Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Most Important Comment I Ever Received On My Blog

Originally written as an answer to What is an article, post, debate, or video that persuaded you to change your mind about an important topic? on Quora, this post is not just about Blogging, but about Community-building and the heart of social media. 

When I began blogging at Okazu, I saw my role as "leader of the opposition"; the one woman writing about lesbian-themed Japanese comics in a world of commentary by not particularly open-minded young men who had one, quite personal, use for lesbian themes in media.

My points were very in-your-face and I tended to write as if I was a lone voice in a wilderness (which, in many ways, I was.)

Some years into blogging, I wrote a review which was contentious. In fact, I still receive hate mail from it. My original prologue included something like, "If you liked this, please slap yourself, hard, thank you." Ultimately, I rewrote the thing to be less harsh, but insisted (and still insist,) that it was one of the most mind-numbingly dull things I've ever watched. I have no idea what other people were watching when they say it was cute, sweet, romantic, etc. It was episode after episode of crushingly dull animation, plot, character and dialogue. That post received the most comments, the most exposure and, perhaps obviously, the most anger I had ever received up to that point. I've had many more popular posts since, and this one has fallen into deserved obscurity.


After that review, I received a comment from a long-time reader about how I was writing as if my readers were the enemy.

That comment profoundly changed my approach to blogging and to the people who read my writing.

Hard as it was, I acknowledged that the comment was right. I was writing as if the audience was creepy losers and I was on the side of reason and justice. Based on that comment, I revamped not just my tone, but my whole approach to blogging.

I became the opinion leader, encouraged guest posts to give other points of view voice, began to acknowledge my own biases plainly, and set up a reward system for people who actively take part in helping me grow the audience. Instead of treating my readers like the enemy, I began treating them like part of the team - which they are. I thanked them when they corrected me, when they added information I did not have, when they brought up points that contravened my own. Ever since then, I have thanked and rewarded my readers, because without them, I'm talking to an empty room.

I'm a different writer and social media user because of that comment. And the entire community is a much, much better place for it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Are You Ready for Twitter Rank?

Don't you just love it when someone you hardly know passes along "important" emails to your whole department? Or when an acquaintance cc:s everyone in their contacts folder?

Klout, Facebook and now Twitter know better than you who is important. They do, because they have told themselves so. Klout understood that your network was valuable to you, but they insisted that those people they found inherently important were objectively so, by being influential to other people. Your network was less valuable to you than these A-list people over there. And Facebook took a more objective stance, promoting people who paid, unless you click settings that say you absolutely, positively want to see other people.

Now Twitter is joining the ranks of companies who know better that you, with Twitter ranking. Based on purely objective criteria, of course, like size of followers and other numbers that don't mean a thing, Twitter is going to prioritize your feed for you. You'll have a chance to hear more from people who other people feel are important, while your own contacts will be de-prioritized. Sounds like a great plan, doesn't it?

Well, you don't have to roll over on this. Using tools that already exist, you can preserve your feed.

Use Lists

Twitter Lists is the simplest way to make sure you don't miss anyone's post. Put your friends, business network and news sources in custom lists. Check your lists rather than your main feed for news and comment that are relevant to you. This is especially important if you regularly talk to  people with small followings. Twitter is going to helpfully de-prioritize these posters for you. If the person you need to follow most only has 100 followers, put that person in a List, so you never miss a tweet.

Use a Third-Party Tool

For the moment, you can use a third-party tool such as Hootsuite or a Twitter-ownedtool like Tweetdeck to prioritize and organize your feed. Even better, you can use simple filtering tools to keep certain irrelevant terms off you feed entirely.

Use the Phone/Email/Events

Twitter is a great tool for keeping up with contacts and acquaintances, but sometimes going old-school solves the problem faster than 20 tweets. Organize a meet-up or use an industry event to create that real-life List.

Get your duckies lined up before Twitter hit the Rank button and you'll be ready for anything.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Online Communities: Entropy Increases..Are You Seeing The Cracks?

This is a post I wrote on and about the online platform Quora, on which I am active and frankly I'd like to see succeed. Since the day this post was originally made Quora has instituted some important changed which address the issues in this article. In that case, it is rendered thankfully moot. Nonetheless, I believe this information has value in an of itself. While the post specifically related to Quora, the point I want make here is that Entropy Increases on Communities, as it does everywhere else. Watching MySpace flailing to regain relevance pains me, not because My Space is inherently bad, but because it's over. It had its time, it was really popular and now it's done.  But  could it have managed to retain relevance longer? How is it that Facebook is managing to do so, where MySpace never could? Read this and join me again at the end:

This winter marked my 2nd anniversary here on Quora. My second year was filled with some amazing things - answers being reproduced over at Huffington Post and Forbes, being named Top Writer. I've connected with amazing people here and really have enjoyed all my time on Quora.

I'm not leaving or anything, but when I (and all of you) come up on that moment, here will be the reasons why:

1) Taking away our sovereignty over our own content.

Several Quora community members have said this plainly and - for whatever reason - Quora is not listening.

If Quora makes it impossible to share the content we create on Quora, then we will create it somewhere else.

I don't know how to say this more plainly. Quora is going to see good writers take their content away from the platform, not because we don't love Quora but because we love creating good content. And we want people to read it. I wrote something great this week, but I have not shared it on Twitter or Facebook because those of my friends who might very well appreciate it cannot see or read or share it themselves unless they are sign up to Quora. Do you sign up to every site just to read a paragraph or two of good content? I don't. I wouldn't ask my friends to, either.

2) The upvote-to-view algorithm ignores the 80/20 rule of all online communities

Ariel Williams wrote an amazing post today: How promotion can reduce an answer ranking... With an actual case example.

How much more/better can it be said that requiring votes to views is punishing the best writers? Good heavens, have none of you ever lurked on a community before? Plenty of people read, think and lurk and VERY FEW comment or engage. You're requiring the best writers to prove, then prove again and again that they are worthy. And you're handicapping them by making it easier for people to see their content here on Quora, which penalizes them.

Here are the first major cracks in Quora. Do nothing if you wish, but entropy increases.

Here is my point for today  - No community fails without warning. Breaches of security, privacy, sovereignty and trust do not happen in a vacuum. Your users will first whine, then complain, then create petitions/boards attempting to notify you that changes are unwanted and unwelcome. Then, when enough of them are fed up, the exodus begins. The drain is slow at first, and it's easy to label those who leave with negative terms. But when top users  are telling you there are problems and you as community manager/owner are not listening...what do you expect will happen?

On MySpace, users were thrown under the bus for advertisers. The layout became loud and cluttered with ads that did not provide additional value for users. The main reason why Facebook is not yet already fading into obscurity is that they have so far failed to create a functional platform for advertisers. When they do, people (other than those who ran to Google+ to get away from their mothers) will find somewhere else to post their cat pictures.

Whether you run a hobby community or a product community, Entropy Increases, but not invisibly. Cracks appear in walls, voice are raised in protest. When you fail to notice the issues or address them it's not the user base you have to blame.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Optimize Your Next Webinar For Maximum Impact

Gone are the days when vendors and speakers come to offices and train people on their newest product. And slowly, the days of face-to-face networking meetings is slipping away as travel becomes less and less of a priority for most businesses.

Webinars are already the tool of choice among training professionals. And by now, you've probably sat through a few and wondered to yourself, how could this be better? What opportunities is the presenter missing? (Okay, maybe you're not thinking that way, but I sure am!) What chance to connect with the audience is slipping away along with the lack of face-to-face time.

Before you fire up Webex next time, here are three tips to maximize your next webinar, and avoid missing important opportunities to connect.

1. Get Your Story Straight

Content Marketing is not limited to product marketing. Whether you are presenting at a conference or on a webinar, you are marketing you. Your skills, your expertise, the story of You is the critical component in communicating well with your audience. Forget worrying about whether you "um" once or twice. Have your story, your key points, and good answers to likely questions ready and waiting. Storytelling during a webinar breaks up the monotony of staring at PowerPoint slides, makes you and your work more real and gives listeners something to grab on to.

Get your story straight so people know who and what you are.

2. The 10-minute Rule is 6-8 minutes for a Webinar

When you've got folks captured in a room, it's easier to see their body language, to *see* their attention waning. On a webinar, the chances are very high that listeners are multitasking from the get go. You are much more likely to be talking at a distracted audience. 

Break up the talk slightly more than you might in person. Ask a question, solicit feedback, change focus. 

Whatever you choose to do to draw people's attention back to you, do it slightly more often than you might if you were delivering that presentation in person.

3. It's not about you. No, really, it's not.

People have a lot of claims on their time, and they've chosen to take time out of their busy schedule to listen to what you have to say? Why? Is it because you are a compelling and famous speaker? If the answer is yes, then skip this bit. ^_^ 

Most likely, people have signed up so they can learn something that they can use themselves in their careers. Right now. Preferably 30 second after they click off. 

While you're talking about your work, your experience, your perspective, you are missing a chance to ask your listeners what they need or want from this time. Yes, you have a lovely PowerPoint presentation, I'm sure your audience appreciates that. They'll appreciate you going off-slide to help them with a real-time problem more.

Be comfortable enough with your content to make it actionable for someone who is not you.

Being personable, approachable and flexible will take a decent webinar and turn it into a memorable one. 

Project Wonderful