5 in a series of 4 on Twitter! Is Twitter a Good Resource for Writers?

Okay, Okay. I did say I was done discussing Twitter. However, Mentor Mama sent me some good Twitter information written by Glyna Humm (glynahumm.com). I felt obliged to pass it on to help everyone get the most out of their Twitterland experience.

Humm offered a list of some of her favorite Twitter applications. With so many available in Twitterland – some free, some not – I think it’s helpful to have a few recommendations. I’ve added a few of my own and I end with a question.

•   Twitzu – Promote your business, special offers, promotions and events with Twitzu. [I haven’t tried Twitzu. I have not running a business and, therefore, won’t be offering promotions, etc. I’ll take Humm’s word that this is a valuable application.]

•    Social Oomph.com – This app allows you to post Tweets at a later time and date, set up direct messages to be sent to your followers, among many other things. [I’ve tried Social Oomph. There is a free version, and an upgrade for a fee. The free version is cumbersome. I prefer HootSuite. HootSuite, a free app, allows you to see your Home Feed, Direct Messages, Mentions, and Pending Tweets on a single screen. I’ve begun to appreciate this feature more and more.]

•    Twitter Alerts – Keeps track of conversations that mention you, your products, your company and anything else, via mobile devices. [I’ve never tried this app. I signed up for Google Alerts which I imagine are similar. I find the alerts annoying, probably because I don’t understand how it helps to be told that GA has come across some information I launched onto the Internet a few days back.]

•   Mr. Tweet – A personal networking assistant for Twitter. It helps identify relevant followers, recommends other users and regularly computes Twitter usage statistics. [I could see how this could be handy especially early on or to hone in on users you don’t get randomly. At this point, as I’ve said many times already, I’m happy to have all the new followers I can get, but I am not actively seeking more. There’s too much else to spend my time on. I prefer responding to each of my new followers and letting them know I am happy to engage in real conversations.]

•   Twittonary – A dictionary of Twitter terms. It provides explanations of various Twitter-related words. [I don’t see much use in this except for newbies. I rarely come across a word I don’t know. If I did I could easily get an answered by tweeting a question.]

•   Twellow – The equivalent of Twitter yellow pages. [This one I’ll have to check out. I haven’t got a clue what yellow pages for Twitter means.]

•    Just Tweet IT – Just Tweet it makes it easier for tweeters to find other tweeters with similar interests. [This too sounds like a valuable app.]

•    Twuffer – Twuffer allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets and schedule their release. [This can be done with HootSuite, see my comments for SocialOomph.]

•   Twtcard – Send a greeting card, a surprise message or an invitation on Twitter. [This is another app I’ll check out if I can find the time.]

•   Twitbacks – Free twitter backgrounds. [This sounds like a nice. If I ever have time to Twitteraway, I might try this. The best background I’ve seen so far is @domovoy2007. Hers makes me laugh every time I see it. Too bad she doesn’t speak English.]

Once again, I recommend you avoid TweetSpinner.  I mentioned in an earlier post that the company doesn’t appear to be interested in customer satisfaction, and they aren’t trustworthy about refunds.

Now look at these statistics:
225 Following, 11 Followers, 1 tweet
307 Following, 33 Followers, 7 tweets
371 Following, 87 Followers, 203 tweets

I suspect these are new Twpeeps. If I was asked which one I suspect is a ‘real’ person, I wouldn’t think twice.  The other night someone new began following me. I checked their statistics. They were following nearly 1000, and had less than 10 followers and 0 tweets. Can you explain that?

Those who can understand the significance of this question know why the number of followers a person has is not necessarily a good gauge of success.

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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So What’s My Verdict on Twitter – Is It a Useful Tool for Writers?

My friend Leslie (moondustwriter.com) asked her readers earlier in May to write something in 160 characters. She challenged: “What can you do in 160 characters? A story surely not! I have titles longer than 160 characters for goodness sake.”

Leslie’s a poet, so I playfully sent her an email to ask if 160 characters had become a new form of Haiku. What writer can resist a challenge?  My response:

“Must say it 140 characters on Twitter. Leslie’s poet challenge 160. Ironic, no? Poets typically use fewer words 2 convey more meaning now want 20 more to do so!”

160 characters is a luxury one doesn’t have on Twitter. Although Twitter limits users to 140 characters, if someone wants their message retweeted (RT) they need to reduce their character limit further generally to less than 150 characters.

A good deal can be said within the confines of 140 characters. With the right message and what amounts to an Internet version of the kids’ game Telephone (where the first kid whispers a message into the ear of the kid next to him, who then whispers the message into the next kid’s ear, etc.) a writer has what appears to be a boundless audience. The caveat, as I have mentioned in my earlier posts, is that because of the massive amount of scam, spam, and garbage Tweets the likelihood that a tweet is read is small.

Assuming a tweet is read, how much value is it likely to produce for the writer? That depends on what you goal is. A writer who hopes Twitter will significantly increase sales is likely to be disappointed.  I can state unequivocally that in my first four months of using Twitter, it has resulted in an insignificant number of sales. However, some of the connections I’ve made have been worthwhile. There is a possibility down the road that some of these will become golden.

Early on, I was so focused on building my Twitter following that I had little time to attend to emails, phone calls and other, what I refer to as, old-fashioned networking. Sales plummeted. The lesson for me was that Twitter is a tool, but only ONE tool. Other tools I need to employ are Facebook, a variety of other social media platforms like Digg and Reddit, blogs, emails and more traditional means of getting the word out.

In my next post I will begin a discussion of Facebook. I have asked a SM coach to assist. However, before I end my thoughts about Twitter I want to make a disclaimer. My four posts on Twitter are based on my desire to promote a non-fiction book. I am looking for the best way to spread the word about my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. I am aiming at national distribution, and sales well beyond those commonly cited for an indie author and publisher.

I don’t think Twitter would affect sales much different if I were trying to market my book locally, I had written fiction, or the subject matter was about something other than women’s search for identity, self-esteem and happiness. What would change would be the mix of the social media and traditional tools I chose to use. Keep reading. I’ll cover these in future posts. In the meantime:

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success: Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories on Amazon.com.

Click to Living in the Heartland video preview to see stories of inspirational women.

Click to view my other blog Living in the Heartland

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Three Women Featured in Author’s New Book

Nancy, Ellyn, and Ife

DAYTON — Their backgrounds may be dramatically different, but it’s their similarities that are the focus of Pamela Ferris-Olson’s new book.

“Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories,” chronicles the lives of three Miami Valley women who represent different minorities.

The idea for her book, she explains in the introduction, originated on a humid summer evening as she sat waiting for New York’s Staten Island Ferry and observed the variety of languages that filled the room.

“The interconnectedness made possible by the Internet has resulted in a burgeoning exchange of information, goods, services and ideas,” she writes. “It has made commerce and ideas readily available, but has not, as yet, transformed attitudes sufficiently to create a world view in which all people are seen as belonging to a single global family.”

Ferris-Olson, who lives in Washington Twp., hopes her self-published book might help remedy that situation. She has been a freelance writer for the Dayton Daily News for the past 15 years.

“I wanted to begin a conversation among people about diversity,” she said. “As different as we may all look, women have similar experiences as wives, mothers and business women.” By sharing three stories of minority women and their struggles, she’s hoping readers will relate and be inspired.

To find subjects for her interviews, Ferris-Olson contacted women’s centers at Wright State University and the University of Dayton, asking them to put out a call for women willing to share their life stories. She chose Dayton, not only because she lives here, but because it’s the Midwest.

“Ohio has become a bellwether for the country since the onset of the 21st century,” she writes. The search eventually led her to Nancy, Ellyn and Ife:

• Nancy Scott, a single mother of three, grew up on a reservation and is a proud member of the Seneca Nation and the Navy. A survivor of mental and physical abuse, she has met President George W. Bush on two occasions, both as an emissary for higher education.

Said Nancy: “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to stay true to yourself. Embrace your culture, your faith, and your beliefs. I really believe that. I always look for the positive in any situation; otherwise life is just wasted space.”

• Ife Shafeek grew up in a housing project in Dayton with a mother who imposed rigid restrictions. At the age of 18, Ife thought marriage offered a way to be free of her mother’s control, but discovered that neither her husband nor her Muslim religion provided the security or peace of mind she’d expected. She has faced many challenges in the process of raising two sons on her own.

Said Ife: “I realize that nothing happens in this world without the hand of God. I think everyone should recognize a higher power and count their blessings when they receive them. I don’t believe my story would be any different had I been raised with a different religion.”

• Ellyn Miller, born in Korea, was put up for adoption by her biological parents who were unable to afford the medical treatment her cleft palate necessitated. Ellyn grew up in Oakwood surrounded by a large, loving religious family but always wondered what her life would be like had she remained in Korea. In 2009, she had the chance to spend several days with her biological family.

Said Ellyn: “I believe my path to fulfilling my destiny started the day I was born. Someday something like a light bulb will click on and then I’ll know what I’m supposed to do with my life. Until then I want to try anything and everything. I don’t have a master plan so until I discover my life’s purpose I’ll just take it one step at a time and see where I go.”

Though Ferris-Olson does not belong to a religious or ethnic minority, she observed intolerance first-hand when her father’s Japanese-Americans friends — who had served with him during the war — came to visit their home and her mother refused to come out of the bedroom to see them.

“I have had an increasing desire to be involved in the dialogue about intolerance,” she said, certain that her father’s stories and respect for those men lie at the heart of her book. “Our country is more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous time in its history,” she said. “American’s population continues to grow, and become increasingly multiracial and predominantly female.”

“Living in the Heartland,” she said, is a celebration of women and an appeal for Americans to embrace diversity.

By Meredith Moss, DailyNews.com. April 24, 2010

Click to she how three women overcame many challenges along the way to success:<a href=”http://tinyurl.com/ybnk7ml”&gt; Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories</a> on Amazon.com.

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What’s Wrong with Book Stores?

Credit for this photo unknown.

Credit for this photo unknown as it was sent to me via email.

I had to take a diversion from my discussion of Twitter so I could share this photograph. It was emailed to me by a friend. I imagine there is a good chance  the picture has been Photoshopped, but whether it has or not I share it with no intention of making any negative commentary on the Chinese. Instead, I am commenting on what many writers and readers, I imagine too, have felt about book stores. In my case, as you will read in future posts, I’ve been frustrated in my attempts to get my indie published Living in the  Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories into book stores. When a writer can’t get her book into brick and mortar stores to share with readers across the country, and readers can’t find the books they want to read we ask ourselves” Am I in the ……?!”


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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 3

Wouldn’t you think two lengthy posts about Twitter would be more than enough to evaluate a form of communication that limits discussions to 140 characters? Well it’s not. So here’s my third installment on the subject.

My first two posts were little more than an introduction to Twitter. There were many things I didn’t mention. For example, I didn’t discuss hash tags, RTs, or tinyurls. While Twitter isn’t difficult to use, there is a learning curve especially if you want to use it effectively. So you need to have the time and the desire to learn it.

Every day I realize there are more things I should learn about Twitter. SEO is one of those areas. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Social media professionals use SEO to find words which have been demonstrated to be effective in grabbing the social media audience’s attention.
Twitterland is full of tweets from SM professionals who offer to teach others through free Webinars, etc. how to maximize their Twitter success. There also a shadowy subculture that operating in Twitterland. These Twitter shadows aren’t necessarily bad guys. They do, however, operate behind the scenes so most people aren’t aware of their efforts. These Twitter professionals know how to direct traffic and architecturally enhance the power of Twitter.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one (a very nice guy with eight sisters. Now, he knows 😉 I’m talking about him). This guy gave me a peek into the shadows, and I hope he will continue to try and help me.

I am certain there are other things going on in Twitterland of which I am not aware.

The purpose of this series, however, was not to offer a thorough evaluation of Twitter. Instead, my goal was to answer the question: Which is more helpful to a writer: social media or old-fashioned networking?

Yesterday, @patrickcurl engaged me in a conversation on Twitter. I was interested enough to check his Web site. Here’s what I learned from patrickcurl.com.

According to Barracuda Networks, an Internet research company, Twitter may have an image problem. The company says that the majority of first-time or short-term users try Twitter out, don’t understand Twitter’s value, and decide not to use it.

I have personally heard people say they didn’t find Twitter useful. These people tend to be business owners who operate locally. They do better advertising by word of mouth than through Twitter. They don’t have the time or patience for reading scam, spam and other low-value tweets.
Patrick loves Twitter. He values it as a way to reach out to people in his niche. He works with social media consultants and experts. Patrick admits these people have a better grasp on how to use and develop Twitter’s power than the average Twitter user.

Here’s what I find revealing about Patrick’s discussion of Twitter. He cites a report from Hubspot that states 55.5 percent of Twitter users don’t follow anyone, and 54.9 percent have never tweeted.

Here are some more startling numbers Patrick provided on Twitter usage:
•    79.79% of users provided no homepage URL.
•    75.86% of users have not entered a bio.
•    68.68% have not specified their location.
•    55.50% are not following anyone.
•    54.88% have never tweeted.
•    52.71% have no followers.

What these numbers show are  that as little as a quarter of Twitter’s members use the service on a regular basis.

So here’s my question: If more than half the people who try Twitter don’t hang around long, and those that do stay aren’t really involved, is marketing on Twitter really effective for a writer?

The answer depends on a number of things. Anyone who is lobbing tweets out in Twitter space and hoping to reel in lots of new readers isn’t realistic about their success rate. That strategy isn’t any more effective than putting a book up on Amazon and figuring it will automatically be read by millions. Knowing how to target potential followers and developing a relationship with people so they become followers can be a worthwhile pursuit if you aren’t going to find these people otherwise.

Twitter is a high maintenance beast. Content although limited to 140 characters must be provided regularly or followers lose interest.  How much time do want to spend working Twitter?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 2

Just before I started writing this post I looked at my Twitter account. I had 1,621 followers, and was on 131 lists.

I began my adventure with social media by seeking the advice of a social media coach. One of the first assignments was to” follow” 50-100 new people every day.  There were many ways to accomplish this. The easiest and cheapest it seemed was to find someone on Twitter who had lots of followers. I could scroll down their list and click FOLLOW.  It was a fast way to accomplish what I had been instructed to do. Later I discovered it wasn’t an effective method.

Why do I say it’s effective? Some of the Twitter accounts turned out to be inactive. Some of the accounts were rarely used, others were OVERused. I had other issues with a stream of tweets that were scams, spams or garbage.

So, until I knew better, I would scan down a page and click FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW wherever I saw a person’s face.  I was sure that in a month I’d accumulate a follow list equivalent to the population of Rhode Island. I got giddy watching my follow list grow. However, when I took the time to think about what I was doing I asked myself: “How is this was going to help me?” I realized I could click “FOLLOW” buttons until my fingers were sore, but it wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal. It wasn’t going to make people aware of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories. What I really needed was to have people follow me. That was the only best way to be sure they’d see the messages I tweeted.

Getting followers was a more complicated proposition. Not everyone automatically followed me. My mentor suggested I use Friend or Follow, a free program that identifies who among the people you are following is not following you back.  I considered dumping everyone who wasn’t following.  I realized this wasn’t a great plan. I wasn’t sure how long it had been since  I had starting following some of these people. Unless they had an auto follow program I needed to give people time to follow me. I certainly didn’t want to unfollow someone I had just started to follow. There were also people on the list I thought would be good people to follow even if they didn’t follow me.  I decided to poke these people to see if they simply needed a poke from me before they added me to their follow list.

Of course there are programs for purchase that are designed to increase followers. Some programs target specific demographics. These programs  search for Tweet peeps who are more likely to be interested in what you are  selling. As I was in a hurry to be successful I decided that such a program would be a terrific way to build my Twitter empire. I thought I had nothing to loose by taking advantage of  free trial offers. What I discovered was that some of the programs weren’t user friendly. At least not for this newbie. I didn’t understand the social techie language, and I didn’t need help managing multiple Twitter accounts.

I dumped each program long before the trial period expired. I gave up on Tweet Spinner in less than 24 hours. I emailed the company right away to tell them I was canceling long before their five-day free trial expired. Tweet Spinner still charged my Pay Pal account for a one-year subscription. The company has refused to refund my money! I’m out $14.95. Pay Pal says I have to get a refund from Tweet Spinner, but after my first email exchange with Tweet Spinner they have stopped responding. My suggestion is don’t try any free trial offers if they ask for payment information before the trial expires! Some companies aren’t user friendly!

Adding 50-100 people a day and watching the numbers grow might be the cheapest, least time consuming way to grow a list, especially as most of those tweeps are going to follow you back. It can be addictive watching the numbers grow. BEWARE! There’s a Twitter posse. They patrol for speeders. You can commit a violation by adding too many people TOO FAST. I’ve heard it said that there is also a rule about the ratio between follows and followers. A person can’t be following too many more people than are following them. Otherwise, you could be considered a stalker. I don’t know what these numbers are, because I quickly decided that I didn’t want to play the numbers game.  Adding people for the sake of increasing numbers is in direct conflict with the NUMBER 1 rule social media gurus place on their social media “do” lists. The NUMBER ONE rule is BE REAL.

A person can’t be real if they are only interested in numbers. The number that  is important to me is my tweet count. It’s 2,217!  Those aren’t auto-generated tweets. Some guy a while back called me a conversationalist!

Here’s how I operate. When I get a notice someone is following me, I check them out. I go to their Web site. If they aren’t a bot or aren’t simply selling something I send them a personal tweet. If they tweet back we may continue our conversation.

During my introductory phase in Twitterland I spent more than an hour or more in one session working on building and pruning my list – clicking follow buttons, weeding out non-followers or people with inactive accounts, or viewing mindless tweets. Now I may spend an hour each day, but I don’t do it all at once. Much of what I do now is have conversations. I enjoy most of my time on Twitter. I’ve got special tweeps I look forward to “seeing” every day. I’ve got a tweep who talks to me in French. “Bon jour Martien. Comment ca va?” My French is tres mal, but I still look forward to talking to him. Yesterday, someone I only recently met tweeted me with a possible lead about being on public television.

There are good people out there. But in order for me to find them I had to stop playing the numbers game. I had to think about the people.  Now, I don’t even look for followers, they find me.

So what’s with Twitter? Some say Twitter is IT. Others say Twitter is already OVER. What I say is: Don’t use or abuse Twitter, it’s the people who matter. My Twitter peeps may not be contributing in any direct way to book sales, at least not yet, but I enjoy my peeps.

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers? Twitter Part 1

I decided not to do any promotional work until my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories appeared on Amazon.com. As I’ve said in previous posts, I chose to independently publish my book after I’d received about two dozen ‘no thank you’ letters from agents and publishers. I thought: “How can I go wrong selling my book on America’s largest online behemoth, a retailer with nearly three times the Internet sales revenue of its nearest competitor?”

Since my book was cataloged among Amazon’s thousands upon thousands of other offerings, it seemed obvious that I needed to focus my marketing energies online. So began my social media (SM) education.

The first step was to build a SM platform. SM coaches tout the importance of starting with a foundation based upon Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. So that is what I did. Twitter was easy. Facebook required more time to set up, because  more information was requested. My blog, even though WordPress makes set up pretty simple, was even more time consuming. I admit I had plenty of frustration. For example, I had to evaluate nearly 100 layouts to choose the best layout for my Living in the Heartland blog. Then I had to figure out how to customize the banner and learn how to install and operate the widgets.

Initially, I hated Twitter. The few people who I started following seemed to have established their own clique. They tweeted predominantly among themselves. Much of what they said wasn’t interesting to me. I began to realize I was stuck in an infinitesimally small Twitter puddle. It was a small droplet in a Twitterscape where oceans of Twitter folk were chattering away. I had no idea how to swim into the deeper water. As I became more confident and competent, I was able to find new people. To my dismay many of the Tweets I received were either “words to live by”, quotes attributable to famous or anonymous people, or outright marketing.

Numerous people told me to persevere. They also told me that the number one rule on the Internet is to be genuine and build trust before trying to market anything on the Internet. My cynicism grew as I wondered about the disconnect between what I was being told were “and what people were doing. The response to my questioning the rules was always the same: give it time. In time I would see the benefits.

Being trained as a scientist I wanted evidence on which to base my hopes that Twitter was going to help me make people aware of my book. What I heard on Webinars and through Twitter were merely testimonials. Needless to say this was not a good introduction to the Internet for me. I was overwhelmed by all the SM tasks I needed to do, and wanted concrete evidence that all my hours of work building a Twitter following was going to pay off . In otherwords, show me some book sales.

The sales figures I saw that first month were UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There HAD to be a mistake! I could have sold more books door to door on my block!

Doubt began to flood in: Had I made the wrong decision? Should I have waited longer for a publisher; after all, I had received some handwritten letters. Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen to publish independently. Should I have sent out more manuscripts?

As you can see I’m still working with SM. I am more positive than I’ve ever been. Come back soon for the next installment. As I discuss my experience you will understand how I arrived at my answer to the question: Social Media or Old-Fashioned Networking: Which is Right for Writers?

Find out about my new book which is the reason I write this blog at Amazon.com.

Click video preview to see the YouTube video of my book Living in the Heartland: Three Extraordinary Women’s Stories.

My other blog is Living in the Heartland.

Click here for subscription to blog on Kindle Out of the Box Publishing Blog on Kindle

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