The more time on spend writing and posting on the web, the more I come to realize what I have to say is one voice in a symphony of millions.  I’m ok with that relative obscurity. I’ve found many opportunities to express myself online and am fortunate to have met so many interesting people along the way.  I know I’m not alone.  There are thousands of bloggers  having thousands of conversations every day.

Over the past year, I’ve been thinking about where I want to have those conversations, where I want to join in a community and keeping it all real. What part of my voice should SPEAK UP and be heard? Do I continue to write here about social media, arts administration and marketing? Do I go gangbusters on my newest blog – Sing of Happy?  Do I write for other blogs like the Coastal Sound Music tour blog and the Reinventing M Network? Do I rejenvate the website where I firsted “blogged” with hardcoded HTML photo sharing back in 1998? Do I start over and finally put AngelaCrocker.com into action?  Its very likely I’ll do some of the above but to tell you the truth, I’m undecided. 

Quite by accident, I stumbled across the Parent Bloggers Unite (#PBUYVR) meetup that’s happening Friday evening at 6Pack Beach in Richmond.   Many of my favourite writers will be there – Rebecca Coleman, Meghan Simington and Kerry Sauriol among others as well as some new-to-me bloggers I’m looking forward to meeting. [Shout out to Eschelle Westwood and Raj Thandhi.] 

I feel good about my decision to go to this meetup and I’m looking forward to some new perspectives on blogging and taking another step on the journey to find my own voice…again.

Noted technology journalist Steve Dotto put social media to good use recently when he reached out to connect with me on LinkedIn. Just two short weeks later, I was a guest on his program – Dotto Tech. Have a listen as we talk about everything from LARPing to Pinterest and my take on social media privacy – the 3P Spectrum: Private, Personal & Professional.

Thanks for a great chat, Steve!

Tagged with:
 

Today was my first day as Executive Director of Coastal Sound Music. Good timing, great networking and a little bit of luck secured this contract and it provides me with the opportunity to once again work deeply with an arts organization. If you love choral music, I hope you’ll connect with us on Facebook and YouTube.

I am fortunate that my new appointment gives me the flexibility to continue my research, writing, teaching and consulting in social media. I’m still keenly interested in the changing ways we build online communities and I look forward to sharing that knowledge with my students at Douglas College, Simon Fraser University and Ridge Meadows College. I’ll also continue to work with a handful of private clients one-on-one and I look forward to celebrating their success.

There will be some changes around Beachcomber Communications. My plan is to simplify and consolidate my own efforts. I’ll keep you posted if I decided to do anything radical!

For me, the crux of social media has always been the people and the community they create. My new position at Coastal Sound Music is an amazing opportunity for me to contribute to something I believe in and enjoy. Singing in a group creates an instant community. I’ve been part of the organization as a singer, a volunteer and contractor for many years and I’m excited to start my leadership role today.

If you have a few minutes to spare, I invite you to watch the Coastal Sound Music Adult Choir singing A Blessing. This traditional song has a lovely message to start the New Year. (And , yes, that’s me in the back row on the right far right.)

What  a treat to be invited to speak at WordCamp Victoria.  January 14th, 2012 will be my first WordCamp and I’m looking forward to geeking out with fellow WordPress enthusiasts at the University of Victoria. My pals Chris Burdge, Paul Holmes, Catherine Novak, Janis La Couvée, Raul Pacheco and George Plumley will be there along with a dozen other awesome experts. Will you be joining us?

My topic: Take Your BuddyPress Community from Blah to TA-DAH!
(Sorry about the rhyme. I’m trying to wean my alliteration habit and it’s manifesting as rhymes these days.)

Level: Intermediate

Description: Creating your own online community requires more effort than simply installing the BuddyPress plug-in. In this session, I will share six strategies to nurture a vibrant BuddyPress community from my book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Social Network. From sparking great conversations to taking thing off-line, I’ll show you how to take your BuddyPress community from blah to TA-DAH using examples from successfully established communities.

I’m always looking for existing BuddyPress communities to showcase in my teaching. Feel free to invite me to visit your community in the comments.

f8, Facebook’s annual Developer Conference, took place today and I spent the morning listening to the keynotes on the livestream.  Lots more change is coming to Facebook. (Don’t panic!)  I’m excited about what I’ve seen so far and the potential for users to have a more engaging experience. Let me walk you through what I learned:

Facebook is going to shift its focus from getting people signed up to getting them better connected with one another. As Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Social networks are a ubiquitous tool used by billions of people. These networks are here to stay.” Now that the connections are in place, the next few years are going to be about enhancing the ways we can interact and engage online and developing the apps that make it possible to share more easily.

For me, the groundbreaking change is the complete revamp of the profile and the launch of Timeline, a tool that allows you and your friends to explore not just what you shared today but your past activity on Facebook as well. For users like me with years worth of data on Facebook it’ll be a wonderful trip down memory lane to be able to see our lives in review at the click of a mouse.  Again quoting Mark Zuckerberg “Millions of people have spent years curating the stories of their lives and there’s no real way to share them.” Timeline will change that for the better. (And maybe for the worse … I wonder what content I shared when I first started on Facebook in 2006 or 2007 – I was a sleep deprived new Mum at the time!)

Timeline is all of your status updates, photos and videos you’ve shared and other activity that expresses who you are. Most users won’t want to show just what’s recent  nor do they want to share every little thing so Timeline is designed to summarize your activity for you with more compressed highlights the further back in time you go. At a glance your Timeline will tell the whole story of your Facebook life not just what interested you today.  It’s a reverse chronological representation of you, as the Wall has been, but enhanced with rich media for a more aesthetic experience.

Users will be able to navigate each Timeline using a simple system of dots. Blue dots are highlighted events that appear on the new profile page while grey dots are for less important things.  Click on any date to go back in time.  It seems like an intuitive way to time travel – pick an event you want to revisit or select a date at random. You’ll also be able to filter what type of content you see – focusing on just photos or just a map view of places you’ve been.

Perhaps best of all, we’ll now be able to add to our life story by filling in content from the past - baby pictures, school events, weddings, parties – anything that happened before your life on Facebook or is missing from your years of sharing can be added to your Timeline.  The scrapbooker in me is very excited about the potential of this tool not only to tell my story but to make family history available as well in an interactive, shareable format.

Beyond Timeline, Facebook also announced their commitment to working with developers to create apps that will help us share on Facebook. Users can decide what they share from cooking apps, running apps, etc.  And these apps will be designed with the tools to share your activity on your timeline without cluttering up the Newsfeed with a detailed account of every dinner you cooked this month.

Depending on users interests we’ll all be able to add app boxes to our profile page that allows us to share what’s most important to you.

 

As part of these developments, users will now be able to get a summary report of specific kinds of activity each week, month or year.  For example, runners could get a tally of their total kilometres run with a map that shows where they ran to in a given month. Great for training and, I’d guess, motivating.

Getting apps into your Timeline will be a simple matter. As you discover apps of interest anywhere in Facebook, you simply click to add the app to your timeline, give it permission to interact with your profile and it’s there.  It’s a one time process that seems sleek and efficient. There’s no longer a need to approve every little update.  “App discovery” will largely happen in a viral way as you see friends using apps that also interest you.

Another big change is a simple one – the Cover Photo. This is a big photo that appears across the top of your profile in addition to your profile picture. At a glance, people can learn a lot about you from that single image. You can change it at any time by hovering over the Cover Photo to upload a new one or remove it altogether.

Facebook has also emphasized that users “have complete control over everything on your timeline.” As you’ve probably already seen, you can change the privacy inline – selecting Friends or Public on a post-by-post basis. More control over your Timeline, how you can show it and who sees it will be very useful for power users.

Next up is a change to the Open Graph that allows you to “connect to anything you want in any way you want”. We won’t be “liking” everything anymore. Instead we can “read” a book, “hike” a mountain or “watch” a movie.

This sudden explosion of verbs on Facebook will be especially useful on the Ticker (the short, real time updates most users are already seeing in the top right hand corner of their screen). Ticker is “a lightweight stream that shows the activity” of your connections. Once you’ve defined an action and published it that “lightweight activity” appears in the Ticker and on your Timeline but not in the Newsfeed. That’s an attractive offering so as to save the Newsfeed for more interesting status updates. All of this app information on your Timeline might be too much but Facebook acknowledges that “some activity is more interesting than others” so the artificial intelligence, called GraphRank, is designed to create a personalized view that highlights rare activities like creating a playlist or a pattern of activity such as a group of friends listening to the same song at the same time.

The news conference went on to talk about apps and how we have a plethora of Communication and Game apps available to us right now but with these changes to Facebook two new groups of apps are going to come to the fore – Media and Lifestyle. Media apps will allow us to share music and videos within Facebook while the lifestyle apps will cover masses of topics from running to fashion to sleeping to eating and much more.  Facebook is looking to create “frictionless experiences” so that the apps  no longer have annoying pop up windows to authorize a “share” or “publish” for every little bit of content. Instead, users will authorize the app one time (as I mentioned above) and then the app will publish anything you do in the app on your timeline.

While I especially like the potential of the media apps to discover new things to listen to and watch,  this Canadian is concerned that the digital rights management code will be a frequent barrier to participation. So many of the streaming sights are not available in Canada – take Hulu, for example. Will users outside the United States be perpetually frustrated by content they can’t see? Very likely. But I’m hopeful these Facebook changes may be a catalyst to see change in how these intellectual property protections are applied.

So, when do we get access to all the Facebook goodies? It’s going to require a bit of patience and some good luck. Some features like the inline privacy and Ticker have already been rolled out to most users. We’ll have to wait for Timeline – it will roll out in Beta starting today for Developers and selected test users. The rest of us should expect to see it within the next two months or so.

So, what do you think about all these changes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged with:
 

Can you take a break from social media? I’ve been offline much of the last month. Instead of doing social I’ve been out and about being social. I didn’t plan it that way, it’s just what happened. And it’s been grand.

I kept up with my offline work obligations – teaching assignments, coaching sessions and speaking engagements but I didn’t do all the extra odds and ends that fill my business days most of the time. I’m not saying I’ve unplugged completely. I’m not sure I could do that – even the campground I went to had (admittedly sketchy) free wi-fi. My Facebook Profile (which I keep private to friends and family) has been up to date and I’ve been reading many new blogs. But every action, or rather, in this case, inaction, has consequences.

So, let’s tally it up:

  • My Klout score is down.
  • My Facebook Insights have flatlined.
  • I haven’t blogged. And comments? What are those again?
  • My newsletter hasn’t gone out.
  • My status updates look woefully neglected.

Yet, I did accomplish a great deal:

  • I went RV camping.
  • I plotted an impending bathroom reno.
  • I read a dozen magazines and finished two novels.
  • I saw The Smurfs movie and watched all 4 seasons of The Big Bang Theory.
  • I played with my son and marveled at how he’s grown.
  • I talked to my best friends with audible words not clicks.
  • I walked by the river, along the beach and through the forest.
  • And, best of all, I spent time with my husband doing nothing at all.

None of the offline stuff has anything to do with my work but I’m a more relaxed, tanned and content person now. Won’t those things make me a better researcher, writer and teacher?

So, while my social media scores are down, I don’t really think it matters. Over the next few weeks I expect they’ll rise again. And if they don’t, perhaps I was part of the wrong conversations and need to find some new ones.

Now, I’m curious, would you take a social media vacation?

Tagged with:
 

Ever heard of podcasting and wondered what the heck it’s all about?

Podcasting is your opportunity to broadcast content through your blog or a social network. Podcasts can be audio only or done on video. Think of it as your own private radio station or television network where you decided what’s “On the Air.”

Bob Garlick and Kim Plumley outside the Garlick and Plum Jam Podcast Tent at Social Media Camp
with guest Sean Moffitt (centre).

If you love to talk with people, then podcasting is a great way to get your message out there. Podcasts can be a single person on mic or on camera sharing what they know. But even better is when two or more people come together to record a conversation. The energy, playfulness and interaction between podcasters can really liven up a conversation. If you’re new to podcasting, check out Kim Plumley and Bob Garlick over at Garlick and Plum Jam - they know how to have fun with their guests and weave in lots of great advice about marketing and social media.

If you want to jump into podcasting, you can start with the tools in your computer already – the built in mic, the built in camera. But if you want to produce something a bit higher quality then you’ll need some equipment beyond your computer.

  • Buy the best quality headsets you can afford. Sennheiser and Plantronics are among the best brands for sound quality. The set I use is from Sennheiser and it cost me about $100.
  • A portable, pocket size video camera that you can take with you anywhere is great way to start video blogging. I use Kodak’s Zi8 (last year’s model) and look forward to upgrading to a Kodak Playtouch soon. I know other folks, including the fabulous video podcaster Rebecca Coleman, prefer the Flip camera. All of these are available for somewhere between $100 and $200. The key is to get a camera that records in HD, offers good sound quality and plugs into a USB port for easy connectivity.
  • A handheld, unidirectional microphone is also helpful. You see me using one in the photo below where I’m interviewing author Jack Whyte. Moving the mic back and forth captures better sound than the video camera’s onboard microphone. This is especially important when there’s lots of background noise. Again, you’re looking at another $100 investment but it’s worth it.

  • Software is also important and I use two free tools – Audacity to record and Levelator to balance sound levels. Have a look at the software already on your computer and see what works for you.

Of course, these tools are not the high end. If you want to you buy a level board, mic booms, spit catchers, lighting, directors chairs, a pop-up backdrop and even book time in a professional recording studio by all means open your wallet. How much you invest has to do with how complicated you want to make your podcast recording process and where your brand sits on the “polished to guerilla spectrum”.

My pal, Peggy Richardson, has taught me much of what I know about podcasting and I subscribe to Peggy’s philosophy that sound quality matters (a lot!) but sometimes you have to capture whatever you can in the moment. So, if I was lucky enough to meet Hugh Jackman on a busy street, I’d gladly record an interview (if he was willing) and compromise sound quality in favour of the unique interview opportunity. The quality you choose to publish is entirely up to you.

One quick word of caution before we wrap up this issue. Recording is easy. So easy, in fact, that you can record lots and lots and lots of content. However, it takes time to upload and edit the content and still more time to create the blog post and share the podcast through Facebook, Twitter, etc. I want to encourage you to give it a try but maybe go slow while you figure out what podcasting set-up works for you.

You can customize the link people use to get to your Facebook page or profile. It’s called a vanity URL which is a custom link that takes people directly to you on Facebook. This makes it much easier to communicate your Facebook presence in other materials both online and offline.

When you first set up your Facebook presence, you’ll get an URL that looks something like this:

 

Just in case it’s hard to read, here’s the long link to reach Booth Bullies on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Booth-Bullies-Entertainment/127454587324489

You can share that but it’s a long, messy URL that can be easily messed up when people copy and paste it. It’s also pretty much impossible to typeset and no one will remember if you promote it on a business card, banners, flyers or other print materials.

By setting the vanity URL, you’ll get something like:

My vanity URL reads, http://www.facebook.com/BeachcomberCommunications.

In fact, Facebook recently bought fb.com so I could put www.fb.com/BeachcomberCommunications on my materials to make it even shorter. Either way, its much easier to typeset and much easier to remember the custom version.

To set your vanity URL, check to see if you have 25 fans (the minimum required to get a vanity URL) and then go to www.facebook.com/Username. Be cautious as you can set the username for both your Profile and any Pages you administer from this page.


 

As you can see, my profile vanity URL was set as www.facebook.com/CrockerAngela. Once an URL is set, it can’t be changed so pick it wisely. All the pages you administer will appear in the drop down menu and you can select the page you want to name. If you only have one page, that’s all that will appear in the menu.

Before setting the URL, Facebook will check to make sure it’s available. If it’s not, you’ll need to try another option – that’s how I ended up with “CrockerAngela”. Facebook will ask you to confirm and reconfirm before setting your vanity URL forever. Please check your spelling and spacing carefully!

While the vanity URL is set forever, you can change the name of your page while you have less than 100 “likes”. That’s how I changed the name of my page from “Beachcomber Communications” to “Beachcomber Communications with Angela Crocker”.  You can do this from the Basic Information tab when you “edit page”.

With over 100 million professionals on LinkedIn and a new member joining every second (yes – every second!), LinkedIn is a valuable social network for both professionals and businesses. Last week I sat in on Social Media Success Summit webinar called “How to Use LinkedIn to Enhance and Grow Your Business” by Mario Sundar, LinkedIn’s in-house social media guy.

In his presentation, Mario shared some tips on the key things you must do to represent your professional identity and emphasized the importance of focusing on relationships, after all it’s a social networking community.

Take a moment to log-in to your LinkedIn account and then keep reading. Have you done these things?

  1. Include a photo that’s recognizable as you.
  2. Make your connections public (not private) so people can find you.
  3. Update your specialties regularly. What’s true about you today may not be the same as when you signed up for LinkedIn.
  4. Mario also recommended syncing your Twitter, blog and Slideshare accounts to share your expertise widely. (However, I firmly believe you should NOT autofeed your tweets to your LinkedIn status update. It’s ok to share your Twitter link just not every tweet, please.)

To manage your relationships on LinkedIn and offline as well, take some time to do the following:

  1. Synchronize your real world connections to LinkedIn. If your computer is a PC and you use Outlook look for the Outlook plug-in that lets you sync your LinkedIn contacts with your address book.
  2. Use your LinkedIn address book as your relationships in-box. Whenever you can note news and updates from your contacts and comment or connect as appropriate.
  3. Transfer business cards via Card Munch, a card reading app that translates a photo of a business card into a digital contact file. (I discovered this app a couple of weeks ago and I LOVE it! Super easy to use, pretty accurate and zippity do da fast.)
  4. Organize your contacts and add notes to categorize them. Help jog your own memory so you know when you met people and why you want to stay in touch.

One last tip, update LinkedIn profile constantly. Share new information, comment in a group, post a link – whatever you’ve got going on that’s relevant to your community should be shared on LinkedIn. Every time you make a change you’ll show up in the newsfeed of your connections.

Tagged with:
 

Have you ever been to a Tweetup?

As you’ve probably discovered by now, Twitter is full of “tw” lingo – tweets, tweeps, twitterverse, Twitpic, & so on. Tweetup is one of my favourites because it’s a chance to connect offline. A tweetup is simply a gathering of Twitter users in the real world as opposed to a tweetchat which is a gathering of Twitter users online.

The name is a mash up between Twitter.com and Meetup.com, a site used to organize events. Tweetups are organized on Twitter when someone announces a time, place and topic. For many tweetups, you simply show up while others have a more formal registration process through Meetup, Eventbrite, or some other online registration system.

The Nanaimo Family Literacy Day Tweetup brought book lovers & readers together.

Photo Credit: WendyD.ca

Most tweetups are open to anyone who wants to come. If you see a tweetup announced that interests you then plan to attend. Sometimes the organizer will ask you to RSVP to ensure enough food, etc. but often it’s a cash bar or BYOC (buy your own coffee) arrangement. Keep an eye out for any registration links as some tweetup organizers charge admission (usually a modest amount) to cover the costs.

Tweetups are a great way to meet people in your community who share your interests. Before the event start following the tweetup’s hashtag so you can get acquainted with others who will be attending. You’ll discover some new people to follow and may get a few new followers yourself.

Once you’re at the event be sure to live tweet some of your experience. But don’t spend all your time tweeting, after all you’re there to interact with people not their avatars.

After the event, pop back on to Twitter and have another look at the hashtag. Follow any folks you got to talk to and retweet any gems from the tweet stream. And be sure to @mention folks you met to continue the conversation.