TV and radio copy. However, with the rise of social media, marketing has forever changed. You-to-you marketing is often more effective than traditional methods. 

“Oh, is it?” (You might be thinking.) Yes, it is. Read why at Avectra…

Open Community Case Study: Local Government Knowledge Network

Once upon a time there were two associations who frequently competed for the same members. Then one day they burst through long-held cultural barriers and joined together to develop an online community. Not only that, they did the unthinkable: they opened their community to non-members.

No, this isn’t a fairy tale; learn how they did it at Socialfish…

Use Video to Connect with Your Members

You don’t have to be a tech geek or a rich association to make a video these days. Many associations, with limited time and money just like you, have made effective videos without the help of experts. Several of them shared examples and tips in last week’s #assnchat, the weekly Twitter chat for association professionals.

Check out their videos and steal their ideas at Avectra…

Twitter Association Rock Stars: AARP

When you think of AARP, what comes to mind? Retired? Sorry, wrong. Most of their members are not retired, and they’re not a Boomer organization stuck in the past. AARP has one of the most savvy social media teams around.

Get the inside scoop on how AARP uses Twitter at the Avectra blog…

Conference Newcomers: Make Their First Time a Great Time

A member walks away from registration with her badge and conference bag. She’s excited and a little nervous; this is her first conference. As she leafs through the program, waiting for the opening session to begin, she watches other attendees hug each other hello. She overhears snippets of conversation. It seems like everyone else already has friends here. What are these lounges and receptions they mention? There are so many sessions and activities listed in the program; it’s overwhelming. Day one has just begun and already she feels a bit lost, lonely and discouraged.

Oh no! Learn how you can make your first-timers feel at ease and welcome at Avectra…

If you are stressed, short of time and staff, and need help writing content for your organization’s blog, drop me a line, perhaps I can help.

raleigh blogger writer

Photo by the awesome Mike Licht (Flickr)

I know there’s nothing like being there, but when you can’t be there, at least there’s Twitter. For three days, April 29-May 1, the American Society of Journalists & Authors 2011 Writers Conference went on without me. That’s happened a few times these past months – excellent conferences I’ve sadly missed. Where are my sponsors? Seriously, I’m worth it.

But since the magic carpet didn’t appear to whisk me off to NYC, I reviewed the #asja2011 tweet transcript so you don’t have to.

I’m skipping all the good tweets aimed at book authors because I’m not one, nor do I have plans to be one, at least in the near future.

Association tweeps, be proud. There were definitely more tweets during #mmccon, #ideas11 and #diginow than for this conference. Is it because association professionals are earlier adopters of Twitter than journalists and writers? Or are we less competitive and more willing to share with our community? Or better at multi-tasking? Whatever the reason, I’m very glad I have one leg firmly in the association camp.

@JenSinger, one of the keynotes, would like our community. She spoke of “coopetition” – working with fellow bloggers in your specialty. I think we do that well. She advised authors to protect their assets and not give publishers the rights to your brand or website. Her most retweeted remark: Save journalism, don’t save the medium.

Here’s an interesting Twitter tidbit: the Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) says that their clicks increase when they insert a colon between the tweet and the URL they’re sharing, like this, blah blah blah: URL.

Another tip that needs to be shouted from every rooftop from Penny Sansevieri (@bookgal): Recycle what you create. She’s so right, recycle, repurpose and reuse.

ASJA Writers Conference #asja2011 writing blogging

photo by Steve Snodgrass

Other social media tips came from Sree Sreenivasan (@sree). He advised checking someone’s (an editor’s, for example) profile before contacting them, so you have a clue as to what might be going on in their life and don’t catch them at a bad time. He never cold calls, he always reaches out first online. He says one of the secrets of social media is that you will miss almost everything people are saying. Isn’t that the truth! I love these other takeaways:

  • Writers bring order to the information chaos of the world. (Hmm, I think I’m doing that right now!)
  • Facebook is for people you went to college with. Twitter is for people you wish you went to college with.
  • Social media is a permanent book tour.

There was a lot of talk about using the web and social media to promote books. @MichelleRafter shared some excellent tweets that she tagged with #bookpromotion. Susan Johnston (@urbanmusewriter) blogged a bit about the changing role of the writer in her ASJA wrap-up post.

Another great one-liner, this time from Jennifer Abernethy (@saleslounge): Facebook is the world’s largest trade show, and they’re offering you a free booth.

Samuel Freedman talked about interviewing:

  • He prefers using a notebook during interviews because it’s less obtrusive, but he rarely takes out his notebook right away.
  • Interviews should be a conversation, not an interrogation; truths, not sound bites.
  • A lot of the drama of humanity takes place between the ears.
  • Don’t fill up the air. Let the other person think they have to fill the air.
  • Be willing to give up parts of yourself in an interview. It’s highly unnatural to ask for your source’s deepest thoughts while being opaque to them.
ASJA conference writing blogging writers #asja2011

photo by John Althouse Cohen

Maria Perez (@ProfNet) blogged about the Beating Blogger Burnout session, and included the steps to start blogging. The first three deserve reemphasis:

  1. Identify your objectives and audience.
  2. Find your niche.
  3. Create an editorial mission.

Here’s one more piece of advice: “If you want to be serious about your blog, you have to have an editorial calendar.”

In a session on pitching ideas, Amy Klein gave the new 5 W’s of journalism: what, where, when, why and who gives a shit? Jack Hart of @Oregonian said, channeling Stephen Sondheim, if you can’t write your idea on the back of a match book, it’s no good. Most people think of topics, not ideas. A statement of causality (if/then) helps create a saleable idea. How do you know if you’ve done enough research to query? If you can distill your idea into a short statement, you might be ready.

Here’s something for my food blogger friends. Cookbook publishers are looking for books in these niches: soul food, Moroccan, Mexican, southern and natural bread starters. Don’t bother if you’ve got a pitch about gluten-free, farm to table, cupcakes, no knead bread or Top Chef contestants; they’re tough sells right now.

Update: Maria Perez also blogged about the Writing for Women’s Magazines session.

This conference is not a tough sell. Looking over the program, which includes speaker Twitter handles (kudos!), my eyes were bugging out. I’m adding this one to my wish list for 2012.

Did you go to #asja2011? What were your big take-aways?

Innovation starts with self-critique (which is why it’s so rare), says Peter Linett. Go against your type, don’t put on “an exhibition that feels like an art museum designed it” or “a concert format that feels like a symphony orchestra designed it.” His litmus test for innovation: “I ask myself whether it feels like it was designed by that kind of institution, within its traditions, values, and personality — its comfort zone.What does a conference or work meeting look like that doesn’t feel like an association designed it?

Kivi Leroux Miller reminds us that we are not our target audience. Before communicating with that audience, do all you can to put yourself in their shoes – research, listen and seek advice of those who are like that audience. Just because you’re in charge, doesn’t mean you get it.

It kills me when an organization doesn’t get the fact that helping their staff connect to their members, prospects or customers is the smart thing to do. Janet McNichol writes about making association business cards social media-friendly but her advice works for any organization.

Lindsey A. Zahn has a very informative post on the Palate Press site about website scraping, copyright, fair use and wine bloggers. I’m seeing more and more sites that scrape content without permission and then get higher page ranking and increased advertising revenue. Bottom-feeders! As one commenter puts it, “it just pisses me off that our hard work and content is contributing to someone else’s bottom line.”

Please, don’t hire a social media director,” says Dion Algeri. He’s right. Too often organizations start their journey into social media by hiring someone to do social media. Instead hire someone to collect, curate, repurpose and create content. Hire a chief content officer. Ok, you don’t have to call it that, but focus on content as a tool to create conversation and connections.

In December I wrote about the Smithsonian’s censorship of a video in a National Portrait Gallery exhibition. In case you were wondering if anything was done about that ignorant decision, ArtInfo tells us, well, yes and no.

If your appetite for resources on nonprofits and social media is not sated, Beth Kanter shares a bunch from the Zoetica Salon, including posts on editorial calendars, strategy tune-ups, benchmarking and more.

I’m riveted to the news from Egypt. We (they, it’s all the same now, isn’t it?) are either on the cusp of something amazingly positive for that country, although the obstacles are formidable, or we are in for a huge disappointment if the military regime holds onto power. They are so intertwined into the political and economic infrastructure, it’s hard to imagine them ceding power at all. I created a Twitter list of  29, at last count, Egyptian activists and journalists worth following. Respect.

egyptian twitter list

Image by Nick Bygon

I’ve been a busy blogging bee lately. Here are a few of my posts on other blogs.

Give New Life to Your Press Release

With the rise of social media, some pundits have declared the press release dead. Others say that’s an extreme view; a good release still plays an important role. However, too many releases deserve the dustbin — poorly crafted, irrelevant and self-serving announcements disguised as press releases.

Read more…

The Power of Personal Learning Networks

It’s an exciting time for lifelong learners. Sources for news, information and knowledge were limited when I first entered the association management industry, but now, thanks to social media, options for learning are unlimited. As a result, we’re bombarded with words and ideas.

Read more…

Is Boomer Leadership Failing Millennials?

Millennials have been pushing my buttons lately, but in a good way. In my last post I looked at the online discussion about the value of association membership that Joe Flowers’ post provoked. This week I read a post by another Millennial blogger, Josip Petrusa – Attracting Millennials to Your Event and Why You’re Failing at It. He wrote of a recent PCMA conference. “It’s as if no one had a true grasp on who and what the Millennials are all about.”

Read more…

To Be or Not to Be, a Member

Last week Joe Flowers tweeted, “After a lot of thought, I decided to not renew my (ASAE Young Association Professional) membership.” I suggested he blog about his decision. His reasoning is probably shared by many association members so his peers would benefit from hearing his views. His post spurred a passionate conversation about associations and membership.

Read more…

Social Media and Political Action Lessons from Egypt

“Every Egyptian I talked to on ground this week laughed when I told them some think tech was not a vital tool for organizing.” Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas and an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, sent that tweet last week.

Read more when it’s published on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

associations social media press releases grassroots membership

Graphic by Mike Licht