My Top 5 Shortcuts: #2 Create a Process

mind map drawing

The cost of social media isn’t in the hard costs, it’s in the time costs. Creating a process for yourself will help save time and also make social media activities a part of your routine. If you missed Tip #1, check out my advice on setting up an RSS Feedreader here.

I find it challenging to share my personal process because I’ve developed it over more than four years. So take what you think will work and modify the rest to work for you. The point is to have a process, not replicate my process.

My process basically breaks down into three categories – making time to track, time to write and time to play.

Time to Track

You’re doing all this great monitoring with your feedreader, but you  have to give yourself time to track – time to read and browse your feeds, your Twitter stream, your Facebook news feed. Input is crucial for good output (see the next section).

Your process may mean scanning as you have time during the day or in the evenings or maybe between tasks. Or it may mean setting aside a specific block of time during the day. I do recommend finding time every day so you can create a habit of using social media to track news and trends. I tend to scan a little here and a little there, using Twitter as my most common “input.” Through Twitter lists and columns on Tweetdeck, I can filter out some of the noise.

Time to Write

Creating content means spending at least some time being thoughtful and some degree of focus. I find the best times to blog for me are either a) on Sundays or b) when the spirit moves me. Sundays have just turned into my “surf the Internet, mentally prepare for the week but don’t work too hard” days. Blog writing me fits into that bucket. I enjoy writing. I enjoy blogging.

But your time to write may be different. Figure it out for yourself – and it may take some stops and starts. You may have to try a few different things. That’s ok!

Even if you’re not blogging, you’re still updating, tweeting (or whatever) and that means you’re creating content. Give yourself time to do it well.

Time to Play

If you’re not doing some fun stuff with social media, it’ll quickly become a chore. Fashion, gossip, design, sports… whatever you enjoy for fun, find a way to incorporate that into your social media “process.”

What’s worked for you? Do you have a process? Share it with us here.

mindmap photo by sirwiseowl

Some of My Favorite Posts on Social Media Basics

I look back on the last 4-ish years of blogging and am amazed at how much I’ve learned. I’ve shared a lot of that here on this blog, but a lot has also been from tons of smart people in my industry.

I often find myself sharing the same posts on certain topics over and over.

In case you don’t want to go digging through my archives and those who I recommend following, I’ve put together this list of some of my favorite posts. Enjoy!

Blogging

Creating a Compelling Blog Post: A Checklist (me)

Beautiful Blog Posts Have Great Bone Structure (me)

Twitter

Twitter for Business (Twitter)

Split-Second Decisions: My Twitter Follow-Back Tips (me)

Finding Friends and Building Your Network on Twitter (me)

LinkedIn

Using LinkedIn: A Primer (me)

General

Five Ways to Support Your Favorite Fan Page (Verve)

How to Use Social Media Guide (TechnoTheory)

An Introduction to Social Media for Undergrads (Paull Young)

Starting Social Media: Building on What You Have (Amber Naslund)

What is…? A Handy Guide for the New Media Pro (10,000 words)

Five Very Official Tips for Building an Online Presence (Shannon Paul)

Why I Don’t Link My Social Media Profiles (me)

The Magic of RSS (me)

Bonus: Social Media Today’s Social Media School aggregates all the “basic” posts from that site. Great resource on all kinds of social media topics.

If you have a favorite, please leave it in the comments.

Watch Out For Sneaky Spammers

I’ve noticed a new tactic with spammers lately… they are awfully complimentary of your content, your blog and your writing style. Flattery is hard to resist, I know. So here are some tips for keeping the spam out of your comments section.

  • If the comment seems to be over thesaurus-ized – common words turned into $5 words that aren’t quite used right – you’re probably looking at spam.
  • If the comment could be related to any blog, any post, anytime? It could be spam.
  • If the commenter asks about your fabulous layout and how you did it – yup, spam. (I fell for this one, hard!)

If you’re not sure, check the possible inputs on the comment form for consistency and legitimacy. Individually, they might not raise any red flags, but combined can tip you off:

  • Name: By itself this might not be a problem one way or another, unless it’s clearly not a name.
  • Email: Look for an email that lines up with the name entered and with the URL
  • URL: This is the big giveaway, usually. The point of spam is to get linkbacks to the spam site in question through comments. So check the URL, visit it to make sure it’s a real site.

Elli here has some pretty obvious problems. Her name is ok, but her URL is a dead giveaway. Line that up with her email address that has nothing to do with either thing and we’ve got a spammer. Click “spam” on the comment and move on.

Look for ways to get real people engaged with your content. Much better for the ego in the long run.

I Made a Prezi: Here’s my Process

An email floated around a couple of weeks ago about free premium Prezi accounts for educators. Always game for the next shiny new tool, I decided to give it a shot. I had a presentation coming up for Local Food Connection 2010 that I was going to have to start from scratch on Keynote, so why not give Prezi a try.

I watched the tutorials, viewed some other people’s Prezis and poked at one for a while. Honestly, the blank canvas was terrifying at first. I’m a very linear thinker, I guess. I need outlines and plans and things in order. I had a hard time visualizing all the parts of the presentation (not literally, of course).

However, just last week, I had listened in when Professor Deb Morrison lectured to the Gateway to Media class on creative process and mind mapping.I decided a mind map might just do the trick.

Office Depot is my closest office/art supply place, so I headed there to find big paper (tabloid or 11×17 size recommended!). I got a sketch book for less than $10. I had markers at home, but I think next time I might used colored pencils.

My supplies: sketch book & Sharpie pens
Mind map, version 1
Mind map, final version. Note my fabulously illustrated carrot there at the bottom.

With the mind map created, I went back to my Prezi canvas and started to map out the presentation in the same way.  I’d estimate it took about six hours total to learn and create the presentation. That is on par with what it takes me to start a Keynote from scratch.

I was very pleased with the final presentation. I downloaded the Prezi to my computer so I didn’t have to rely on the nonexistent wi-fi at the conference location and it went very smoothly. Things that I still need to figure out?

  • The Prezi Web site says that you can use remotes with the presentations, but neither my Mac remote nor the app I downloaded called Rowmote worked. That kept me tied to my laptop a little more than I am comfortable with.
  • If you embed images, my advice is to either choose ones that are fairly high resolution or don’t zoom in tightly (on the presentation below, you’ll see what I mean with the carrots and corn, particularly).
  • Because you don’t have presenter notes like a Keynote or PowerPoint, I would recommend either knowing your presentation inside and out, or putting your notes on index cards. I opted for the latter for the formal presentation to the conference participants.

With that said, this is a way cool tool that I will use again. Probably even this week! You can view my Prezi below.

Split-Second Decisions: My Twitter Follow Back Tips

Recently, I was (very!) honored to be included on Valerie Maltoni’s list of 100 PR People Worth Following. Because Valerie is so widely read and clearly well-respected, my Twitter follower count jumped by about 350 – 400 people in the course of three days. I enjoy meeting new people through Twitter and I genuinely try to follow back people who look like they would add value to my experience there.

twitter-for-business

It took several days for me to go through the profiles of each new follow (the only ones I skipped were brands I was not interested in, spambots, etc.). I didn’t necessarily learn anything “new,” but going through so many profiles, there were a few lessons that were really highlighted by this experience.

So you want a follow back? Here are my tips:

  • Include your location: I am much more likely to follow you back if you’re in my neck of the woods. I love connecting with people from all over the globe, but I’m not going to lie that I have a special affinity for fellow Oregonians.Include your actual location. Don’t be clever (i.e., “planet earth” or “state of consciousness”)
  • Your bio is important: I appreciate a clever turn of phrase and play on words. But when I’m making a snap decision about whether to follow you back, I want SOME sense of who you are or what you do. Why should we be connected?
  • Share good tweets: This idea of “what to tweet” or how to add value deserves more than a bullet point. But I love the signal to noise ratio analogy as a general rule of thumb. It’s ok to share random pieces of info and have “off-topic” conversations (noise). Note: “off-topic” in quotes because “topic” is relative. when I’m deciding to follow you back, I am thinking about what I want my Twitter topic of conversation to be about. Most of what you tweet – say 60 – 70% – should be adding value (signal). Share links, provide insight, point me to interesting news or resources. If your last 20 tweets are: all noise about random things you’re doing, conversations better had on instant messenger with your BFF or all retweets of other people’s content … I’m not going to follow you back.
  • Have a photo: I prefer to see a photo of the person behind the profile, but at the very least have some sort of photo. I’m highly likely to just skip over new followers with the “newbie” bird logo.
  • Don’t use excessive hashtaggery: Hashtags are a terrific way to keep up with conversations across the Twittersphere on the same topic, or at the same event. But when you’re tagging every other word in your tweets, it just become difficult to read or to find the actual content. This seems like a no-brainer to me… but I looked at several profiles where the majority of the tweets on the page were packed with hashtags. I had no idea what that person was tweeting about.

If your goal is to build your network and connect with professionals in your field, these tips should come in handy. If you’re happy with the way Twitter is working for you, then by all means, keep going! There are no “right” ways to do Twitter. It all depends on what you want to accomplish.

How do you decide who to follow back on Twitter? Any mental short cuts or rules of thumb that you use? I’d love to hear about them!

When Work Gets in the Way

I have so much empathy for students who have to work to make ends meet and pay for school.

During my first year at the University of Oregon as an undergrad, I worked full time. I had worked full-time for about four years between high school and college. I sold cell phones and managed a retail store. It was hard. I didn’t want to work full-time, but I was paying my own way through school and had plenty of expenses, so there was no way around it.

After the first year, I realized this situation wasn’t feasible if I wanted to get internships, be involved with PRSSA and succeed in my classes. Something had to give. I chose to move home with my parents, work part-time and seek public relations opportunities. But I know that’s a tough choice and not one that some students have.

What if you have to work 25, 35 or 40 hours a week, go to school and you still want to get some hands-on experience before you graduate? Well, we already know you’re industrious, now you just need to be extra creative about beefing up your resume. Some tips:

  • Determine how many hours a week you have to invest in gaining some experience. Likely you’ll be volunteering (at least at first), so figure out where you can carve out three to five hours.
  • Ask around or find a nonprofit organization that has a mission that you believe in or a cause that you support. Connect with the executive director via a phone call or an email to ask if they need any public relations help – maybe write newsletter articles or send out press releases.
  • If the executive director thinks you’d be a good fit, find a time to meet and create a plan for what you will do, who you’ll report to, and realistic expectations about your time and abilities. Be proactive. Come in with ideas and focus on projects that will help you gain portfolio samples and build your skills. If you can take on a project from start to finish and be involved along the way, that’s golden!
  • You can also find “virtual opportunities” via Volunteer Match. On the home page, click “search for virtual opportunities” and then enter public relations as the keywords. If you try this option, I’d recommend either finding a local organization or a national one. I don’t think it would make sense, for example, to volunteer for an animal rescue in Okalahoma if you’re in Oregon and local animal rescues need your help.
  • Look for freelance writing and part-time paid internship positions. If you could make $10 or $12 an hour doing PR, maybe you could supplement or replace your retail or barista job. For those able to secure these types of positions, it was a matter of listening, networking and letting people know what their interests are. You never know what will come your way if you’re diligent.

If you’ve had a creative volunteer or internship experience or you have other pieces of advice, leave them here! I’d love to hear your ideas.

OMG What Do I Blog About?

I had a discussion last week with a few of the students who were in the summer PR Writing class. We talked about what they learned over the summer and what they could expect in Advanced PR Writing and other courses. One of questions they had was: what do I blog about??

You’ll get lots of ideas from your feed reader. Listening is a big part of blogging. But… here are some more ideas off the top of my head:

  1. Take the day’s lecture from a favorite class and post a reaction to it or an opinion about it.
  2. PR advice for topics in the news: read the paper (you’re doing that anyway, right?) and post some advice for organizations making headlines in your community.
  3. Advice for junior students: share your best advice for succeeding in a course.
  4. Most surprising thing you’ve learned today
  5. Review a book.
  6. Profile a blog that you enjoy. Include favorite posts and what you’ve learned.
  7. Profile a blogger – many bloggers will answer interview questions via email. Ask things that students of public relations will be interested in. (bonus: networking!)
  8. Write about a new cool Web 2.0 gadget and it’s implications on PR. You can find a huge list at Go2Web2.0. Just pick one and review.
  9. Review a podcast. Find the PR podcasts here.
  10. Talk about the internship/job search process regardless of where you are in it. What are you doing to prepare for your next step.
  11. Interview a recent grad who landed a job and learn about the process they went through. (bonus: networking!)
  12. Profile a PR agency.
  13. Tips you learned from volunteering/interning.
  14. Talk about the results of your research or term paper. Summarize what you learned and link to the full paper.
  15. Relate a non-PR class to what you’re learning in PR.
  16. Create “best of” lists with links to other resources: Best Posts of the Week, Best Writing Tips, Best Personal Branding Advice.
  17. How have you changed (or not) your Facebook presence and why?
  18. Wish list of PR or social media books that you’d like to read.
  19. Break down a PR plan and explain the parts in your own words. Find some examples to illustrate!
  20. Discuss why you like or don’t like a particular campaign or brand.
  21. What do you find surprising about public relations?
  22. Why I should get a Google phone. (Just making sure you’re paying attention)

Do Well on Assignments: Five Tips

I’m in grading mode this weekend. My “grading” includes two categories.

My classes: the assignments I’m grading on one’s that I’ve required. Often I kick myself in the butt for having complicated assignments of multiple pages, rather than making it easy on myself. But then I remember how ill-prepared I felt at my first job (or three) and how I wished for more exposure to more types of things while in school. So… tonight I grade!
Work from AHPR: Allen Hall PR is the student-run PR firm at the University of Oregon. The firm has seven to ten clients, all of which has various projects in the hopper. I’m the last link in the “editing chain.” When things get to me, they should be client ready. They often aren’t.

With both of these types of “assignments” in mind, I offer these tips for students.

  1. Be clear on the directions and format.I often think I’m being crystal clear, especially for a first time assignment. And, without fail, there’s a detail I’ve missed communicating. I appreciate when students ask for clarification. It gives me the opportunity to… well, clarify and to make sure everyone is hearing the same answer to the same question.
  2. Ask how much time I think it’ll take.I work in public relations every day. Chances are I’ve done the very thing I’m asking you to do and billed someone for it. I can give you a sense of how long it should take to write a press release, or put together a plan. Knowing this will help you better budget your time – help you put the big rocks first. I don’t always think to offer this information, though.
  3. Commit.You’ve chosen the PR major for better or for worse. Embrace each assignment with some enthusiasm. This assignment could be THE piece that your first employer hangs that job offer on. “You know, I wasn’t sure about hiring you, but then I saw that online newsroom material you wrote and I knew you should be part of our team!” Okay, that’s an instructor’s fantasy, but you get the point.Besides, I know when you haven’t committed. I can see it in the weak verbs, passive voice and run-on sentences.
  4. Ask for help.In most of my classes, I require my students think… at least a little bit. That lets you be more creative, more interested in what you’re doing. But, that may leave you with writer’s block, too. Ask for help! I’m a great brainstorming buddy. I’ll help find the right angle that will help it all “click” for you.
  5. Don’t be satisfied with “good enough.”I know. Sometimes you run out of time, cars break down, parents come into town. Trust me, I know. I’m afraid however, that empathy does not equal sympathy in my book. Every piece of work that you turn into me should be your best work. I’m the furthest thing from unreasonable, but I do have high expectations.

There you have it! Things you already know, I’m sure. But good to be reminded, anyway.

Blogtipping: The Job Hunt


Came across several posts tonight dealing with job searches, applications and interviews. Happy reading!

The Search:
Eight Tips for Landing Your Dream Job in a Web 2.0 World

Apply and Conquer:
A Glimpse & a Hook
How to Easily Create Professional Video Resume in 5 Steps
Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting a Job in Silicon Valley, But Were Afraid to Ask

Impress:
Nine Steps to Acing the Job Interview
How to Ace Your Job Interview: 88 Sure-Fire Tips

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