Maybe you’ve noticed it too, and you’re asking yourself the question:
Is Twitter still popular enough, that it’s worth your continued time investment?
The Pew Research
The Pew Research Center released its “Twitter Use 2012” findings at the end of May. Among them were:
15 percent of online adults use Twitter, and 8 percent use it on a typical day;
The number of online adults who use Twitter on a typical day has doubled since May 2011, and quadrupled since late 2010;
The increase in smartphones might account for some of the increase in Twitter usage.
And yet … and yet … I find that the average tweeter’s posts are overlooked, more and more. Is it just me, or do only the news outlets, celebrities and thought leaders benefit from this once-awesome platform?
Twitter’s Evolution: Good or Bad for Writers?
I mention writers here, because I’M a writer, as are many of you. However, this can apply to anyone who is building an online presence.
According to an April, 2012 Mashable article, Twitter is still the number two most-used social platform (falling behind Facebook, which is number one). NBC reporters used Twitter to gather collective insight on public opinion during this year’s Summer Olympics. And I learned about the infamous Osama Bin Laden news on Twitter.
However, I’ve noticed it becoming harder and harder to build a presence on Twitter if you’re not already established. For those of us who are unknown writers (i.e. NOT Stephen King, Judy Blume, or Tina Fey), perhaps building a Twitter presence isn’t as important as … say … two years ago.
Maybe, what’s become more important, is for others to tweet your content, rather than you.
The NEW Twitter: Getting Shared is King
In my own experience, not many people will read a blog post when I tweet the link. However, if others tweet it, Twitter becomes a top traffic driver for my article that day.
Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: Twitter is important. You should retain a presence on it. However, if you’re not a thought leader, journalist, news outlet or celebrity, you’re better off concentrating on creating content others will share for you. And continue using Twitter as a feed to stay on top of industry trends.
What do you think? Have you noticed any of the trends I mentioned above? Is Twitter still useful for YOU?
The first thing I noticed about Nina Badzin was her Twitter following, which eventually led me to her blog. It’s a GREAT read, by the way.
But something extraordinary caught my eye about Nina’s blog.
On a consistent basis, Nina generates dozens of comments—on EVERY post. Her ability to draw so many comments amazed me, and that’s why I invited her to guest post for Rogue Writer today. Besides running a fun blog, Nina is a published short story writer. So after you read her post today, take a moment and check out her site!
How to Get (Many) Comments on Your Blog
BY NINA BADZIN
Thank you, Shari, for inviting me to discuss the issue of getting and managing blog comments. I’ve found that comments are a touchy subject because many bloggers pretend they don’t care about receiving them.
I can hear the naysayers now. I truly don’t care if anyone reads my posts, they say. I just want to express myself.
I’m not buying it. Let’s face it, if we weren’t hoping for some kind of response to our posts, then we’d start each one with “Dear Diary” and hide the outcome from the world. The minute we press “publish,” we’re hoping to reach someone.
Why do comments matter anyway?
As Shari pointed out last week when discussing StumbleUpon, unless your blog is monetized, the number of views on a post matters very little and tells you even less. Are people reading the first two sentences and clicking away? Will the same readers come back? And who are these people checking you out in the first place?
And come on, what could be more thrilling for a writer than watching a discussion brew about something we wrote? Over time, we hope people return, we hope new readers find us, and we hope a community forms. As our writing careers develop and grow, we bank on that community translating into readers who will stay with us for years to come. Also, comments help us feel like we’re not just talking to ourselves. That’s worth something too.
So how does a blogger get people to take the extra two minutes to leave a comment?
HERE IS THE ANSWER IN 3 PARTS:
#1. You have to leave comments on other blogs. Yes, you need original, insightful, and/or amusing content on your blog. “Content is king” and all that jazz. Still, it’s nearly impossible to build a community unless you’re part of other bloggers’ communities at the same time.
#2. You ought to leave thoughtful comments and get to know other bloggers. Don’t bother with “great post.” For sure don’t say, “I wrote about this too. Come see!” Make it clear you read the post. You’re trying meet other bloggers and writers so you can form real connections. Try to find bloggers you admire. Skip the posts and blogs that don’t interest you. This isn’t about leaving your URL all over town. Be discerning. Be genuine.
#3. Think out of the box when responding to comments. It’s unnecessary to respond to every comment on your blog, especially if there’s nothing new to add. If I’m pressed for time, I’ll visit the blogs of people who left comments for me instead of responding to what they had to say about my post. I’m willing to bet my readers appreciate my avatar in the comments section of their posts more than they care about seeing my face repeatedly pop up on my blog. That’s not to say I don’t respond to comments on my blog. I generally do. But I’m aware of my comments section being about me, whereas visiting another blogger’s latest post is about that person.
BUT DOESN’T THIS ALL TAKE A TON OF TIME?
Yes. One day when we’re in the big league of bloggers and writers, nobody will expect to see us in the comments section of our blogs or their blogs. Until then, we get what we give.
Nina Badzin is a published short story writer. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and twice listed as a finalist by Glimmer Train Stories. “Always the bridesmaid,” she likes to say. When she’s not running after her four kids or tweeting (@NinaBadzin), she blogs at Nina Badzin’s Blog.
If you haven’t already, please check out how to share your funny story when you learned the “truth” about Santa! This will be for a special blog post running the week of Christmas, and it won’t work without YOUR contribution.
I’ve somehow evolved into the very thing I promised myself I’d never become: a media strategist.
You see, once upon a time, I was a newspaper reporter, a.k.a. a Jedi Knight. Then, the evil economy forced me into the Dark Side (a.k.a. public relations). And somewhere along the way, I decided if I wanted to become my own writer, I’d better take advantage of all these media and marketing strategies I was learning.
Behold, I can now say with authority, I know how to market myself as a writer (and I’d do more if I had additional time). I can pinpoint the good blogs from the bad. I can tell which ones will thrive, and which will falter.
And I can tell you the three key questions EVERY blogger must ask themselves, if they want to see their readership grow:
1) What is this blog all about (a theme)?
The most successful blogs have a theme. Some may be literary agents offering tips to up-and-coming writers. Others are humor blogs. My blog, for example, is a writing blog. The theme or brand is “Rogue Writer.”
If you really want to see your blog grow, ask yourself: What is this blog ABOUT? Is it a travel blog? A photography blog? A news blog, or a parenting and health blog?
Decide, and stick to it (even if you stray occasionally–like me). That will build your niche, slowly but surely.
2) What is my main goal with this blog (get subscribers? sell a book?)?
If you have a goal in mind, everything on your blog works toward that goal. If you’re everywhere at once, you won’t actually build or sell anything.
For example, the main goal with my blog right now, is to build readership. A following. Therefore, the very first “widget” on my blog’s righthand column, invites visitors to subscribe via RSS feed or email. A few inches down, I invite visitors to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve expanded my network by partnering with other bloggers and writing guest posts. I write one new post a week, consistently, so my followers know to expect something. All of these tactics work toward building my online following.
And, it’s working (slowly but surely). Know what you want, and build toward it.
3. When, and how often, will I post?
Decide this up front. Will you post once a week, every Wednesday? Or twice a week—every Tuesday and Thursday? The key is to REMAIN CONSISTENT.
This consistency gives your readers a sense of professionalism. Just like magazine subscribers can expect their publication the first of every month, blog subscribers can expect a new post every Tuesday.
Just remember, whatever you decide, you need to keep up with it. So even if you can post three times a week right now, ask yourself: “Can I come up with three new ideas every week—and write them—five months from now?” My suggestion is to start slow, then add on if you have the time.
SO TELL ME: Do you have any key questions to add onto this list? What do YOU think are the most important aspects for bloggers to consider, for success?
Do you like the advice offered here? Then don’t miss the next post! Sign up to get my weekly posts delivered by email, straight to your inbox.
Ever wonder what those big-time New York City editors look for in a story pitch? Or how successful authors pulled off a great book deal?
Today, journalist and author Caitlin Kelly shares some of her secrets as a former senior editor for WorldBusiness in New York and a successful author of two books. Caitlin has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. She recently published her second book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.” Briefly, here’s a snippet from her book’s opening:
My writing career had gone well from the day I graduated from college, whether I had a staff magazine or newspaper job or worked freelance. But by the fall of 2007 I was scared of the precipitous decline in my industry, journalism. I was also newly aware, after pneumonia landed me in a hospital bed from overwork, I needed a ready, steady source of cash, something solid. And so I decided to join a populous, if largely ignored, tribe – the fifteen million Americans working in retail.
On a personal note, I can relate to Caitlin’s situation. The year 2007 was also when I left my beloved journalism job. That seems to be the fateful year—of the housing market crash, the journalism crash, and the start of the Great Recession.
So, here’s my interview with Caitlin Kelly. Hope you find some valuable insights in these 10 questions, as I did!
1. SHARI: You’re a veteran journalist, having written for notable publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Hartford Courant, and Glamour. Journalistically, what drew you to the topic of America’s retail industry–for a book?
CAITLIN: I was amazed that this enormous industry — $4 trillion, 15 million workers, the nation’s third-largest and its greatest source of new jobs — had not been examined in book form in any serious way. There have been several excellent books on low-wage labor, but none focused exclusively on retail. Once I had spent 27 months working at its lowest level for a large and well-known retail company, I realized what inequities and absurdities the industry contains. They spend millions on new technology and software but most refuse to pay their front-line workers — who drive sales — decently. Since we’re a nation of shoppers, I wanted to explore this subject in depth.
2. SHARI: “Malled” is your second book. Your first was “Blown Away: American Women and Guns.” I have several writers new to the publishing world who follow my blog. What tips can you give them about the process of finding a literary agent and publisher?
CAITLIN: It’s not simple, quick or easy! Finding an agent means finding someone whose skill, experience, ambition, personality and stable of other writers matches your vision of what you hope to accomplish. My agent on Blown Away, William Clark, was then — in 2000 when we first met — fairly new to agenting and was eager to build his brand, so that helped me. He, like my current agent, Kathleen Anderson, was also extremely dedicated to the project — both books received 25 (!) rejections each before finally selling to major NYC publishers. You need someone who really cares deeply about the work, and gets what you are about: this is not a game for the easily deterred or fantasists. You must find someone who is utterly straightforward with you about every aspect of the process and demands excellence and professionalism from you. It helps if you like them personally as you must trust them with your work.Find an agent by: reading acknowledgments in books similar to yours (they always thank their agent); attending annual writers’ conferences like the ASJA where members can meet and pitch agents face to face; networking well and generously with accomplished writers who may share the name of their agent (or not) with you. The agent will find the publisher, not you.
3. SHARI: You spent time working as a senior editor for WorldBusiness in New York City. From an editor’s perspective, what do you look for in a pitch from a freelance writer? What will make you choose one story (and writer) over another?
CAITLIN: You want a feeling of authority, why this writer really knows the issue and can handle it well and stylishly. I want to see that they have a strong news sense and feel confident they will be able to both report accurately and deeply and write well, which is a rare combination. I would almost always choose a former or current newspaper writer over someone with no news background. There is too much PR puffery out there, and experienced journos know to ignore it and dig much more deeply when necessary. I’m interested in writers who think outside the margins, who may have lived a less conventional life, as they may ask different questions and see things from a less predictable perspective. I want someone who is culturally sophisticated and who understands the need for diversity when sourcing, for example.
4. SHARI: On your website, you have a whole list of “work tips” for writers. What are your top three favorite tips, and why?
CAITLIN: Hard to choose! In general: 1) expect and learn to handle rejection. It’s normal and awful and expensive and you are going to run into it at every stage of your career. Set aside savings for slow times and keep your ego in a box.
2) Remain (or become) intellectually voracious. Read fiction and history and biography and magazines and blogs and websites beyond what feels cozy and familiar or in your current specialty areas. Read Canadian and British publications and those in other languages to remember that we all do not see the world in the same way. That alone will set you apart from many of your competitors.
3) Rest, recharge, relax. We tend to run ourselves at an industrial speed and intensity that can easily lead to fatigue and burnout, or worse. Make time for exercise, friends, patting the dog, long walks in silence. Creative work demands a brain and heart that are both open and refreshed regularly.
5. SHARI: “Malled” has been written about by Entertainment Weekly, the Financial Times of London, and the Associated Press, among others. So tell me, what is “Malled” really all about?
CAITLIN: Work, identity, class struggle, corporate greed. What professional status means, and what happens when you don’t have it. The true underpinnings of easy catchphrases we never really question or challenge: “shareholder value”, “global supply chain”, “operations management.”These are the underlying/overarching larger themes of “Malled,” beyond its many anecdotes, interviews and statistics. I’m fascinated by how we work, and the trade-offs we make and why we choose to make or accept them.
6. SHARI: You guest-blogged on the Harvard Business Review about a lesson you took away from writing your book (why retail workers drive the customer experience). Overall, what is the top lesson/experience you took away from this project?
CAITLIN: That every single person working in retail can add value, from the invisible stock room clerk to the associates on the floor — despite the fact that most corporate managers refuse to pay them accordingly. The most productive, yet unrewarded, people are often effective and high-selling associates working face to face with customers, whose skill and warmth can make or break a brand.
7. SHARI: As a successful writer, author and journalist, what have been your keys to success? What advice would you give other writers to attain a similar degree of success in their careers?
CAITLIN: I’m flattered by your description. Thanks! Persistence is huge. I simply don’t give up; my first agent said I was the most determined person he’d ever met. Once I connect with someone who seems to find my ideas or work of value, I stay in touch, sometimes for decades; having a strong network of people who believe in you can help you achieve many goals, from getting recommendation letters for grants and fellowships to helpful tips.
One friend in Canada — who edited me when she was at a magazine years ago — told me about a Canadian lawsuit settlement for writers I knew nothing about; it netted me a healthy windfall!
Network, in a generous and helpful way, with accomplished writers, no matter at what level of their career. I’ve gotten help from some of my former interns (now doing well!) and colleagues 10 to 20 years my senior. Truly ambitious and talented writers with a heart know what it takes to excel; they’ll cheer you when you win and cheer you up when the going is tough — as you, of course, will do for them too!I’ve given away a lot of time and advice to total strangers who’ve emailed me…it all comes back eventually and in surprising and terrific ways.
I also serve on the board of the 1,400 member American Society of Journalists and Authors and on the board of the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund; I like giving back.Invest in yourself. Create and update a great-looking and informative website for your work and book(s); attend conferences, take classes, read books, hire professional help to maintain your edge and focus, whether researchers or coaches. I recently paid a speaking coach (I found her on LinkedIn, Christine Clapp) to help me prepare for the Diane Rehm show on NPR (2 m listeners, live) and her advice has given me much greater confidence for all media and public speaking. And I’d been doing it for years already.
8. SHARI: Tell me about a discouraging time during your career’s climb. Did you consider quitting? How did you get past this obstacle?
CAITLIN: There have been more than one. This is not a business for the faint of heart or easily bruised! I studied interior design in the 1990s and planned to leave journalism, but stayed in it. I’m addicted to finding and sharing compelling stories, so my enthusiasm for the content is undimmed, even as the mechanics of the field have changed substantially. I have multiple skills, from photography and interior design training to foreign languages, so I have enough ways to keep pulling in income that I don’t panic. I also maintain a low overhead and don’t have children, so living with lower costs allows me more creative freedom in my choices of when and how to work.I also think you have to be very clear with yourself in how you define “success”. I am thrilled knowing that readers in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Ireland, to name only three, read my books — but am not (yet!) earning the sort of income some might wish or expect.
9. SHARI: Can you share a few recommendations of others experts in the writing field, whom it would be beneficial to follow?
SHARI: That’s a good question. I’ve recently started reading and enjoying Betsy Lerner’s blog and Kristen Lamb’s blog. I think once you’ve mastered your craft — through classes, practice, reading great writers’ work and analyzing it — it becomes a larger issue of finding and polishing ideas. I focus less on the mechanics of how to write and more on people whose thinking inspires me, so I read blogs that include Seth Godin and Design Milk, which is visual.Because I write only non-fiction, I try more to read great NF books and figure out why they’re so terrific: voice, language, tone, pacing, anecdote, etc.
10. SHARI: Anything else you’d like to add?
CAITLIN: Stay focused! The world is filled with a million ways to ding your confidence and/or to distract you, but only you and your computer can deliver the goods. If you want to produce a non-fiction book, read widely and critically to determine what place you might carve in that marketplace; “save string” — i.e. read and clip everything of possible use for that project; talk to people who might be able to help you.
Decide what you want to achieve and what is realistic, given your talent, time, energy and finances. It may not happen fast, or fast enough, but a life of ideas can’t be lived according to the clock or others’ dreams.
Ever since I met Melissa Crytzer Fry, I’ve been AMAZED how she draws parallels between the tiniest details in nature and the writing process. Today, I’m happy to introduce Melissa to you–as the third (and final) writer/blogger in my networking project.
Welcome to Rogue Writer, Melissa, and thanks for your guest blog (and photos) today!
Nature as Creativity Booster
Guest post and photography by Melissa Crytzer Fry
**All photos published on this post are property of Melissa Cryzter Fry, and cannot be copied, re-reprinted, or re-produced without proper permissions and consent from Melissa Cryzter Fry.**
I grew up among cornfields and cow pastures in northwestern Pennsylvania. Perhaps the long walks down to the beaver dam, strolls along the bullfrog-infested, green algae-blanketed pond behind my house, and salamander-owl-raccoon encounters account for my attraction to the outdoors.
I can’t be sure. But I do know, after living in downtown Phoenix for a decade and then moving to a rather remote part of southern Arizona, that I fell in love again with those wide-open spaces.
But this time around, nature offered an entirely new gift: writing inspiration. Without fail, every jog or hike I take among my ranch’s saguaro-studded hills results in something new: engaging leads for magazine articles, plot solutions, and inspiration to keep writing – to be more creative overall.
So what, exactly, is it about nature that inspires creativity? The crisp air? The vastness of outdoor space? The departure from technology that lets the brain wander? Yes, yes, yes. But there’s also a scientific reason: Nature solves problems. Creatively. Biomimicry is at play. Bio-what? Biomimicry says that we can borrow creative solutions to just about any problem … from nature. All we have to do is pay attention to and study nature’s best ideas – its efficient designs, models, systems, processes.
Creativity guru Tamara Kleinberg asks, “If nature … has solved many problems we face today, why not go back to nature for inspiration? Why not engage with nature, understand how it works and then apply those lessons to life and work?” And to writing!
I agree with Kleinberg that nature is the ultimate innovation tool. In her blog post, she suggests some nature-related exercises to boost creativity:
Ask “What does it do?” With eyes closed and natural objects in hand – feathers, rocks, leaves – determine the function of each. Not what each is. What each does. Does the feather repel water, provide insulation, add to aerodynamics? Asking such questions may inspire new thoughts, ideas.
Fieldtrips. Go to a museum, visit an archaeological site, a city park. Pieces of nature – bones, animal skin, fossils, plants – “can take you to new places,” says Kleinberg.
Look & See: Step away from the computer and get outside. Really see your surroundings. Ask why nature works the way it does – how the insect is able to walk on the pond, how hummingbirds just seem to “know” where the flowers are, why water clings to grass blades. Doing so can conjure new ideas and provide answers for seemingly unrelated creative conundrums.
Take time out to interact with the outdoors, even if you live in the city. You may be surprised at the creative results.
Melissa Crytzer Fry is a fulltime freelance writer, author of the What I Saw creativity & writing blog and a writer/enthusiast of literary women’s fiction. You can also follow her on Twitter.
How many times have I heard a (professional) writer tell me, “I really need an idea box?” Let me count the ways …
What is an idea box? Simply put: it’s a box you keep close to your favorite writing spot (for me, on my desk) where you stash all those great ideas scribbled on random pieces of paper. Personally, I carry a small notebook in my purse and jot down all kinds of phrases throughout the day.
Why do this?
Well, here are 10 reasons EVERY writer should keep an idea box:
1. It forces you to observe (hey, otherwise you can’t fill the box with ideas).
2. It solidifies the title of “writer” in your blood.
3. It keeps you looking at the world from different perspectives.
4. It kills Writer’s Block upon an attack (stuck? Just shuffle through your idea box).
5. It prevents the, “Oh crud, what was that great idea I thought of last night? It was classic, and now it’s gone!”
6. It helps you become more creative.
7. It prevents boredom.
8. It makes you feel important when your friends “oooo” and “ahhhh” over it.
9. It diversifies your stories and makes them better.
10. IT’S FUN! (well, at least for us writers)
So tell me …
Do YOU keep an idea box? Why or why not? And if so, how has the idea box helped you grow as a writer?
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The first time I heard of Hootsuite, I laughed. Hard.
I mean seriously, who uses an owl for a mascot? Regardless of my first impression, Hootsuite has turned into a lifesaver for me–and it could for you, too.
What is Hootsuite?
Hootsuite is a nifty little tool where you can SCHEDULE your Facebook and Twitter posts in advance. This means, you can schedule everything on Sunday evening, and Hootsuite will post for you throughout the week.
Oh yeah, and it’s free.
Hootsuite has lots of other fun features, too. But for me–a busy writer who works full-time in the corporate world by day, and freelances for magazines by night–the ability to schedule social media posts in advance is key.
After all, I don’t have tons of free time to throw away on social media.
Why maintain a social media presence as a writer?
If you want to go by the experts, Poets and Writers Magazine just featured an article in its May/June edition entitled, “Social Media for Authors.” In it, public relations professional Lauren Cerand emphasizes the importance of social media for up-and-coming writers. Here’s an excerpt:
The task of finding readers and finding an audience is made much easier by joining the conversation that you feel you belong to, whether it’s via media that you maintain, community sites you check daily, or blogs that you read and comment on when you have something important to add.
What does this mean? It means as a writer, you have a better chance of selling your work if you can find your niche, and build a loyal following. One of the best ways to build that following is by using social media, especially for unknown writers.
As a former newspaper reporter, I now pay the bills by working in media strategy and marketing. And I can tell you from personal experience: social media is the future of exposure. I’m not talking about Facebook or Twitter, but rather the idea of social media and its platform of sharing information. Social media is word-of-mouth on steroids, to borrow a phrase from Gary Vaynerchuk, author of “Crush It.”
If you want to have a shot at being a successful writer, you need to maintain a social media presence. And Hootsuite is just one more tool to help you do it. Imagine drawing people again and again to your blog posts (old and new) throughout the week, without spending all day on Twitter or Facebook?
MY QUESTION TO YOU: What social media platforms do you use, to maintain your online presence as a writer? And if you don’t use social media, which services do you want to learn more about?