Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


Beyond the Billboards: Twitter and SOCIAL Media

BillboardI’m driving down the road listening to a friend chatter. Being ADD, my thought processes go something like this.

“My daughter’s friend wasn’t in town at the time and she had locked herself …” Samsung 400 on November 12 at Texas Motor Speedway “… so she trotted over to the next door neighbor’s house. He’s the one that has been so creepy, lately, but she …” Your favorite hospital has a heart: Baylor Medical Heart Center … “so he wasn’t any help at all. She called me and I suggested she contact her brother. He’s only an hour away, but …” Bicardi Rum. Only the best.

This is just the way a person who is easily distracted lives. Truth is, most of the time I don’t even realize I’ve read every billboard that I’ve passed until I come across one and go, “huh?”

I find the same type of situation with Twitter. I notice that my feed fills with constant pleas to “visit my blog” or “buy my book.” I would say that the ads are sprinkled among regular posts, but finding those regular posts is often hard.

Maybe I’m not online at the right times?

Birds on wiresI think the magic of Twitter is the engagement. Social media is SOCIAL first. I’ve heard Twitter likened to a virtual cocktail party, only without the liquor. I find it more like a variety show on TV. Different folks making jokes and a WHOLE LOT OF COMMERCIALS!

I like it when I find a question that someone actually wants answered. And I really like it when someone shares something goofy. Things that happened to them. Not just a clever one-liner.

I’m not trying to be critical. It takes effort to make friends – even online ones. I’ve met folks that I feel totally comfortable with and look forward to meeting in person. I’ve also met a few that I just don’t get a vibe from. Same as anywhere.

But I don’t get the chance to really meet a person if all they tweet is ads for their book or blog or the clever things other people say.

I’m not talking about retweets. (They’re not only fun, they give me insight to what other people like.) I’m talking about having a cache of famous or poignant quotes and posting them through the day via some scheduling program. And I’m not bashing scheduling programs either. I’ll post about scheduling at another time.

But I have come up with a few don’ts for Twitter. Most of these I’ve learned the hard way, though, so I’m not judging.


1.  Don’t hog the feed. Every tweet you make goes out to all of your followers. I saw a person just today who posted a new quote every minute for twenty-five minutes. At least there was a variety. Oh and this wasn’t a situation with Twitter chats. Another topic for another time.

2.  Don’t waste words. If a quote or scripture or song phrase is incredibly meaningful to you, by all means share it. But would you walk around at a party saying nothing but Shakespearean quotes or sharing Emerson poetry? I can picture that. But I wouldn’t want to be that gal!

3.  Don’t constantly post nothing but ads. I don’t unfollow much, but I did unfollow two people fairly early on. One was an author who did nothing but post – every hour at least – about her book. Same post. And when I looked on her profile, I found it was all she ever tweeted. Easy fix there. I unfollowed one other. An extremely busy and popular blog guru that posted every minute about her blog or her group or her group’s blog or her friend or her friend’s blog … I got tired of seeing nothing but her picture on my feed.

So there are my negatives, but I don’t like to live in the lower half of the glass so here are some suggestions for beefing up your Twitterness. (And no I’m not there yet. This is just what I like to see and what I notice others respond to.)

  1. Do tweet fun and funny moments. Pictures are great for this, too. A number of people will be able to empathize with the silliness of life.
  2. Do reply to other folk’s stories. That’s how you find commonalities and strike up friendships – even online ones.
  3. Do retweet. It doesn’t take much effort and it brings so much joy to the tweeter. Also, make sure you say thank you to anyone who retweets your post!
  4. Do tweet your blogs or books, and even schedule them with a few quotes thrown in. Just make sure it isn’t the only thing people ever see of you.

Your turn: What Tweeting practice have you found that your REALLY like? 

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RSS Feeds – Part Two

I had a few questions from my first article – find it here. David wanted to know which was better, RSS feeds or email subscriptions. I actually do have an answer to that.

I liken it to my teaching days. Every student came into class with different needs and histories and my job as a teacher required me to teach each of the kids, not the class. It’s a semantics thing, but I taught students. In order to reach each one of them, I had a toolbelt of different strategies. What worked for one didn’t necessarily work for another.

The same is true with following blogs. For me? I like them to go straight to my reader. That way I know where to find them and don’t have to weed through other notes to get to them. I can see why some might prefer to have them more handy in a mail but mine just get lost among the junk mailings, course questions and other notes. So neither is actually better; both should be offered IMO.

The second question I got from both Anna and Joanna, about how to set up an RSS feed on your blog. First let me tell you that I’m no expert and I have a rotten memory so I had to create an entirely new blog – to be used soon, hopefully – and place an RSS feed on it.

Now I’m using a WordPress freebie blog, and I know different places set up differently, but this is what I did.

  1. On the appearance tab in the widgets section, I moved the RSS link (Link to your blog’s RSS feed) to the right column.
  2. Now in that right column are all sorts of sections (Footer Area 2, Showcase Sidebar). You want to use the Main Sidebar. If your layout (theme) doesn’t have a sidebar, it won’t show up. And mine doesn’t show up on my separate article pages – not sure why.
  3. After I moved my link, I saw this box open up. This doesn’t change anything about the links, it only makes a difference in the display. The title is what will show up above the link on my blog page, so it is the title to this app – like “Follow my posts!” The feeds to display give your readers an option to follow just the comments or the posts themselves. Not sure why someone would only want to follow comments, but again – tools, something for everyone. The format is whether you want the word RSS feeds or the little icon and if you want the icon (I did) the settings pop up for the size and the color.

That’s it. No heavy lifting. No weird code. I got confused at first and used the other RSS widget that would put someone else’s blog feeds on mine – need coding for that one. But not this one.

Because I have a Blogger blog, I could set up an RSS there as well. I have to admit, it’s even easier. I clicked the gadget to add the RSS feed and all it asked for was a title to the link. Done.

Both of these were super simple to place on my blogs. But note that if you’re using Google Chrome as a browser, it holds true to form. Google (maker of Blogger) doesn’t play well with WordPress. Issues? So while I can hit RSS feeds on Blogspot blogs with no problem, the browser won’t speak to the feed link on WordPress blogs. I’ve gone back to Firefox.

Your turn: How do you like to follow blogs? (Oh and have you followed this one, yet?) 🙂


RSS Feeds – Sharing Your Message

Diving off the boatIf you’re like me, you’re wishing the captain on this cruise through cyberland hadn’t abandoned ship off the stern. Without a map or navigator and having no clue how to steer this baby, I’ve been feeling my way through the swampland.

You remember those old cars at Six Flags? You just thought you were steering them, but really, they kept going until they hit the metal brace in the center of the path that redirected them. (Sorry for bursting your childhood memories of the first time you drove a car!)

That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling this past year as I’ve embarked on my new career. I’m computer savvy, right? I can do this … um … I think …

But RSS feeds completely discombobulated me. I wanted faces on my blog to show how many people followed it. I didn’t put compute that folks clicked the link to follow and then never returned. Not that I don’t appreciate the follow – those are just flat-out encouraging! 🙂 The feeds, though, don’t stand up on stage and say, “Here I am.” Instead they work in the background actually driving more folks to the blog.

BOY ON SCHWINN BIKE DELIVERING PAPERS 1955This is the way it works (as best I can figure.) RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” Syndication being the sharing of your message. I know I’m getting really basic here, but I needed to understand every stinkin’ piece of this to wrap my brain around it. I add the RSS feed to my blog. Mrs. Readsalot happens by and reads my post deciding she wants to read more of what I share. She clicks the RSS link and chooses how she wants to receive the new postings. Then when I post again, Mrs. Readsalot will automatically get my next brilliant writing.

Reminds me of when my brother had a paper route and I had to get up early on Sunday morning and blacken my hands folding the news and stuffing them in little plastic sleeves. None of that! Not even hurling them across the handlebars of my balanced bike!

Putting an RSS feed on my site here at WordPress merely required me to add it in my widget page. Totally easy. I could even do it before I knew what it was. But the beauty of it is that every time I make a new post, those who have suscribed to my blog received my post on their “reader.”

When I link to an RSS, it asks me where I want to read it. I have a google account, so my reader is a google reader. I can also choose to collect feeds to my igoogle front page or my yahoo front page.

The bathroom isn’t an option, though.

So as a blog writer, RSS feeds are totally unobtrusive – no smiling faces – although I can find info about how many folks have connected that way. And the value is enormous because it puts my message directly into the “hands” of folks who want it.

As a blog reader, it is also invaluable because it brings me the latest feeds from blogs I’ve enjoyed and found beneficial in the past. I don’t read everything every day, of course, but having the most recent posts sure helps to keep up with my online friends, changes in the publishing world, and general news that I’ll often miss.

Your turn: What was the last blog you clicked the RSS feed on? You haven’t? Well try it! My RSS button is near the top of the right column!