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September 2010

Social Networking Fail: Price Chopper Lashes Out about Negative Tweet

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Some companies are doing a great job at getting involved with social networking. On Facebook, I connect with Einstein Bagels, for example, and they post coupons, poll fans, and respond to both positive and negative comments quickly. Other companies are ignoring social networking, which is definitely going to bite them in the tush in the end, in my opinion. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites aren’t going away.

The worst offenders aren’t the companies that don’t use social networking at all, though – they’re the companies that don’t use social networking correctly. In the end, they’re damaging their businesses and driving potential fans (and people who will buy their products) directly into the hands of their competitors. The latest offender is Price Chopper, a grocery store in the northeastern part of the United States. They actually serve the area where I live, and because of this story, I’m thinking twice about whether or not I want to continue shopping there.

The story, according to a Tumblr page set up specifically to deal with the event, is that an unidentified (but public at the time) shopper tweeted:

Every time I go to @PriceChopperNY I realize why they r not @wegmans . Tonight -bare produce area & this sign 4 ex http:// (link was removed in the story)

Undoubtedly, this is not what Price Chopper wants to hear. It’s especially annoying to be compared to a competitor and told that you’re not good enough. The way the public relations department responded, though? Unthinkable, maybe even borderline illegal. Definitely ethically wrong.

What they did was email the customer directly and then, before she even had the time to respond, use the information in her profile to find her employer. They emailed a list of executives from that company and, according to the Tumblr blog, called her “destructive and negative” and hinted that the relationship between Price Chopper and this second company could be at risk if actions weren’t taking against this employee.

Social. Networking. Fail. Customer. Service. Fail. Fail. Fail Fail.

First a foremost, it is important to understand that no employee represents the company where they work unless they are tweeting/blogging/etc under the official corporate name or working at the time. She was an individual grocery shopping. I think it’s pretty easy to see the difference. Anyone who understands social networking at all knows the difference between a personal blog and a blog that represents a company.

Secondly, and more importantly, as American citizens, freedom of speech protects our liberty to express our opinions, even negative opinions. To call someone destructive just because they had a critical comment or made public their bad experience with a company is ludicrous. I haven’t read the email, but it sounds like what they sent to her employers is borderline blackmail. It’s absurd.

If you aren’t able to take criticism from your customers, you’ll never grow as a company. Her comments were even fairly mild. It wasn’t like she was ranting or cursing or something. She was just making it known that she had a bad experience. She should not have to worry about her job because of that. I hope her employers are intelligent enough to realize that.

I do believe that employers have the right to ask you not to tweet negatively about their companies or partners. But if that’s the case, you need to make a social networking policy for your employees from the start, not punish them after the fact. Even so, there’s a difference between bad-mouthing a company and saying something critical.

The bottom line is that this was an opportunity for Price Chopper to make a really good impression via social networking. They could have responded with an apology or even offered her some free products or a discount for her troubles. The Dominoes campaign to make their business better is being extremely well received, and they’re not only responding to problems, but asking customers to come at them with problems so they can be fixed. Consumers realize that no company is perfect. It’s all about your effort to be better.

Photo via Wikipedia.

New Twitter: Features and Functionality

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Do you have New Twitter?  I don’t, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it! So what is it? Twitter says that they’ve learned that “life doesn’t always fit into 140 characters or less” – so they’re rolling out new features.

Here they are:

  • Site restructure.
    On the left hand side of the screen: Find @mentions, retweets, searches, and lists just above your timeline – creating a single, streamlined view on the left of the screen.
    On the right hand side of the screen: See the features you’re familiar with, including whom you recently followed and who recently followed you, favorites, and Trending Topics. You can also see embedded photos and videos directly on Twitter (from partners like YouTube, Etsy, Flickr, TwitPic, USTREAM, and more).
  • Related content.
    When you click a Tweet, the details pane will display additional information related to the author or subject. Depending on the Tweet’s content, you may see: @replies, other Tweets by that same user, a map of where a geotagged Tweet was sent from, and more.
  • Mini profiles.
    When you click a @username you’ll now view a mini profile without navigating from your current page.

If you’re like me (and not a New Twitter user yet) don’t fret. It seems they’re taking a couple weeks to roll out the changes.

Until then, they’ve put together a video to entertain us!

The Book of BlogWorld: Part 2

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How to get started in blogging? Ewan and Cthulhu take a look through the Book of Blogworld, used last year to capture the souls, errr, thoughts of bloggers at the Las Vegas Blog World and New Media Expo conference.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment, and in the meantime visit Ewan at his blog!

An Ancient Citizen Of The Blogosphere

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by Brian Lusk, Manager of Communication, Southwest Airlines

In blog years, I am ancient citizen of the blogosphere. (I’m getting up there in human years too!) I was involved in the planning stages of Southwest Airline’s corporate blog, Nuts About Southwest from almost the beginning in January of 2006. When my colleague, Angela Vargo, asked me to work on the blog, I had to ask, “What is a blog?” We had a great consultant, Andy Lark, and we gave birth to a bright, bouncing baby blog in April of that year. At the time, we were the only US airline and one of a few Fortune 500 companies to have a corporate blog. Special mention must be given to Linda Rutherford, Vice President Communication and Strategic Outreach for her vision and guidance on the blog and to President Emeritus Colleen Barrett for her early and continued support. Little did I know how much the blog would be a part of my life and that the blog would continually evolve.

We published our first post, and Angela and I awaited the first comments. It didn’t take long, and we were welcomed to the blogosphere with a two-word comment featuring an intimate Saxon verb and a personal pronoun. In spite of that “salty” initial greeting, readers did respond, and the blog began to unfold into a strong young organism. We used it for all sorts of purposes, and the fun was in experimenting to see what we could do and how folks would react. But, we weren’t just throwing stuff on the wall to see if it would stick, our goal was to represent Southwest in a transparent, personal manner and to let our Employees display themselves as the unique interesting individuals that they are.

Two amazing things began to happen. One is that we were building a community. Southwest is blessed to have Customers who are also fans, and they began to talk among each other in the comments section, with the post being the starting point of the discussion. We even flew to meet with one regular before his Navy deployment. This conversation is very much alive today, but it has shifted to social media tools like Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook) that are better designed to facilitate ongoing conversations. Some of those early blog conversationalists are now Southwest Employees. As our readership grew, we were asked to speak about our blog before different organizations. Angela and I even got to watch a shuttle landing from Mission Control.

The other thing is that the blog has become part of business decisions, both directly and as a frequently used communication tool. For years, our most requested Customer amenity was assigned seats—we thought. Our CEO, Gary Kelly wrote a June 21 post about upcoming testing of assigned seating. To say our Customers we upset would be an understatement, and they were highly supportive of being able to sit where they chose and even more indignant that we were looking at changing this. 691 impassioned comments later, assigned seating was off the table. The comments also told us that Customers liked open-seating but hated the boarding process. Out of that input came our current boarding process. An example of blog as information tool is whenever we announce new service or a new product. We try to put a human face behind the blog post about the announcement. We’ve also used our blog as a lightning rod to gather comments about negative Southwest Airlines news. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of conversation involved in issues like this with most folks only wanting to register their opinions, but we do track the comments and feel it is important to feature positive and negative comments.

Twitter and Facebook provide a place for discussion, but the blog remains our social media anchor. All of our channels, plus YouTube and future channels, are part of our integrated social media program. The thing to remember about a blog is that the blog is your channel. Unlike almost any other channel where you are limited in your communications by either physical limitations (character count on Twitter) or the channel’s management you own the blog.

Blog life seems to be about two years. Paula Berg who had replaced Angela as my blog partner in crime expanded our expectations for the blog. With the help of our partners, RD2 of Dallas (who have been with us from day one), we introduced a new platform in 2008 that allowed us to incorporate video blog, podcast, a news section, a poll, reader shared photos, and links to our other social media sites in additional to the traditional blog. (Only in social media would something four years old be called “traditional.) Now, a little more than two years later, we are debuting our newest platform that will reflect the lessons we have learned over the past two years. It will feature more visibility for videos and podcasts and better integration of other social media channels. Christi Day, our superb strategist, (photo of Christi) has taken the groundwork laid by Angela and Paula to truly integrate our Social Media efforts and the blog design reflects that approach. We will be conducting user testing at our BlogWorld booth and visitors will be able to chat with the designers from RD2 and our Social Media Team.

So, what do the next few years hold? Hopefully more trips to Vegas for BlogWorld, but beyond that, I would hazard to guess. Based on experience, for it to be successful, any future “advancements” will still need to be based on the human touch. And as for me, what comes after ancient?

Brian Lusk
A veteran of 34 years in the airline industry, with over 15 years in various communications functions at Southwest Airlines, Brian manages the airline’s external corporate blog, Nuts About Southwest. He likes long walks in the rain, pina coladas, food, and airplanes.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

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Keep It Simple, Stupid are 4 words I never heard growing up. I have always had a secret love affair with all things food, heavily-concentrated-ingredient food at that. I grew up on Mom’s meatloaf, homemade macaroni and cheese, super meat and potato pie, roast beef and lasagna. I longed for anything cake, bread and ice-cream related.

And then just a few short years back, I found out I had a form of colitis and an inflamed esophagus. My diet suddenly took a drastic change and went from an unhealthy, all out love affair, to a basic “kiss.”

Keep It Simple, Stupid (K.I.S.S.): I blog the way I eat. I eat the way I blog. I have a saying, “Cut the ingredients. Clear the clutter. Simple. Zen.” Those who follow my Blog, Confessions, Truths & the Journey of a (Mis) Fortunate Foodie-Fitness Junkie, know that I am 100% gluten free, I only eat the best dairy products, I don’t do artificial or preservatives and for the most part everything about my diet (and my life in general) is plain and simple.

The food blogging population is on the rise! I am thrilled, as I love reading and learning from other people. But with this rapid growth comes the need for differentiation and focus. Differentiate yourself and your blog, while trying to focus on a certain aspect of food. Figure out what type of food blog you will be most interested in creating and “marry” that with who you are as an individual.

But how do you take your passion for food, differentiate yourself and then translate it all into your own Food Blog?

Here are 8 Ideas:

  1. Category Specific: Ex. “Just a Bean Pole” (All about beans, from shopping for them to cooking with them and recipes that use them.) Take a category of food you are interested in and focus on that. You might be surprised how many people want to reach about these “niche” foods. If you have a category-specific passion, explore the idea.
  2. Diet Specific: Ex. “South Beach Bum” (All about the South Beach Diet.) Do you follow a specific diet and know everything about it? Share it! There are millions of people who follow specific diets. If you are knowledgeable about one and are able to share that information, you will make someone else’s life easier through your blog.
  3. Product Reviews: Ex. “Product As-Is” (All about your food and food-product reviews.) Are you always trying the latest in food and food-product items? If so, blog about it. Share what you know, what’s hot and what’s trendy.
  4. Geographic Specific: Ex. “Eatin’ San Francisco” (All about food and restaurants in San Francisco.) Are you a foodie who is always talking about local food, food products and events? Do you appreciate your geographic location as it relates to food more than most? If so, blog about it.
  5. “Profession” Specific: “Ms. Traveling Executive Gets an A+ in Nutrition.” (All about eating on the road, with a busy, mobile lifestyle.) Maybe you have a job which requires constant travel? Or maybe you’re a professional athlete with specific food requirements. If you fall into these types of categories, but yet have found true passion in food as a complement, chances are someone will be extremely interested in this content.
  6. “Illness” Specific: Ex. “My Bum Tum” (All about food for people living with Colitis.) With food allergies and intolerance on the rise, many people have had to change their diets. Newly diagnosed people are not sure where to turn. If you have lived it and know the great tips and tricks, share it. Someone will be looking for content like yours!
  7. Sport Specific: Ex. “Run. Eat. PR. Repeat.” (All about a runner’s diet.) Sports require food, typically a lot of food! Athletes that participate in running and triathlon events typically have high-caloric intakes. Sharing how you achieve this and make it work for your training is interesting and informational.
  8. Beverage Specific: Ex. “Java Nation” (All about coffee.) Food can also be beverage. And maybe beverage is your choice passion. Maybe you are the local wine connoisseur or you’re traveling the world looking for the best cup of coffee. Blog it!

Does your Food Blog have to fall under one of these (or any other) specific category or “theme?” Absolutely not! That being said, people are more likely to read and follow your blog when they appreciate the content, find it useful and feel a connection to it all. People do this by reaching for the “like me” portion of content to invest their time in.

Don’t make your food blog harder than it should be. Remember 3 things: Embrace your passion for food, enjoy the art of blogging and always K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)!

Sarah Kay Hoffman
Sarah Kay Hoffman is currently the Community Manager for the Sears Fit Club. She is an avid foodie-fitness blogger, and dives into all things social media and integrated marketing communications related. You can find her at www.sarahkayhoffman.com, www.digitalmention.com and on Twitter @SarahKayHoffman

Twitter: @SarahKayHoffman

Overheard on #Blogchat: Stat Discouragement (@tsudo)

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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, 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: Understanding your blog’s analytics and using that info to grow your blog’s readership

As I’ve already said once tonight, stats are not my favorite. I don’t like analyzing them. Heck, I don’t even like checking them. I think one tweeter tonight especially touched on why stats are hard for me:

@tsudo: Measuring audience is important but don’t allow it to be a discouragement to creating useful content.

No matter how well my blogs are doing, I always have higher aspirations. I’m one of those annoying people who is never satisfied, even when I reach my goals. So, stats always seem like a bit of a let down to me. The doubt starts to creep in.

I’m not growing fast enough.

My reader bounce rate is super high. I must not be writing engaging content that encourages people to stick around.

Most of my referrals are from Google. I’m not doing enough to promote by blog through social networking sites, and no one feels compelled to retweet my links.

I had a bad stats day. All is lost.

I know in my heart that even a horrible stats day doesn’t mean that all is lost, yet it if easy to look at stats and wonder why you aren’t doing better. I bet some of the most popular bloggers in the world look at their stats some days and feel discouraged that they only have one million readers instead of two million readers.

The key is to be productive when you look at your stats, rather than letting it paralyze you and prevent you from creating good content.

Take a good look at your last two weeks of posts. Are they high quality? Are they original? Are they focused to be relevant for your target market? Are they consistent? If you truly believe in what you’re doing, keep doing it. Don’t stop just because you see a day of bad stats or aren’t growing as quickly as you wish you could be.

Of course, on the flip side, it is also important to not ignore bad stats. If your readership hasn’t grown for months, you have to ask yourself: why? Maybe you need to reevaluate your niche, your market focus, or your style approach. Don’t blindly continue to post for months or even years if you have no readers. Figure out why.

The point is, take any stat number with a grain of salt. It’s easy to get down on yourself if you think you could be doing better, but rather than simply not posting, continue producing high-quality content and take steps to discover why you aren’t doing as well as you’d like to be doing.

Check out “Overheard on #Blogchat” here every Sunday to read about some of the most interesting tweets from participating bloggers.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Peak Days (@abbisiler)

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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, 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: Understanding your blog’s analytics and using that info to grow your blog’s readership

Stats are the bane of my existence. I don’t like tracking them. I don’t like studying them. I just like to blog about topics that I find interesting and see what happens. I know that this is a total cop-ou and a disservice to readers, so I track stats anyway. But I don’t have to like it.

When talking about stats, what I find most helpful are real ways to take the numbers I’m seeing and apply them to be a better blogger. Something that I haven’t thought about:

@abbisiler If you blog daily, you can monitor which days are your peak days– post your ‘best’ or most ‘shareable’ content on those days!

This is one of the best blogging tips I’ve read in a long time, and I read a lot about blogging, so that’s not something I take lightly. I do that that applying this tip is not necessarily as easy as just looking for peaks and traffic spikes, but it is something that you can definitely apply to be a better blogger.

If you do any kind of research on “best days to post” at all, you’ll find that the overwhelming number of people who speak about the topic tell you that Tuesday morning is a golden time. There’s a number of reasons why they’re right in many respects – on Mondays, people are bogged down answering work-related emails, by Wednesday and Thursdays, there’s so much new info for the week online that stuff gets lost in the shuffle, and by Friday, a lot of people have checked out for the weekend or are desperately trying to finish work so they can leave their computer until Monday. Tuesday makes sense.

Well, for some bloggers. See, your target market might be different. Let’s say, for example, that your audience is comprised mostly of stay-at-home parents. For a mom or dad on the go, Tuesday morning isn’t necessarily a point that sticks out. They aren’t sitting at work, bored and looking for a way to entertain time between meetings or job tasks. They’re running after their kids because, presumably, the other parent is at work. For the stay-at-home parent, peak times might be at night, after the kids have gone to bed or on weekend when two parents are home and they get some free time away from the kids to read blog posts.

It’s all about analyzing your market, and I think that’s where @abbisiler‘s top comes in most handy. Your audience is represented by your stats, so it’s like getting information straight from the horse’s mouth.

Be careful, though, because peak times may be driven by outside influences. For example, let’s say that you only post once a week – on Wednesday afternoons. You can’t look at your stats and say, “Oh, hey, it is best to post most on Wednesday afternoons because that’s when I get the most hits.” No, you’re creating a situation to get the most hits at that specific time. If you posted every single day, the peak time would likely drastically change.

Be careful also to look at the big picture, not a single week. If a post you wrote is tweeted by someone influential, for example, you’re going to see a stats spike at that time. So, make sure you understand why stats spikes are happening when they’re happening. There could be a reason outside of just “audience preference.”

When you do find that sweet spot, make the most of it. Schedule posts to go up at that time, especially if you think the post has the potential to go viral. Make site announcements at that time. Email your list at that time. Launch a product at that time. you get the picture. When people are visiting your site most, make it shine.

I want to say a personal thanks to @abbisiler for this stats tip! It’s something I haven’t really considered, but am now going to give some thought.

Check out “Overheard on #Blogchat” here every Sunday to read about some of the most interesting tweets from participating bloggers.

Is Your Blog a Drunken Sorority Sister?

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Having a big personality can actually work to your advantage if you’re a blogger. Wallflowers have a hard time standing out in any niche, both online and at conferences like BlogWorld. For some bloggers, though, it’s a fine line between being a blogger with presence…and the drunken sorority sister.

We’ve all seen them – the girls at the party who’ve had just a little too much to drink. They’re saying things that are outrageous, they’re taking off their tops, they’re making out with guys in a dark corner, they’re jumping in the pool…and they’re throwing up in the bathroom. If you’ve never seen anything like this, just watch an episode or two of Jersey Shore.

Worst of all, they’re laughing and having fun, thinking that they look sexy and cool…but in reality almost everyone else is embarrassed on their behalf.

The blog equivalent to this involves less puke (hopefully…though I’ve seen some bloggers who’ve had too much at conferences, so it can be a problem). The result is the same, though. You’re being outrageous and think you’re cool, but everyone else is just embarrassed on your behalf. This comes from not being able to reel in your personality to give readers a composed, thoughtful version of you.

This manifests itself in a number of ways:

  • You write posts about things that you really care about, but which have no relevance to your niche, leaving your audience saying, “Um…what was that?”
  • You get involved with some kind of blogging feud, not posting your opinion, but posting something that turns into a back and forth routed in name calling or false statements, not fact or logic.
  • You get defensive about a comment because you’re unable to take the criticism and grow as a blogger.
  • You ramble, getting way off topic and never actually coming to a clear point in your post, but rather just ranting or raving about the topic.

As you can see, there’s one common factor in the ways your drunken sorority sister blogging personality can come out – emotion.

Emotion is a good thing. I personally believe that the best blogs out there, regardless of niche, are ones written by people who are emotionally invested in their topics. There’s a fine line, though. When you find yourself getting emotional, it’s easy to write posts or leave comments that don’t show yourself in the best light.

So what can you do to find the strength to write about emotional topics without making a fool of yourself?

  • Outline your posts. Have an intro, some supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. This will help you stay on topic. Remember, you don’t have to post about every single thought you have relating to the topic. You can do multiple posts or address issues at a later time. Focus on a specific point you want to make and edit out anything that doesn’t fit.
  • Write a post, but wait a day before hitting the publish button. Sometimes, something that makes us really emotional in the moment isn’t as big of a deal when we go back and think about it at a later date. Tap into your emotions while they are happening, but reread your post the next day to ensure you’re saying what you want to say in a classy, dignified way.
  • Ask a friend to read your post. I’ve done this multiple times in the past, to ensure that what I’m saying is clear without being too offensive. When you’re dealing with a topic that you’re passionate about, offending people is bound to happen, but you don’t want to do so because what you’re saying is unclear or mean.
  • Do your research. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is posting about an emotional topic, but having your facts wrong. Read what other people are saying, but find direct sources to confirm the story. You come off looking foolish if you’re passionate about the wrong facts.
  • Don’t have too much to drink at BlogWorld.

Ok, that last tip might not fit well at the rest, but it is certainly relevant. We’re all hoping to have a fun time, but make sure you’re 1) safe and 2) able to remember the good time you’ve had. After all, if you’re a drunken sorority sister (or frat brother) at BlogWorld, you aren’t doing your blog justice.

Twitter Chats: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of bloggers starting up their own Twitter chats – basically, setting a specific time to get on Twitter and using a single hashtag so that everyone can read what is being said as part of the discussion. I participate (even if sometimes as only a lurker) in a fairly large Twitter chat every Sunday (#blogchat), but there are Twitter chats going on in every niche, some on a weekly or monthly basis and some as a one-time only event. Is this a good way to build your blog and business? Should you be starting your own Twitter chat?

The Twitter Chat “Good”

I can say, without a doubt, that participating in chats via Twitter pulls in new readers to your blog, as long as you’re helpful during the chat. Every time I participate, I end up with a ton of new followers and my blog stats spike a bit. This may be less noticeable for someone who’s getting millions of hits per day, but if you’re a small or new blogger hoping to reach new people, Twitter chats are a great way to do it.

They can also help you understand your readership better. With so many people throwing out ideas fairly quickly, sometimes I can’t take notes fast enough. Not only do I learn from others about my niche, but I find out what their problems and concerns are. If you ask a question during a chat, it’s almost like a mini-poll of your readers. So, this is a great way to connect better with your audience.

To go hand-in-hand with that, you can use tweets made during chats as inspiration for new posts. I do that every week here at BlogWorld following Sunday’s #blogchat, but you don’t necessarily have to take on the same format I do, addressing a specific tweet made during the discussion. Think about what is being said, what the common factors are among chatters. Those are issues you should address on your blog. You can even message people after you’ve written a post with something like, “Hey, during such-and-such a chat, I noticed your tweet about such-and-such a topic. I wrote a blog post about it that I thought might interest you.”

The Twitter Chat “Bad”

Twitter chats aren’t all sunshine and rainbows, both for participants and for organizers. Let’s first think about some of the downsides as a participant. For me, I find it hard to concentrate on anything other than the chat, especially when it’s a large group, and I’m a pretty good multitasker. It isn’t like you can just easily back up and read what you’ve missed. It goes so fast, that you’re forever playing catch up if you do it that way. So, if you want to participate in a Twitter chat effectively, you pretty much have to set aside a block of time to do so.

As an organizer, the biggest downside is lack of control. Sometimes, you’ll get someone participating who doesn’t understand how Twitter chats work. They can throw a conversation way off topic, and while taking a chat in a different direction isn’t always a bad thing, it can be distracting and disappointing for participants if they show up to talk about blogging only to find that 90% of the people have gone off on a tangent about their cats. The off-topic participant is not a huge problem, though, when you consider that every once in a while you have a complete troll who’s out to make fun of everyone’s tweets, spam the chat, or otherwise just get in the way. With other chat systems, you have the ability to boot someone, ignore them, or even report them, but on a Twitter chat there is less control.

The Twitter Chat “Ugly”

Twitter chats definitely have one huge disadvantage, which I’ll refer to here as “the ugly.” When you’re participating, all of your excited tweets about the topic are going to take over the feeds of your friends, even if they have no interest in the topic. Sure, you can announce beforehand that you’re participating in a Twitter chat, but as someone who’s seen people on my following list get involved with them, I can tell you firsthand that it is annoying. Clogging up feeds is never a good thing, no matter how much your readers love you.

So should you start your own Twitter chat or participate in existing chats? At least take some time to lurk at the most popular chats for your niche. Twitter chats aren’t for everyone, but they benefits can’t be overlooked.

Introverted Networking: Party Crashing, Group Subversion, Social Survival Skills and TALKING TO GIRLS

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by Jeremy Wright (CEO @ BNOTIONS.ca / Author @ http://nakeddating.tumblr.com)

ShyConferences are living, breathing organisms. They change year to year, and yet seem to maintain a core “ness”. They have personalities, social conventions, cliques and pacing. The SxSWness, for example, includes inserting yourself into groups, a focus on alcohol-fueled networking and a long history of waking up in the afternoon (which is fine since only first-years go to the sessions anyways).

BlogWorld’s “ness” is different. This is partly due to the locale being Las Vegas instead of Austin, but mostly because as an “organism” BWE is still young. As a result, much of the culture and social norms are still evolving.

In this (admittedly lengthy) post I’ll lay down some #science for you BWE (shorthand for BlogWorld Expo, Twitter #hashtaggery defined by #bwe10) first-timers. This post is specifically targeted at folk like yours truly who are introverts (either secretly or obviously).

BWE Social Norms

As an introvert, confidence often comes from knowing the social norms of a given situation or social group. When I don’t know anybody, don’t know how to act or I’m just flat out tired I can seem withdrawn, quiet or grumpy. If you’re anything like me, going into a situation (whether it’s a job interview, a first date or a conference), knowing the people, the norms and the expectations allows you to be just a bit more you. So, to help you out, here’s the braindump on how to surf the social wave that is BWE!

Note: If you’re ever unsure what to do, feel a bit lost, or just want to meet random people, shoot folk who are using the #bwe10 hashtag, or veterans like yours truly (@jeremywright) a tweet. People are almost always more helpful than you think they’ll be!

Braindump time! Here are 8 things that aren’t normal in normal life but are normal at BlogWorld:

  1. Introducing yourself with just your first name (vs a practiced schpiel)
  2. Waiting until someone asks for your business card to give it to them (like Chris (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/9-ways-to-rock-blog-world-expo/), I’m a big believer in only exchanging business cards if you expect to do business together, otherwise just follow each other on Twitter!)
  3. Having someone stop the conversation in order to send you an email, add you to twitter or tweet something you just said. Sad, but it’s become the norm to mix the online and offline worlds.
  4. Use “so what are you doing later?” (ahem, not in a creepy way…) as a means to get a group/individual to tag you along.
  5. Start an impromptu after party. Go with the flow if you get pulled in!
  6. Plan a very loose schedule (potential activities) and a firm schedule (appointments) so you can be free to float a bit more. Flexibility is sexy.
  7. Drag an unsuspecting n00b (that’s you!) along to a party, lunch, drinks, etc
  8. Walk up to your favourite social media douchebag celebrity and ask questions, hangout and be cool

In short, being introverted is totally normal and cool! #happydance!

That said, there are 4 key skills you’ll need if you’re going to go from vaguely functional introvert to the kind of introvert that throws parties, does #techkaraoke and has a suite at @LuxorLV named after them (okay that last one is on my #bucketlist):

  1. Jumping into a conversation
  2. Buying someone a drink
  3. Striking up a conversation with a girl
  4. Working a room

Jumping Into a Conversation

Let’s be honest, this is the hardest part. It’s like my grandma used to say: the hardest part of swimming is not sinking. Yeah, she was wise, grams was.

So here are the easiest steps:

  1. Find a physical spot: Groups tend to self-distribute (I found a mathematical formula for this, but even I’m not geeky enough to post it, heh), so the vast majority will automatically self-adjust once you stand about a foot beyond the group’s perimeter. Once it does, join the circle. Incidentally, this also works for dancing, but that’s for the advanced and really brave (read: drunk) geek.
  2. Make eye contact: Eye contact is your strongest weapon. It doesn’t require any words, doesn’t require you to do anything except look around the circle, and when someone makes eye contact don’t look away, just give a friendly nod.
  3. Dip your toe in: If you’re a funny person (and someone beside your mom has told you this), a quick quip will get you a laugh, and hence acceptance into the group. If you’re not, wait until you have something meaningful to say. If after 3-4 minutes nothing comes up, ask a question: “Where are you guys from?” “Are y’all here together?” “Wow, did anyone else forget to bring deodorant?” are all acceptable questions to get things going.

Now this assumes that the party isn’t too loud, that the group is fairly static, etc. If not, your task is harder, so you should make a “friend” (ideally someone that laughs at your deodorant jokes) and stick close. It’s less weird than it seems, unless you did (in fact) forget to bring deodorant! As a result, practice this at the convention center before you go to a party: once you’ve successfully gotten in 4-5 groups, you’ll be ready to try this on the big fish in a hostile environment!

Buying Someone a Drinktini

Okay, here’s the dirty little secret: want to talk to someone specific? Buy them a drink. There’s a social contract that they need to stick around to finish it. Note: this also means if someone buys you one, stick around to finish it.

The process for doing this is simple: say hi; then offer to buy them a drink (because yours is empty, you boozer); and then come back, be charming, make intermittent eye contact, entertain them, don’t stare

Note: Just like a first date (see: #nakeddating at http://nakeddating.tumblr.com), it’s impolite to roofie someone during a networking event.

Striking Up a Conversation With a Girl

If there’s one thing I’ve learned by writing a self-deprecating dating blog (http://nakeddating.tumblr.com) it’s that girls are scary and will eat your soul if you let them… or you’d think that’s what they did based on how scared guys can be of them!

If you’re like me, you were a total loser in high school, never felt confident, attractive, etc. It gets better, and what helps it get better is practice! So here’s your practice drill for the first party, if talking to girls is as hard for you as it was for me. You must successfully complete this drill 10 times in order to pass. Failure is not an option. Like yoda said: there is no try, there is only do. Or something. That line always sounded slightly off to me.

  1. Eye contact is good, staring (at any part of her) is bad… #veryverybad
  2. Be nice. Start out conversation with a compliment. “Love your sweater. It has a great style. Where did you get it? My sister’s birthday coming is coming up and I could check it out for her.” Instant nice guy!!! Then you are right into the let’s talk about family convo which is pretty easy. Start with asking if she has brothers or sisters. Don’t mock her cats (any girl wearing a sweater is bound to have cats). If she’s in a group, use the tips above!
  3. Buy her a drink, if necessary, per the above. Don’t assume most will want wine/spritzers/girly drinks. Some will want beer. Only attempt to mock a girly drink (typically contains “tini” in the name, with a fruit sound at the front of it) if you can do it in a cute/cheeky way (ie: if you get a frown, use #4!)
  4. Do not ask her if she plays WoW or Wii Fit (pretty pretty please) though Mario Party is entirely acceptable, as is Rock Band.
  5. It’s okay if the conversation lags a bit to just say, “Gawd! I am such a geek,” it will be endearing and good for a laugh (hers). And if you have said anything totally stupid in the last few minutes this expression is like a ‘get out of jail free card’. But only use it once per girl.
  6. Do not ask if she’s as nervous as you are (unless you can pull that off that confident awkward thing).
  7. Smile! Awkward, cute, cheeky grins are never, evar a bad thing.
  8. Be honest. Girls can smell guy bullshit from miles away. Seriously.

Beyond that? Talk louder, and treat conversation as a tennis match: don’t let the ball drop. And trust me, if this is at a party, running away is harder than it looks. And will end up on YouTube. And not in a good way. #learningfromexperience

Working a Room

If you’re an introvert, the very idea of working a room of 500 people is terrifying. So here’s the deal. Every room is actually a bunch of small groups, with folk flowing in between. So socially, you really only need to master 3 skills: entering/exiting/participating in groups, going with the flow of people throughout the room to get/give booze/go to the can/hurl over the side of the building if you messed up when talking to a girl and knowing when to arrive/leave.

When moving through the room, don’t move through groups: follow the existing flow of people. As you move along, make eye contact, smile, nod. If a group/person notices you, step out of the flow of people and say hi. Otherwise find a group that looks small/big enough for you, and follow the tips above. Rinse, repeat.

Don’t feel you need to “touch” every group. If you nail 10 ish groups, you’ve done well. If you actually have convos with 5 of those groups, even better.

Be Thou Unafraid

Dirty little secret: if you’re a first timer, there are more new people at BWE this year than there are veterans. Social media folk, especially introverts or people around for the first time are like camels: they’re more scared of you than you are of them. So be nice, be friendly and say hi. And if you get lost, ask for help on Twitter. It’s like your own Easy Button (ahem)!

Take it from an introvert: it sucks, it’s scary, but the friendship, relationships, laughter and networking are more than worth the risk!

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