Follow or foe?

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Marketing

Last week social media and online marketing dude Ari Herzog wrote about his plan to unfollow all his Twitterers and start from scratch.

The Twittersephere watched closely as Ari began rebuilding his new connections one by one.

ari-herzogs-first-follow

That’s because follower numbers and following policies seem to be emotionally-charged topics. Just look at the recent Ashton Kutcher/CNN race to a million followers on Twitter.

Ari’s decision had to do with the value he gets from those he follows. Only a month ago he was following over 500 people on Twitter but during April he changed his strategy and that number rocketed to over 6,000.

You see, the thing about Twitter is that generally if you follow lots of people more people will follow you. But then you run the risk of not being able to engage in any meaningful exchanges because your Twitter stream is flooded with tweets from folks you barely know, and about subjects you have no interest in. Unless you’re monitoring Twitter 24-7, you rarely get to tweet with the folks that you get most value from. So Twitter just becomes a noise.

itty-bitties-robots

There are many folks who successfully follow lots of people because they’re leveraging tools such as TweetDeck allowing them to organise people into groups. I’ve never liked applications like this. It’s just a personal preference. I enjoy going to the Twitter website. End of.

Ari asked his blog readers for their opinion and the concensus was that following less people is better than following thousands if you want to get the most value from Twitter. So Ari paid SocialToo $25 to wipe his Twitter slate clean.

And here’s where the drama is: there are lots of folks on Twitter who will unfollow you if you unfollow them. It’s a big deal to some people. There’s a school of thought that suggests you’re arrogant or a snob if you don’t follow everyone who follows you. Ari has been busy explaining his new follow policy to his followers and I’m pleased that he still seems to have a healthy number of Twitterers listening to his updates.

All of this got me thinking.

What was my own Twitter follow policy? Did I have one? And can I justify my choices?

It turns out I do and I can.

I realised that, like Ari, I only follow folks who provide value to me.

I have around 680 people following me and I follow about 450. I check out every person who chooses to follow me. I read through their tweets and usually click through to their website or blog if one is available. I make my follow decisions carefully. I am also quick to unfollow if I don’t get value from tweets.

Those newer to Twitter might take a while to get used to this type of behaviour. A fellow blogger made her first unfollow last night and immediately had ‘unfollowers remorse.’

squigglemum-does-her-first-unfollow

Honestly, I still feel disappointed if I notice someone has unfollowed me but for everyone you lose there’s another rocking person right around the corner. And I’ve learned not to take it personally and by the same token nor should you if I unfollow you.

Twitter is a merely a reflection of the pace of our lives now. If you don’t have what I want, I move on to someone who will. Heck, that makes me sound like such a bitch. I’m really not. And nor is Ari.

Photo courtesy of ittybittiesforyou via a Creative Commons Licence

My new internet superhero

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Diary of a Web Gal

I get very excited about folks I find that manage to put into words some innate feeling I have but can’t verbalize.

I love folks that just SAY IT LIKE IT IS.

Don’t-mess-with-me-people.

It-just-IS-people.

And today I added to my list of internet superheros (which already includes Steve Krug, Jakon Nielsen and Paul Boag)

Enter Gerry McGovern.

Read this post and weep peoples: website management – you can’t automate everything.

Any person that starts their website management advice with ‘The biggest challenge a website manager has is to understand how humans work, not how content management software or search engines work,’ is indeed wise.

Interview with Britt Reints aka Miss Britt

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Blogging

Most (make that all) of the blogs I read regularly are about web design and development. So it takes a pretty sparkling blog to attract my attention if it’s not about my online passion.

Enter Miss Britt – a gem of a blog written by Florida-based Britt Reints. Britt is a mommy blogger – proud owner of two gorgeous small people Devin and Emma and wife to long-suffering Jared.

miss-britt-blog-banner

Britt began blogging in 2006 when she was 26. She’s since monetized her blog and has an online store.

She writes about the personal stuff that happens to her… The same stuff that happens to everyone but no-one wants to talk about. (Two of my favourite posts include thongs and Pokemon.)

And it’s rivetting – not in the way that reality shows make us voyers watching other folks’ mess up their lives but in a way that makes Britt a transparent and honest writer. This is real life and it’s hilarious.

Since I found Britt via StumbleUpon we’ve emailed a bit, I became her friend on Facebook and then decided I wanted to share her with you – specificially to look at how she has made her blog a success. And why people like me who don’t read THIS kind of stuff are hanging on her every post.

Why did you start blogging? (What motivated you? Did you read other blogs and get inspired?)

I found out about blogging from a friend of mine (Amy’s Musings) who had been doing it for a while.

I started and stopped a few blogs about being home with my daughter, but couldn’t stay interested.  When I went back to work, I started blogging again and stuck with it.  I guess I liked reading her [Amy's] funny posts and wondered if I could write, too.

Why do you keep a blog? (What makes you keep doing it day after day?)

It depends on the day.

Sometimes I keep doing it because of all the relationships I’ve made through blogging.

Sometimes I keep doing it because writing has become so theraputic for me. And sometimes I do it just because I feel like I’ve done it for this long – why stop now?

When did you first realise ‘Crap! I have lots of readers?’

Well, I think the term ‘lots of readers’ is obviously relevant. The longer you blog, the more people will find you and read you. About two years ago I got over 10 comments on my birthday and I was amazed!

And then one day someone told me about Dooce, and I realized I didn’t have ‘lots of readers.’

I don’t think anyone really knows how many readers other bloggers have, or what’s ‘a lot.’  It’s like trying to determine who is popular in high school – it all depends who you ask.

Which elements of your blog do you think make it super successful? (and no dissecting of the words ‘super successful’)

From what I’ve been told by people who read my blog, the honesty in my writing is what makes it different from other blogs.

Some people tell me it’s funny. The truth is, I read a lot of honest, funny blogs.

I think the biggest ’secret’ is that I’ve been doing it a while and have met a lot of other bloggers. I think most of my readers are bloggers.

britt-reints

Do you have a writing schedule?

I used to. I used to write every morning. Then I wrote every night to publish for the next morning. I still kind of stick to that schedule, but I also skip days when I just don’t feel like it.

I also sit down in the middle of the afternoon and write if something is really pissing me off.

When did you decide to monetize your blog? How has this gone?

I think I put ads on my blog about a year ago. My thought was that if I could keep doing what I was doing anyway and make some extra money – why not?

It’s gone OK. I make a couple hundred dollars a month from ads and a few hundred dollars from writing on other blogs. It covers my expenses and gives me a little left over.  I think that’s damn good for a hobby.

If you were starting out all over again would you do anything differently to develop your blog?

If I could go back and not write crap, that’d be great. But I think that’s unrealistic. I think you get more comfortable with your own voice and style and boundaries, etc. with practice and time.

So, no, I don’t know that I’d do anything differently.

What advice do you have for folks new to blog writing?

Don’t listen to anyone who tries to give you advice.

Someone is always posting rules and tips and do’s and don’ts and lists of things they hate on other blogs and inevitably, that makes people freak out and wonder if they’re doing it wrong.

Do what’s right for you. Do what you love.

If you’re being true to who you are, you’ll get what you’re supposed to out of it.  If you spend all of your time trying to do it ‘right,’ you’ll start to hate it and won’t be able to maintain anyone else’s standards anyway.

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Britt mentions Dooce – a popular blog authored by Heather Armstrong.

Last year I commissioned an exclusive interview with Heather for the National Screen Institute website. Heather is interviewed alongside fellow blogger Maggie Mason. In this one-off interview recorded last summer at VidFest in Vancouver they talk about how they got started and the pitfalls of blogging.

4 free tools to help you create an uber cool website or blog

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Blogging

I’m a bit ubiquitous when it comes to space online. Check out my FriendFeed or Google profile and you’ll see what I mean. I just can’t resist a new opportunity to create another path to this blog or play around with a new online toy.

You might say I’ve been around.

Before I started Diary of a Web Gal I hadn’t a clue about ‘making a website.’ I thought it was something reserved only for those uber-talented people who could decifer all that algerbraic code.

Not so!

During my online travels I’ve found a number of different ways to create a great website or blog with little or no HTML knowledge.

For me, things are different now because I chose to learn more about all that code stuff. But you don’t have to and can still have a super cool space online. The following sites all offer free-hosted blogs. This means you don’t have to pay for anything unless you choose to register your own domain or, in the case of WordPress.com, upgrade your account.

There are other sites but these are the ones I particularly like.

Tumblr

tumblr

A fledgling microblogging site that provides beautiful templates for free. You can check out my Tumble log which is really a mini version of this site but many people use their Tumble log as their primary site.

I highly recommend using Tumblr for your first blog. Tumble logs are known for their minimal look (usually one or two columns). And extremely easy to create. Some Tumblr users have been amazingly creative with their blog but even the pre-designed templates on the Tumblr site totally rock.

Posterous

posterous

A slightly different type of online space. Posterous lets you post things online using email. You email Posterous and they reply instantly with your new posterous blog. I’ve done it and it’s really as easy and pain free as they promise.

I’ve started a space for my art work using Posterous but, again, some people use Posterous as their main location online. Whereas Tumlbr allows you freedom to really customise your blog, Posterous is more prescriptive. One look (a very elegant one) fits all. Check out TwitterJunkies. And your favourite Twitterer Guy Kawasaki is on Posterous to see examples.

WordPress

WordPress.com

Just to confuse everyone there are two different WordPress blogging platforms: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. For the purposes of this post we’re looking at WordPress.com which allows you to create a blog in seconds. The other WordPress (.org) is for self-hosted blogs (which is the type I use) and would require you to pay hosting costs and pay for a domain name (on WordPress.com I would be http://lizhover.wordpress.com/ but I have a registered domain name so I’m http.www.lizhover.com)

And to confuse you even more you can register a domain name and use it on any of the sites listed here. But we’re focusing on setting up and running your blog at no cost in which case you wouldn’t be using a domain name.

I’ve used WordPress.com for several earlier incarnations of my blogs but veered away from it because template choices are limited and I needed to be super smart to make my template do what I wanted. But for the first timer just starting out it’s perfect and very cool. There are some established blogs and big name folks who use WordPress.com so it’s by no means just for beginners. Additional customisation features on WordPress.com will cost a little money. For bloggers on a zero budget you can set up a slick blog using WordPress’ templates and away you go.

Blogger

Blogger

Of all the free blogging platforms Blogger has a special place in my heart. It gets lots of criticism but I used it successfully for ages and highly recommend it.

I spent hours, probably days when I first signed up to Blogger hunting for my perfect blog template. One of the reasons I liked Blogger was that customisation is pretty easy so you can give your blog its very own look and feel. Like WordPress and Tumblr, Blogger provides ready-made templates to choose from but there are many, many others kicking around the web. I like Our Blogger Templates.

Again many established names use Blogger to host their blog.

Conclusion

I’m a big fan of Tumblr and Blogger. If I was starting my blog from scratch I would choose those in a heartbeat.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone interview on Colbert

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Diary of a Web Gal

UPDATE: It was only a matter of time before YouTube removed this video due to copyright infringement. You should still be able to view the interview in one of the places listed below.

If you want to know more about Biz Stone you should check out this recent article from the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chronicle spent a day with Biz.

“It’s a Dr. Doolittle house,” he explains, with Pedro the one-eyed pudgy Chihuahua, two cats, a turtle living with a heat lamp in the shower stall, two opossums in the garage and a pen for crows outside.”

Brilliant!

Great links for learning about Twitter

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Marketing

A while back I wrote a post with my top five links to help you get the most from Twitter.

Since then I’ve spied more links that I wanted to share with you and collect together in one place. By no means am I the only blogger doing this but I know many of you enjoyed my newbie’s guide to Twitter so hopefully I can add to your visit with this list.

Some of these links are great resources while others are also entertaining and give an indication of peoples’ strong feelings about how you should use Twitter.

I’ve read all this stuff and will continue to read more about using Twitter. You take it all in, swirl it around and develop your own unique approach.

My one bit of advice to anyone using Twitter is not to take it too seriously. Don’t be a jerk, always be courteous but do it your way. All these rules and guidance shouldn’t put you off jumping in and having fun with Twitter.

  1. A Twitter 101 by Charlotte-Anne Lucas
  2. Twittering tips for beginners by David Pogue from the New York Times
  3. How to use Twitter like a pro by Sean Tibbitts
  4. Twitter – mastering the conversation by Adam Jackson
  5. 140 Characters – a style guide for the short form by Dom Sagolla and Adam Jackson
  6. 49 amazing social media, web 2.0 and internet stats by Adam Singer/The Future Buzz
  7. 20 Twitter status design tutorials, icons and WordPress plugins

Do you have other useful Twitter links? Add them in the comments section.