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November 2010

Just Because You Can Tweet Something Doesn’t Mean You Should

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While I love Facebook, LinkedIn, social bookmarking sites, and all others forms of new media, my personal poison of choice is Twitter. I use my Twitter account for both business and personal tweeting, which I actually prefer in most cases, though I know some people have multiple accounts to separate their professional life from their personal life. In either case, I think there’s something key that we all have to remember:

Just because you can say something on Twitter doesn’t mean that you should say something on Twitter.

I’m guilty of saying stuff on Twitter that I realize later paints me in a bad light or otherwise misrepresents me in some way. I think we all have had foot-in-mouth moments or get a little too personal in a moment of poor judgment. But some people make me cringe more often than not. I’ve even unfollowed some people because they don’t have a proper brain-to-Twitter filter. It isn’t about the occasional mistake. It’s about constantly making bad tweet choices.

Here are some things you should consider before you tweet:

  1. If this is the first tweet a new follower reads, are you representing your brand well?
  2. Do you retweet and reply? Or are you a self-centered tweeter?
  3. Will your tweet hurt someone’s feelings? Critical is ok, but hurtful is not.
  4. Are you extremely emotional? If so, calm down before you tweet.
  5. Would you want to know that information about someone else? There is such a thing as TMI.
  6. Is your tweet passive-aggressive? If you don’t want to say it to someone’s face, don’t say it on Twitter either.
  7. Would you be embarrassed if your mom read your tweet?
  8. Would you be embarrassed if a potential client or employer read your tweet?
  9. Is your tweet on topic? You don’t have to only tweet about your blog niche, but if you aren’t relevant at all, followers from your blog may feel duped.
  10. Is your tweet clear? With only 140 characters, messages can sometimes get muddled.

We get so used to tweeting sometimes that it is easy to forget we don’t have to share everything. If your tweets are boring because you’re too prolific about your meals or how cute your cat is, that’s one thing – but if you’re losing potential blog readers because you’re giving followers a bad impression, that’s something else entirely.

Think this doesn’t apply to you? Do yourself a favor about go to your own Twitter page right now, reading it as a new potential follower would read it. What you find may surprise you. I know people who have done that exercise and realize that they come off as extremely harsh or way too emo or really ditzy when they aren’t any of those things at all.

My appeal is simple this: be conscious of how, what, and when you tweet. You can find a lot of success with Twitter, but you can also make a fool of yourself just as easily.

How to Start Making Money from Ads on your Blog

Author:

… by Scott Fox, ClickMillionaires.com

How to Start Making Money from Ads on your Blog

By Scott Fox, ClickMillionaires.com

Don’t make the mistake of starting a new website expecting the “big boys” of Fortune 500 company advertisers to show up and advertise. As discussed in my previous post, “Why Big Advertisers Avoid Your Blog… (The Ugly Truth)”, you need to earn their attention by building an audience and traffic appropriate to their brands first.

How to Start Making Money from Ads on a New Blog
If you want to start making money today, here are 4 levels of online advertising you can use even if your blog’s traffic is small or you have just launched a new niche web site:

1. Advertising Network Ads: Your site can start attracting ad dollars today by installing ad code from services like Google’s Adwords or Adbrite. These networks are free to join and will be happy to populate your site with advertising from relevant advertisers immediately.

2. Affiliate Advertising: The next level is to promote products for others in exchange for a sales commission. If you can find products/services that match the needs of your audience, this can be profitable. It is also a revenue strategy that you can start immediately.

Visit Amazon.com, CJ.com, Linkshare.com, Shareasale.com, or find individual companies that offer affiliate programs for products that your audience would like. This can also be a good way to get pro-level “big name” advertisers’ ads on your site because many major companies offer affiliate programs today online.

(TIP: Be sure to disclose your affiliation with these products/companies so that you don’t run afoul of FTC advertising guidelines for bloggers.)

3. Directly Negotiated Ads: If you can find products that are a “perfect” match for your audience, you may be able to recruit your first advertisers even when your blog’s audience is small.

Photo editing software for a digital photography blog or ebooks on weight loss for your weight loss blog are good examples.

A favorite ad target of mine is to look for industry-specific conferences. If your audience is from a particular industry, conference organizers are likely to want to advertise even if your audience is small because it is so targeted.

4. Your Own Products: The most profitable advertising is often for your own products. As a new blogger, you may not have your own products yet. But when you are ready, using your own ad space to promote your own products can be highly profitable. (Plus, there’s no negotiation required!).

5. Fortune 500 Ads: As discussed in my previous post, it’s tough to get major brand-name advertisers to buy advertising on a small website or new blog. But if you work your way through the four levels of advertising above, you can grow your audience and revenues together to reach the point where even the “big boys” are likely to direct their media buying agencies to advertise with you.

All of these advertising sales strategies can help you create a revenue model for a new blog early in its development. As your audience grows, you can work your way through these four levels of advertising strategies. They will help you make money at each step, and eventually
position you for level 5, which is the placement of ads from Fortune 500 corporations with the truly big advertising budgets we all dream about.

What questions or suggestions do you have about this approach?
Which ad strategies have you found most profitable for new blogs?

Scott Fox is the host of the online marketing success coaching community ClickMillionaires.com. He is a serial startup executive, podcaster, and author whose e-business strategy coaching helps solopreneurs, small business owners, and corporations make more money online. He is the best-selling author of two books: Internet Riches and e-Riches 2.0: Next Generation Online Marketing Strategies. Visit http://www.ScottFox.com for free email newsletters and http://www.ClickMillionaires.com for a free trial of his personalized coaching community.

3 Keys For An Effective Online Video Strategy

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… by Chantelle Flannery

The way video is being consumed online is increasing, approximately 70% of global online consumers watch video online (nielsen). There are three key factors that you need to take into account if you want your organization to succeed in online video:

  1. Quality Content
  2. Consistent Programming
  3. Ability to Adapt

Looking at these factors an organization that stands out for taking full advantage of the rising consumption of online video is the Horizon League. The Horizon League Network (HLN), the conference’s online video portal, brings exclusive content surrounding the Horizon League’s 10 institutions’ athletic departments.

Just how does the Horizon League utilize these three key traits:

Quality Content:

  • A variety of live content is available with over 400 live events, including basketball, soccer, volleyball, swimming & diving, softball, and baseball. HLN also features a vast on-demand library with highlights, features and original programming.
  • So far this season viewers are watching an average of 40 minutes of live video on HLN, whereas traditional media companies utilizing web video have a much lower average viewing time. Fox viewers are averaging18.3 minutes of video content and NBC only averages 16.5 for video content (comScore).

Consistent Programming:

  • The Horizon League began streaming sporting events in 2005. Streaming video originally started as a replacement to a regional TV package of up to 15 games a year. For the same budget, the Horizon League is able to stream over 400 live events each year.
  • This year HLN will produce its 2,000th event. Over the past six years, the regional TV package would have only produced a maximum of 90 events and impacted only a percentage of the viewers.

Ability to adapt:

  • Until the 2010-11 school year, the Horizon League managed their traditional content on a separate site from their video content. The merging of the sites, under HorizonLeague.com, allowed for a unified experience for fans in which video could be placed alongside press releases to give fans options on how they would like to consume content. The overall site traffic is seeing a significant increase this year with the combination.
  • A partnership with WebStream Productions has given the league an experienced video production partner. WebStream works with local production crews and athletic department staff members to increase production quality and consistency from all 10 campuses.

The Horizon League Network will continue to be an important marketing tool for the league as online video consumption continues to soar. Additionally, with the merging of television and Internet-enabled devices, the availability of this content will only serve to increase the league’s exposure.

How will you, or your organization, utilize these success factors to improve your online presence?

Chantelle Flannery has immersed herself in online marketing working for small businesses, not-for-profits and Fortune 500 companies. She currently works at a social media agency focusing on strategy, client relationships and production management. Recently Chantelle co-authored Corporate Blogging for Dummies from Wiley Publishing.

Contact Chantelle Flannery
Tweet ChantelleF

Make Your Next Trip to BlogWorld a Healthy One!

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Raise your hand if you had one too many desserts, alcoholic slushies, or fried food meals while at BlogWorld 2010. Yep, that’s what I thought. I think we all did.

In the days leading up to the event, I posted The Coaching Doctor’s Advice for BlogWorld, an interview I did with Dr. Aamer Iqbal about ways to stay healthy while in Vegas. Now, you can go a step further in learning about health trips while traveling. Today, two of BlogWorld’s speakers, Nathalie Lussier and Andy Hayes introduced a brand new project called Healthy Travel Lifestyle.

Nathalie Lussier is the Raw Foods Witch – yup, a witch – and she has the magick secrets to eating healthy. Andy Hayes is that travel guy, the go to man for all your questions travel. Together, they’re nearly too much awesome to handle in a single place. Not only do they have a new site where you can go to learn about healthy travel to BlogWorld (or any event), but they’re offering a free virtual Healthy Travel Lifestyle Happy Hour on December 7th so you can ask all your health and travel questions and learn more about their project. Hope to see you all there!

Five Tired Tactics for Blogger Outreach

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If you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, you know the scene. Clark Griswald has been anxiously awaiting his bonus. Then it arrives, but instead of cash he gets enrolled in the Jelly of the Month Club. So yeah. He loses it.

It is just as appealing for bloggers to get paid with stuff.

Yet many companies and firms doing outreach to bloggers avoid cash like it’s infected. It doesn’t even make sense from a bottom line standpoint. How many man-hours did you (or your firm) waste reaching out to hundreds of bloggers to get just a few nibbles? Did you pay your firm thousands, none of which actually reached a blogger?

Firms, are you including a component of paying a blogger when you propose an outreach campaign? I will no longer handle any blogger outreach campaigns unless there is pay for the bloggers. Let’s just say I haven’t been doing much blogger outreach.

I recently submitted a query on Help a Reporter Out seeking firms and companies that have paid bloggers cash in any fashion (advertising, spokesblogging, sponsored posts or writing posts for the company, consulting, whatever), offering to highlight these case studies on my blog. Usually, when I submit a query there I get bombarded with replies. I received three replies, and one wasn’t directly paying bloggers (it was a forthcoming pay per click advertising type of program).

Here is the secret to wildly effective blogger outreach: pay the bloggers actual money. This isn’t a new concept. I hear it repeated at every blog conference I attend (in fact, it was the subject of my panel at the recent Blog World Expo), I see bloggers posting about it, I see active conversations about it on Facebook and Twitter.

Still, I see the same pitches repeatedly in my in-box offering nothing, little, a possible chance to get stuff, or stuff in exchange for advertising and promotion.

I keep witnessing the same tired tactics for blogger outreach:

Reviews

I want to first say a couple of things. One, reviews are editorial and I don’t believe a company should pay a blogger cash or anything beyond providing the product to test in order to get a review. It ceases to be a true, unbiased review at that point. It can be sponsored content and disclosed as such, but it shouldn’t be called a review.

Also, I am not suggesting companies stop seeking reviews from bloggers. But the lion’s share of pitches I receive are seeking reviews. It should just be one piece of the pie. It has been so overdone, despite the fact that many bloggers do not do reviews and many lack the time it takes to properly do many, if any, reviews.

Sure, seek out reviews as one part of the blogger outreach. It shouldn’t be the default. I wonder how the PR+advertising investment (time, energy and money) into seeking reviews compares from traditional media to new media. I’m betting there is a huge disparity.

Contests

Blog contests have become so over-saturated in the space. Unless the prize is high dollar or highly appealing, these contests can just become part of the noise. Beyond that, it takes an awful lot of time to run, maintain, promote, follow up and do all the demanding tasks that a contest requires. Also, a contest is a promotion. Perhaps if you will seek out contests as part of blogger outreach, offer an outstanding prize and pay the blogger for the work and promotion.

What’s even worse is pitches asking bloggers to promote a company’s own contest, not even offering a contest hosted by the blogger. Unless a blogger runs a site about contests, I can’t imagine a reason for them to do it.

Payment in Gift Cards and Products

I’m sorry, but what is the deal with this? It seems pervasive lately. Why pay in gift cards or products instead of cash? I know that many times, providing the gift cards or products is cheaper. Even if that is the case, consider offering bloggers the option of cash (even less cash) or the gift card or product. No one wants to get paid with the Jelly of the Month Club.

Ambassador Programs

I am generally fine with the concept of ambassador programs and spokesblogging. What is less appealing is that these programs often offer very little for the blogger, but ask for promotion on social networks, blog posts and badges (ads) on their sites. Sometimes, the best that is offered in return is a link from the company’s site (sometimes a new microsite that gets no traffic). It is great to create ambassador programs, but pay your ambassadors.

Payment in Contest Entry

This has to be the most boggling of all of the tactics I’ve seen. The blogger writes a post in exchange for the possible, perhaps, maybe chance to get something (not cash, of course, but a prize of product or gift card). I’m not even sure what else needs to be said about that tactic.

Here’s the thing. Companies and firms probably don’t know when their pitches are tired. Most bloggers don’t reply to the bad pitches to tell you what’s wrong. Instead, companies hear from the few bloggers who do reply and get the illusion the outreach was successful.

This really isn’t rocket science. If you want success getting promotion in new media, the money needs to trickle down to the bloggers you want doing the promotion.

Kelby Carr has been social networking online since 1984, building web sites since 1994, blogging since 2002 and tweeting since 2007. She runs an annual blogging and social media conference, Type-A Parent Conference (formerly named Type-A Mom Conference). She also runs an online hub for digital moms and dads, Type-A Parent, is reinventing journalism at Investigative Mommy Blogger and blogs about social media at KelbyCarr.com.

Digital Broadcasting – Creating Dynamic Content

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At BlogWorld Expo I gave a session titled Content You Care About. This session was all about the many ways that you can create digital content, host it and post it to your blog. I also gave out some of my tips for driving traffic to your blog. I’m writing a few posts over the next couple of weeks on different topics but how those topics relate to creating digital content.

Today I’m talking about Digital Broadcasting. There are many ways that this can be interpreted but for me there are two pretty big ways to broadcast yourself online. Video and Audio. I’m going to focus today on video. I personally have just about finished one entire month of shooting videos every single day just to post them up to YouTube and Vimeo for a contest that I held on my blog. My equipment was pretty simple. I had a Kodak PlayTouch and a Sony condenser mic. With that I was able to create crisp and clear HD content.

Each video was a simple one where I recorded between a minute and three minutes of video. Because the videos were so short they were easy to watch for busy people. You don’t have to create an opus to digitally broadcast yourself. Something really short is usually the most effective. Not only that shorter videos are smaller in size and can be uploaded more places. More places means more eyeballs watching your content.

Each video had a written description with links back to my blog so that people could find out more about me and the contest that I was having. Those posts often had links to products I was reviewing or some other way to earn a little extra money. My main intent behind the videos was to get more people entering my contest and I encouraged my readers to post my content to their Facebook pages and beyond. Getting the word out there beyond my own sphere of influence.

When making the video make sure that you are in the picture. Speak clearly and smile often. If you are doing a product review hold the product up long enough so that it has a better chance of appearing in the thumbnail in Youtube. You get more thumbnail choices with Vimeo and can even add your own custom thumbnail to that site.

You can edit the videos and put your branding at the beginning and at the end but for me the videos that I’ve been making lately have been more about who I am rather than having a fancy intro and outro for the video. This also cuts down on editing time as well. Stating my name at the beginning and end of the video is enough to get the point across as to who I am. Knowing what I want to say or even writing out a little script helps keep the video short too. Don’t amble, ramble or mumble. Get to the point and look like you are having fun.

Andrew Bennett has been blogging for the past seven years. During that time he’s taken over 2000+ photos on as many consecutive days and has attended every Blog World so far. When he’s not on Twitter (@BenSpark) he can be found at BenSpark.comYou can contact him at benspark@benspark.com.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Mentors (@bobbyrettew)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open Mic! (any topic goes)

Something that’s been extremely important to me in my blogging career is getting to know other bloggers. I’ve met some of the smartest people in the world through blogging and social media. So, this tweet during #blogchat really hit home for me, because it’s one of my favorite methods of education:

@bobbyrettew: The one thing that helps me with my blog is find a blogging mentor! One that challenges your writing and delivery!

Let me tell you story: When I first started blogging, I wrote a post that made me really proud. I posted it, the first entry on a shiny new blog, and then excitedly told everyone I knew to go read it. And they did. I guess. They said they did. But after an entire day, I didn’t have a single comment on the post. I thought I had done everything right. Where were my readers? My fans? My gobs of money?

After another day or two, I spoke up, asking one of the other people writing on the same blog network what I was doing wrong. He gave me some interesting advice: “You wrote something you love, and it was wonderful. But next time, try writing something for your readers.” I did, and I had more success. Education from a mentor like him was more valuable than any writing course I ever took or blogging book I’ve ever read.

Of course, I can tell you a million other stories of people giving me awesome advice to help me improve blogging. The point of this story is not that I got awesome advice, but my initial inability to see any problem at all with my own blog. Having mentors is awesome because they give you a brand new perspective.

It’s important to remember that mentors aren’t just experts or long-time bloggers in your niche. Those people can certainly make great mentors, but you can also learn a lot from even those who hae just recently started blogging – or even readers who don’t blog at all. That’s part of the reason I love #blogchat – even though I’ve been a blogger for several years now, I learn a lot from the new bloggers who come to the chat every week. Fresh perspectives are always good!

I think some of the “big bloggers” get that wrong sometime. They have a lot of valuable advice to give people, but when is the last time they asked a question or took something away from a conversation with a new blogger? Maybe that’s our fault, too – even if you’re new, don’t be afraid to speak up. You may not feel comfortable giving advice, but you can speak about your experiences, brainstorm new ideas, or talk about what you want as a reader.

In the blogging world, we should all have AND be mentors. My challenge to you is this: every time you have a conversation about blogging with other bloggers or social media experts, give one piece of advice and take away one piece of advice. In the end, it makes the entire community stronger!

Overheard on #Blogchat: Being Unique (@YesVictory)

Author:

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open Mic! (any topic goes)

Because #blogchat was “open mic” tonight, it was a bit like organized chaos, with a number of different conversations happening throughout the evening. One of the tweets that stood out to me was about the content of your blog:

@YesVictory: Be unique. There are too many copy cats in the world already

I don’t think there’s a single person out there who raises their hand and says, “Yes! I would like you to be a boring copy of a blog I already read! Sign me up for your mailing list while you’re at it!”

So why is it such a problem?

We all want to be successful, so it makes sense to learn from those who already are successful. And when we do learn from the already-successful bloggers, what do they tell us? Generally, tips and techniques that have worked for them. Write titles this way like I do. Structure your posts this way like I do. Design your blog this way like I do…

Here’s the challenge I have for you, though: Describe your blog to me in one to two sentences. Good. Now, could that short description be used to describe any other blog out there? If so, you’re doing it wrong.

But in an overcrowded niche, how is that possible without getting so specific that your blog doesn’t have potential for a huge audience? One word: YOU.

People come to your blog to see you. If your topic has been done before, that’s okay. You have opinions that another blogger doesn’t have. You have stories about your life to tell, and these aren’t stories that any other bloggers have. It doesn’t matter if you use every single technique that another blogger uses. That isn’t what makes you a copy cat. What makes you a copy cat is the fear to be yourself – the idea that you have to be someone else to succeed.

Go back to the exercise I suggested earlier – describing your blog on a sentence or two. Now add yourself to the equation, if you haven’t already. That’s what makes you unique. That’s how you work into a niche, elbowing your way through the crowds to find your readers. It takes work and dedication. If you want to make money, it takes a good business plan and market research. But mostly, it takes you. You-nique. You don’t need to copy someone else if you aren’t afraid to be yourself.

Do Statistics Really Matter?

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Wake up. Check my Feedburner numbers. Check my traffic stats for the day so far. Check my traffic stats with a second tracking service for comparison. Check my Klout score. Check my Twitter follower numbers. Check my Aweber subscription numbers. Check ebook sales. Check. Check. Check…

I’m not kidding. Every morning I wake up and check roughly 53,083 different statistics involving my various blogs. And because I’m curious, I check some of them two or three times throughout the day. This is in stark opposition to some of my blogging friends, who only check their stats once or twice a week – or even once or twice a month. Heck, I know people who don’t check their stats at all unless an advertiser asks for numbers.

But I also know that a lot of you out there are like me, checking your stats daily or even several times a day. So the question I want to  ask is this: Does it matter? Do statistics really matter to you as you’re trying to build a better blog?

Today, I’d like to make an argument for stats. I know a lot of bloggers out there are telling you to forget stats, to not get so bogged down by them, and although I think that advice can be useful, I’d like to talk about the opposite perspective.

Tracking Goals

I’m somebody who sets a ton of goals in life. I’m also someone who has action steps written out so I can actually reach those goals, because it bothers me when I set a goal but don’t follow through. When it comes to career-related goals, statistics can actually come in quite handy. If my goal is to increase my readership numbers, how can I know that what I’m doing is working if I don’t look at stats? The concept of “write great content and they will come” is wrong; many awesome blog have closed simply because they didn’t have readers. You can’t just take a cue from other blogs in your niche either. What works for them to build numbers may not work for you.

Without stats, you basically have to try everything – and then continue doing everything. You have to be on every social network. You have to bookmark every post with every site. You have to reply to comments and send out newsletters and guest post and do all those other things that experts recommend for building traffic. What’s working? You don’t know – so you have to keep doing it all. If you track your stats, you can stop doing the things that do not work. If I only get three visitors a month from digg, and I going to continue using that site? Not if I’m getting 3,000 a day from Twitter.

So it follows that tracking stats helps you save time. You not only get to see the progress you’re making toward your ultimate goals, but you’re able to see what’s working and focus your time there.

Content Creation

One of the ways I like to use my stats is for brainstorming content ideas. Check out the search terms people are using to find your site. Those are the topics that they are most interested in, so you may consider writing posts relating to these topics. Which emails had really high open and click rates? Again, that indicates which topics people found most interesting. Did people unfollow you on Twitter in masses following a link to one of your posts? It might have offended people or was otherwise pretty far off base in terms of interest.

Content is the driving force of any blog, so if there are tools that can help me create content better tailored to my readers, you can bet I’m going to use them.

Advertising

How much are you charging for advertising right now? Let’s say you get around 50,000 visitors per month to your site and you charge $50 for a small banner ad on the sidebar. Awesome. If you don’t check your stats, how will you know when to raise advertising rates?

If your traffic spikes, it might not be kosher to ask for a higher advertising price, but if you consistently raise your numbers, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not raising advertising fees too. Maybe by the end of the year, you’re getting 500,000 visitors per month. Charging that same $50 per banner ad is a little silly if that’s the case. However, if you only check your stats once or twice a year, when you do see that they’ve gone up, your ad price will have to jump drastically. Advertisers don’t like being told that that prices are jumping from $50 per month to $500 per month, even if you have the traffic to back it up. Checking your traffic regularly allows you to raise prices incrementally.

You can also send out notes to advertisers when you see significant spikes, even if you aren’t raising prices. Right now, I’m not working with a ton of advertisers, but in the past (when I was), I would send out quarterly updates, and I got a lot of good feedback from them about doing this. Even when there’s a slow month, they appreciate seeing the numbers and hearing what I’m doing to draw in traffic.

I will say this about stats: it can be an addiction. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I don’t need to check them every day, and I certainly don’t need to check them several times per day. You can waste a lot of time looking at your stats, and if you’re just starting out, it can be discouraging to see small numbers. Heck, when I first started, there were days when my site had ZERO people visiting (other than me). So, take my recommendation to check stats with a grain of salt. Don’t be too lackadaisical about them – but don’t become obsessed either.

Step Away And Step Up: Putting Social Media In Context

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Guest post contributed by Cathy Brooks

It’s that time of year.

A crisp chill in the air, the rich scent of fireplaces beginning to crackle and, of course, the ever-present commercialism of the holidays. The truth, though, is that this time of year brings an opportunity for something more important – the opportunity to take stock of things for which we’re thankful, to connect with loved ones and to look ahead to the New Year thinking about how we want to up our game just a little bit more.

Peering through the lens of social media towards this introspective and thought-filled time, I muse on the way in which social technologies have not only enabled us to connect and do good, but also find ways in which to show our gratitude for the things and people in our lives.

The good news is that great advances brought by the social web have galvanized millions to act for social causes and be thankful. From raising money for cancer to digging wells and providing clean water in developing nations, from pushing for an end to malaria to putting smiles on children’s faces and providing relief for victims of disasters – social networks and technologies expand our awareness and streamline the ability to engage.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that in spite of all this connectivity – and actually in many ways because of it – our society teeters precipitously close to dissociation and detachment. “Now Cathy,” I can hear you saying. “That doesn’t make sense. How could we possibly be dissociated and detached when we’re so connected?

The truth is that just because we are digitally connected doesn’t mean that the quality of those connections is any better. In fact, the maelstrom of connectivity makes it very hard to focus and so skating across the top of a connection rather than diving down deeply becomes almost de rigueur. With the sheer volume of people to whom we are connected on all these platforms, it’s impossible to have deeply qualitative relationships with them all. Now consider the younger generation and think about how this is evolving.

This recent article in The New York Times details the increasingly distracted nature of today’s teens. The inexorable march towards digital saturation has rendered the attention span of your average teen – which was never all that great anyway – into something resembling a gnat on a hot brick.

That’s a problem, especially because it’s the up-and-coming generation that will be seizing these platforms more fully and taking them forward. So what of a generation that is so busy skating across the surface and snacking lightly, never really connecting or staying present long enough with a subject to engage? Charitable fatigue, already an issue for social causes leveraging new technologies to reach out, could become even more of an issue when presented to a generation that is almost constitutionally incapable of focusing in the first place.

There is hope, however, and that lies in making sure we don’t forget the most powerful part of the social media equation – the individuals who are using the technology. Instead of looking at the social stream as nothing more than a whoosh of 140 characters, take a step back and think about the person whose keyboard tapping sent the message your way. Any community, any network, any social platform is nothing more than an aggregation of individuals whose voices together create the whole.

We cannot stop the racing river, but we can step back from the banks and take a breath before diving in.

About Cathy Brooks
For most of her career Cathy Brooks told other people’s stories for them. Today through her Story Navigation workshops she helps companies and individuals navigate the story-telling process for themselves, turning business-speak into powerful narrative. She also advises companies on influencer outreach, crafting narrative to build relationships. A prolific writer, Cathy writes for myriad blogs including: Dot429, BrianSolis.com, and her own blog, Other Than That. She also hosts a weekly Internet radio show, – Social Media Hour. You can also connect with Cathy via email or on Twitter.

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