9 Questions Before You Become A Blogging Statistic

'Blog', courtesy of cortege9, Wikimedia Commons

‘Blog’, courtesy of cortege9, Wikimedia Commons

Are you tired of blogging?

I am.

I know that’s sacrilege to admit on your own blog. The stress of moving, illness, and the fact I haven’t posted consistently has me questioning my commitment to blogging.

Am I really getting a return on investment of the time I put into blogging?

Shouldn’t I be focusing on ‘real’ writing?

My blogging journey started almost three years ago. I researched for three months before taking the plunge, thinking about my goals for my blog. I didn’t want to start something new and shiny, to later run out of steam. (I have a tendency to do that.)

I liked sharing and meeting new people. Researching and writing about creativity, blogging, and social media fascinated me. And I loved sharing my write anywhere adventures.

But lately blogging has felt like a burden, a deadline that looms over me and highlights my penchant for procrastination. I’m considering taking a break, or a complete reboot. Should I start over? Will anyone care?

Continue reading

Pinterest Alert: The New Pin Scam To Avoid

shot of Pinterest page, courtesy LIB246, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Have you added Pinterest to your social media repertoire yet? Addicted?

Pinterest is a fun way to curate the subjects that you enjoy, meet others who love your interests as much as you do, as well as reach out to your target audience as a writer, artist or other creative.

For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a social media network that gives you the ability to ‘pin’ images you find around the internet onto virtual ‘boards’, basically a cool digital bulletin board. You can ‘repin’ other users pins as well. Your boards can have any themes, but Pinterest is currently dominated by three groups: fashionistas, foodies, and DIY’ers.

What is Pinterest?

There is a dark wind blowing through the otherwise idyllic Pinterest landscape. As Pinterest has grown in popularity, its popularity with scam artists and malware infections is growing as well. Pins of popular products like Starbucks and Coach that seem legitimate lead to coupon or ‘survey’ sites that collect personal information, which is a classic phishing scheme. Others secretly download malware to your computer. These are ‘pinned’ by unsuspecting Pinterest users from the fake Pinterest accounts and the evil spreads.

I found this out for myself just a few weeks ago. I had a rash of Pinterest peeps start following my account, four and five a day. When I examined the accounts closer, several things were just ‘not right’. The user didn’t have any bio info. Their photo, if they had one, looked like it was a street scene from a newspaper or magazine photo. Their boards were all the same as the other suspect users. Same pins, same board titles. There were a lot of electronic items featured in the pins, some with a promise of great deals if you click on the pin. One pin under the ‘Geek’ board had a photo of a beautiful girl and said “Neat – uploaded with Pinterest Android app. Get it here.” A link followed. Seems perfectly harmless. Only problem? There is no Pinterest app for the Android phone yet.

Mila Kunis: favorite bait of Pinterest scammers

Hazel Delgado from Ft. Smith, AR, Marcia Hicks, Connie Perry, Lynn Reed, Maile Genco, Beverly Campbell, Veronica Graham and Marjorie Thomas: all Pinterest accounts that sound like regular folks, until you take the time to look closer: They all have the same EXACT named boards: these and other fake accounts usually include the boards Geek, Outdoors, Fitness, Home Decor, My Life, Humor, Food, etc. And they all seem to like Mila Kunis. All have Twitter accounts with zero activity or followers. They were scam accounts, following MY ACCOUNT! Without taking the time to check it out, I could have gotten some bad stuff on my computer.

What can you do to protect the Pinterest community, and your own computer, from bad eggs floating around on Pinterest? Here are a few tips:

Take the time to check out a profile who’s following you. Some of the signs it may be a fake account include:

  • The board titled ‘Geek’ in particular has lots of outgoing links on photos that have been pinned.
  • The board and its pins don’t match. Example: A kids’ book pin on a board entitled Cool Electronics. I found this exact thing and it’s label was “uploaded with Pinterest Android app. Click here.” with a link. (I’d love to post all these to show you, but for obvious reasons I won’t)
  • The account has numerous boards with only 1 pin on each board.
  • It has a link in the comment part of the pin (don’t click)
  • A link to an Android Pinterest app? Big red flag.

One other ‘tell’ I discovered after researching these bogus accounts is that if you click on their Twitter social media button under their name, there is zero activity on the account: no photo, no tweets, no followers. The bad guys probably just used the dummy Twitter account to start the Pinterest account.

Pinterest has an easy reporting system. They are working hard to eradicate these scammers and welcome the Pinterest community’s help. When you see a suspect pin, just click on ‘report pin’ and their system will do the rest.

When in doubt, don’t pin, no matter how cute you think those Louboutins look or how bad you want that exact Coach purse. Scammers are like a virus, so don’t spread them!

I know this adds precious time you don’t have to using Pinterest. Don’t be discouraged and run away screaming! Just like Facebook or Twitter, you need to be alert about scammers, phishing and virus/malware possibilities in any social media interaction you have. The main way these scams and viruses happen is through clicking on a link. If you find one, don’t freak out thinking your computer is about to explode or your bank account is being emptied. Just say no to clicking links and you will stay safe. Then report the pin. If all pinners do their part when spotting fakes, we can make Pinterest the fun visual playground it was meant to be.

Want more information about Pinterest scams? 

Looking for Pinterest friends? Follow me here or click on the Follow Me on Pinterest button in my sidebar. I’m dedicated to a spam-free account. 🙂 Need an invite? Let me know, I have a few.

Related posts:

Question: Are you a Pinterest Pinner? Will you take the time to spot scammers?

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8 Fast and Furious Ways To Maneuver Facebook Changes Without Crashing and Burning

cast of Fast Five, Dwayne Johnson, Ludicris, Jordana Brewster, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, image courtesy Jack Zalium, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Are you fed up with Facebook?

I’ve noticed a lot of complaints floating through the interwebs about Facebook lately. If you’re not into Facebook, I give you permission to check out another post here on the blog. But if you’re a writer or other creative re-thinking your Facebook or other social media platform interaction, read on.

Facebook has recently given us questionable privacy policies, increase in ads, the uncontrollable scrolling News Feed, charging business pages for ‘featured’ statuses, the change to Timeline and just this week the email switcheroo debacle.

Though Facebook has become a bit irritating as of late, I think there’s a few things to remember to keep a balanced view:

  • Facebook users are NOT Facebook’s customers. Advertisers and now shareholders are Facebook’s customers. Advertising is how they make money. Even though Facebook encourages making ‘friends’, Facebook is not your friend. Because it is a BUSINESS. Businesses are in business to make money. Users are a means to an end.
  • You’ve been getting FREE PR and networking with industry professionals, potential customers and those you want to share information and influence with that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise for FREE. Some have been availing themselves of this FREE service for years.
  • No one is forcing you to be on Facebook. If the cons outweigh the pros for you, quitting Facebook is a viable option at any time.

Want to grow your Facebook presence in spite of the instability?

Check out a textbook model of success and use his moves to grow your Facebook interaction.

Vin Diesel is an actor, writer, director and producer. He’s well-known and excels in his field, but he’s not the latest/greatest phenom, teen dream, or constantly in the limelight or on the gossip pages. Over three years time, Vin has quietly but steadily built his Facebook following to over 33 million people. He maintains his page himself and posts on a regular basis.

Here are 8 ways you can rock your Facebook page like Vin:

1.  Be real 

Vin is himself. Of course, the celebrity factor is a big attraction, but he talks about what’s going on in his life, some of his methods for preparing for his work, and the ideas that he is passionate about. Some of his posts are poetic and a little ethereal, even disjointed and mysterious. He doesn’t care. That’s who he is.

Don’t be what you think people want you to be, be who you are. Nobody else can be you as well as you can.

2.  Make your followers feel like an insider

Vin gives updates on his new projects in real time. He posts ‘behind-the-scenes’ photos on movie sets and his travels. Followers feel like they are getting in on what’s happening before the general public.

Can you share some of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ happenings of your projects? Give people a glimpse into your thought processes, the good, the bad or the ugly of your profession, the inner workings of your current artistic project? Embrace your Facebook friends into your world and they will embrace you back.

3.  Be positive

You don’t have to scroll down very far to see that Vin is all about positivity. Inspirational quotes and thoughts of gratitude fill the page. Followers respond in kind in their comments and their loyalty.

Have a positive attitude. Remember that old saying about attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar? It’s true. Don’t be afraid to share when you’re having a bad day once in a while, but if you’re always sharing negative thoughts or worse, ranting, people will eventually tire of it and tune out.

4.  Interact consistently

Vin shares regularly, answers questions that have been posted on the page and his followers look forward to his posts because HE POSTS.

If you don’t show up on your page, why should anyone else? Pretty basic.

5.  Stop trying to force a ‘sell’ 

Though Vin posts regularly, he’s not shoving his products down his followers throats. You won’t see him begging people to go see his movies or buy his video games 10 times a day every day. He shares the excitement he has for his projects, updates followers with progress reports, and includes them in celebrating his accomplishments.

Much better approach than begging for attention. Do likewise.

6.  Post photos

Vin posts photos. Good ones. And lots of them. Which is just what his loyal followers want to see.

One plus to the new Timeline and Page Covers is greater opportunity for catching the eye with photos. Post photos, but don’t overload the news feed, choose photos judiciously.

7.  Let people know where you are

In the ‘About’ section of his Facebook page, Vin lists all his websites and social media where he is active so followers can get more information about him and his projects if they choose.

Make sure you list all the places your followers can find you in your ‘About’: blog/website/Twitter/Pinterest accounts, etc. You’d be surprised how many people don’t.

8.  Establish your style/voice

Vin has a unique way of wording his status posts. Short, stream of consciousness, positive, rather poetic. He also often signs them with a “/smile”.

Just like you have a writing or artistic voice, think about establishing a Facebook voice. How? See Number One.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Facebook will continue making changes. Stay positive, roll with the punches and keep connecting and your social media platform will grow.

Want some more advice for navigating Facebook? You can’t beat the incomparable Jane Friedman. Check out her posts:

Have you considered quitting Facebook over all the changes?

Related posts: 

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Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: Get Serious By Relaxing

image courtesy Creative Commons

This month we’ve focused on sharpening blogging habits for the new year. There’s been a lot of good discussion, and if you haven’t been with us until this point, please check out the other posts in this series:

Part 1 –  Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

Part 2 –  Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

Part 3 –  Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 14 Actions To Take To Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

Part 4 –  Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: The Golden Rule For Bloggers

Here’s a confession: I’m kind of a serious person. I have a hard time going with the flow. Kicking back is not natural for me. I have to work hard to find the positive and the humor in life. It’s part life experience, part medical condition, and part DNA. I used to think I was just organized, hard-working, good at list-making, focused. I am all those things, but sometimes those are code words for anxious, sweating the small stuff and too serious.

Here’s an example. Artist Daughter had a friend visit. We decided to order pizza. We discussed all the menu options, then I called in my order. When I got off the phone, Artist Daughter chuckled. I asked her why. “That’s the calmest pizza order I’ve ever heard you give, Mom.” That was a pivotal moment of realization that I take life much too seriously.

Blog Habit #5: Relax

If you’re blogging as a hobby you can probably skip this post. If you’re blogging because you want to make your voice heard on a specific subject,  you’re a writer and you’re building that all important social media platform or you have a product or idea and you’re trying to reach the masses, you may have some issues with taking yourself and your blog too seriously.

Wait a minute, Kristin, you’ve been telling us all month how to do all this stuff to make our blogs awesome, magnificent islands of intelligent communication in a noisy sea of internet flotsam, and now you’re saying don’t take it seriously?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take our passion or career seriously, but sometimes we can get so consumed with doing what everyone says we should do to be successful we are not enjoying the journey. Here are 4 diagnoses you may be too serious about your blogging, and a possible cure for each.

Diagnosis: Lawbreaker Phobia – If you’re spending the majority of your blogging time trying to implement every ‘rule’ that you hear mentioned on any expert blogs and you’re afraid if you don’t follow all the rules your little blog will shrivel into oblivion, you need to relax. It’s helpful to learn techniques for better blogging, but don’t become enslaved by them.

Cure: Don’t be afraid to break the ‘rules’. You have the opportunity to give your blog your unique signature, and the creative aspect makes it fun.

"They're more like guidelines than actual rules..."

Diagnosis: Blank Screen Syndrome – Your agent/boss/mentor/critique group said you needed to start building that ‘social media platform’ so you jumped into blogging with both feet, ready to conquer. You made it past the newbie hump and stuck with it, but now the spectre of trying to come up with blog post ideas and content day after day or week after week has become a teeth-pulling, stressful burden. It’s not just a few down days, you know it’s infecting your entire attitude. Get ready, I’m going to wave my magic wand.

Cure: Maybe blogging is not for you. AND THAT”S OKAY. Deep breaths, see that wasn’t so bad. If blogging is not something you enjoy, you aren’t going to stick with it over the long haul. Try microblogging instead. You can still build relationships and a following with Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, where there’s less time investment and writing involved. Movements.org  covers the basics of microblogging on How To Microblog.

"Just click your heels together and say 'It's okay to microblog'."

Diagnosis: Blog Hot Mess Fever – You’ve been blogging for a while. You were enjoying yourself, getting good feedback. But somewhere along the way you lost your focus. You got enamored with widgets and crammed them everywhere on your blog. You started posting on unrelated subjects. Your feedback went down. Months have gone by in between posts. The passion that got you blogging in the first place seems to have dissipated.

Cure: Maybe you should consider a reboot. Start from scratch? After all that work? Sometimes the energy we get from starting something new gives us the motivation to continue. Jeff Goins gives some good advice with When To Quit Your Blog and Start A New One.

"You think I should start over?"

Diagnosis: Personality Flu – You’re knocking it out of the park with informative posts. Good design. Bullet points. Good links. Well-researched. But something’s missing. Somehow you’re not connecting with your readers. There’s not a lot of interaction on your blog.

Cure: Loosen up and have some fun. Look for the humor in your subject. Share a funny anecdote once in a while. Relax and be yourself. When your personality shines through your blog, it will help you nurture reader relationships and make blogging fun. Claire Legrand says “Forget the stress, forget the expectations, the daily slog through statistics. It’s okay to be yourself, it’s okay to blog yourself.”

Read Claire’s entire post ‘It’s Okay To Blog Yourself’.

Take your blog to the next level by relaxing. You’re going to do great. Seriously.

Question: What’s the funniest/silliest/snarkiest post you ever made on your blog? Let’s start off the week with a laugh and leave a link in the comments.

Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: The Golden Rule For Bloggers

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you receive but by the seeds that you plant." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thanks so much for all the feedback for our blogging habits series featured this month. I hope we are all giving little tweaks to our blogging vision to make what we do with our blogs the best ever for 2012. If this is your first time popping in, here’s the series line-up so you can get on the same page:

Part 1 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

Part 2 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 7 Keys To Blogging On A Consistent Basis

Part 3 – Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 14 Actions To Take To Amplify Your Blog’s Voice

There’s a local health foods store I frequent to buy my vitamins. It’s a little mom-pop operation. Actually a mom-daughter-niece operation where ‘everybody knows your name’. One day I noticed a blurb in their newspaper ad about the store’s blog. I checked it out. It was a ‘just-beginning-to-bud-and-dying-from-the-frost-of-being-unread’ blog. Only one post made a couple months earlier with no comments on it. The post was well-written and happened to mention a new natural face soap the store had begun carrying. It’s a wonderful goat’s milk soap made locally that up until that time had only been sold during the farmer’s market season.

Excited to be able to get my beloved soap in the winter, I ran by the health foods store to snatch up all the bars I could. When I paid for my purchase, I shared my excitement with the owner and thanked her for posting about it in her blog. Her mouth kind of fell open, then she smiled and said, “I didn’t know anyone was reading it. I guess I’m going to have to put some more things on there.” She didn’t think anyone was reading or getting value out of her blog until someone told her.

Blog Habit #4: Encourage Other Bloggers

Whether you call it sowing seeds, karma, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, or good vibrations, when you take the time to encourage others it will pay big dividends in your personal attitude as well as your blogging mojo.

Sometimes we’re so caught up in building our own blog, we forget it really does ‘take a village’ to create a strong blog presence. Readers are the lifeblood of a blog, and a large portion of readers are fellow bloggers. If you happen to have a niche blog, bloggers in that niche are even more important to help you gain a readership by spreading the news about your blog in that niche community.

Interaction in social media usually comes in the form of participating in the community conversation in some way. Sounds simple enough, right? So why aren’t readers naturally interacting on blogs? Why do we have to ‘work’ for their involvement?

A 2006 study by Jakob Nielsen cites that 90% of online community users are lurkers who never contribute or interact, 9% contribute a little and only 1% are vocally active. This is a fact of life that many ministries and non-profit groups have always dealt with. The 20/80 rule, as in, 20% of the same volunteers do 80% of the volunteer work. While we’re not going to make a major societal impact, we can put a tiny dent in whether people stand on the sidelines of our blog or become more interactive by modeling interactive encouragement to others.

How can you be an encouragement to other bloggers without draining your already precious social media time? Here are a few simple ways:

  • Make a comment on someone else’s blog.

Did you enjoy a post you read? Learn something? Completely disagree? Stumbled on the post during a search? Take the time to make a comment to let the blogger know. You don’t have to write a dissertation, but you can also do better than ‘Great post!’ One sentence can make the difference to a writer who’s feeling like their words are floating into the internet ether without notice.

  • Click a social media sharing button.

Are you skimming blogs while on your coffee break or between toddler duties at home? Don’t have time to think about and write out a comment? It only takes a second to click a ‘like’ button on WordPress blogs and about the same amount of time to click a Google 1+, Facebook, Twitter, or social bookmarking button like StumbleUpon or Reddit and you’ve done double duty by letting the blogger know their post has not only been read but shared with others.

  • Tweet or retweet blog links on Twitter.

Become known for showcasing valuable information by taking the time to tweet and retweet post links on Twitter. Folks will appreciate it and be more likely to check out your blog posts when you tweet your own links.

  • Make a Pinterest board for your favorite blog posts.

Once you are on Pinterest, it’s easy to add a photo from one of your favorite blog posts with a simple click of the  ‘Pin it!’ button. The ‘pin’ will link back to the blog to help get more traffic to your fellow bloggers’ sites.

  • Have a blog round-up or showcase.

Some people enjoy writing a post highlighting a weekly round-up of quality blog post links. This has the double benefit of helping others while you get readers who show up just for your great lists!  It doesn’t have to be a long list. Here are some examples:

Read The 12 Best Blogs You May (Almost) Have Never Heard Of

Read Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing’s ‘This Week For Writers

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for your blog.

Be discriminating about this, but if you see a quality blogger who hasn’t built a large readership yet and may need encouragement, nothing helps like a request for their writing skills! You have the mutual benefit of being exposed to the other blogger’s readership.

  • Stay positive in your online interaction.

If something someone says on their blog rubs you the wrong way, think twice before you rattle off that rant that accuses them of being a no-talent hack. Some people support getting as controversial as you can to stir up buzz so people will come check out your blog.

That’s also what they do with reality shows, Jerry Springer and 24/7 news channels. Think about it.

When you are posting something negative, ask yourself these questions: Is this negativity really necessary? Can I make my point without tearing another person down? Of course, life is not a box of fuzzy kittens (if only!) and stuff happens and we like to talk about it. It’s fine to disagree, but be cautious about being disagreeable and attacking others’ personally. It’s bad karma and may come back to haunt you.

  • Answer the question posed in a blog post.

If the specific post asks a question, try to answer it. If you go on and on about your mother’s cat or some other rabbit trail, the blog writer may be frustrated thinking their post/question was poorly written or unclear. That can be discouraging. Answer the question, even if it’s “I don’t know” then tell everyone about your mother’s cat.

If you read a lot of blogs  it’s usually not possible to devote time to commenting on every one. However, you can give yourself a goal. For example: ‘I’ll comment on 3 blogs per day’, or’ I’ll ‘like’ 5 blogs today’, or ‘I’ll write one thoughtful comment per week’. Again, don’t overload yourself with added pressures. But you need to look at encouraging others as an investment. Interacting and sharing in the blogging community not only gives out good vibes, it teaches you to step out of yourself. When you do that, the seeds you plant will come back as a good harvest.

Question: What makes you want to take the time to comment on a blog post?

Sharpen Your Blogging Habits: 4 Ways To Define Your Audience

It’s a new year, when we think about resolutions, dropping bad habits and starting good ones. As bloggers, it’s a good time to re-evaluate our blogging habits, too. Today starts a new series posting each Monday in January that focuses on a different blog habit. So let’s get after it.

Blog Habit #1: Define Your Audience

As new bloggers we can get so excited about getting our voice our there that we may not be thinking about who is listening. You want to connect with those who find what you have to say valuable, not make an empty echo in the blogosphere, so you need to define your audience. Even after some blogging experience under your belt, you should periodically examine who your audience is because your blog is an organism; changing, growing and reshaping as you yourself change and grow in your interests and writing skills. Your target audience can change as your blogging mission changes. You can write better blog posts by defining your audience because when you target the person/people you are writing to, your blog posts are going to have more clarity and connection with your readers.

4 Ways to Define Your Audience:

1.   Think about demographics

Things like age, sex, education, interests, career, level of technical skill with computers and social media, etc. This is not to limit people but to better serve the audience you have. Not every thing is going to appeal to everyone, we all have different tastes and different life experience. For example, I feel my target audience is people like me. I am not a guru or an expert. We’re travelers on this journey together. I try to share what I discover on my journey to help others on theirs. Although I may have many types of readers, I imagine my target reader as: a writer later in life or as a second career, someone discovering social media and looking to learn and connect with others, and people who can connect with the foibles of life, have a chuckle and say “Yep, I did that, too. I’m glad I’m not the only one.” Picture your specific reader and write like you’re having a conversation with them.

2.    Discover your quality quotient

Your reader is your ‘customer’. Give good customer service by offering content that is of value, whether it’s educational, informational or entertainment. Don’t talk over your audience’s heads but don’t dumb it down either. Trust your readers’ intelligence. The Bookshelf Muse says “Blogging is all about adding value. People come to your blog for something – it’s your job to know what and provide it. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask what you would like to see.” Read the entire post “Blogging Tip: Know Your Audience”.

3.   Travel in potential audience circles

For example, if you are a historical fiction writer who writes a blog about historical topics, seek out Twitter hashtags on historical fiction, join historical fiction groups on Facebook and GoodReads and visit other historical fiction blogs. See what people are talking about. Are they talking about subjects you talk about on your blog? Be friendly and meet those in your target audience. Invite them back home (your blog) for coffee and conversation (quality content). Avoid being spammy and badgering people.

4.   Write a tagline that sums up your blog

A tagline is a short phrase, usually after the title of your blog that gives the reader an idea of what your blog is about or hopes to offer the reader. This will help you focus your content, which helps your readers know what to expect from you. Judy Dunn compares blog taglines to movie taglines and gives one of the best definitions I’ve heard of a good tagline: “Your tagline is your blog’s main message. If you have one it usually goes right below the blog’s name in your header. It is your goal, your promise, your brand. It should tell your visitors instantly what your blog is all about. Because they are click-happy and unless they can see some value in sticking around, they are outta there.” Read ‘How To Write Your Blog’s Tagline‘ (It’s such a good post I’m rethinking my tagline!) Need more help to define your audience? Read these great posts:

Do you use a specific method to define your blogging audience?

Start Your Week Off Write: 7 Ways To Increase Creativity with Pinterest

image, Creative Commons

Have you discovered Pinterest yet? Pinterest is a new social media that combines online social interaction with creativity and self-expression. The object of Pinterest is post or ‘pin’ visual images that you find interesting from the internet on ‘boards’ that you create, a digital bulletin board so to speak. It’s like the next level in bookmarking. You can make comments, ‘like’ images, repin them, and gather friends, so it has similarities to both Facebook and Twitter. The difference is the creative aspect.

Read an interview with the founder of Pinterest.

Artist Daughter first told me about it, and I have become a controlled Pinterest addict. Since my time margin continues to shrink as I add more activities to my schedule, I’ve limited my interaction on Pinterest to a few hours only on weekends. I know if I didn’t practice a controlled interaction, I’d spend way too much time on it. But I’ve found Pinterest beneficial to promote creativity, particularly for my writing. I’ve created boards for my book ideas, and found several images that evoke the characters and settings I have in mind. Yes, it can be another social media time suck, but used in a targeted way, it can energize your creativity. Here are 7 ways:

  1. Explore – Discover what other people have done with their Pinterest accounts for inspiration. Here’s a great example of a Pinterest account.
  2. Narrow your subject focus – Pinterest lets you categorize your boards so you can narrow the subject you want to explore. Some examples include food, architecture, DIY or fashion.
  3. Make motivational boards – Create a visual motivation for any dream or goal you have. I like this motivational board for writers.
  4. Storyboard your ideas – Writers can use Pinterest to their advantage to make storyboards for their writing ideas. Here’s one of my book storyboards.
  5. Check out recommendations – You can find recipes, book and product reviews and lots more.
  6. Network with like-minded people – It’s fun to find others who have your same interests, especially if it is a small niche.
  7. Broadcast your vision – Pinterest is another conduit to let others hear your voice. Edie Melson from The Write Conversation gives tips for bloggers to connect with the Pinterest audience.

By exposing yourself to the synergy of visual cues and the creative ideas of others, you can increase your own creativity quotient. Check out Pinterest, but be prepared to find a new obsession.

Question: Do you think Pinterest will become a standard social media like Facebook and Twitter, or will it be a passing fad?

Start Your Week Off Write: How Do You Vet Social Media Relationships?

Library of Congress, public domain

The online writing community has been abuzz with the sad news of a plagiarist in our midst who took advantage of others by plagiarizing large portions of his blog. The writing community involved in social media is normally very supportive and protective of one another so for one of their own to do this was a shock. I won’t go into the whole issue of plagiarism besides saying ‘Hello! It’s wrong – Don’t do it!’

Jami Gold wrote in detail about how people were affected in the post “How Bad Is Plagiarism?” Many writers worried this person’s actions would reflect poorly on them and spent the week trying to erase the online evidence of any interactions they might have had with this deceiver. Jami made this statement in her post:

“… everyone who believed in him wonders if they could have prevented this.  They also wonder how they could have been so misled.  But Terrell alone deserves the blame.  The fact that he succeeded with his intention to deceive them is not a reflection on their ability to judge someone’s character.”

This is true. No one should feel guilty that they were fooled by someone whose goal it was to fool others. But it got me wondering, with all the rush to make connections, obtain followers and build a social media platform that agents and publishers are insisting writers have, how do we determine if a connection on social media is ‘friend-worthy’? How can we avoid another situation like this?

We vet political candidates, employees, even babysitters. Maybe we need to start a vetting process for social media relationships.

The dictionary defines vetting as a process of examination and evaluation, generally referring to performing a background check on someone before offering employment, conferring an award, etc. In the journalism field news articles or stories may be vetted by fact-checkers, whose job it is to check the correctness of factual assertions made in news copy.

Do we need to become our own social media fact-checkers?

Here are some ideas on how to vet a potential social media writing relationship:

  1. Google their name.
  2. Check their Twitter account. Are there more than ‘buy my book’ posts? What is the image they project? Do they respond to others? Do they retweet other writers’ posts?
  3. Check their Facebook account. Is it a fan page or a personal page? Do their posts reflect the same ‘personality’ as their Twitter account and blog?
  4. Do they have a LinkedIn account? Do they have any recommendations?
  5. Do they have a blog? Read several posts on their blog, not just the latest but several from different time frames. Same personality and ‘flavor’? Do they respond to comments frequently? How do they respond to differing opinions? Do they rant or indulge in personal attacks?
  6. Based on what you know about them through their online profile, would you spend time with this person in real life, like at a workshop or conference? At lunch? Would you be interested in this person’s opinion on a piece of your writing? Would you trust their critique based on the writing skill reflected on their blog?
  7. If they offer any paid services, are there any references to type and quality? Google that, too.
  8. What do other community members whose opinion you trust have to say about this person? Any negative interactions?
  9. Interact with the person directly by commenting on a blog post or responding to a tweet. How do they respond?
  10. Finally what does your gut or intuition tell you about this person?

This seems like a lot of trouble to go through just to add another follower to your Facebook or Twitter account. Even after taking all these steps, there is still no way to truly surmise the ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ worthiness of someone. I’m reminded of a wisdom saying from an old book:

“Those who walk with the wise grow wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

You might be able to spot a fool right away in everyday life, but what about virtually? A fool might be able to hide in plain sight for quite a while. I believe people will eventually show their true selves. Most writing folks (especially the ones I have met online) are kind and compassionate and just offering and looking for support, but there are a few who are rude, unprofessional, have ulterior motives or are just plain crazy. That’s what the delete button is for. Will someone else’s foolishness reflect on you because you are connected to them on social media? Should it? What can we do about it? 

Healthy Writer Wednesday: Digital Sabbatical for Better Health

unplug and relax for a moment

I’m getting back in the routine of daily life after my wonderful trip to meet my grandson and do some book research. I wasn’t able to post here for my regular Friday and Monday schedule because of unreliable internet connections. No email, no blog, no Facebook and no Twitter. I felt a bit anxious about it the first day, but after that I decided there was nothing I could do about it, and discovered I felt a bit more relaxed not needing to check, read or post. It was an accidental digital sabbatical, but it helped me focus more on what I was doing and who I was spending time with. It was kind of nice.

I think I might schedule some purposeful down time from the digital world on a regular basis. In an article from the Aurora Sentinel, Marcelle Pick, author of Are You Tired And Wired? says:

“Because we’re always so plugged in, always on the computer late into the night, on our iPhones, our iPads, our BlackBerrys, we never relax …”

Read the entire article here.

Here are some more links about digital sabbaticals and the connection to better health:

Question: Have you taken a digital sabbatical? Could you do it? How do you do think it could benefit you?