Blogger’s Little Helpers

I recently came across a little thing on Twitter that many may already be familiar with but which I had only seen occasionally and never really followed up on. A little thing called the Follow Friday helper.

Apparently there are several of these services in existence and they all work mostly the same way. They analyze your Twitter account and then give you suggestions for your #Follow Friday listings.

At first I thought, wow, what a neat idea. I registered and then pressed the magic button to see what suggestions it would give me. Now I am not knocking the followers it listed. They were all great and the good thing about the service is that is does give you justification for why it chose that person. Either they mentioned you, RT’d you, or somehow or another engaged in a lovely act of reciprocity that garnered them a nod from the algorithm used by the Follow Friday helper program.

What I noticed however is that the main people it suggested are the people I tend to talk a lot with on Twitter. Again, not that I wouldn’t recommend them…I usually do. But that isn’t what I generally use my #FF listings for. When the time rolls around for me to make suggestions I really try to make it personal.

Maybe I am still idealistic (or maybe I am just not huge and famous enough) but I still take the time to go back through my list of 500 or so followers and look for those that had something interesting to say over the past week. Something that caught my attention, or someone who needs a boost – maybe they are really awesome, have a ton of potential but just need a few people to help push them into the spotlight. I love it when I do that for somebody. Everybody needs a little good karma now and then.

So it seemed to me that by automating the process it was impersonalizing it as well and I am not into that. Maybe one day, when I have millions of followers…I would consider it but at the same time it seems like the same argument as the automated welcome message debate.  Those who are successful will tell you that having an automated welcome message is a big NO-NO. It turns people off. If someone decides to follow you, it is because they saw something they liked. If you can’t be bothered to welcome them, send a quick hello without a sales pitch, or an auto-DM, then maybe you really are not worth their time after all.

I know what you are thinking, if I sent a message every time I got a new follower I would be tweeting constantly. Well I don’t do that either. I keep track of my new followers using a column on my Tweetdeck. Then once a week or so I send out a welcome to my new followers, thanking them for following me. Takes maybe five minutes of my time.

Therefore, while some of these services might be neat, I think that I will stick with doing my #FF’s the old-fashioned way, and keep things personal. After all, just because you are online doesn’t mean you are not reaching out to people.

What do you think? Do you use any blogging/Twitter “helpers”? Where do you fall on the automation debate? Is there a point where using a service becomes necessary?

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Innovative Use of Color, detailed line work make Sacred Heart stand out from all the rest

If you are prone to believe in stereotypes, you might not automatically think of warm friendly faces and a laid back comfortable environment when you think of a tattoo parlor…I know that I didn’t used too…until I met Joe.

Joe Reyes, owner of Sacred Heart Tattoo in Austell can put anyone at ease. He may be covered with the obligatory markings of his craft but he lacks the knife-like edge that people so often assume comes with the tattoo-artist’s lifestyle. In short, Joe is just a really nice guy, a sentiment reflected by the following that appears on the shop website:

“This is first of all the most friendly shop I have ever stepped a foot into. We met Joe and it was like meeting someone you had known forever. He listened to our ideas and came up with some great artwork! They are very flexible and have always been able to work us in. We will never consider getting work done by any other shop! These guys are amazing!” – Ashley Crews

Being a friendly guy doesn’t automatically make you a great tattoo artist, so it helps that Joe and his crew are a pretty talented team. This is obviously a pre-requisite, especially since Joe learned from one of the best, world-class artist Tony Olivas, founder of Sacred Heart Tattoo. Of course you don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look at some of his work and you can decide for yourself. Joe has a touch that is extremely light, which was nice for me, having sensitive skin and a tendency to scar easily. Definitely something to consider when contemplating a tattoo. Also, anytime people see our tattoos they always comment that they must be very fresh, this is because the tattoos that my husband and I have received from Joe look brand new, just like the day they fully healed. The ink he uses sets in so deep and rich that people never believe that some of the work is several years old.

But if it’s a tattoo from Joe you’re interested in, you had better call first, he just might be on set. You read that right. Mr. Reyes has kept himself busy stacking up credits in his free time, whether making an appearance in Fast and Furious 5 which recently wrapped filming in Atlanta or appearing as one of the lead actors in an award-winning music video, Transistor, produced by Players Royale Productions for the Atlanta band The Julia Dream, you can expect to see lots more of his smiling face. Even if it’s not in the movies, once you get a tattoo from Joe, you will probably be going back for more.

Don’t forget to visit the official Sacred Heart Tattoo Austell Facebook Fan Page !

Not everyone (or thing)needs or wants your help

I just want to help…

So the idea for this post literally came to me when I was driving to the store to buy more children’s Tylenol to care for yet another ear infection in our household.

It had been raining all day and the creeks were overflowing their banks creating tiny rivulets of muddy runoff across the road as I drove. I noticed something in the road and in a split second recognized it for what it was, a turtle. I pulled over, hit the flashers and pulled my hood up, ready to help the defenseless reptile.

I got about a foot from the animal when I realized two things very quickly. First, he was much larger than I had realized at first. Second, he was no garden variety turtle. He was pointy, quick-moving and at the moment entirely pissed off that he was being disturbed by me. Oh, and he was also a snapping turtle.

I stood there in the rain debating. I didn’t want to just leave him. But at the same time, he was hissing and turning in circles following my every move. I finally decided to nudge him just a little bit with my shoe. Wham! he snapped so fast I am surprised he didn’t take my shoe with him. At this point several cars had slowed down to observe the ridiculousness of my attempts to “help” this turtle. I was soaking wet, and feeling thoroughly chastised.

The take away message is one that those of us in conservation tend to forget. We get so caught up in trying to “save” or to “help” that we often forget that there are times when it is best to simply do nothing. Many species have been getting along just fine without us and will continue to get along just fine without our help. Not that we don’t need to engage in conservation, we certainly do, every single day. But in the grand scheme of life, we can not be nor should we stress out about being responsible for every species that crosses our path, especially when many that do, are very capable of getting across the road just fine without our help.

A lesson well learned.

Staying Innovative is Crucial for Conservation

With so many non-profits and NGO’s, not to mention all the state and federal agencies vying for a piece of the continually shrinking resource pie, it is no secret that to remain in the conservation game, being innovative has become a critical component for survival.

The old stand-by tricks of the trade are no longer returning the numbers they used to which is part of why so many have turned to using social media. But just “using” social media or creating a social media plan is not enough.

In order to stay ahead of the game, you have to almost stay ahead of social media, a nearly impossible task. That means having at least one or more dedicated staff members that just work on social media campaigns, not just a summer intern. They stay current on what’s out there, using valid search methods and make sure your organization is represented on all the major social networks where it is relevant to be present.

But as the great Cat in the Hat said, “that is not all, oh no, that is not all.”

Twitter and Facebook, while important are considered the norm by today’s social media standards. To stay ahead and keep today’s 5-second attention spans on your web sites (and hopefully clicking on your donation buttons) you have got to have an innovative approach. You need something that will not only capture attention but then nudge them to act upon an impulse. Not an easy task I know (In fact I am currently working on a thesis about this very topic so please feel free to comment, I need all the help I can get!!)

First take a look at this list. I found it while perusing a great blog called NowSourcing and although a bit dated, it has some tremendous resources.

Next take a look around you and ask a few key marketing and demographic questions. Who are you trying to reach? What kind of sites do they generally frequent? What is your key demographic. Most organizations have access to this type of information and can sit down and come up with a list pretty easily.

Once you have your list, it is time to get creative. Brainstorm all the ways (in 140 characters or less if you can) that you can appeal your organization’s latest achievement to all the different demographics you listed. Try humor, trivia, promotion, a plea, whatever and see what you come up with. The point is start getting the creative juices flowing.The upside of this is that if you come away with anything really good, it is already pre-packaged for Twitter!

Once you are feeling a little looser, take your demographic and start researching some new networks where you might be able to connect with them. Depending on the type of organization you are a part of this could be Care2, GovLoop, GreenWalla, etc. Again be creative. Enter some key words into a few search engines and see what pops up, whether they be blogs, web sites, online magazines etc. Make a note of these search results and where you can begin to interact. Don’t hide your identity, the point is to get your organization’s name out there, to show you have an interest where your customers/constituents are spending time.

Okay, so you have a pretty good idea where your audience is spending their time and you’ve created a decent, maybe even humorous list of possible tweets/pitches for your organization. Now for the next step – to find out who is already talking about you and plug in.

Similar to the keyword search you used before, you will be using some social media tools to locate just how far your actual reach is on the web using klout, backtweet, twitter reach etc. A great discussion of these tools can be found here. What these will do for you is to help you determine just how influential you are being with your current campaigns, and where you may need to beef up your efforts.

So hopefully this short refresher has helped you but please note that this is a continuing work in progress. What additional ways do you stay on your toes in the name of conservation?

I Make Mistakes Everyday…And I’m Okay With That.

Okay, so I’ve been absent from the blogging scene for a while. Not that I haven’t been around; I’ve made a point to keep up with my social networks, commenting, tweeting, having some fabulous conversations with some of my fellow bloggers and perusing some new social media applications, making notes for my ongoing research. But as for actually writing a post of my own, I’ve come up against a wall.  Today after some Tweeting with the BlogBloke about whether or not to be controversial (I generally open my mouth when I shouldn’t, he was toning down a post), and catching up on emails I read a great post from Copyblogger about inspiration that ended up giving me just the push I needed. The post referred me to a site called The Quotations Page among other ways (music, reading great authors, leafing through magazines) to break through writers block when you feel like you just can’t write one more line. So I hopped on over the site and one of the first quotes to pop out at me was this one.

“Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.” – Mark Twain
I tend to be one of those that rushes forward, excited, into new situations feeling and learning my way along as I go. On one hand I tend to learn a lot this way and have a great deal of practical hands-on experience in many different areas of life. On the other hand, I have made many mistakes and incurred several injuries along the way.
However, having said that, I am proud to say that I live with no regrets for the way I live my life. I make mistakes,  I learn from them and then I move forward. Always move forward.The important part as the quote so eloquently points out is admission though. Most people don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. They will go to great lengths to hide every little flubb up. I include myself when I say that as I too have been guilty of posturing on more than one occasion. But there is wisdom in that quote.
If you go ahead and admit the mistake it tends to confuse others. I think it is true that most people expect you to try to get out of it, so by admitting you have done wrong, you leave them scratching their heads and then you look incredibly wise and on top of things. (I’ve even heard it can be a great way to get ahead in business, as long as you are not a constantly messing up.)
So what am I taking from this little lesson? I am going to try to admit to a few more mistakes. Who knows, maybe this will be just the crack in the wall I need to get the creative juices  flowing.
Thank goodness for Mark Twain. How would we ever Blog without him?
Photo courtesy of Creative.com


Being Green in Theory v. Practice

the ridiculous-nous of a dollarI must say that I am so tired of getting pile after pile of JUNK mail from groups (that for the sake of this post shall remain nameless…well that and I happen to be a card-carrying member of a few of them) that claim to want to save the planet in some form or fashion, whether it’s dirty coal one day or drowned polar bears the next…they fill your mailbox with pleas for your hard-earned dollar but seem to ignore one of the most basic and vital resources known to mankind as a species…clean air…produced in part by the very trees (some of them OLD GROWTH) cut down so that they could mail out their solicitations, most of which will never even be read, much less recycled and will likely wind up in some landfill taking up even more space and causing even more problems for these groups to complain about creating a new impetus for them to send out a whole new round of solicitations about these “new” problems to an uninterested public!

Whew! What an opening rant…

Ok, now let’s get serious folks. Yes I may be a hard-core environmental fanatic, but I make mistakes, have my failings, am outright lazy once in a while.(I sadly admit that even I have thrown away recyclable items without a twinge of remorse when tired, in a hurry with screaming toddlers strapped to both hips….) But, for the most part, I am working to be a responsible citizen, not just of my community, or even my country, but of my planet. I try to instill in my children the basic moral principles that less is more, and that homemade is from the heart. We avoid the big box retailers when possible, rarely eat junk, recycle regularly, endure the dirty looks we STILL get as we haul our cloth bags, walk more than drive and bundle up rather than crank up the thermostat.

Despite all these efforts, they can’t seem to avoid the barrage of mail we receive on a near daily basis asking for our support (which means money) and the really slick and cool ones promise that if we respond in 30 days we get a lovely reproduction 1930’s explorers backpack! How cool is that??

Just make sure you read the fine print…(you know the one that tells you that in exchange for that awesome backpack, only 5 cents of your $30 donation will actually help save the imperiled penguins, drowning polar bears or whichever cause it happens to be this month.)

Now please don’t assume I am bashing the wonderful work done by such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy or the World Wildlife Fund. As a contributing member I do receive an annual report each year with an informative breakdown of how their money is spent each fiscal year. I study those charts and graphs ( and I am NO math major) and think to myself that a better use of such a  large chunk of  the money dedicated to marketing (to gain new members, raise more dues, and other advertisements) could be better spent on actually reaching out to college advocacy groups (the ones that are not afraid yet to write their congressmen and women and march on Washington in protest), providing grants to grassroots groups making real changes in communities,  etc.

To me it just makes more sense to spend that large  ( and I do mean large….well it is certainly many times more than I and probably most of my entire  staff make in a single year, but then I am a state employee so I guess I am probably not the best example to go by)

So for those of you out there…what are your thoughts on this???  Even using 100% recycled paper, should these organizations cut back their marketing and PR funding and maybe divert that money elsewhere where it might do more good? Please leave your comments below and let me know the following:

  1. Should these organizations reallocate their funding  to include more grassroots/ college advocacy movement workshop/events?
  2. Do These groups spend too much on marketing/PR/postage/etc?
  3. Is adequate research being done to ensure quality ROI for money and time spent?

I look forward to your time and answers. and if you feel more comfortable sending a more in-depth but private response, please feel free to email me a personal response.

I look forward to putting together these answers and then crafting a very nice letter to the presidents and CEO’s of some of these organizations, many of which I have faithfully supported in excess for more than 20 years. I want to know just how MY money has really helped (if at all beyond padding his or her salary while I struggle to feed my family) and whether or not they are truly following their own green  advice in both practice as well as theory…..

Until we meet again…..

Is the traditional press release dead?

Recently I had a conversation with my boss as we carpooled back to the office from Atlanta. The gist of the conversation revolved around my attempts to assuage my guilt at feeling that maybe I wasn’t fulfilling all of my technical job duties. Don’t get me wrong, I work my butt off, but as our budget continues to be slashed and more and more people find greener grass on the other side of the fence (at least I am hoping they are), my day-to-day duties have changed, evolved and increased into new and exciting (but exhausting) avenues.

For starters I am not writing 2-3 press releases every week anymore. When I mentioned this, my boss was quick to point out that even though I wasn’t writing out releases, I was still promoting content, probably more so than when I was submitting the standard releases. By utilizing our social media platforms I was reaching a larger audience in real-time – can’t get that kind of reach necessarily with an article in the local paper. Also more and more bloggers were picking up on things I was putting on Facebook and twitter – so in reality I was actually creating more buzz than ever before.

Also – many of the traditional media outlets are cutting their print editions more and more. Very little actually goes into those small rolled up bug squashers still hand delivered right to your door. Now days, people read their news online so the bulk of the news that is picked up, either by traditional release or by other means ends up online, not the traditional “front page”.

I actually spend a large part of my time researching new media outlets, demographics and social media (as a science of all things), rather than writing press releases. I still work in the field and have a blast documenting the work that first drew me to conservation in the first place, but now I am also learning how to market what I’m passionate about, so that maybe others will become as fiercely devoted to it as well.

So back to the title of this post. Is the traditional press release dead? Maybe not. There will probably always be the mom and pop grocer that sells bait, milk and hands out a weekly fishing report with info from a press release (probably verbatim). But in the grand scheme of things, most organizations have or will soon have to move beyond the comfort zone of what’s easy and step out into the scary world of new media.