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Remembering When I Felt Differently

Something occurred to me out of the blue today: during my last few months as editor of Interweave Crochet, as the company was beginning to focus more on the possibilities presented by online tools and social media, I wanted nothing to do with any of it in my work as editor. Crazy, hey?

As you might have noticed, the whole print publishing industry is struggling to make sense of online media in much the same way the yarn industry is struggling.

In my final months at IC, there was a lot more talk around the office about online stuff: blogs, forums, Twitter. And even though I had my own blog and still kept up a bit at the CrochetMe.com blog and I was on Twitter, I really bristled at being pressured to do more online stuff for the magazine. Even though I was certain we needed to be online more and better than we were.

That’s really very odd.

Why, as I sit here going on and on and on and on about how important online media are to businesses big and small, online and off-, was I so resistant to practice then what I preach now (even though I practiced it then, only on my own time)?

It could be that I don’t much like being told what to do. It could be that I’d been online for so long, relatively speaking, that I didn’t entirely agree with the approach that was being taken.

But mostly I think it might have been that I didn’t think I could do it right. Where “right” means as myself. With my voice. In my own time. Saying what I wanted to say. Where what I would have wanted to say was sometimes not so shiny-happy-positive, and where some of the positive things I would have said would have been about other companies and not mine.

My whole love affair with online media is in good part because of the spontaneity and honesty of it. To be a cog in a larger social media strategy just didn’t remotely turn me on. (To be clear: I was never asked to be a cog. I’m just super bristly.)

And so I’m left now to figure out how to amend the stuff I spout off about to accommodate this experience I’d forgotten. Here’s my first shot:

If you run a company, you should be online. You should have a blog where you engage with anyone who wants to chat with you. You should be on Twitter and you should use it very little for broadcasting and very much for sharing and conversing. Same with Facebook. And any other site. If you yourself aren’t going to be the person doing the online stuff, you should make sure the person you have do it has the following resources:

  1. Time. It takes time to write blog posts and to tweet. It doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time, but it takes some time. Give the person some time.
  2. Freedom. Pick someone you trust enough to represent your business and your brand that you can give them a very long leash to say what they need to say how they need to say it. If they mess up, let them clean it up. If they mess up horribly, find someone else to do it. But don’t do anything to prevent the spontaneity, fun and impromptu conversation that are integral parts of successful online media campaigns.
  3. Trust. See #2.
  4. Time from you. Things online move fast. In all likelihood – regardless of what kind of business you’re in – they move way faster than they do in the rest of your business. So when your person comes to you and says they need to deal with something, STAT, believe them. If they come to you because some convergence of thinking in your online community presents an opportunity for a big promo next week, see if you can make it happen. Try hard to make it happen.

Does any of this make sense? Or have I blathered myself into an atrocious contradiction?

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Vashtirama

YESSS. I feel ike I should flesh that out but, just YES.

Steve Hoefer

Yes, it makes sense. I'm a small company. Usually jsut a company of one (though I have fantastic helpers from time to time.) For as long as I've been on the 'net (Which has been way to long) I've asked question of how involved should I be on the Internet? Up until about a year ago my answer was “not at all”. At least not personally. I worked under my real name and I played under a series of pseudonyms. I had a plain business web site with as little personality as I could manage and I made sure if you Googled my business all you'd get would be my professional, characterless side. But about a year ago I started an informal blog just to give me a reason to be more creative, an excuse to make stuff, unconnected to my business. And the response has completely changed my existing (and deriding) opinions of personal involvement on the 'net. I came to realize that I am my business and that is our (me and my business's) biggest asset. Since then I've thrown open Facebook and Twitter (despite all the horrible things I've said about them) and people have responded well. Yes, it takes a little more time, but not only does 'my' community feel closer to me (and the loyalty that comes with it) but it lets me connect with them beyond the customer/client/vendor relationship, and for the most part they're really awesome people that I'm glad to connect with. It's been a real pleasant surprise. I never would have guessed. Especially Twitter which not only lets me hear customers speak their mind, but to thank them personally for it, and share the awesomeness of the people I follow. The freedom to do it, and do it with natural personality… Read more »

Jeremy

To plan for a Blues Clues Party, start out by finding some pre made cards of the Blues Clues characters. These should be readily available with most online party suppliers. Can’t find any and have good home printer? Then find some good graphics of your child’s favorite characters online. Or, look for some paper or cards that have some dog prints on them!

Jeremy

To plan for a Blues Clues Party, start out by finding some pre made cards of the Blues Clues characters. These should be readily available with most online party suppliers. Can’t find any and have good home printer? Then find some good graphics of your child’s favorite characters online. Or, look for some paper or cards that have some dog prints on them!

knitventures

Coming out of lurkdown to say that that I think the issue is whether it was “your” presence online or “IC's” presence online that you were trying to promote. I see companies on Facebook whose posts are more informational than editorial, and there's nothing wrong with that. That's different from the editor “speaking” to the audience. One's voice as a person is different from one's voice as an employee. They are only mutually exclusive if you let your “editorial” voice shade the information you are providing. Twitter is a little different. I think Ruth Reichl (ex-Gourmet editor) struck a good balance of promoting the brand as well as herself (her books, that is).

I don't think it's necessarily a contradiction, but it is ironic, and too bad for IC that they don't have your expertise. (Not meant as a slight to Marcy, whom I like.)

Steve Hoefer

Honestly it's exciting to me! I've been using the Internet for 20 years or so, and there has always been active interest in the business potential. But the old rules of business say that business owners should keep as much control as possible over the product/experience. (For example I know companies that have 300 page books+training camps to teach ad agencies how to use their logo.) So all anyone ever did was make a web site with no social aspect. But much of the success of social networks–if not the whole Internet–is about giving up control.

Old business thoughts go like this: “I want to control any discussions about my products–what if someone says something bad?” But of course people will be talking about your product anyway, so why not participate in it? Not only can you help shape it, but you'll create a track record of paying attention to your customers.

Businesses are coming around, and it's not too much hyperbole to say it will change the way businesses work. I picked up McGraw Hill as a Twitter follower today. If you had told me 2 years ago that I'd have businesses of that size chasing after me I would have laughed hard and long. And yet now…

Sorry.. I've gone off on a bit of a rant and gotten off topic a bit, but your post really helped me coalesce some recent thoughts that have been looking for a home. Thanks again!

boris

Great post, Kim. I know that I feel jaded by many online interactions by the time they hit mainstream / small business. In many ways, that initial spark of fun goes into automation and pressing marketing buttons.

Being social, yes, and the best ones show true personality of the people involved in a way that reflects well on the people and the business. BUT…

…it's all about conversion.

Steve Hoefer

Honestly it's exciting to me! I've been using the Internet for 20 years or so, and there has always been active interest in the business potential. But the old rules of business say that business owners should keep as much control as possible over the product/experience. (For example I know companies that have 300 page books+training camps to teach ad agencies how to use their logo.) So all anyone ever did was make a web site with no social aspect. But much of the success of social networks–if not the whole Internet–is about giving up control.

Old business thoughts go like this: “I want to control any discussions about my products–what if someone says something bad?” But of course people will be talking about your product anyway, so why not participate in it? Not only can you help shape it, but you'll create a track record of paying attention to your customers.

Businesses are coming around, and it's not too much hyperbole to say it will change the way businesses work. I picked up McGraw Hill as a Twitter follower today. If you had told me 2 years ago that I'd have businesses of that size chasing after me I would have laughed hard and long. And yet now…

Sorry.. I've gone off on a bit of a rant and gotten off topic a bit, but your post really helped me coalesce some recent thoughts that have been looking for a home. Thanks again!

boris

Great post, Kim. I know that I feel jaded by many online interactions by the time they hit mainstream / small business. In many ways, that initial spark of fun goes into automation and pressing marketing buttons.

Being social, yes, and the best ones show true personality of the people involved in a way that reflects well on the people and the business. BUT…

…it's all about conversion.

KM

I definitely relate to this. My friend & I own a franchise in a business, and we were interacting somewhat on Facebook & Twitter, getting some reactions as we opened. Not a lot, but some. Then corporate hired someone to instruct us in social networking, and a schedule was sent out, with instructions on which networks to work on each day.

It became unfun, unspontaneous, and to be honest, I stopped doing it. Which is the exact opposite of what was intended.

But I don't want to post something on Twitter just because it's Tuesday, I post when I have something relevant to say. I am not seeking quantity of posts, and I think people can tell who's out there to promote themselves, as opposed to people who are out there reaching out with something genuine to say.

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