I liked you better when….

When a person begins a sentence with this line, you know what comes next won’t be pretty. And when it’s from your sister, it’s gonna be downright ugly.

In this case, my sister, the vaunt-of-all-that-is-blunt in my life, tells me this: “I liked you better when you were a blogger, not an author.”

To get this statement in all its humor, the context must be explained. When I was toying around with fiction, I was blogging daily. Sometimes 2-3 times a day. Like many would-be authors, I hid my fear of failure behind the illusion that blogging would make me a better author, dutifully scoffing at all authors, agents and publishers who said this statement as fact. (I later wrote an entire chapter about what stops prospective authors). During this time, my sister, and a whole lotta strangers, had a peek into my life, my personality, warts and all. She loved it and public adored it based on the number of visitors.

Reality, (and change) hit when I saw I’d written over 600 blogs but not completed a single work of fiction. I changed overnight, and my sis (and blog readers) were none too happy about it. The books kept coming, the blog became obsolete, and even my periodic spurts back into blogging are weak. This last year, my final blog was in May, but I completed three additional books. That is what concentration and focus does for an author.

“But you were more fun when you blogged!” she wailed to me just this morning. “People don’t see movies because the movie is that great. It’s because they like the person.” (in a flash, Jet Li came to mind, and I thought–yeah, I like him, his movies are hit and miss, but something about that guy just makes me want to see him).

I do a visual backflip and try to pay attention to what she’s saying. “You’re suggesting people will read my books because they like me?” I ask, but she ignores me.

“Instead of giving away a signed book,” she answers, talking over my last words. “Give away a Valentine’s gift like a mug you use to drink your hot chocolate, filled with the recipe and the ingredients. That’s sooo much more interesting.” Hmm. That might give me the excuse to make more hot chocolate. I’m on board. She then proceeds to give me points on how to improve my just-released newsletter (it’s not even 24 hours old). “Giveaway a print book, sure,” (she barely hides her bored sigh), “but then every month, surprise the newsletter group with something about yourself.” She proceeds to list off a marketing-professionals oft-recited list of monthly holidays…Mother’s Day, Easter, Cinco de Mayo (does that count?), Memorial Day, 4th of July….before you know it, she’s planned out my entire give away schedule…

I relent. She’s probably right. Rabid readers know my publishing schedule better than I do (and I heard about this on Instagram). So sure, I can come up with interesting things that are a part of my life, as she says. Fresh eggs (oooo, sexy), motorcycle gear (hmmm, guys would like that)…French perfume (okay, that’s better)…

“And another thing…” here it comes. “Publish a schedule of what they can expect when.” Now that does resonate. If you’ve read this far, you are dedicated, and yes, are one of those who knows my schedule, and should mentally thank my sister for her suggestions.

Here’s what newsletter recipients can expect:

  • No more than two emails from me a month (unless you are a lucky winner of something)
  • One email is the monthly newsletter, announcing the book giveaway for that month, and any other invites (such as advance copies of a forthcoming book)
  • Second email (mid-month) announces the winner and also a special something (I’ve already forgotten the marketing word she used. rest assured it will be something unique and must pass “the sister test,” first). God love sisters.

After all the advice, she came back around to the topic of why she liked me better, ending on a positive note.

“You know the best part of your newsletter? It wasn’t the new books, blah blah, it was the last section on self-reliance and preparing the home! It was like you were your old-blogger self. That was great! You’re a Dave Ramsey-light. That’s what I mean by your former blogger self. Put that stuff in the front and not the end.”

I made no such promise to her, but I did commit to a) attempting to find some balance in my blogging life and b) if I can’t do that with any consistency, then at least inject myself into my outward communications a bit more (aren’t my snaps of moose and dance songs enough??).

You, and she, will tell me if I’m succeeding.

To subscribe to my newsletter, you will find the link at the bottom of my home page.

The glories of a video post

Nausea. Sweaty tension. That’s what the notion of creating 60 seconds worth of video for an on-line post does to me. Talking to 1,500 people? No problem. A room full of hardened executives? I got that. Me, in a car/train/dining room with a little video recorder? Heart-palpitating anxiety-ridden nearly comatose individual.

This isn’t a forum to work out my personal insecurities, tho it might do me some good. Let’s just skip right to the solution, because I tend to be a solutions-oriented gal. Within a week, I had three people in different corners of my life say the same thing.

  1. I need to “connect with people,” and the on-line, static means (FB, Instagram pics, this website) doesn’t do it and never will
  2. I need to show people my personality, voice and idiosyncrasies (e.g. realize that I’m human, see point #1)
  3. I need to share more wisdom and insight than I’ve been doing, not just a travelogue that ties back to my books

None offered up suggestions as to how I was going to overcome my irrational fears that followers would drop off like flies, further compounding my insecurities. I’m no Kardashian with legions of stylists around me. I’m essentially a working mom who is fortunate enough to continue providing business acumen to companies and writing while the kids are in school.

Still, I’ve spent my adult life telling others to hire the best counsel and then listen. So while these three weren’t hired (expensive friends aren’t in my budget) I had no choice but to follow their advice.

Here’s what happened. I asked for thoughts on topic, format and approach. I made an objective (on Monday I will start). I washed my hair (or did I? I don’t recall now), but what I did do was show my husband the first video. He vomited on it.

“You’re boring. Not smiling. Where’s the “real you?” he wanted to know. Hiding. That’s where. You see, I feel safe behind the non-smiling business face. It’s serious, which is what a business person is–unless with peers behind closed doors.

“Lose the business person. Be yourself. The one you are behind closed doors.”

Round two. I start laughing in the middle, because I can’t believe I’m doing it at all.

“Much better. Post it before you overthink about it.”

Now, what’s crazy is this: the video received over 150 views in less than 15 minutes. Do you know how long it takes any of my posts to receive that many likes? A few days. (No Selena Gomez am I).

Fast forward @2 weeks. My average video receives this many views in about this time. They are limited to 1 minute, and I think to myself that it’s easier to spend a minute watching than it is to read for 10 seconds.

Another thing. I’m always in my car. Why? It’s my quiet time. No conference calls scheduled, no dedicated writing time. No children, dogs, chickens…you get the idea. I may kill a moose while I drive in the snow, but hey, it will be recorded for posterity.

Lastly, the ties to my book sales in immediate and impactful. This follows on my last blog posting. After 5 video posts, I can legitimately say my book sales have gone up 40% over all, and compared to a static post, the numbers are 7x greater.

Does topic matter?

Not that I can tell. I’d like to say I have a marketing Jedi behind me, coaching me on what to say, but it’s not true (and I have this small thing about honesty. It’s important). I do keep a running list on my iPhone about key mantras, subjects and attitudes I have regarding success and life. Some of those things are in my business books–past and future–the short antedotes I can squish into 60 seconds, which isn’t easy.

I will say this: “active” videos aren’t as interesting to people. My skiing clip for example. Rog was convinced this would be cool–not so much. Viewers–at least those that follow me–seem to prefer words.

Connecting is cool.

With the objective of ‘connecting,’ out there, I wasn’t convinced it was going to happen. After this short amount of time, I can attest it’s occurring. The number of comments, along with the depth and level of emotion is incomparable to a static pic. It’s fulfilling, enjoyable and rewarding on a very personal level. To others who read the comments made–I suspect it’s also enlightening. The adage is proving true…when you share details, others will reciprocate. That’s a two-way connection that can’t be faked.

So am I still nervous? Yes. Do I take more than one video for each posting? Yes. On average 6. I talk a lot and always go over. Do I use a filter? Sometimes. Since I consider my posts more guerilla style than poised and professional, it works for me. I like the down and dirty, real life postings. Plus, I don’t have the time in my life to pretend like it’s my source of income–it’s free, to me and the viewer, which is probably the best part.

Instagram, Facebook & the conundrum of social media

The wide world of all things electronic is distracting, wonderful, irritating, fun, stressful and pays dividends. I guess that means it’s like most things in my life, family and hobbies included. My experience over the last ten years with the various incantations of apps has been largely disappointing, because I want results. In other words, if I want to talk to you (and you me) the phone is the best way to go. Deals don’t happen by text. Negotiations are done real-time, email employed when confirming what’s been agreed upon is necessary.

My data points are similar to other individuals who are continually trying to figure it out when to use what, and why:

Facebook:

Personally, I have an account, but probably wouldn’t unless it weren’t required for my business account. Again, I like talking more than sharing. Opinions, with the associated volatility of emotions seriously stressed me out. I can’t write fiction when I’m in that state of mind, and I certainly don’t have time to be surfing when I’m doing business.

Business…I do have an author account, but it’s largely ignored. That said, I found it was FB was very beneficial in doing one thing: driving traffic to my blog. What I did:

  1. wrote the blog
  2. linked the header and wrote a short note in the FB posting, along with an image
  3. the viewership/hit rates and time spent on my website skyrockets when I do that…and so I started employing this strategy around book launches, events, competitions, give-away’s and other business-related activities.

The only downside is when I fell off writing my blog (because I was actually writing or working on the business side) then the traffic to my FB page dropped dramatically.

Net: FB (for authors/businesses) can be very helpful if employed the right way.

Instagram

Let me count the ways I used to love this app before it was purchased by FB. The primary reason I loved it (I’ll list the reason’s I still like it in a moment).

  1. I could control the timing of my content. what I posted was done at that moment
  2. the culture of IG is nicer, more interested in the images than opinions
  3. the focus is global, vs FB which tends by its nature to be more demographically US

Unfortunately, FB has ruined a few features…now they are offering up random postings at random times (which is beyond annoying). As a biz person and author, the last thing I want to do is annoy my followers with too many posts. Well, thanks FB. Now they annoy my followers for me…their algorithms just offer up whatever, whenever. It’s horrid.

That said, until something better comes along, I’ll keep using it. Here’s why.

  1. my book sales have a direct connection to certain posts. Seriously. It’s been about 2 yrs, and I post, on average, once a day, but at times, I’ve gone for 2 weeks without a post. In that time, I have been able to determine what images/text a) increase traffic to my site, b) increase ebook reading, c) invigorate print book purchases and more
  2. my holistic approach to how I market “my business,” which is multi-faceted, is completed by my website, Instagram and facebook
  3. Instagram seems to reach a completely different audience than FB. I could go into detail on this (and may do at another time) but suffice it to say that whereas I can track direct postings and sales from IG, I have no clue on FB. Even when I advertised on FB, I saw very little (as in, negligible) sales connections.
  4. Video on Instagram essentially increased my followers (and hence, book sales, event attendance) 30%. Seriously. I just recently started doing videos (I was scared. yes. I get scared), and it’s been dramatic.
  5. The ability to connect with people on an individual basis is really great. It’s nearly impossible to do with other apps of a similar nature, and I truly love seeing and hearing from ppl of all walks of life, all cultures and countries–and we are bound by common interests from inception.

Twitter…sigh. I abhor what I see on Twitter, and for that reason, only joined it about 2 weeks ago. I posted a bunch in a few days, realized it just wasn’t for me, and stopped. I’m not a politico, comedian, or other major personality that has the acumen or desire to engage in that world. Further, the demographic of the people on twitter doesn’t seem to connect with the folks I’m trying to reach.

If I had to make one observation about Twitter is that the people who responded to my (few) tweets were mostly international, which wasn’t surprising. My captions were of places I visited and used in my recent novels.

So this is a snapshot of what I’ve experienced. I’ll continue to explore and track other apps as the come about, but for now, I’m still a big fan of Instagram.

 

 

Titles versus results – IOW- How to improve hits & sales

I’m always wanting to give my posts exaggerated, catchy titles, but author 101 dictates otherwise. The reason? Google and searching questions. “Spooktastic Treats” don’t get as many hits as “Wasy and impressive Halloween treats.”

This is not War and Peace, I know. But if you are writing a blog for the purpose of getting advertising revenue, or a book to receive a royalty check, it all starts with hits, then clicks, then views, then a purchase. But even general markets pushing a product–be it a software application, game or new brand of earphone, want to get to their target consumer.

For marketing junkie such as myself (that means 20 yrs of learning how to get people to buy), I struggle with my own desire to use a fun, catchy title, versus the reality that when in a rush, a person looking for the answer to a specific question will most likely type in that question, not the cool, marketing version of the exact same question.

Tip for bloggers:
1. Have a catchy title, but then the real-world sub-title that people will search
2. Make sure you embed high-impact (e.g. often searched) categories, products or phrases that will give you a higher hit count
3. embed the google AdSense or other advertising revenue generating form into your system. I personally stopped using that when I moved to WordPress because a) I found I was spending too much time on linking rather than writing and b) I don’t use a blog as revenue-generating mechanism. it’s my own personal therapy tool (for my personal side) and information dissemination center (for general business and writing topics).

Tips for authors/or business owners who are pushing a product:
1. same as above BUT try and categorize by topics and put the primary topic somewhere in the title, and multiple times in the body
2. link to and from other topics on the add value, not just sell the product. so irritating when its all about you and not the information at hand

time your promotions to fit your target demographic

time your promotions to fit your target demographic

For both, the final tip is Review and Assess. See what’s working and what’s not. Most apps have statistical data that shows what pages are being viewed and the time spent on each. Jupiter Communications puts out great info (that’s free) on the best pages, and times for posting. Specifically:

  • Posts get looked at the most on Wednesday at 12 pm PST (3 pm EST) and Friday at the same times–for the business crowd. why? Because east-coasters (in the US) are lolly-gagging around, killing time after 3, and west-coasters tend to stay put at their desks for lunch. Thus, if you are launching something that appeals to this category (workers at desks) post during this timeframe. I have technology clients- software companies, but also card-making companies that launch promotions during this time to great results.
  • Posts for the general consumer (either not working or off hours) are Sunday nights after 7 pm. why? The football games are over, the movies and soccer games done. People are finished with dinner, relaxing and not always by the television. The laptops are on the actual laps, in front of the tv!

 

The new four letter words

It’s a Monday. That means lots of calls w/vendors, clients, friends, relatives. Some good, some tiresome. Some loud. Others obnoxious. The last part only became so when the person I was talking to kept repeating the same words, overandoverandover, to the point I wondered if the individual actually had more than five words in (his/her) vocabulary (we must keep this anonymous)…

Seriously. Really. Right? and the mother of all phrases, are you kidding me?

At one time, these words were used in the context of happy and light, excitement and genuine need-to-know-interest. I’m finding that more often than not, each one is said sarcastically, rhetorically, many times when nothing should be said at all. The worst offense is right.

Right?

Know those people who say something, and immediately follow-it up with “right?” It’s the amateur’s way of eeking out an agreement from the listener, except the speaker using the word keeps talking right on through/over/under, the potential responder. Even well-spoken, multi-degreed CEO’s fall into the trap of using this one word to gain a confirmation that what has been said is in fact, accurate. Sadly, there is rarely the pause following this word that actually would give the desired affirmation.

Remember the good old days, when it was only the F-word that had the kind of flexibility embodied by these impersonators? It was intentionally used in place of a coma, a space, of course, an exclamation point.

This whole-bad-Engligh, bad/irritating grammar has got to stop. The next time someone says “Really?” and they aren’t being genuine, you could say, ‘Seriously‘ right back. They’ll respond by saying ‘Are you kidding me?’ and you can end this enlightening conversation with a ‘Right‘!

A hint…

Other options with 6 words or less meant to gain an affirmation include:

  1. Are we on the right track?
  2. Are we aligned on this?
  3. Does that make sense?
  4. Sound good?
  5. How does that sound?
  6. Fair enough?

If you actually want to move the conversation forward, go the extra mile and provide a statement.

“Now that we are on the same page, let’s discuss the details…” It elevates the level of discussion, it’s focused and strong. The way a leader should be.