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?

Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!

Social Media Changed My Life

webNot to long ago I was asked to write a post about why I am glad I had to study social media. My former professor and blogging mentor currently teaches public relations and social media at the University of Georgia and I can honestly say that without her class I might not be where I am today.

I work in public affairs for state governement. When I was hired I was told that one of the most attractive things about my resume was my involvement with and knowledge of social media tools such as blogs, social networks and video and photo sharing applications. The world of PR and journalism is changing rapidly and it is all many organizations can do just to keep up. My employer wanted to “upgrade” their media relations tactics and felt that I would be a good person to spearhead the initiative.

I have now been employed here for a year and a half and the changes are dramatic. We have gone from just emailed news releases to being on Youtube Twitter and having an agency blog. I think that the best thing about all of these changes was that I basically got to create my own position, write my job description and then continue to modify it as needed. I have made contacts that would never have been possible without the use of social media and have been able to indulge my passion by creating an initiative that will help conserve wildlife in the state of Georgia in a totally new way.

Yes I am glad I had to learn about social media. My blog has become a job in itself, with a loyal readership and is syndicated on three different web sites. I receive invitations to speak on social media at conventions and have even been interviewed about my contributions to conservation using social media. I have grown as a PR professional, a writer and as a person and all because I decided that Dr. Russell wasn’t crazy after all for being so excited about this thing we call social media.

Hopefully you will have an equally valuable experience whether you are in her class or just a fan of her blog. Here are just a few lessons from her class to show how learning about social media and its various tools helped me to get to where I am today.

Blog to be a Better Writer
Starting a blog was a class assignment. While I was hesitant at first, I quickly realized that writing for such a public medium made me more aware of my writing style and really helped me to develop my writing skills as far as being able to market effectively to a select audience. Writing in a conversational style forces you to consider your content in new and different ways. You have to ask yourself, “would I want to read this online?”

Blog to be a Better PR Professional
PR is all about building relationships, building trust. Blogging has helped me to learn about how to do that in an entirely new way. Getting your content in front of more eyeballs is one of the biggest challenges for those in PR. Using the blog-o-sphere requires that you understand how to distribute the content in a way that won’t immediately go into the trash/spam folder. Blogging taught me about writing more concisely, creating quality over quantity, getting to the point and how to reach out to new and unconventional audiences.

Understanding the Power of Social Networks
Like many college students I created a Facebook page and a Twitter profile while in school. What I didn’t realize at first was the power and leverage that these social media tools can provide. Although I do use my Facebook page for personal use, to connect with friends, share photos, etc. I also use it in a professional sense in that I have developed personal relationships with many of my media contacts and I use my Facebook platform to share things I think they might find newsworthy. For example, when I come across an interesting news article that talks about wildlife conservation or DNR, I share it on my Facebook page. I also post the occasional news release or photo from the field. There have been many times I have gotten a message on FB about these posts from my media contacts. The same goes for Twitter. I tweet about just about anything that I find interesting or relevant to my line of work. As I gain followers I pay attention to where they are coming from, which gives me an idea of where my content is being read.

I hope that you found this useful. Good Luck!