Twitter Dos for Writers

Like all tools, we need to use Twitter (and other social media tools) for good and not evil. As writers, we are our product. We steer the company and we have control over what we put out into the ether. Once the information is out in the wild, we lose control, but the initial message and how we communicate it is all on us. Communicate it well.

Twitter is a fabulous way to build a circle of professionals to whom you can pose questions. It is also a concise and interactive way to build relationships with your readers. If you want a list of Twitter Dont’s, read the post from two weeks ago.

How do you walk the line between building a following and pushing your product too hard? Grab a cup of your beverage of choice, sit back, and let me offer you some advice to get you started.

Do

Have a good profile and keep your picture consistent across platforms. Your profile should not be too long or short and it should convey just enough information for people to find you. Don’t give your enitre CV or list every book you have ever written. Be concise and show your personality. My Twitter profile describes what I do, who I am, and is amusing (I think). If you use more than one social media platform, keep your picture consistent across platforms. This will help people instantly recognize that they have found the right you. After all, as an author, you are your own brand.

Use a management tool. There are many different ones to choose from, but I prefer Hootsuite. The free version does just about everything you need to control and stay on top of your different social media accounts. It allows you to schedule posts ahead of time which is especially helpful for promo tweets. Hootsuite makes it easy to keep up when people @ you or DM you and then allows you to respond quickly.

Be a human being. You are not a robot and your Twitter account should reflect the fact that you are a living breathing person who has good and bad days. Be yourself. Be funny. Interact with people. Tell jokes. Share successes and failures. Be real. People want to interact and follow people who have something to say or will share something which will enhance their day in some way. In order to be that person for someone else, you have to be real.

Schedule promo tweets to happen at different times on different days. If you share the same promo tweet every day at the same time, you are not reaching any new people and you are annoying the ones you are reaching. Use a variety of promo tweets and schedule them to happen at different times throughout the week. Be very judicious in how often you send promo tweets. Except on launch days or other special times, once a day is plenty. See the above suggestion for being a human being.

Follow people doing the same thing as you. Use the search and suggestion features to follow other writers. Follow authors you admire and tell them how much you love them. Find people with similar hobbies or researchers specializing in the topic of your next book. Better yet, find your local library or friendly librarian on Twitter and follow them. They will be tickled all shades of pink to answer your questions. Believe me. Librarians live to answer the questions of others. After you find people to follow, be a human being and talk to them.

Use the list function in Twitter. You can add people to different lists and then have those lists appear as columns in Hootsuite. The people you know IRL and the people you interact with often should be in their own list. This will enable you to read their tweets separate from the influx of tweets from others and continue to develop your relationship with them.

Be nice. I said this in my Twitter discussion of Don’ts, but I will say it again. Just be nice. Have opinions but have compassion for others and be nice. A good rule to follow is if you have constructive criticism, offer solutions to the challenge before you instead of just harsh words. We’re all in the same sea here. Just keep swimmin.’

What would you add to this list? What do you think is an essential skill or guideline to follow on Twitter?

Win a Copy of Mob Rule Learning

Last week, a very nice UPS man delivered a box filled with copies of Mob Rule Learning into my very eager hands. I am going to share my wealth of books with you, wonderful readers. This is a win-it-before-you-can-buy-it contest and you and I know free stuff is awesome.

To win a signed paperback copy of Mob Rule Learning: camps, unconferences, and trashing the talking head, you only have to do one thing:

Leave a comment on this post and answer this question: If you could plan and attend an unconference on any topic, what would it be?

I will choose, at random, three winners. This contest will run until noon Central time on Friday, September 30, 2011.

–Jane, loves free stuff

You’re Welcome

I married a man who can be as full of the snark as I am and Lord does that ever make me happy. Today he sent me a link to a CNN article about Apple admitting their iPhones have reception issues. Really? I never knew.

The best thing about the email was that he said not even to read the article. He had wrote a summary for me which I would like to share with you.

Let me translate what Apple says here.

We have been trying to deceive you for years. We tried to make it seem like you had good phone reception by purposely miscalculating the number of bars to display higher than the actual signal strength. We have been doing this since the first iPhone but now that enough people are buying the iPhone 4 the low din of complaints has turned into a loud roar as more and more of you are not the brainwashed fanboys that market our products as genius. So, now that you have discovered our deception, we will no longer ignore our deficient hardware, which can be seen in other smartphones too, by the way. Instead we will spin this as great customer service by releasing a software update that will remove the deceptive calculation of signal strength and now you will be able to tell better how poor your reception is before attempting to make a phone call that you clearly can’t. You’re welcome.

–Jane, no Apple fanboys here

Be An Organization That Leads

I started reading Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin a couple days ago. It is a short read and well worth the time. As an individual who has spent a good portion of the last 15 years or so on the Internet, participating in various tribes, the ideas are not new but Godin has a wonderful way of explaining the power of tribes. Anyone in doubt of the true power of tribes and technology needs to read this book.

But that is not why I am writing this post. The thought that occurred to me as I was reading Tribes is that everything Godin says about the power and ability for any individual to lead a tribe also applies to every organization. This book should not be looked on as only a call to arms for individuals to become the leader they could be. This book should also be a manifesto for every organization that yearns to be more.

Godin talks about the need for an organization or tribe to have “true fans.” These are people who will do almost anything to support you, they talk about you all the time, and they are willing to go the extra mile or pay the extra dollar to have your product. True fans make up the heart of a tribe.

According to Godin:

Too many organizations care about numbers, not fans.

Every organization I have worked for was guilty of counting people like widgets. I am guilty of this. You are guilty of this.

One of the first questions we ask about a new service, website, or tool is how many users it has, how many unique visitors have come, or how many people have bought the product. While we may ask if there has been any anecdotal feedback, we never, ever ask if we have converted any fans.

One true fan of a service could be more influential, more important, than having 100 blase users. One true fan will spread the good word and try to convert others. A simple adopter will not say a word and your service dies with their lack of passion.

How would our organizations change if we stopped counting clicks and widgets and started counting fans?

If we started counting fans, we could use our new tribe to create change in our community or within the profession. Our organization could become the leader it always wanted to be.

Darien Library is a perfect example of what can happen when an organization harnesses the power of its tribe. Darien is a leader among library organizations because of their ability to see three separate groups as true fans and part of their tribe: the community they serve, the Darien Library staff themselves, and other librarians in the profession. With this tribe behind them and a vision before them, Darien is blazing a trail and many of us are happily following along.

Where are you taking your tribe today?

–Jane, is a true fan of many tribes

What Usability Says About Your Organization

For many reasons, not the least of which was extremely bad customer service, constantly rising prices, and what I now know is an inferior product, the Rochester household is… wait for it… canceling cable.

I will not go into great detail, because Mr. R did a mighty fine job over on the family blog (and with far fewer sputterings and angry diatribes than I would have managed, I might add). The fact that we canceled cable is not the only story. Secondary to our ousting of Comcast as our cable and DVR provider (we are still paying them for Internet, alas), is the fact that we now own a TiVo.

After four years of renting a DVR from Comcast (you are neither allowed to buy it outright or buy your own. if you did how could they fleece you for $15 a month?), I was not expecting TiVo to do anything other than record my shows in a reasonable way with reasonable reliability. After years of dubious service from Comcast, I was setting my expectations understandably low. How much different could one DVR be from another?

TiVo is to the Comcast DVR what a ripe bing cherry is to that imitation red stuff they call cherry flavoring. There is no comparison.

Why is TiVo so wonderful? Usability.

It is obvious the moment you open the box that TiVo expects real people to use their product. The set up is simple: connect it to your TV and turn it on. TiVo them walks you through the set up. There is no large instruction book. Just some simple instructions on the screen.

Once you have the initial set up complete, there is a set of tutorials pre-loaded onto your TiVo that teach you how to use some of the basic and more advanced functions of the TiVo. The menus are easy to read. The options are easy to understand. TiVo groups my programs by title and type (what a concept!). It is easy to find new programs. Adding new programs on the old DVR was excruciating when searching by name or channel. With TiVo, it is so easy, even a sleep deprived, barely functioning mom can handle it.

I have been won over with my TiVo. Couple that with the fact that the over the air HD channels look worlds better then the HD I was shelling out over $80 a month for and I am a happy, Comcast free lady.

This tale of two DVRs tell a larger picture. With my first DVR, it was clunky and, though it got the job done, it was obvious that Comcast neither designed or cared about my satisfaction with the product. And why should they? If I wanted to use a DVR with their service, I had to use theirs. While it is possible to use a TiVo with cable (lots of people do and now I know why), I would still have to pay for the TiVo service on top of my huge cable bill.  I was given one option with Comcast;  they had no incentive to offer me a better product.

The inferior product I was given by Comcast and allowed to “rent” reflects what they thought about their customers. I associate the terrible usability with the terrible customer service. Not only was the usability of the DVR bad, but their website left a bit to be desired as well. During Hurricane Ike, we were without Internet or cable for almost a month and there was no information on Comcast’s site about the outage. All the other utility companies were very forthcoming with information, but getting information from Comcast required a huge amount of effort and energy on the part of the consumer. Usability, they have little. Customer service, they have very little of that too.

I have never spoken to anyone at TiVo, but I have used their website and now their product. Everything I have seen from them is simple and well explained. There are multiple options that, not only fit my budget when purchasing, but that fit my recording needs. I can hook TiVo up to the Rochester house wireless network and watch YouTube videos or recordings I have downloaded in shared folders on the network. It is a beautiful thing.

The usability of the product and the customer service make me believe that TiVo cares about me, as a person and as a customer. It does not matter if they actually do care; it only matters that I think they care and thus I am willing to give them my money and shout their praises.

For any organization, that is what you want. You want customers who are not only loyal, but are willing to sing of you from the rooftops. Positive word of mouth is better than thousands of dollars in advertisements and it is definitely better than one person with a bad experience spreading word of your failure as an organization.

Next time you are considering the usability of your organization’s website, catalog (OPAC), product, or building, ask yourself what these things will say to your customers and users. What message are you sending them with the products you are giving them? Do they leave frustrated or happy? Do they feel like you care about them? Are you offering an inferior product for a need they can get filled elsewhere in a better, more comfortable, hassle-free fashion?

–Jane, likes being a customer with whom great care is taken

Browsing Perception

Mr. Rochester sent me an article from Tom’s Hardware this morning that discusses a marketer’s ability to make you love or hate a product for reasons not grounded in either fact or reality. Rob Enderle uses the Coke v Pepsi and the recent Vista v Mac commercials as examples to prove that we humans are just waiting to be told what we love/hate.

The educated marketer knows this as a fact and the term I use to describe this is that “perception is 100% of reality”, meaning that it generally doesn’t matter what actually is true. It only matters what you and I believe is true.

Perception is everything. We talk a lot about the perception of libraries and librarians as a whole. We are just books in moldy buildings and spinsters with buns, sensible shoes, and an unhealthy love of quiet spaces.

What about the perception of our particular libraries and librarians? For some of us,this discussion would go much better than if we stuck with generalities. For others, this discussion would sound the same or, sadly, worse. I am not sure whose job it is to help the perception of libraries in general (ALA perhaps? Lord, preserve us.) but we can influence how we market ourselves.

I think it would be worthwhile to ask some questions of our patrons to see how they view their particular library. Sure they may think libraries are old and boring, but their library may be doing something great. If we knew what our users really thought of us, maybe we could embark on a marketing campaign to make people love us. It worked for Macs. (Put an “i” in front of anything and suddenly everyone is willing to shell out money for it.)

For example: The perception is that everything is available on the Internet. People do not need anything else. We know this is not true, but people believe it and we are not going to change this idea. Sorry, Reference Staff, it is just not going to happen. The perception that all information is on the Internet has made some people question the need for libraries.

We have to create a perception that we are needed for something else besides just information because libraries are more than information. I know it and you know it. Our patrons should know it too. Your library could be a gateway for accessing information. A space to meet with community groups. A place to play games. A place where you can access different formats of books for free. A warehouse of technology. Better than Kinko’s. A bathroom. (only slightly joking on the last two)

Information is important. I do not think we should leave it behind. Information gathering happens in every part of the above list; it just may not look like someone browsing the shelves.

Find out what your users think about you. Choose one hate perception and change it or replace it with a love. Start small but think big. Bigger than your own perceptions.

–Jane, is marketed as a Geek