Balancing work, social media and, yes, writing

We all know how distracting social media can be. Sometimes I’ll sit down to work on a chapter of my book, turn to Twitter or Facebook or my blog just for a minute, and when I finally look up, it’s two hours later.

It’s not that I’m wasting time on these networks. I’m not playing Farmville or poking friends or throwing pigs at tweeps (if only that were possible). There’s simply so much information out there that I want to click on and read and share. So many interesting people to talk to. So much to learn.

I’ve been pretty good at balancing writing and social media for the last couple of years. I multitask efficiently and use tools like Hootsuite and Google Reader to make my online time as productive as possible.

You know you're not working on your manuscript enough when... your dog sleeps on it. Thank you, Cooper.

But ever since I made social media my job, balancing has become a problem. I’m spending more and more time on social networks, and less time writing. This makes sense in some ways, since helping small businesses with social media is how I’m now making money. I’m starting a business. Of course it’s filling more of my time.

But I’ve been neglecting my revisions, and those are important to me, too. A big part of the reason why I think it’s a good idea to work for myself is because it gives me the flexibility and the time to write. I can build up Socialexis and work on my book. Allegedly.

Here’s my problem. With social media, work is never done. There’s always more I can do. Know how you always want to push out one last tweet or connect with one more interesting person on She Writes? How you’re sure you can improve your online community and influence if you just put in one more hour? I’m now feeling that pressure not only for my personal networks, but also for my clients’ accounts. I want to do the best job I can for each client, and I’m always thinking of one more person to follow or a cool way to reach out on Facebook or a new networking tool we should use.

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Writers’ Roundup: August 13

It’s Friday the 13th! Lucky, right?

Have a great weekend!

Why your biz or book needs a Facebook page, not a group

I don’t want to give away all my social media hints — I want people to pay me for this, remember? — but here’s a common mistake I’m seeing clients (and small businesses who should become my clients) make: creating a Facebook group or profile for a business, product or public figure when they should create a page.

Say your first book comes out, and you want to build relationships with readers. Or you’ve got an awesome freelance writing business you’re looking to promote. Or you run a travel company and want more clients. Or you’re looking to draw more customers into your coffee shop.

Lots of business owners — including writers who need to sell books or services — know they should use Facebook. It’s a good place to start building your social media relationships for lots of reasons, including 1. you might already know how to use it if you have a personal profile and 2. millions of people network there. But too many people make the mistake of creating a group or profile (that’s what you’d have for your personal account) when it would be far more beneficial to have a fan page.

Here’s why it’s better to have a fan page than a group:

  • It’s less of a commitment to become a fan of a page than to join a group. Yes, either way all your followers have to do is click a button. But this is a big difference in the minds of regular Facebookers. A group is more like an exclusive club, while anyone with minor appreciation for a certain brand might be willing to say they like it. That means followers are more likely to like a brand than join its group page.
  • Page updates appear in fans’ news feeds, while group updates do not. That means group members have to visit the group to be reminded of your services. Since you’re essentially advertising here, you want to be able to put your product in front of potential buyers without making them come to you.
  • The content on a page is expected to come from you, while the content in a group depends more on group members. Either way, you’re aiming to build a community, and interaction by followers in a group or on a page is always encouraged. But it’s easier to maintain a page’s momentum because you’re in charge. Groups can wither if there’s not enough participation.
  • Anyone can see a fan page. Groups tend to be more private; you might have to become a member to see all the content. You determine your own privacy settings, of course. But to promote your business, you want the most open option available.
  • Pages are more customizable than groups.
  • Pages allow an unlimited number of followers. Groups have a 5,000-person limit. Right now that might not seem like a big deal. But when your biz or book becomes super popular — like this author, who accidentally got 700,000 fans on his page — you’re going to want to have room for more than 5K fans.

Want more reasons? Mashable and Squidoo have posts on the differences between Facebook pages and groups.

Half of using Facebook to market your business is about not annoying your followers. Get in front of them, let them see what you offer, but don’t annoy them. The hard part about this is you have to be well-versed in the culture of Facebook to know how to avoid annoying people. And let’s face it, even some regular users annoy us. You don’t want your business to be like the friend who’s always throwing FarmVille pigs at you or has linked their Twitter account to Facebook so their updates take over your feed.

[tweetmeme source=”alexisgrant”]

Creating a page, not a group, is a step toward using Facebook effectively. And since it’s impossible to turn a group into a fan page, this is one thing that’s worth getting right from the beginning.

If you liked this post, you might want to read: How to use Facebook to — shhh — promote your book.

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I’m open for social media business!

My job hunt has taken an unexpected turn. A good one.

Though I’ve applied mostly for journalism positions, plus a few other writing-heavy jobs, something different keeps falling into my lap: social media gigs.

I resisted it at first. I see “social media consulting” and immediately think snake-oil salesman. I mean, who really needs someone to help their company with social media? Everyone knows how to do this stuff!

But everyone, apparently, doesn’t. Look at the job boards, and you’ll see tons of social-media positions. (Mashable Jobs is my favorite social-media-heavy board.) Lots of companies that want to expand their client base through social media don’t have the know-how or the time to do it.

These positions keep finding me. Here’s one example: I applied for a writing/editing position with an international organization. The woman in charge of hiring wrote me an e-mail saying that yes, I looked qualified for the Web-writing position, but what they’d really noticed on my resume was my social media skills. Would I be interested in a job along those lines?

Now, social media is on my resume, but I hadn’t exactly highlighted it. Mostly because I didn’t realize how much I could leverage my experience in this field. Yeah, blogging and building online communities and using all sorts of social networks is part of my daily life. I use those tools because they help me accomplish what I need. I ran the @freeroxana Twitter campaign because I thought it was an important cause. I created a Ning group for writers of travel memoir because I saw a gap in the writing community. I figured out the ins-and-outs of using social media for networking because it helped me with my job hunt. I put that experience on my resume because I thought it made me more marketable all-around, not because I expected an employer to hire me specifically for those skills.

But small businesses and organizations are offering to pay me to build online communities. C’mon. How can I say no to that? I’m excited to help them!

On top of that, it seems that all the press releases I threw into my trash as a journalist are now coming in handy. For small businesses looking to build online communities with the end goal of finding new clients, it turns out I have something else to offer: I can write a damn good press release, and I’m smart about figuring out who to send it to. I’m an affordable one-woman social-media-slash-media-relations band! Who would’ve thought?

So I’ve started taking on clients. And thanks to this bridge-builder we call the Internet, they can be in the next town over or across the country. I’m not jumping off the job search train just yet, but this might have the potential to turn into a full-blown business.

If you know a small company or organization who wants to extend their reach and needs help doing it, you know where to send ’em.

If you’re in the social media biz too, I’d love to hear from you.

How to use social media to look for a job

A lot has changed since the last time I was in the market for a job. Fresh out of j-school in 2005, I gave my resume and clips to the editor of a newspaper I wanted to work for. He didn’t have any openings, but he knew someone who did: the Houston Chronicle‘s Washington bureau chief. So the no-openings editor passed my resume to the Chron editor. And guess who hired me?

Now, five years later, as I look for a D.C.-based reporting/writing/multimedia/social media position (if you smell a plug, you’re right on), that passing of the resume is still important. What’s changed is how the resume is passed. Now it’s often done digitally. And most of that digital resume-passing occurs through social media.

Knowing how to use social media effectively has become doubly helpful in the job hunt: not only do employers value social media skills, but using social media strategically can help you land the job you want, even if social media skills aren’t required.

Here’s how I’m using social media in my job hunt:

Facebook. Yes, Facebook is for fun. But my friends might also help me with my career. Since I’m a journalist, a lot of my Facebook friends are journalists or former journalists who work for organizations that might be hiring. And because of Facebook, I’ve stayed in touch with colleagues-turned-friends who I might not have kept in contact with before it was so easy.

My friends know I’m looking for a job in D.C. They know because I’ve said so in my status updates, even asked them to let me know if they hear of any openings. Asking for favors on Facebook is easy, because these people already know and like me. The key is to not inundate your friends with hiring pleas. Let them know you’re looking and then move onto something else (please, not FarmVille).

I’ve mentioned my job hunt in my status update only twice in the last six months. That was enough for a handful of friends — including a few I wouldn’t have thought to approach individually — to write me private messages with suggestions of places that are hiring or people who might be helpful to talk to. Because of Facebook, 748 people might think of me when they hear of a job opening. And since the best positions often aren’t posted on job boards, it’s important to let people know you’re looking.

In addition to pimping myself on my status updates, I use Facebook to send private messages to friends who live in D.C. and ask them to be on the lookout for openings (because not everyone checks their news feed obsessively enough to catch all of my status updates). I’m not close enough with some of these friends to e-mail them on a regular basis, but thanks to Facebook, we’re still in touch.

LinkedIn. If you’re uncomfortable networking for jobs on Facebook (though you shouldn’t be), you should feel just fine doing it on LinkedIn, because that’s why the site was created. It’s good for more than simply building your network. LinkedIn has a great job board, and groups that I’m part of — my alma maters and media groups  — also list jobs on their own LinkedIn pages.

Whenever I apply for a job, I search on LinkedIn for people who work for the company, specifically the person who would be my boss or hire me (I figure that out with Google’s help). And this is genius: LinkedIn tells me whether one of my connections knows that person! It’s like riffling through my Rolodex and being able to see not only my networks, but my friends’ networks, too. Taking that one step further, LinkedIn lets you write a note to the person you want to contact — through your friend, who can endorse you in the process.

Why is this important? Because applying for a job online isn’t enough anymore. To get someone to pull your application out of the virtual pile, you’ve got to talk or e-mail with an actual person. In the old days (what, like five or ten years ago?), you had to know someone at the company or wiggle your way in by networking in person. But with LinkedIn, you can create that connection — and get a personal recommendation to boot.

Remember: if you can find someone on a social-networking site, they probably know how to find you, too. So make your profiles professional and all-around awesome.

Twitter. It’s ironic that LinkedIn is supposed to be the forerunner for career networking, because I’ve found Twitter to be the most useful in this job hunt. A different community of people follow me on Twitter than on Facebook, and tweeting about the type of job I’m looking for reaches a ton — about 1,500 — of people who otherwise wouldn’t know I’m on the market.

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Five cool ways news organizations are using social media

Yeah, I usually blog about writing or travel. But since I’m looking to dive back into full-time journalism, my mind has been wandering into news land. Specifically, social media news land.

I’ve been watching how journalists and news organizations use social media (and playing with some of those approaches myself). By now, most media outlets take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, maybe even LinkedIn and Flickr. But there are heaps of other ways to engage audience and create community.

Five social-media tools that journalists are using in innovative ways:

1. Twitter Lists. When Twitter’s list feature was first announced in October, journalists quickly realized the tool was useful to group and follow their sources. Now media organizations are taking it one step further, offering those lists to consumers so they can follow sources on their own. The New York Times, for example, has a page that aggregates all its Twitter lists, with a button that makes it easy for readers to follow those lists, too. The Texas Tribune created a list of the state’s elected officials using a unique format that lets readers see the latest tweet for each one. And some outlets, like the St. Petersburg Times, offer lists of their own reporter’s Twitter handles.

Because they can be put together quickly, lists are also an awesome tool for breaking news events — even if you’re already using a Twitter hashtag. Lists point both reporters and consumers toward tweeps who know what’s happening: people at the scene, experts on the topic or others who are affected in some way by whatever’s going on. When I come across such an example again, I’ll link to it here. (If you can share one, please let us know in the comments.)

2. Avatars. Personality is what makes Facebook pages and Twitter feeds popular; that’s why pages and feeds by reporters, infused with those individual’s personalities, often have more fans and followers than straight-up topical feeds (although topical and breaking news feeds have their place, too). But what happens when more than one reporter contributes to a feed? Can you go topical yet remain personal?

The Chicago Tribune’s solution was the creation of Colonel Tribune, its digital face for the paper. On Facebook and Twitter, the Colonel doesn’t simply throw out breaking news headlines, he teases links to stories and offers interesting tidbits, like a person would. (He’s unbiased, of course.) “He routinely gets news tips from some readers, hears from others about corrections and typos in stories, and he is offered story ideas,” explains Bill Adee, creator of the avatar, in this Nieman Foundation story.

3. Tumblr. Newsweek is leading the way (for media outlets, anyhow) with this blogging platform. In this interview with MediaBistro’s FishbowlNY, Mark Coatney, who’s behind Newsweek’s tumblelog, says, “It’s useful for us in terms of engaging a new kind of reader.”

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