All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

Are Your Social Media Standards Too Strict?

A couple of weeks ago I had a post and video titled What Will You Do For More Followers? I asked at that time whether you’d go for the gusto to get more followers and thus more publicity with the possibility of more influence or whether you felt that wasn’t what you wanted to do at all.

Talk Nerdy To Me #2
Constantine Belias via Compfight

This time I’m asking you about your social media standards; what will you do, what do you do when it comes to social media in general. This question supposes 3 things:

1. That you have standards;

2. That you know what your standards are if you have them;

3. That you have good reasons for those standards if you have them

Yes, that’s kind of a challenge, because if you don’t have standards then it’s hard for you to be a part of the conversation, although I suppose not having standards can be freeing. If you have them but you don’t have any reason for them other than “because”, well, that’s your right but it’s certainly not informed. But if you have standards and have reasons… that’s when things get interesting.

This is a question I ask myself all the time because I do have standards and I have reasons for those standards, and sometimes I wonder if I’m holding myself back in some ways because of those standards. I mean, is it legitimate for me to hope to get tens of thousands of followers on Twitter when I’m following less than 900 people? Is it right of me not to connect with people on LinkedIn because they don’t have a picture on their profile, or because I can’t figure out why they think our businesses are compatible? Is it right of me to not just accept every friend request on Facebook when they know at least one other person I’m connected to? Is it right that I don’t just automatically follow people on YouTube or Instagram that are following me?

Some weeks back I made a comment on a post by Marcus Sheridan titled The Fleeting Title that is “Social Media Expert”, when he asked what makes someone a social media expert. I stated that I tend to believe that most of the folks put on lists were anointed by someone else who really had earned it and thus had the banner passed onto them without having had to work for it. I stated that I looked at a list that was recent at the time, checked out many of the names I didn’t already know, and saw that this blog was ranked higher than a lot of them, had way more content, and was written at least as well as those blogs, or not better (trying not to be conceited), and that the only real difference I saw between myself and those folks was that they had been anointed, put on a list, and given a boost that I’m not sure they deserved.

Then I looked at other numbers and, well, that’s when you get to thinking about things. These were people connected to tens of thousands of people on Twitter, thousands of people on Facebook, and well connected in other places as well. I’ve never really played the numbers game so I don’t compete well on this level. I do know that numbers mean something, but I’ve always been more about engagement and interaction, figuring that worked well with my mores.

Are your social media standards strict at all? Are mine? I’ll share mine; tell me what you think:

Twitter – If you don’t talk to anyone except to say “thank you” or to share links, I’m not following. If your politics are not only different than mine but your statements come across as hateful, I’m not following. In general, if you don’t really interact with others, I’m not following. If you AutoDM me after we connect, I’m immediately unfollowing you. I have some other standards as well but these are enough for now.

LinkedIn – If you don’t have a picture and I don’t know you, I’m not following. If your business isn’t compatible with anything I do and I haven’t talked to you in a group and you’re not local, I’m not connecting with you.

Facebook – If you ask to connect with me as a friend and you don’t have a picture, it’s not happening. If I don’t know you and you don’t know a lot of people I know, I’m not connecting with you. If I know who you are but we’ve never talked anywhere before, I’m probably not going to add you. And, sad as this might be, if I start getting irritated by stuff you’re putting up all the time because of its negativity, I’m hiding everything you post from that point on, possibly removing you from my friends list.

YouTube – if you don’t have any videos on your channel I’m not following you. If you have some videos but they’re not yours or you’re not in them, I’m not following. If they’re horrid… well, you know.

Instagram – I’m still relatively new to Instagram so I’ll admit to not really having a standard there yet, which is fine. However, I figure that for those people I have checked out that I haven’t added there’s got to be something in my mind that’s repelled me, and once I figure that out then I’ll have a true standard to uphold.

Am I too tough with my standards? Are there any you’d like to share? And is it possible our standards hold us back, and if so is it worth it?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

Getting More Annoying Phone Calls? Is It Craigslist’s Fault?

I’ve had an increase in phone calls lately from out of town. They’re coming from Oregon and Washington state, and since I only know one person living in Washington and no one in Oregon, and I don’t owe anyone any money, I know that they’re probably sales calls of some type.


by Mark Fischer via Flickr

The funny thing is that it’s the same two numbers over and over. That’s rare, as you know these people like to randomly change numbers all the time. I’m not one to call numbers back to find out which companies these are because I don’t want to give them that kind of time. I am the type, though, that looks up phone numbers after awhile to see if I can learn anything about them.

I did that with these two numbers and what I found was interesting. On both numbers, someone mentioned that they had been responding to ads on Craigslist for jobs lately and that it coincided with the increase in calls.

I hadn’t thought about that at all. I also have been checking out links originating on Craigslist for writing gigs, though I haven’t been scouring Craigslist independently. I subscribe to a site that sends out writing offers on a daily basis and within the last couple of weeks I’ve started reaching out to some of these people.

Luckily, one of them has come through and it’s turned into a writing project, but that doesn’t negate any of the rest being dodgy. I contact every one of them through my SEO business account email, which has my phone number in the signature file, and of course it’s on my website if they bothered to check that out.

Can I definitely say these two things are related? No I can’t, but it does bring up the issue of just how much one can trust what we come across online. Whereas in general Craigslist is a fairly trustworthy place, there are a lot of scammers doing things that, until it’s caught, could end up causing you grief. After all, when I wrote my post last year about the anatomy of a scam, that also involved responding to a Craigslist ad.

This is just another warning to be cautious of things you find online, even on Craigslist. You’re never sure what you might be getting yourself into.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

Dream It And It Will Come

By now most everyone is familiar with the quote “Build it and they will come” from the movie Field of Dreams (which I’ve never seen; I’ll have to rectify that one of these days). Of course, most of us that blog know that’s not quite true. We spend our time writing posts and putting them out there for the masses, and unless we get into the blogosphere and find readers our dreams of blogging success just aren’t going to come true. So, the phrase is false.


Or is it? Not according to someone I just met in person a couple of weeks ago, but who I’ve known for at least 8 years online. He’s the guy in the picture to the right along with myself; I’m the guy on the right in the picture, just to clarify things.

His name is Rasheed, and he’s on an interesting quest. He’s taking a 2-month trek across the country with the intention of visiting people in 40 states that he’s met over the years online. He might be visiting some people he already knows as well; I didn’t clarify that one with him. He started out from Houston, went west, north, then east and eventually will head south down to Florida before getting back to Texas.

Of course we had to talk about this venture, and I asked him why and how he was doing it. He said that his dream was to be able to travel around the country once he got to a certain age to meet people and to see the sights. His reality was that he wasn’t rich and thus had to figure out a way to fund his travels.

However, he said that in his opinion it was more important to have the dream, visualize the dream, and see the dream as a reality by setting a date for when it would begin. In his mind, the dream would create the way he could get it done.

Then he found his way. One of the talents he has it that he can make balloon animals. What he realized is that children love them, people will pay someone to make them for their kids, and all he had to do was find places that would allow him to do it everywhere he went. His belief was that he could fund his entire trip by working only on weekends, when he could also catch up on his rest by staying in one place.

And it’s worked. He finds restaurants or malls that allow him to set up a place for a number of hours and he does his thing. And he’s making pretty good money from it; seems weekend work really can be lucrative if you can find something you love to do that other people love to partake of, and who hasn’t seen a child being amazed at watching balloons become animals?

So the dream worked; all is good, and that’s all it took. No, not quite. Leading up to the date he started preparing for the trip. He bought lots of large blue tubs for his supplies and clothes. He converted the back of his Kia Sedona into a sleeping space (that’s the beauty of being shorter than me, as I’d never fit lol). He bought what he needed so he could cook some meals if he didn’t want to eat fast food. And of course he stays connected via his laptop and smartphone.

He put all of this together over many months once he had the dream secure in his mind and he’d figured out how he was going to fund his trip. He did admit that he wasn’t sure if his trip would last even 2 weeks, since once we all leave the areas where we live we’re not sure how others will react to us but it’s worked out well for him.

This means you not only dream, but you start working towards your dream. This is a great lesson for all of us. Then he asked me about my dream and I said… I don’t have one. Wow, when did that happen? So, I have started thinking about a dream for myself, something to concentrate on, and if I come up with it you know I’ll write about it here because it’s my belief that it’s going to have something to do with readers of this blog, other blogs, and social media. In its own way this is an interesting trek. Thanks Rasheed; you keep on trekking as well.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

An Interview With Writer/Blogger Holly Jahangiri

I can’t tell you how long I’ve known or read Holly’s stuff but it’s been at least 3 years or so. You almost can’t miss her on writing sites and on a lot of blogs, and of course she’s got a lot going on in her own right. Multiple blogs, books, writing projects and the like, and in all the right social media places. She’s someone who shows that if you plan right you really can get a lot done. Don’t only enjoy this interview; learn from it:

 

1. We might as well get this out of the way first; how many blogs and websites do you actually have? I found a few, including one, a Typepad blog, that you’ve let go. lol

You get right to the point, don’t you, Mitch? I…don’t honestly know. The ones I keep up to date are these:

https://jahangiri.us/2017 – that’s my personal blog, and the most active.
https://jahangiri.us/books – that’s run, more or less, by my imaginary friends – we authors like to call them “characters” – Trockle, Gurgelda, Irma and her guppies, and some that are still in the making.
http://race2hugo.net – it’s a cheeky dare, a periodical, a dream, and an ongoing project.
http://thenextgoal.com – this is the blog I won last year, and it’s a team effort – it’s nothing without Larry, Ntathu, Brandon, Neeraj, and occasional guest bloggers like James Pruitt.

There are a couple on WordPress.com, one on Tumblr, one on Posterous, a few on Blogger… the Typepad blog wasn’t exactly “let go,” it was a step in the migration from Vox (now closed) to my personal blog. I hate to let anything go, though. Does that make me an Internet hoarder? Seriously, they all come in handy from time to time; if someone has a question about how to do something, I can check it out. That’s really how I’ve managed to accumulate so many in the first place – curiosity and the need to try things out for myself, if they sound interesting. They’re not ALL that interesting, in the long run.

2. You are way connected on social media. I get asked this about writing all my blogs but how do you keep up with it all?

You’re assuming I do. I try, but I think you’d have to be superhuman to keep up with everything, and I’m not superhuman. Then again, people think I type 500 words a minute. It’s not true. The secret to looking like you type 500 words a minute is to type in phrases, instead of full paragraphs or sentences – when you’re in IM with someone, keep them busy reading while you type the next bit, and they think you’ve got mad typing skillz. Same thing with Social Media – I write, I try to keep the conversation going, I get friends talking to each other, then I go write some more. And if I miss a few things here and there, well…don’t we all?

3. Do you make your living writing? If so, how are you doing it, and if not what else do you do?

I have a full time job. I’ve worked as a technical writer, documentation project manager, and social media analyst. I “moonlight” as an author – I’ve written two children’s books, Trockle, and A Puppy, Not a Guppy, and I have contributed to several anthologies of short stories and poetry. I blog for fun and sometimes to promote my books, but I have never seriously tried to monetize my blog.

4. You actually won one of your blogs via a contest, beating my buddy Mitch Allen along the way. How did you do it, how did it feel to win and was the effort worth it?

It was an incredibly intense competition – by the end, it was just grueling and exhausting. I remember one day, Neeraj Sachdeva and I were head to head on “who can publish the most posts” – I think EACH of us published nineteen in one day. That was a truly miserable experience – I mean, at the time we were both functioning on adrenaline and fumes and competitive zeal, but I think sustaining that kind of competitive drive over ten weeks left us a little burnt out on it.

We had a lot of fun at the beginning – we bonded as a team and had meetings in Google Hangouts, and it was really something special. Unfortunately, the nature of the game was such that only one would be left standing at the end. We went from being teammates to competitors (and we always KNEW that was coming, but until week 5, we were undefeated, so we didn’t have to face it and I think that made it harder when we finally had to do it). It felt a little bit like being in The Hunger Games, rather than Survivor. We even tried to change the game and eat the berries, but that didn’t fly.

5. Let’s talk about the writing process. Is it different for you depending on what you’re writing?

The process is a bit different, of course, between non-fiction or technical writing and writing fiction or children’s picture books, sure. One requires research; the other requires allowing my “imaginary friends” out to play and give dictation. I suppose blogging is a combination of these two, more or less.

6. How would you describe your style, which is a lot different than mine? I have to admit that sometimes it hurts my head. lol

What the heck does that mean? Should I send you a bottle of Advil, Mitch? I like to think my style is an eccentric mash-up of Erma Bombeck, Edgar Allan Poe, and O. Henry, with occasional flashes of Guy de Maupassant, Shel Silverstein, and Tom Lehrer. I don’t know – how would YOU describe my style?

This brings up something I think of from time to time: Is it up to an author to describe his or her style? I’ve heard writers claim to write “classic literature,” but I always thought that one of the requirements of that genre was that the author be dead. I aspire to be read, not dead.

7. Since you have an Amazon account I went to look and saw that you have 4 books up there. What was it like writing those and getting them published, and do you have anything on the horizon?

Well, there are a few others – I think you’ve read Innocents & Demons, right? Hidden Lies is the first published short story anthology. Vivian and I published that together in 2005, and that’s where our publishing paths diverged: She decided to build a small publishing empire, and I decided I was really happy being an author and had no desire to be a publisher! I contributed several poems to Walking the Earth. When Vivian asked if I’d ever found a publisher for Trockle – a book she’d read and believed in the minute I wrote it – I had to admit that I really hadn’t tried. I’m really bad about submitting my work for publication. I don’t mind rejection; I just don’t like throwing it into the abyss and waiting to hear something back. So no, Trockle was still just a dog-eared manuscript tucked into my son’s bookcase, and I was thrilled that 4RV Publishing wanted to bring it to the rest of the world. They later published my second children’s book, A Puppy, Not a Guppy – that one was inspired by my kids’ pleas for a pet, but also my own experiences as a kid whose parents were slow to warm to the idea of a puppy.

I have a couple of things on the horizon – I’ve got a third children’s book in the works. It’s being illustrated, and should be ready for prime time later this year or early next year (Update: Holly’s third children’s book, A New Leaf for Lyle, was released in May 2014, and can be found on Amazon). And then there’s the race2hugo.net dare – your friend Mitchell Allen started that, and we got Marian Allen involved, as well, and now, well… I haven’t heard from Mitch in a while. Is he still breathing or did he stow away on the new Mars Rover?

8. I was really intrigued by your post Don’t Feed The Trolls. I also remember your position on kind of the same subject on a past Facebook post. You know I tend to believe that free speech goes both ways, and if people get responses they didn’t expect and don’t like that they shouldn’t say those things to begin with. Talk about your position on this and what you feel separates a troll from someone who may just be having a really bad day.

There’s a fair amount of psychology involved, and I’m not sure any of us can distinguish the trolls from the grouches 100% of the time with 100% accuracy. But here’s an example – I got a really nasty critique, once, on writing.com. If I’d had less self-confidence, I’d have crumpled up in a little damp ball of mush and tears, and maybe quit writing altogether. Instead, I read and reread the critique until I felt pretty sure the writer hadn’t even read, and wasn’t commenting on, my story, at all. I read his words with the eyes of someone who has occasionally had a bad day and might’ve been tempted to kick the dog as they tossed their briefcase by the door.

I wrote back to the critic, something to the effect of, “I’m really sorry you’ve had a bad day. Sounds like maybe someone’s kicked you around and given you a bad time, and I hope that doing the same to a complete stranger has helped you, in some way, to feel just a little bit better. Have a happier week!”

In less than six hours, I had a reply, an apology, and a new friend. Sure enough, it was a kid – 17 or so – and he’d had a lousy, rotten, awful day at school. And because I’d responded with a little sympathy – without being angry or being a complete doormat about it – he immediately realized how stupid the attack on me had been, and we wiped the slate clean and started over. He was a pretty good writer, too.

Of course, writers love to get a reaction – so who knows? Maybe I’ve mistaken a few trolls for fans, over the years. I think the most cutting comment I ever got was something along the lines of “This is boring. Stop now,” on my blog. But they were outnumbered, so I ignored them. 🙂

Trolls, on the other hand, knowingly taunt and harass people to get their kicks. They delight in getting people emotionally spun up; it’s just a game to them. I really believe that people who live to make others feel bad must feel pretty rotten about themselves, but I’m not a shrink, and it’s not my job to save the world. I’d rather shut down the conversation before it gets really ugly than to see good people get hurt.

Freedom of speech exists for several reasons – being trollish is not one of them. Freedom of speech exists to protect the exchange of ideas, primarily political or social ideas, that may be unpopular. The kind of stuff that may constitute “though crimes” in other countries. But with freedom comes responsibility. Trolls don’t want to communicate, they want to dominate – and that’s the antithesis of “free exchange of ideas,” isn’t it? My blog is not “public property” and the First Amendment doesn’t give trolls squatters’ rights.

9. Your stuff is so creative. Do you walk around like I do with all these ideas of things to write about, or do you have periods where you struggle to find something to write about?

I do have times when I feel like my head is just empty of anything worth writing down. What that usually means is that I’m hanging on too tight, trying to control the action, and my characters are balking – refusing to help me tell their story. Instead of struggling, I find other types of creative outlets – photography, painting, scrapbooking – I just let the ideas simmer instead of beating my head against the proverbial wall.

10. Time for you; talk about what’s coming up, your business, you, and what you’d like your future to be.

This is how you ask a grown-up “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s an interesting question, because the fact is, I’m pretty happy right here and now. I’ve got a good 15-20 years before I even think of retiring, and even then, I can’t imagine not staying busy. Of course, I’d like to know that my kids have found a way to do whatever it is in life that makes them happy. I’d like to have a few successful books to my name. I’d like to travel. But there’s really nothing “missing” now.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell

Does Your Writing Touch People?

You know, last month I did a series of posts that began with the term “blogging tips”. The whole series was done with the intention of giving people some shorter pieces on blogging as opposed to some of my longer pieces on the subject. I’m not sure how much people liked them as opposed to my normal writing but I do know that traffic increased some, though I think it was for the post on Getty Images more than the blogging posts, as it seemed to have touched a nerve.


It may be polluted
but it’s my lake

I’ve always said that when you write a blog you should be aiming for one of three things: to educate, to entertain, or to inform. You can integrate them into each other if you wish, but you should at least achieve one of those three things with each post.

What I also hope to do with each post is touch someone in some fashion, most of the time in a positive way. If I can make a connection with someone that goes beyond “nice post” status, to the point where that person decides what I’ve given them is strong enough that they can use it in some fashion for their lives, then it’s all good.

I write a lot of motivational posts with that goal in mind, but there’s a post I wrote that was titled Know Your Audience Part II that touched a young man (okay, he’s 38, but that’s young to me) named Alan and encouraged him to write a post linking back to it because of some thoughts he’d been having at the time. The post he wrote was called Why Cicero’s 6 Mistakes Of Man Is All You Need. What’s funny about it is it’s the type of post that, had I read it first, it would have inspired me to write something.

I’m going to own up to something here. I’ve been in business 11 years, but the last 3 1/2 have been horrendous. I’m surviving by the skin of my teeth, which is never any fun. Frankly, there are times when I’m ready to chuck it all in and go jump in the lake; then I remember I can’t swim, I don’t want fish touching me, our lake is considered one of the most polluted in the world (yes, I said world) even though I like walking at it, I’m scared of dying, I know bugs would somehow be involved, my mother would blame herself for some reason, and my own mantra that states “Every day is another chance to start again.” I wouldn’t be true to my own mantra if I took myself out, would I?

And, of course, hearing about things like Alan being inspired by something I wrote, a guy I didn’t even know or know anything about until the middle of July, even though he wrote his post in January. And I realize that’s what it’s all about. It’s about having the opportunity to help change someone else’s life by being honest and forthright and calling out bad behavior when it’s exhibited and trying to teach and motivate and, well, sometimes just plain ol’ have fun.

I’m feeling pretty good as I write this; how many times do you get to feel this way when you write a blog post? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could feel it more often? I appreciate all of you; thanks for continuing to stop by and read what I have to say.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Mitch Mitchell