Breakout Session -- Your Social Media Solar System

Liveblog



Moderator, Erica Mauter
Kathy Cano-Murillo
Nancy Malay
Stacie Tamaki

*** The session presentation is linked at the end of the liveblog. ***

Erica welcomes the attendees, briefly introduces panelists, explains that they will be taking questions. The Twitter hashtag for this panel is #BHHsolarsystem

Erica opens by explaining different types of social media as follows: the basics of blogging, what a traditional blog is, what its components are, some major platforms (Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress), how various types of information can be presented. All attendees have heard of blogging, maybe half or so have blogs.

Miniblogs such as Tumblr, Posterous. Less control, fewer whistles and bells, easy emphasis on visual media. Over half have heard of miniblogs but very few use them.

Microblogs such as Twitter (most attendees have heard of it but less than half use it), and the “kitchen sink” social network of Facebook. Most attendees have heard of, and use, Facebook, somewhat fewer use it for their business.

Foursquare, a location based social media that incentivizes businesses and users to check in, which is not heavily used by attendees.

Linked In, professional networking with recommendation feature. Maybe one third of attendees use Linked In.

Pinterest as visual scrapbooking. About half of attendees are familiar with Pinterest.

YouTube, video sharing. Erica notes that YouTube has as many searches as Google itself, has more social features than other video sharing sites. Everyone’s heard of youTube but very few have own channel.

Nancy Malay of Vintage Whimsy creates holiday pieces and has designed craft projects for magazines.

Stacie Tamaki is a formal bridal accessory designer who then went into building websites and got into social media and marketing.

Kathy introduces herself: former reporter/craft writer in traditional journalism, got into blogging early on and has ridden the wave.

Erica asks the panelists to name their top social media tools. Nancy uses Blogger and Facebook. Stacie uses Blogger, and also likes Pinterest a lot. Kathy uses Blogger, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Erica: How did you start? What did you do first.

  • Stacie: Started blogging first. Friends told her she should have blog and she immediately saw the business potential. Did not want to focus only weddings (her business at the time), so expanded it to a lifestyle blog.
  • Nancy: Started with a website 12-13 years ago, then added a blog which was more interactive. Includes other interests than her art.
  • Kathy: Started blogging to document her “crazy creative life.” It was her outlet every night, and people related to her stories. “When you do what you love, that’s when all the good stuff happens.”

Erica: how did you decide to keep or toss a particular tool?

  • Kathy: “You can’t spend every minute on every networking outlet.” She tests them out, secures her user name for branding purposes, feels it out, lets it go if she’s not feeling it and focuses on what does work. Doesn’t feel guilty about not using every tool.
  • Stacie: She started with a blog, enjoyed it, stayed with it. Started as marketing but became social engagement as well. Has tried Twitter but it doesn’t fit her communication style, loves Facebook but her method is to blog first, then crosspost from there to other social media outlets. Certain platforms will click better for you than others.
  • Nancy: Didn’t like Twitter. Depends on what your goal is with social media -- blogging gets her the most potential attention, Facebook is a closed network so not as public.

Erica asks Stacie to follow up on “crossposting”. Stacie explains RSS feeds and how she creates one post for her blog and then the post title plus a truncated excerpt automatically updates her social networks and various feeds, a great time saver. She is frustrated by people who don’t maximize opportunity to get their information out there.

Kathy looks at each social media outlet as a “cocktail party,” each with its different crowd. For example, she uses Tumblr to collect favorite quotes from people in her life rather than to repost content from her blog. She wants people to be a part of all her different outlets so she does not put same content everywhere, just on major outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Nancy has her blog as her main sales and marketing tool, and updates Facebook when she updates her blog.

Erica: “Let’s talk about time”. How do you make time to do all these extra things?

  • Nancy: “I don’t sleep.” She gets up early to do most of her writing, check Facebook, and connect with people. Spends “at least an hour a day, sometimes two.”
  • Stacie: Just blogs when she has the time, no set schedule, but 4-5 blog posts a week, some long and researched which can take hours or even days, some single-image or single-link which take only moments.
  • Kathy: Does lots of work at night when there’s no interruptions, it comes easier when the house is quiet. Also has a lot of variance in length and detail of posts. Has gone through so many different phases of what type of content she posts, currently does what she feels like.

Erica: Have any of you tried to schedule your output, like posting at certain time of day or doing a certain type of post at certain times?

  • Kathy: Coming from newspaper background, yes, she does do this. She plans out “packages” of content, often pre-schedules posts to go live at a set time.
  • Stacie: A lot of people start blogging, do 3-4 posts and it dies. When your blog address is on your business cards, when you use that professionally, people visit it and they see your dead blog. Readers appreciate regular content. Use a counter to see how many readers you have, a huge motivator.
  • Kathy: Her daughter writes a blog, does fun things on a regular basis such as “moustache monday” for readers to look forward to and participate in.

Erica: Let’s talk about personal versus professional -- what does your online presence look like, is it separate from your real life persona?

  • Nancy: Everyone’s multidimensional, and there are so many things people find interesting about each other. She doesn’t discuss politics or religion or use foul language, feeling it’s too dangerous if you are using your blog as a marketing tool.
  • Stacie: The nature of blogging is that it’s an opportunity to get to know someone, so don’t just throw up advertisements. Stacie still talks about wedding and events but also posts lifestyle information that is pertinent to where she lives, and started posting entrepreneurial information, as people started asking her for advice in that area. She’ll blog anything in her life, but does not cross line of talking about friends and family by full name, and censors some of her personal information. She doesn’t like the “stalkerish” aspects of some social media.
  • Kathy: In the early posts, you can find some good stories on her blog! She has left them up because that’s who she was at the time. Later, with a wider audience, she started censoring herself more, as people began to reference things she’d blogged about. She’s more careful about writing about her family now, but she always wants to express the sense of being an underdog, relate-able. She lets balance come naturally between personal and professional life.

Erica asks Stacie about covering multiple niches, about separating content and making it work together.

Stacie says that some people think she should have separate blogs for different types of content, but she doesn’t have time and also finds that by combining topics, her blog is more interesting for everyone. She rotates her different niches of content so readers who gravitate to her blog for one type of content know that each week there will be something of specific interest to them but often find themselves interested in her other areas of content. “If you’re a creative person, you’ll attract creative people to you.” Her blog started as marketing but she realized that it was more “an expression of yourself.” The more real you are, the more people will be attracted, so just try to create great content regularly.

Kathy: Crafty Chica is a big umbrella, her main brand, and she has different categories under her brand to use when she writes about different topics.She describes it as like a newspaper, with different sections, easy for readers to find content of interest to them.

Erica: Let’s talk about social networking and how it can be marketing, how it works with your marketing plan.

  • Nancy: You’re going to reach people you never could. You have to be present, commit time, and you’ll get out what you put in. It’s surprising where people come from and what strikes their interest. Blogging is the best marketing tool there is.
  • Stacie: She was self-employed in 1997, using traditional business communication (phone, letters, face-to-face meetings). She misses the old fashioned word of mouth recommendation when she didn’t have to sell to people who were referred by a past customer because they were already sold. Now she uses blog to engender that same type of customer. “It’s the online form of a verbal recommendation.” Can see referral logs that show people coming in from email servers, telling her that people are emailing her blog to one another.
  • Kathy: A one woman operation, but has a group of friends she calls her “street team," she’ll get them to tweet things for her. She does contests, giveaways, gets people to tweet things in exchange for contest entries, etc. She also “stalks” magazine editors, stores. She took an active role in marketing, making connections. More often than not things she tries don’t work but it just takes one hit.

Erica: How do you know your social media efforts are working? Can you give examples of how social media helped you meet a specific business goal?

  • Nancy: Did a piece for Better Homes and Gardens, and blogged about it, and could see from referrals and Google page rank how effective the post was in spreading the word.
  • Stacie: had a friend who was part of a local business group who wanted to do a blog. She spoke to the group, who were enthusiastic and hired her to design the blog -- then four individuals from group also hired her. Getting out there lets people see her as an expert.
  • Kathy: Pays attention to number of hits, patterns of readership. Has “money blog posts” that she knows will be hits (recent example, her “glitter floor” which went viral). She thinks “what’s the next big thing?” But she also pursues smaller formats, like a Latin-oriented video share site vs YouTube, which made her a featured user after she started uploading video content that became popular. It’s a matter of figuring out your signature touches, and it doesn’t matter if you use smaller outlets, it adds up to the big picture.

Erica: in terms of business development, when you collect stats and data, does it help you earn business?

  • Nancy: I don’t use stats to sell myself, the blog works for itself. It’s important to keep track of statistical data so you know where people find you or what’s really working.
  • Stacie: Doesn’t always expect things to resonate so deeply and often what she thinks will be a “money post” isn’t.
  • Kathy: Is a dreamer, looks to Tyra, Oprah, JLo, with such diverse brands. JLo has perfume, K will have glitter perfume! Make yourself stand out.

Erica: What’s something you feared or had difficulty with, that you overcame?<?strong>

  • Nancy: She was afraid of putting herself out there too much, “how much of yourself do you want people to see? Once it’s out there it’s out there."
  • Stacie

  • Kathy: went from Kathy to Kathy the Blogger to Kathy the Empire and now people expect more from her and expect her to “pimp” products, so she has had to find balance between being herself, but also being a business. She isn’t a faceless corporation, and doesn’t want people to think she has sold out.

Erica: Imagine what your business would be like without social media.

  • Kathy says she would be selling jewelry out of car trunk.
  • Stacie: She would know far fewer people, would have accomplished much less. Blogging has inspired her to become more interesting, do things to blog about them. It has developed her into more well rounded person.
  • Nancy: You’re exposed to more people than you would be without a blog. You’d have to do more physical work to advertise without a blog.
  • Kathy: Think of your blog as way to pay it forward, offer information that inspires, educates. That’s how you build a good following and make social media pay off.

Erica asks for audience questions (hereafter, AQ)

AQ: Are there any pros or cons to doing a custom blog design, versus a ready-made platform?

Erica: it’s about comfort with technology and having the time to invest learning to build a custom site, and also about cost and desire for control.

AQ: Can you talk about monetizing your blog?

Kathy: Mine’s indirect; I get hired for jobs because of the blog but don’t run ads other than Google ads. But the blog gets me hired for different projects.

Stacie: I don’t do monetization, but I do get jobs through the blog.

Nancy agrees, people find her through her blog.

AQ: I wanted to say about Twitter that you don’t have to have something to say, you can use it to gather information, to find people to follow who interest you and you can get lots of information without putting a lot out there, so don’t be afraid.

AQ: What do you use to track metrics?

Stacie uses Google Analytics and Statcounter.

Kathy uses Google Analytics.

Nancy uses Godaddy’s stats information.

Stacie: only checks a few times a week, but you do need to check because crazy stuff can happen.

Erica: also uses Google Analytics, but it can be total overkill. You can use referral information from your blog service provider and often that’s enough.

AQ: It’s scary to write something that people will read because of perfectionism, but I’m confident speaking. Is there a way for me to blog?

Kathy: Try vlogging!

Erica: There are services that let you call and they will record your audio and then post it for you, but people are more likely to click on a video than to listen to three minutes of audio.

AQ: What about podcasting?

Kathy went through a podcast phase for a couple years, using Garageband. She loved it, had fun, and had a good following but it was hard to keep up. When her novel come out she had to let something drop. Now she does YouTube videos and uploads them to Blip TV, who distributes them to iTunes as a video podcast, as well as to Vimeo and other video sharing sites. It’s Another great outlet to get your work out there.

Erica: revisits previous question and notes that Dragon Naturally Speaking will allow you to create speech-to-text documents for blogging.

AQ: It’s easy to get sucked into social media--how do you stay on task and motivated?

Nancy: You have no choice if you have deadlines, you have to pick and choose. She looks at social media engagement as part of her job, and says it has to be part of your business plan. Pinterest is her guilty pleasure.

Kathy will unplug the internet when she has deadlines.

Erica: There is value in seeing what other people are doing, if you think about it as research, community building. But you can go down the rabbithole.

AQ: what’s the easiest blog tool?

Stacie: Blogger is understood to be the blogging platform with training wheels. Wordpress has more options. She prefers Blogger after also using Typepad and Wordpress. You can always move your content.

Erica: Tumblr and Posterous are dead simple. You can email your posts to Posterous, including multimedia, and both have community features. Miniblogging is good if you don’t want to think too hard and just want to start it and go. Traditional blogs are easier to migrate if you want to change platforms.

AQ: Those of you who have commercially available products, did that come from blogging?

Kathy: Originally it came from giving some earrings to someone who happened to be a sales rep, who then took them to a trade show. That was before blogging, but since blogging she has made things for many other companies. Keeping herself out there has worked, knowing that people are fascinated with the behind the scenes details. Share your failures as well as your successes.

Nancy: Sometimes your failures turn out to be great products!

AQ: What percent of your time do you do social media tasks versus actually creating?

Nancy: Again, if you have deadlines, you have no choice but to create. She sometimes set the timer to help limit her social media time.

Stacie: When you’re self employed it’s easy to work through all your meals, but in principle when you’re starting a business, you should define your time, schedule tasks, make sure you encapsulate everything: production and marketing and administrating. Nobody will know what you’re creating if you’re not also marketing.

Kathy: Spends short time in morning checking social media, in afternoon pops in again for short time, and at night interacts quite a bit. Usually limits sessions to 15-30 mins. It’s okay to sometimes spend 2 hours though!

Erica: That’s an argument in favor of limiting social media to things that work best for you and sticking with them. “Pick that, own it, focus on it, leave the rest."

AQ: How important is your blog's visual impact right away? How do you start?

Stacie: Both Wordpress and Blogger are easy to set up. A customized image file header is a necessity for branding, otherwise the only thing she urges people to do is to customize the colors, it’s free to do on most platforms. Don’t wait to start; there’s not that much difference between procrastination and perfectionism.

Kathy: Sometimes perfect is boring!

Stacie: Flaws make you endearing to your readers. The sooner you start, the better. Be consistent with your look, but be sure to have your website and blog complement one another, not be identical to one another.

Kathy: Find a font family, stick with it. Save images correctly, have a consistent look. Self-edit. Keep it clean and content-focused.

Nancy: Grammar and spelling are important.

Stacie: When you’re confused, use Google. She got C’s in English, writing for a blog was intimidating. She goes to Google and checks spelling, grammar. There are so many language tutorials online. It starts sticking, so you become a better writer.

AQ: You all started doing social media before it was mainstream. Where do you see things going, what could be focused on now that will be mainstream in a couple years?

Erica: There’s always going to be something new. It depends on your interest in trying everything out when it’s new, claiming your name, so even if I’m not interested in service I’ll sign up for my user name. There will be new toys all the time but you have to tie it back to your business goals. Think about how you’ll use it, what it will do for you, especially if you have limited mental bandwidth. It’s going to keep changing, but the constant is that everything's online, you have to be online.

Kathy: I know that all of those stories about my kids, I’ve saved them to files, I’ve published them in books -- you take what you’ve done so far and make the most of it.

Stacie: Blogs are going to replace websites. A blog was originally just a journal, but now you can have static pages, and with a website you have to hire someone to do small updates. Blogs are easy to maintain yourself.

Kathy agrees, her website was several pages and it was a lot to maintain. She made the decision to save time/money, and now her website is a single landing page and all links lead to her blog. A web designer helps with that but she does blog by herself and doesn’t have to worry about a clunky website anymore.

Nancy: And the interaction on the blog is so much more personal.

AQ: How do you secure your user name?

Erica: Every time a new site comes up, sign up for it. I might not ever sign in again but I have my username and nobody else can touch it.

Stacie: And they’re always free. It just takes a minute.

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