Category Archives: Commentary and Critiques

Faking It: Why Writing in Your Niche is Killing Your Blog

I have too many blogs.  No really, there’s this one, Lurkers Anonymous, Social Marketing for Business (recently updated title that I need to change), my Martindale.com Blog, and I think that’s it.  Still, four blogs.  Four.  And each one kind of talks about stuff the others touch on.

For example, Lurkers is all about how to activate online communities.  Started strong this year and wanted to turn the blog into a book.  Posted consistently through March and then it died.  In starting my new business/project, My Media Labs, I started doing a blog about social media basics, marketing, blah blah blah.  Each of these have something to do with social media, but what I find is the more “professional” or “niche” I try to go, the more antiseptic my posts become, like I have to present these Fisher Pricified posts that potential customers or readers can easily categorize.  “That’s what will help my SEO, site visitors, and sales – being put in nice little boxes.”  It’s killing me.

Where’s the passion?  Where’s the experimentation, the love, and the need to get it out there.  Truth be told, striking that balance between passion and commerce is not an easy trick.  Most of us don’t have it figured out.  If we did, we’d all be doing what we loved and getting paid for it.  So here’s the secret: if you hate what you are doing or feel in your gut there needs to be a change: STOP.

You can hit the reset button.  Posts are looking too vanilla, throw some marsh mello, chocolate cake crunchies, and cake mix in there (mmm … I want ice cream now).  Write something completely off topic and then relate it to your blog theme (posts about how Tonka trucks and playing in sandboxes teach you everything you need to know about product marketing).  Go out there.  Chances are it won’t hurt your SEO to do something different.  Chances are your readers (if you have them) won’t revolt and leave because you did something different.  Who knows, you may even earn a few new readers.

Don’t be afraid to break out of the niche.  The niche will still be there.  You can always go back to writing boring posts again if you want.

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Breaking Into Social Media as a Career: Show Me the Work

The second most frequently asked question when I tell people I work in “social media” is “how can you get a job doing that?”  (the first most asked question is “what is social media”).  Here is the response I gave to such a question in a Linkedin form for community managers today:

I’ve written about how I secured my job in social media/community management, and you can check out the post.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone looking to get into this business is start a blog or it’s equivalent where you talk about social media, technology, and community management.  Even without the experience of working in the field, talk about your involvement in communities, your passion for them, what you like or dislike about them, how you propose to make a difference etc.  This is more powerful than any resume you can draft.  There is a saying in law “res ipsa loquitur” which means “the thing speaks for itself” – when you have a body of content you can point to that showcases your social media skills, this is more powerful than any resume.

I think that last line bears repeating: “when you have a body of content you can point to that showcases your social media skills, this is more powerful than any resume.”  Too often we think the path to where we want to be professionally is a straight line.  It’s not.  That is a lie you learned in school, namely, “the formula.”  The formula says: come to class, study for the test, take the test, get a good grade, move on (rinse, lather, repeat).

Life doesn’t work like this.  My path to where I am today has be circuitous and unpredictable.  Two years ago I never predicted working in social media despite having participated in it for years.  The point is that I got to where I am by doing.  I had been blogging pretty steady since 2005, writing about stuff I loved (video games and law), and positioned myself for opportunities with examples of my work rather than a resume.

One quick story and then out: I am currently looking for a web designer/PHP developer to help launch a new site.  I have posts out on a variety of sites and am getting a ton of responses, but what amazes me is how many of those responses do not include links to samples of work.  I don’t care that you have a resume full of jobs, qualifications, and experience.  Show me the work.  Res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself.


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How to Be a Blogging Superstar

If you are anything like me you tend to want to do a lot.  As someone with lots of energy and drive I find myself jumping from project to project.  This would be fine if I had an unlimited amount of time and resources, didn’t need sleep, and had no other commitments.  Belonging to the human race this just isn’t so.  There is a need to focus, create, and finish.

At present I write on three blogs: Mintz’s Wordz (this one), Lurkers Anonymous (my blog to book project on motivation and engagement), and The Martindale Blog (my work blog).  I fluctuate between levels of commitment on all three and it can be difficult to prioritize and produce.  Often my “lizard brain” the part of me that fears progress and success, hampers my efforts, and tells me what I’m writing is useless, tells me don’t write on any of them.  These are the things I can find myself thinking:

“No one will read it.”

“Seth Godin has said it better already.”

“Waste of time.”

The key to being a blogging superstar is to write in spite of those thoughts. Even if the fear can say “I told you so,” for example, your latest post only got 2 views (one of which was you), just write.  Keep on posting.  Try to be consistent.  Work on crafting, honing, and delivering your message.  What you will get out of it is a satisfaction that you did something.  Sure there are millions of blog posts going up everyday.  Not all of us can be a Chris Brogan, Perez Hilton, or Gary Vaynerchuk (for anyone not geekly inclined – these are some of the most successful bloggers on the Internet today).  But in creating, sharing, giving of yourself to the collective body of the world you move closer towards connecting.  Closer towards making a difference.  Delivering your masterpiece.

Yesterday I crossed the 100 post threshold with this blog.  At my best I had 400 views in one day.  This blog is not a blockbuster (yet).  What it has done is opened doors.  I have met people through the blog, built valuable connections, and created opportunities.  It has given me an outlet to share ideas, develop projects, and lead to other things.   Most of all it exists as a body of work I have done.  That is a take away from this post: publishing your ideas, shipping the product is creation.  This creation exists as something to point to – a road map of what you have done.  Having it and continuing to add to it makes you a blogging superstar.

Taking your blog to another level is something I am learning reading sites like ProBlogger (how to monetize and increase your efforts).  The tactics there are great for accomplishing certain goals with a blog.  But at it’s essence blogging is about creating and sharing.  Continue to do that, on a consistent basis, for the sake of doing what you love and you are a superstar.

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Kippa Man: Making Me the First Custom Apple Logo Kippa in Israel

Skullcaps, lids, yarlmakes, or kippas, whatever you call the head covering we observant Jews wear, one thing is for certain: if custom, knitted ones (“sroogies”) are your thing there is no better place than Kippa Man to get yours made. Located conveniently in the Shuk in Jerusalem, they have tons of pre-made designs to choose from including sports teams, cartoon characters, and company logos like Nike, Coke, and Pepsi. But as I walked into the shop today I noticed something was missing.

The iPhone hit Israel in December of 2009, and we have been experiencing the slow yet enthusiastic adoption typical of Apple launches. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am an Apple nut, a customer evangelist if you will, who takes pride in his affiliation. What better way to display that pride than with a custom kippa made by the best?

The lady at Kippa Man (didn’t catch her name today) was pretty excited about this one. “Do you think other people will want it?” she asked in a light Israeli accent. I told her that people would go crazy over it, and she’d be able to say she was the first to do it in Israel because I had looked and not found it anywhere else. I also told her that I’d proudly wear it at Legal Tech in two weeks, a major technology conference in NYC for legal professionals. This made her more excited an she promised to have it ready by next week.  What happened next was interesting.

She quoted a price which I thought was high for a custom kippa.  “You wear big ones,” she said.  “The are more expensive than the little ones.”  She was right.  I do like my kippas on the big side.  They are more comfortable, stay on your head better, don’t require clips, and cover my disappearing hair.  Knowing that Wonder Woman would kill me if I paid that much for a kippa the inner business man in me came out.  “Tell you what,” I said, “I’m so excited about this kippa that I want to blog about it.  I want to show it to everyone I know who loves Apple and have them come to you for one.  With the iPhone blowing up in Israel there is sure to be interest.  We brand this as a Kippa Man original and I think you’ve got a winner.”  Through my entire speech I could feel her excitement, and it was true; I meant every word.  It surprised me not to see more kippas with logos from passion brands like Apple, Windows, Nokia (Israelis LOVE their Nokias), and others.

In any case we came to an acceptable price range (she couldn’t give me exact b/c she won’t know until they make it), and I walked outside the store.  I posted a check in at Kippa Man on Gowalla (location based service) citing my forthcoming kippa, snapped a shot of the store front (see above), and headed home to start work.  Not sure how the kippa will come out, but if it looks anything like the other work I’ve seen Kippa Man do I’m sure it will be awesome.  Look for me at Legal Tech.

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From Social Pollination: 3 Goals and 3 Words for 2010

Monica O’brien has some exciting things going for 2010.  As the newly minted author of the book Social Pollination: Escape the Hype of Social Media and Join the Companies Winning at It, and the regular author of her blog, Social Pollination: Small Biz.  Big Buzz,  she delivers a fresh take to online.  As a new reader of her blog, I left my first comment today and wanted to share it with any readers here.  Please feel free to continue the thread, commenting on your 3 Goals for 2010, either here on Monica’s blog.

Monica: great post.  I recently discovered your work through Joseph Yi (editor’s note: author of a great blog Welcome to LA and author of one of the funniest posts I ever read on Brazen Careerist) who I connected with on Brazen Careerist.  You laid out three very important goals for yourself that I can identify with (1) home/job, (2) creating, and (3) ways to challenge the status quo.  Here’s my take:

(1) Home/job: sounds like you and your husband are ready for a change.  My wife and I made a huge leap in 2009, moving our family from New Jersey to Jerusalem, Israel.  It has been a lifelong dream for her and a recent obsession of mine to move here.  The ideal of raising our children in the Holy Land and connecting with our spiritual roots still persists despite the difficulty of uprooting your entire life across an ocean to an alien culture.  We’ve taken our knocks and are adjusting.  For 2010 I’m resolved to view Israel like the Wild West.  Businesses here are just starting to integrate some of the more established online behaviors we are used to in the US and I’m seeing more opportunities here for an English speaking lawyer who works in this space (I am the lead community manager for a network of 25K lawyers and growing – another thing to do in 2010 is find a better term for “community manager” … I’ve been thinking either “janitor” or “party host” not sure though ; D).  As for home, we have a lease in the city for 2 years which gives us time to find a neighborhood and buy a house.  By the end of this year we want a neighborhood picked out.

(2) Creating – awesome to see you are writing fiction.  I wrote a novel 4 years ago, think if Harry Potter did kung fu, but quickly grew to hate it over the years.  My creative project for 2010 is to write my blog to book called Lurkers Anonymous: Strategies for Dealing with Invisibility on the Web.  My first post went up today so I guess I am already started (http://lurking101.com)!

(3) Ways to Challenge the Status Quo – this is an interesting one.  I wish you luck on the job search (your blog is proof enough that you would kick a**), and have found that being a “purple cow” in the corporate creameries is a fun way to love what you do.  I work for a major corporation in the legal world (if we were in the beverage industry think Coke v. Pepsi) and LOVE my work.  Just this year I moved into Web Strategy and find I can make a real difference by challenging the company to do things a bit differently.  Pursuing disruptive strategies like getting to know our detractors better and finding out why they hate us, giving away lots more for free, and starting a revolution in the way we communicate are just a few of the general categories of things I am hoping to do.  On the concrete side of things, I am starting a series on You Tube called Tech Talks where I interview different people in the tech, social media, and legal worlds to get unique perspectives on a host of topics.  We do everything via Skype video and I just did my first piece with Chris Boudreaux from SocialMediaGovernance.com.  It should be posting in the next week, and I already have some more calls planned.

Thanks for the great topic, and I’m looking forward to reading more from you in 2010.  Happy New Year!

I boiled down Monica’s 3-words to 3-categories.  Not sure this is what she was looking for (I think she wanted 3 NEW words), but it worked for me.  So what about you?  Where are your goals in 2010?  What would you like to see change?  Who do you want to agitate in the New Year?

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Facebook Faux Pas Post

Gilad at the gated entrance of our gorgeous short term rental

Last week I made a Facebook boo boo, or Faux Pas if you will, and I have been hearing about it from friends and family since then.  Don’t let it happen to you!  Here’s the story.

We were on “vacation,” having been forcefully sent out of our apartment so plumbers could fix septic issues (in the interim they ripped up our entire floor, changed all the piping, and got concrete dust on EVERYTHING).  In any case, we went to this fantastic restaurant in Beit Shemesh (I won’t name it here b/c I love that place and it is unfortunate what happened next).  Shana (my daughter)  is highly allergic to dairy.  The waitress, who only spoke Hebrew and thought Shana was adorable, asked if she could give her a piece of chocolate.  We explained in Hebrew, three times, that Shana can’t have ANY dairy b/c she is allergic.  The waitress assured us  that it was semi-sweet chocolate with no dairy.  Shana proceeded to eat the chocolate and seemed very happy (usually she reacts to dairy right away with hives and itching, but none of that happened here).

After a 20-minute drive back to our country cottage, Shana finished the chocolate.  When we got inside she was having trouble breathing.  She began to itch all over and started to swell up in the face with discoloration.  In a panic we all jumped back into the car and I drove like a true Israeli (crazy for those who have never driven here) back to Beit Shemesh to the medical clinic there.  Shana was experiencing toxic shock.  I held her down while she thrashed and screamed so they could stick an IV in her arm.  Then they rushed her to a big hospital in Jerusalem by ambulance.  My wife went with her and I took our 10-month old, Gilad back to the cottage to pack our things.  We were going back to Jerusalem to spend the night with Shana.

Side Bar: that same day my landlady called to inform us the plumbers would need an additional 10-days.  She set us up in a short term rental right down the street from our apartment (gorgeous place – see the photo) and gave us her best for Shana.  Thanks Rachel – you were awesome through this whole mess.  Back to the story …

Gilad and I packed in a frenzy (well, I packed; he fell asleep).  We then went home (to the gorgeous short term apartment), I gave him dinner, and put him to sleep.  Shana would need to stay the night in the hospital b/c on the way to the hospital, the ambulance driver miscalculated the conversion of her weight from pounds to kilos and gave her too much adrenaline and steroids.  At about 12am a friend came over to stay with Gilad, while I went to the hospital to relieve Esther (thanks Alf!).

Shana in hospital at 2am (yes that is a sticker on her forehead)

When I finally got Shana to bed (at 2:30am) for some unknown reason I decided to check Facebook on my iPhone.  We hadn’t had a phone in our cottage and been somewhat incommunicado with family and friends that week.  After reading and replying to a few wall posts by friends, I typed this status update: “Sitting beside Shana’s hospital bed at 2:45am thanking G-d she’ll be alright.  Finally got her to sleep an hour ago.”  This would have been a completely fine update had anyone, including our parents, known what was going on.  Not to mention the time difference in Jerusalem and NY put them at about 7:45pm, prime time for Facebook checking.

My cousin called my aunt asking what had happened to Shana.  My aunt called my mom.  My mom didn’t know, but my in laws had some idea b/c they had called Esther on her Jerusalem phone with a calling card earlier in the day, but hadn’t told my parents, and so on.  The faux pas post generated 16 comments and many phone calls from concerned friends asking what happened.  By the next day we started damage control by posting on Facebook what had happened.  Also we got on the phone to family to tell them too.  By Monday we were still getting calls, and my wife had to apologize many times for my lapse in judgment.  I eventually posted: “Sorry to cause such a stir with this post – guess that’s what 2:45 am in the hospital with only an Israeli iPhone will do to you. Thanks for all your warm wishes. She’s fine now and bein her beautiful self.”

This calls to attention some Facebook etiquette.  Don’t post alarming things without giving family and friends context first (duh!).  It also raises an interesting point about communication: with real-time network updates at our fingertips the reach and effect our posts can have is magnified, especially if your profiles have many connections on them.  While network posts can save time informing many people at once about news, in my case it wasted time as I had to speak to many different people personally to assure them everything was okay.  Even posting the network update that she was okay, people wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth.  I guess the same thing can be true of good news, a wedding, birthday, promotion, etc. that if you post on your network you’ll have a lot of people vying for your attention to congratulate you, but there was something that just stuck with this latest incident.  We all know that you should be careful what you post, but the hospital episode made this rule of network engagement so much clearer for me.

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Death and Facebook

An old friend died last week.  The circumstances of his death are still not clear: he was in good health, lived alone, and was getting ready to celebrate his 35th birthday that same week.  We hadn’t really hung out in a few years, having gone our separate ways in life, but we’d see each other on Facebook, trade a chat every now and then, and keep generally informed of each others’ life milestones.  When my father told me the terrible news I was shocked; wanting to get a sense of what was happening in his life prior to his death I went to his Facebook page.

His November updates all seemed positive.  My friend had been a survivor of childhood cancer and possessed a courage that I always admired him for.  On November 10th he posted the status update: “22 years ago this Nov. was my last chemo-therapy treatment.  I have been Cancer free since then; Life is good ♥.”  Prior to that, in response to someone asking him how things were going he said, “Life is good – Had a great day so far and it’s not over yet- ♥ this life.”  The final update he posted, just 6-days before his birthday on November 14th, went as follows: “Going to be having a Tattoo party soon at my home.  My two friends are going to come here and Ink people if you want to get something let me know asap and we will work something out.  These are the people that have worked on me so to see their work look at my photos :-)”.  That was the last Facebook update he ever made.  Police found him in his apartment on November 21st.  The unofficial report, through the grapevine of concerned friends, said that he had been dead for at least four to five days before being found, they did not know the cause of death, and an investigation would be conducted.

Looking at his Facebook page now is a surreal experience.  On his birthday he was already dead.  No one knew that fact until the next day.  Earlier in the week, on his Wall, there was a string of posts wishing him happy birthday, (I remember getting similar birthday posts from “friends” on Facebook, some of whom I hadn’t seen or spoke to in years, wishing me well – part of Facebook etiquette, I guess).  After about 20 or so birthday wishes, the RIP messages began, many more than the birthday wishes.

People posted quick messages like, “RIP brother, you will be missed,” multimedia messages with links to YouTube videos of Pearl Jam’s “Black” or other appropriate songs he would have liked, and some more personal notes, (I have yet to post my note).  What strikes me about this aspect of the tragedy is how we as people are finding new ways to grieve, digitally.  The Facebook Wall has become the virtual wake, if you will, where those of us not local enough or not close enough to be there in person can express our sadness and love to the departed.

When a user dies on Facebook, that persons profile can become “memorialized” by notifying Facebook about the user’s death.  Here is what Facebook says about a memorialized profile:

When a user passes away, we memorialize their account to protect their privacy. Memorializing an account removes certain sensitive information (e.g., status updates and contact information) and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance. Memorializing an account also prevents all login access to it.

The process for reporting a death to Facebook is as follows:

Please report this information here so that we can memorialize this person’s account. Memorializing the account removes certain more sensitive information like status updates and restricts profile access to confirmed friends only. Please note that in order to protect the privacy of the deceased user, we cannot provide login information for the account to anyone. We do honor requests from close family members to close the account completely.

These mechanisms are in place to preserve the integrity of the person’s profile and provide the emotional outlet for friends and family.  Someone must have worked with Facebook to clean up my friend’s account b/c many of the birthday messages are now gone.  I’m kind of glad.  It was unsettling to see that string of messages knowing they were posted after the fact.  I’m also glad that I can now go leave my parting words for my friend in the hope that perhaps they’ll bring a little comfort, comfort to those looking at his profile, family, friends, whoever.  Also, I hope this blog post serves as a source of information about handling a death on Facebook and a tribute to my friend.  His legacy of courage and love of life will always live on through those who knew him.

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