Organic Twitter Growth- Free of Pesticides, GMO & Growth Hormones

Like it or not, the Facebook redefined some core terminology regarding the basics of human relationships.  The Twitter took it one step further- redefining the actual dialogue structure and the sheer number of conversations a person can conduct in a day.

If you lived on this mountain in rural NC, Twitter might be a connection to the outside world!

Step back and process that for a second- the fundamental methods in which we define and interact with people throughout our day have undergone a metamorphosis brought about by a handful of genius Gen Y & X’ers, who- as The Social Network points out- might not be all that capable of quality relationships in the real world.

Real offline relationships still lie at the core of our society and the irreplaceable values of face to face interaction and true in-person conversations will never die.  But, in today’s world, it’s possible to take the conversation online and connect with people who you would not have interacted with 6 years ago- due in main part to geographic restrictions.

As my time online increases and I continue to make meaningful connections using social networks, I have to take a step back and look at the methods in which this online conversation occur and how to build a network that truly reflects who I am- in the “offline world”.

Work/Play Balance

The Internets, at least for me, serve the purpose of helping me build and promote my passion skills- my photography and writing.  If I had to categorize my online time, 85% of it is professional and the remaining time is spent catching up with my offline friends through online communications.  And, of course, grabbing the occasional episode of Greys on Hulu, should my Thursday evening have an unavoidable appointment.

My journey through social media has reflected this as well- my online community surfaced around my professional interests- photography, visual communications, writing and biz dev (I’m going to replace the term entrepreneurship with biz dev- business development b/c for the life of me I can not spell entrepreneurship- ever).  My networks are filled with people who have an interest in any of these areas.

A little playtime while the adults build a greenhouse at Maverick Farms, NC.

I try to keep the work/play balance to that ratio.  For if I begin to have my play time online, then my day would be spent completely in the online world- which can’t be healthy.  Unless you’re Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Building a Network

The other day I broke 500 followers on the Twitter.  Woo-hoo!  I felt rather special.  As I proudly tweeted my meager accomplishment a conversation ensued around building a network.  A fellow blogger who I communicate with rather regularly made the comment that he bet my number came about organically.  And well, it did.

If you build it...

But I’d never really thought too much about that.  He mentioned that he has used an auto follower to generate followers in the beginning of his Twitter building and wished he hadn’t done so.  I’d heard of such tools, but never used them.  In my beginning growth days, I would use the search twitter option and find people with similar interests and if they were posting interesting comments, I’d follow.  But after my growth started on its own, I stopped doing this.

So, my method for organic growth is rather simple. When someone follows me, a notification pops up in my email along with their avatar.  If they have a human face or an interesting logo, I click on their link and visit their page.  The next part is key- I see what they are saying!  I look for a balance of RTs, link posting with relevant copy and I see if they are having actual conversations with people.

If a happy balance of all three exists- then I follow back. If I stumble upon someone’s online content that kicks ass or is powerfully relevant- and their Twitter icon is on their page- I follow them as well.

Simple.  Natural.  Organic.

Picking out the weeds- one at a time!

Interaction

Interacting with your network is HUGE!  That’s the point, right?

But, there are ways to do this and ways to get your ass un-followed.  I really don’t un-follow people unless they are spammy, slimy or just incessantly posting things that I don’t interact with.  I try not to follow such types in the first place- hence the organic growth thing.

I lurked- for over a year- on Twitter before I dove in.  And then, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or why it mattered.  I opened my Twitter account when it first came on the scene- and it sat dormant for a while.  This winter I fired it up when I launched the Storyteller- just seemed logical.  But I still didn’t use it right, I posted quotes, blog articles and a few RTs, but that was it.  And the actions were not a regular occurrence.

This summer I dove in headfirst.  I found people who were posting interesting questions and I answered.  I retweeted articles I felt could benefit others.  On occasion, I would just send a shout out to the person if I just spent an hour watching their keynote speech online or spent all evening with their podcasts.

I gave feedback on things that really had an impact on me and my biz perspective.  And a few of these shout outs gave interesting replies.  Conversations ensued and now we interact regularly.  In fact, I’ll be crossing paths with my online network in person this winter as I go on my western Walkabout.

That’s the power of the Twitter.  That’s why this shit really matters.  You’re building real relationships with real people using an online platform.

Building relationships, both offline and online, spreads a little joy in your life and hopefully some laughter too.

And as my blog and my network grows, people are reaching out to me in conversation and I just couldn’t be any happier about it! I love getting real feedback from people about my work and then I am able to engage with their work as well.  Which makes it all worthwhile.

So, to recap on this rambly Twitter article.

  • Organic growth on the Twitter can be the most rewarding because you are engaging in real conversations with real people.  Reflecting your offline interactions.
  • Choose your follows with a little bit of care. You don’t have to follow everyone who follows you.  If they look slimy or spammy don’t open the channels of communication.  If some creepy guy driving a chester-molester van slinks over to me in a parking lot and tries to strike up a conversation- I’m gonna politely walk away.  Same thing goes for the online world.
  • Don’t just look at the number of followers the person has- we all started off with one follower. But if they follow a gazillion people and don’t tweet anything, beware. Or if they are following a gazillion people and none are following them back- yet they are Tweeting their ass off- well, I smell a little spam in the air.
  • Don’t use auto-finders and auto responders on Twitter. Unless the sheer number of follows matters to your ego and your balls need that type of inflated support, just let your growth happen naturally.  As Twitter has evolved, so have it’s users.  So let your network find you and spend some time finding a network that reflects you, as a person.  And if you keep building fabulous content, people will find you!
  • Provide a valuable conversation. Just like in the real world, conduct your conversations as though you’re sharing a coffee with someone. Provide answers, ask questions, give information and provide a little moral support now and again.  People respond to real people- so keep it real and keep it interesting. It’s not all about your blog posts or your marketing.  It’s about everyone you interact with and their lives too.
  • Check your Mentions regularly and thank people, give them feedback and strike up the conversation. When I first started really using the Twitter, I sent a quick thanks to GaryVee to thank him for posting all those keynotes- they were quite inspiring.  And damn if he didn’t say a thanks back.  That’s impressive for someone with almost a million Twitter followers.  Same for Chris Guillebeau @ the AONC. He responds as well and I’m just amazed that these guys are able to devote their time in this manner to the people who engage with their content.  It truly speaks to the transparency and authenticity that is transforming business in the online (and hopefully the offline) world.

So, go forth, sow the seeds of conversation and Tweet.  Follow me on the Twitter, if you aren’t already, and let’s keep this party rollin’!

Getting the fields ready for the winter.

These images were taken during my time at UNC.  I was auditing an environmental justice class and as part of our service learning component, the class traveled to a small locally owned farm in the mountains of NC to help them complete projects and prepare for the winter.  Please visit Maverick Farms if you’re near Boone!  It’s both beautiful and delicious!


Ten Steps for Creating an Effective Blogging Workflow

We’re gonna embrace our inner Type-A personality, coddle our little methodical inner gnomes and examine one writer’s blogging workflow. My workflow, to be exact. Not trying to be a narcissist here, I just know my workflow and can explain it best. Yes, I’m biased.

We’re not exploring the creative side of the writing- each individual will have their own path to stir up the creative juju and produce brilliance- but the actual, step by step logistical process to writing.

Buckle up, put on your logical thinking cap and let’s dive in.

When I began writing my blog, I really didn’t have a system and hadn’t stumbled upon anyone elses writing system, so, I adapted my professional photography workflow when applicable and winged it when not. Through trial and error and 9 months of writing regularly my system seems to be working pretty well- when the writer’s block doesn’t take hold. But that’s an article for another time.

Step 1. Frolic with your Muse!

I venture out into the world to drum up my writing material. My blog, for the most part, is based on my personal interactions with people and places while traveling. I keep a moleskin journal handy and jot down notes, headlines or just vague concepts for my articles. This step will vary based on your topics, but be sure to recognize and embrace your creative muse and allow time and space in your writing routine to frolic with your muse.

My Creative Muse- People Watching!!

Step 2. Let the music flow.

Your style may differ, but I can not write without music. And not just background noise floating around all “Sound of Music” like, but serious, techno-style Moby/Thievery Corporation beats. Long songs, complex musical structures, few words and powerful rhythms. And no ordinary headphones will do.  You are entering the zone- hoping to be sucked down the rabbit hole into the vortex of your mind- you need professional grade, noise canceling headphones that immediately send you into a parallel universe. This is of the utmost importance if you work in public locations, like coffeeshops, for every screaming baby and steamed cup of milk will break your concentration and pull you back to reality.

Main point- respect and cultivate your writing environment and be sure you have the proper tools to tune out distractions.

Step 3. Enter the WriteRoom.

No, the WriteRoom isn’t some dark, dank writer’ cave tucked away on the shores of Walden Pond (though that wouldn’t be bad) WriteRoom is my computer’s happy place that sends me into the writing zone and, if I’m lucky, propels me into the Flow.

WriteRoom is a down-loadable computer application that, when opened, turns the entire computer screen black and your computer becomes a word processor- circa 1985. It’s gorgeous! The dock is gone, no icons are screaming for distractions and no birds are Tweeting or emails dinging. Nothing. Just a black screen, green awkward font and my thoughts. I actually can’t write without it. Pony up, spend the $30 bucks, buy the software and go to your Flow.

Brings back memories- how can you not love the 1985 word processors?

Step 4. Write.

Yea, that’s a no brainer, but not always an easy thing to do. If I know what I’m writing about, I type in the headline- or a rough draft of a headline- and then write. I do punctuate and capitalize, but some people frown upon this as it breaks the flow of your writing. It’s personal preference- I just do it naturally. I do not correct spelling while typing and I turn off all spell check notifiers. That Red Line is a deal-breaker in my book and you’d be wise to do the same. I suck at spelling, I get that, I’m OK with that character flaw and I don’t need a constant reminder of my inadequacies while I’m in writing Flow.

Now, if you are staring at a totally black screen and no words are coming out of your fingers, then just write gibberish. Write about what you ate for breakfast. Write about the dickhead that cut you off on the way to the coffeeshop then tossed his cigarette out the window. Write about the next door neighbor trimming the hedges in her silky nightgown yesterday morning while the old timer sat on his porch across the street taking it all in. Whatever- it matters not- just write. After some time, you’ll find an article or a theme starting to rear its little head. Encourage the little theme to surface, nurture it out into the open and let it morph into your article. And whatever you do, DON’T STOP WRITING. You’ll know when you’re done.

Step 5. Save it!

Again, no brainer. But really, save the document- usually in a text format. If you’re not using WriteRoom (shame on you) write this draft in a text document program. The lack of formatting and options helps the words flow out. I use a naming convention based on the date and a slug related to the topic (YYYYMMDD_SLUG.txt). The file is saved in a folder with the same naming convention and the folder lives in a Category Folder that reflects the categories on my blog. Here’s a screenshot if that last sentence sounded like Mandarin.

My Folder Structure. It works. Use it.

I’ve used this naming convention for years with photography and it’s a necessity. Why, you ask? Why the anal file naming convention, oh work-flow-nazi? Well, when you use the following naming convention- 20100822_WRITINGWORKFLOW.txt (and yes, it must look exactly like that- YYYYMMDD_SLUG ) then your files will automatically order themselves chronologically in your folders. And when you’ve been writing for months- or years- and are trying to scan through hundreds of articles to pull out an old post for your portfolio, you’ll know exactly where to find it.

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t organize your writing files, you’ll have a train-wreck and your blog and writing will suffer eventually.

Step 5. Copy and Paste.

Now, WriteRoom is not the best for editing and does not format your text, so copy the writing and paste it into your word processing program, such as Pages for Mac or Word. I save the file using the same naming convention as above, IN THE SAME FOLDER, and then I hit my trusty friend, the Spellcheck! I like to knock this out right away so I don’t start off my editing with a reminder of my character flaw. Save it, close your computer up and go get some sunshine.

Step 6. Edit.

After some substantial time away from your article, three to five hours at a minimum, return to your computer, open up the word document and start the editing process. Just like writing, everyone will edit differently. Some will harp on the AP Style, others will obsess about it’s versus its and others will just gut the piece like a red snapper fresh from the sea. One of my professors at journalism school, a brilliant writer and historian, would print out his articles and physically cut sections together and tape them back the way he wanted them to flow. He’s in his 70s, so he learned to edit before computers!

Know your voice, know your writing style and edit accordingly. I know that my voice is unique and my grammar blows- at least for my blog articles- but that’s a more natural, conversational tone that I strive to maintain when editing. I know that my voice can reflect my years of bartending and my discovery of Eddie Murphy’s Delirious at the tender ago of 13. My vulgar use of the English language is one reason I don’t have my mother proofread my articles (and yes, my mom is a professional proofreader).

Step 7. Re-read it! Read your article. Read it again. Go on, one more time.

Step 8. Format for the Web.

Go through your article and find any points in the writing that might be well-served by a few hyperlinks, find them on the web and paste them into the article next to the actual place you’d like to place the hyperlink. This little step saves you time once you’re entering your article into your blog platform and will keep you from flopping around on the internet like an ADHD 7 year old without your meds when you’re supposed to be focused on publishing.

Step 9. Photos and Graphics.
Choose your photos or graphics and add them to your folder with the articles. Be sure the pictures are formated for the web (a 72 DPI resolution and sized no bigger than 900 pixels wide) and, for the love of god, be sure you have permission to use them.

DO NOT grab a random photo off the internet and make it your own. Not only is this tacky, disrespectful to the photographer and just cheesy- it’s also illegal. Illegal to the tune of $125K per copyright violation. Just don’t go there. Use Flickr’s Creative Commons section for free photos (with attribution) or learn how to take your own photos.

And don’t use sucky photos. We’re a visual society and we take quality images for granted- meaning- your readers expect quality photographs and if they come to your site for the first time and see shitty pictures, your words might not be strong enough to keep their eyeballs on your site. OK, I shall step off the photographer’s soap box now.

Step 10. Send it to the Web.

Finally. We’re ready to publish!! Open up your admin panel for your blog, click the new post and copy and paste your text from the edited version into your article. Cut the hyperlinks and paste them into the Hyperlink dialogue box, add your photos in the appropriate spots and add whatever special excerpts, thumbnails and formatting your blog requires. Then, hit publish. Go on, don’t hesitate! You’ve gone through the steps, your writing is brilliant and people will love it! Go for it!

Are we done yet??

No. Time to let the world know your life-altering prose are available for them to consume.

Go to the Ping.fm , visit the Facebook, fly over to the Hootesuite and send your article out to the world. In 140 characters or less, tell the world why your article matters and why they need to read it. Use Hash Tags to get your article in front of the right eyeballs and let it fly!

One more thing- BACK UP YOUR WRITING. Yes, back up your blog folder structure on your computer to an external hard-drive and send it to the cloud.

Now, you’re done. Uncork some wine, pop open a beer, brew some tea, sit back and take in your work. Revel the accomplishment of a fabulous article sharing your unique knowledge with the world.

Go forth and write.

Blogging, Social Media Marketing and Avoiding the Narcissist Within.

How do you become the uber-marketer, promoting your work, your webiste or blog and not fall into the vortex of narcissism?  How do you balance the need to promote your work with the need to not be so focused on self?  Is there a way to engage in Twitter and Facebook without the redundant drum-beating of ‘look at me,’ ‘look at what I’m doing now,’ ‘look, I just completed a menial daily task and now I’m tweeting about it.” Is that really necessary?  How do you utilize social media in a way that both gets your message in front of people and builds your online audience without becoming a self-indulgent, non-sense twittering narcissist?

Twitter Overload.

Twitter Overload.

I ask this because I’m not sure of the answer and I’d like to open the dialogue.  Do you use Twitter in an effective manner that builds an audience and doesn’t put them to sleep with useless information?  Does your Facebook status update resemble a schizophrenic multitasker juggling cubicle life and children or is it strictly for promotional purposes- or both?  I know mine is questionable at times, no matter how professional I want to be.  How do you engage in email marketing without seeming like a 5 year old jumping up and down, shouting, ‘I’m here, look at me, talk to me!’ What are your methods? What works for you and do you think self-promotion is overdone in our socially inclined media climate?

Before diving into the blogosphere, I studied a variety of blogs with content that I truly found engaging and informative.  I believe that is one of the key drivers in self-promotion on the web- provide something that’s worth reading and engaging with.  Its essential.  People want to be entertained and informed, so be sure that you are speaking to your audience in an effective manner. I am hoping to emulate their methods, for after spending almost a year following these bloggers, I’m not bogged down with marketing from their sites.  Though, I may be doing a little jumping up and down, shouting ‘here I am’ for the first few months of this endeavor- so yes, I’ll be contradicting my earlier statements.  Don’t judge.

I have also spent some time following several photography/media industry leaders on Twitter as well as a few big name bloggers.  Each one approaches Twitter in such a diverse manner that I’m still unsure of whether or not to engage with this platform of communication.  But, if my mission is to produce content that people engage with and find beneficial, Twitter may just be another vehicle in helping me reach that goal.  This point is open for debate.  What do you think Twitter’s role in social media marketing is and will it last?

So, I will try to avoid delving into narcissism in my marketing efforts for this blog and my work.  I will strive to provide relevant content for my audience, no matter how diverse it may become and I will try not to be a useless Twittering twit.  But please, leave a few comments about your answers to the questions above. I’m curious.  And your two cents may help another artist/author looking to dive into this realm and unsure of the means and methods of social media marketing.