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Frank and I are entering our second year as participants in WVuncovered, a program of WVU that mixes print media with new media experiences. Most participants in the “business” end of the program are weekly community newspapers from around the state, and us – a free newsprint monthly magazine. We were recruited when I friended Mary Kay, one of the project’s leaders, on twitter.
Each month, Frank and I head to WVU’s Morgantown campus for an intensive day of learning new media. Audio, video, web, slide shows, social media. We’re learning how to implement these options to support and enhance what we offer in print.
Most marketing advice suggests that businesses have a social media strategy. Some kind of plan. When you’re learning as you go though, I don’t see how you can have any semblance of a plan.In fact, Now that we are entering our second year of “new media school,” I thought perhaps I’d better figure out what exactly I have going on in the field – especially social media.
Now, I have had a web site since 1997. I’ve had blogs since before they were really considered marketing. I skipped the myspace phase, but I have become a facebook addict, and have a twitter account – but I really didn’t take too well to twitter. Even so, that account is one of the most active outlets we have. How? Why? Well, I assure you, there was no strategy. It’s just how it all ended up working. But to explain how everything ends up at 2LaneTweet, I first have to tell you about some of our other online outlets.
HERE’s HOW OUR SOCIAL MEDIA WORKS:
Two-Lane Livin’ has two main web sites: twolanelivin.com, and twolanebloggin.com. TwoLaneLivin.com includes features from the print edition, headlines from our columnists’ blogs, and headlines from twolanebloggin.com.Two-Lane Bloggin’ includes posts from behind the scenes, garden updates, news, etc.
Our Page includes delivery notifications so readers know when the print edition is available in their area, and updates from twolanelivin.com, twolanebloggin.com and updates from all of our columnists’ blogs. Anything posted on our Facebook Page is also sent to 2LaneTweet.
Only the posts to my personal Facebook Profile aren’t forwarded to something else. Why? Because for some reason, Facebook won’t allow it.
Now, if you want to call that strategy, fine. If that’s the way it should be done? Even better. I would say that it falls into the “chaotic overkill” category myself. I can’t even really keep track of it all, and I tire of trying to learn how it should be done because the teaching on the subject keeps changing with the trends and technology.
The best option I think, (to make sure you’ve got all of Two-Lane Livin’ outputs covered) is to either like our facebook page, OR follow us on twitter. These two options will lead you to anything else (blogs, online edition, etc.) you might want to check out.
Two-Lane Livin’ and two main social media options to follow. That makes sense to me.
I launched my first blog in 1999. I’ve had three others before this one, and very few people have followed along. This blog, in fact, has very few subscribers, and the only comments that come in are spam.
Then I joined facebook, twitter, 304blogs.com and wvnewsline.com. And my “following” grew from a small group of friends and family expanded a larger group of important and respected, uh — strangers.
People who love their cell phones (and have a consistent signal), who commute and socialize and drink Starbucks and have committee meetings. People with powerful connections and strong opinions and great influence and keys to opportunity.
But, I hate my cell phone (when I DO have a signal), hate to leave the house in winter, have a very small social network in real life, am no where near a Starbucks, and think forming a committee is the death-sentence of any project. I’m not sure these folks want to hear my opinions.
I’m good one-on-one with most people. It’s the vast majority that trips me up.
I have read that the key to blogging and twittering and posting is to provide valuable information on a consistent basis.
What valuable information do I have for the professional and culturally accomplished that I now find in my network?
I have no idea. It seems almost like a test:
Say something important to the editors of your favorite national magazine and favorite national news outlet, to statewide newspaper reporters, to folks with the ear of the governor — in 140 characters or less. Okay? Go.
And yes, you are being graded on this.
I want to be seen as a polished, professional, responsible mature adult with a thriving and organized business. But I’m just a country girl who sits at her desk in lounge wear and non-slip socks who happens to publish a country newsprint magazine from her home office for the 15 counties surrounding what I call the “donut hole” of West Virginia.
You know, the region in the middle that seems to be part of a development and marketing void. No four lanes. No Starbucks. No traffic lights. No cell phone coverage. No high speed internet. The statistical pit of the nation, lowest in employment, education level, highest in diabetes, obesity, smoking, etc.
What information do I have for the jet-setters of the world? Hang up and drive?
Two-Lane Livin’ isn’t glossy. It has never been perfect. It’s laid out in an outdated program, only half-proofed, set up with newspaper layout rules (not magazine) to fit the most information in the space alotted, and is offered free, every month, to 15,000 households in 15 counties.
But it only takes a small light to alleviate the darkness. While the rest of the world rushes into the bright future, in many ways, our region still exists in the dim past.
There are no staff columnists or photographers at Two-Lane Livin’ — heck, there’s no staff. Our columnists aren’t paid professional writers, they’re down-home folks from right here that have practical, useful information that they are compelled to share. My neighbor comes down and helps me with filing, just so she can get a break from her five kids. For an entire week each month, there’s no one in the office because I’m out delivering the current issue.
But again, glossy photos and paid columnists, high newsrack prices, and script-filled web sites don’t mesh real well here. This is the “we have our own way of doing it world.”
For our readership, a glossy would be a halogen bulb in a world of oil lamps.
Here’s a story to explain:
I was in Clay, WV when I came across the premier issue of WVLiving Magazine. As always, when I discover yet another new magazine in the state, my heart jumps, fearing the competition.
The cover was beautiful, and I reached out and felt the weight and density of the cover stock as if it were fine linen. I picked up a copy, and as am prone to do with fresh books and magazines, smelled it as though it were a fine meal. I flipped through the pages, eyes jumping at the bright full color – on every page!Â Lovely writing, fabulous layout, scrumptious photographs –A polished publication that I could only one day dream of producing. Well, well done.
As I drooled over it, a customer entered the business, and spied me ogling the copy in my hands.
“Is that any good?” She asked, joking.
“It’s a new magazine about West Virginia,” I replied. “And yes, it looks very good.”
“How much is it?” She asked, and I flipped back to the cover.
“Huh,” she said, and went on about her business.
I looked at her walking away, and listened as she placed his business order. I realized then, that that $5.95 was likely reserved for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. She did however, grab her free copy of Two-Lane Livin’ when she left.
I bought a copy of WVLiving, of course. I’m sure others did as well, it’s fabulous. I ran home with it and devoured it, then went to their web site and downloaded their rate sheet to learn more about this ‘competition’ — only to realize how small, howÂ Two-Lane Livin’ is. How totally bourgeois we are. How our little rag would not be recognized as competition at all.
So what could I possibly have to say of value to the state’s and my industry’s successful professionals? Those who, for some reason unknown to me, have chosen to give me the opportunity to say something to them?
Hello from Whoville. There’s a whole world in this speck of dust.
It was supposed to be a networking tool. You know, a way to legitimately build connections for our business, Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine. Having managed proudly to never have built a MySpace page, I was a little cynical when I signed up for facebook — feeling that it was something else I had to do.
But I did it. I made a facebook profile, first listing my “data” — the movies I like, the music I like, the books I like… It took longer to find a photo of myself I liked enough to use as my profile picture.
And, since I was sorting through photos, and didn’t have any facebook friends yet, I also uploaded some of my favorite photographs to share.
Then came the search for friends. The way facebook’s search is set, it’s easiest at first to find people you went to high school with, to college with. You know — people you haven’t seen in years, who live far away from you – who really know nothing of your life and your business…
But it’s like an online high school and college reunion. You find your first boyfriend. Then, your bestest friend from third grade. And while you’re catching up with all those people, facbook applications start kicking in.
People start sending you virtual flowers, butterflies, cars, fish. And oh look. You can play Scrabble together online. You can send good karma, virtual drinks, hearts, smilies, retro gifts from the 70′s. Of course, then there are the polls. What movie are you? What color is your heart? Take Dr. Phil’s personality test!
I have a facebook farm. I have 237 crops that I need to tend daily. I have 1,793 trees that need harvested – daily. I have five chiken coops and 254 animals that likely, as the application grows, I’m going to have to feed – daily. I have 124,209 virtual dollars to spend, and I already have at least TWO (if not 1,793) of everything that’s available for sale.
Of course, every day, you find more friends, and they find you, and that’s all wonderful. I have a friend I haven’t seen in person in two years. Now, we play Scrabble together every day.
I have also become a member of several Facebook Groups. My Hometown Neighborhood, My High School Band, all sorts of pro-WV groups. There’s even a group called, “You don’t know what a pepperoni roll is?” That group has 3,519 members – and I am proudly one of them. See, anyone on facebook can make their own group and invite folks to join. I have a facebook group for our magazine. Â In two months, we’ve had 110 members join. Most of them are people I know — but some? I have no clue.
Anyone on facebook can also make their own Page. See, a group is a group, but a page is something different. In groups, folks can become members. In pages, folks become fans. You can invite your friends to become members of your group, but your page you have to advertise. Each works differently, and so I also created a page for Two-Lane Livin.
I try to make all my applications work together. There’s a way to make my blog entries appear on my profile, my group, and my page. Same thing with photos, videos, posts, notes, status updates, tweets, — believe me, there’s a facebook application for everything.
I haven’t yet found an application that tells me how much time, exactly, I have spent on facebook since I joined.
You can’t call it time wasted, exactly, because it’s social networking. It’s today’s mantra of marketing. Of course, without the right friends, and the right structure and framework and applications and purpose it does little to nothing to enhance your marketing efforts (and if not professional, may even hurt).
Somehow I’ve got to reign it back in. Take this newly found bubble-gum for the brain and whack and chisel it back into a legitimate public relations and marketing tool. Just as soon as I’m done checking out the most recent photos of my facebook friend’s kids and play my turn in Scrabble. Oh, and then I have to go harvest my virtual plum trees. And look! One of my facebook friends is wanting to chat.
I swore it would never happen. Swore up and down that it would NOT be me.
I got sucked in by social media.
Thank goodness I didn’t take to Twitter like this.
I joined facebook.com this past week, finally bowing to the “social networking” demands of today. Until now, I was very proud to know I never had a myspace.com account, and wasn’t into the “find friends” online bit.
I have friends already. I know where they live, and I have their phone numbers. (Incidentally, almost none of them are on facebook or myspace.)
I’m not a social networker. In person, or online. I was never one to chat online, or participate in an online discussion group. In person, I’m not good with small talk, and in discussion groups? I always leave feeling as though I’ve said or revealed too much of what I really think…
I was however, surprised to find several of my high school classmates on facebook (as well as my band director, our newspaper delivery girl from 30 years ago), and have spent a couple of days catching up with old friends.
At one point, I had to get my yearbooks out to refresh my memory. After all, it’s been several years since the Class of ’85 walked those high school halls.
Finding friend on facebook is like researching a deed at the courthouse. One discovery leads you to another, which leads you to another, and another, and another. As someone who enjoys research, the search for old friends became almost addictive for a couple of hours.
I even hated to get up to pee.
But after two days, I feel a little overwhelmed by facebook. I now have an online “Green Patch” that needs tended, and found that I also am expected to help tend my friends’ Green Patches.
This, while my vegetable garden outside desperately needs weeding.
There are games and groups and quizzes, all of which interest me very little.
My search for friends is exhausted, with married names replacing the maiden names I know, and no “network” existing for my local, rural region.
What do I have in common with the urbanites in Charleston? How many years since I left the city limits of Parkersburg?
Do I really need bumper stickers on my facebook page? Do I need to keep up with the writing on all my friends’ walls?
I have enjoyed touching base with names and faces from the past, and hope to reunite with more of them.
But I’m done “finding friends.”
They’ll just have to find me.