Letting Your Blog Be Your Online Home

cc license, DeclanTM

I’m not the most consistent blogger.  I always regret that I don’t write more often and envy those who are able to find time to write relevant posts on a daily basis. I’ve heard people use this as an excuse for not blogging altogether. “I don’t have time to start a blog” or “I would rather not blog at all because I know I wouldn’t update it.”

On one hand, I think it’s smart to recognize if you’re too busy to keep up with your blog. A neglected blog can look messy, especially when paired with an out of date resume or other forgotten social networking profile.  On the other hand I’ve had great experiences having a blog despite my inconsistent posting. Depending on what approach you take to blogging you can gain a lot of value that doesn’t necessarily have a dollar amount attached to it.

My blog is my online home. I own my domain name, thanks to some encouragement from mentor and friend Nate Riggs. I have my blog linked to all of my other profiles, it’s on my personal business card and if I have to give someone a link to find me I usually give them to visit that website.

While I don’t make money off my blog or have thousands of readers who cling to my every word. I’ve found a lot of value in blogging. It has connected me to other bloggers. I’m a member of several online communities that have allowed me to meet new friends with similar interests. In my recent move to Australia I made new connections through my blog. It also is a way for me to share that part of my life with friends and family and friends I don’t yet.

My blog represents me online. It should show up in the top few results when you search for my name. It’s a way to stand out from others working in the digital space. Also managing your own brand and community teaches you lessons in managing brands for others.

I’m not the best blogger, but I’m certainly glad I have my blog.

What benefits or opportunities have you gained from blogging?

A New Adventure

recognize that building?

Yesterday I moved to Australia to start a new part of my life.  I’ve accepted an exciting role at a digital agency in Sydney and look forward to making this a new home.  I feel incredibly lucky and moving back to Australia has been on my mind for awhile now.

I’ve spent my first couple days mostly exploring and getting settled. I want to learn the busses and trains quickly since I won’t be driving at all (very different from home where I drive every day). Today it took me almost two hours just to find the bus to the mall. I went to a couple incorrect stops before finding the right one. I’ll be pro in no time, give me a month.

Studying abroad definitely helped prepare me for life here in terms of any culture shock or just acceptance of change in general. Little things don’t seem so weird or different, although I still can’t figure out how to order my coffee. Yesterday I got an iced coffee and the guy working thought that was funny. He told me I was the first one all day to order that (because it’s winter). Trust me though…it’s not that cold here. I was prepared for much worse.

view from my porch this morning

My apartment is in a really nice area called Manly which is just north of Sydney on the coast. It has a little community feel but it’s big enough that there is a lot to do and see. The beach is beautiful but it’s not warm enough to be hanging out there yet. Only the surfers are in the water right now.

I can take the ferry (30 minutes) right into downtown Sydney from the Manly wharf.  It’s a fun ride and they have free WiFi on the ferry so of course I love that.

I’m having lunch with my new coworkers on Friday. I also made plans with a friend for this weekend. I’m trying very hard to be outgoing and social from the start. I want to meet lots of new people and I know that I have to push myself.

I wonder if this is where my blog takes a new direction (not that it had any clear direction before).  I’d like to think that this is still my “everything” space. Where I can write on any topic that strikes me, but this move and transition will probably be dominating the conversation for awhile. I hope to write often and keep everyone updated.

Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions and say ‘hi’ below. All of my family and friends have been super supportive on Twitter and Facebook. I’m trying to keep up with getting back to everyone. I love hearing from you guys.

Lessons Learned from Playing in the Dirt

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I worked a few hours for my Dad and Uncle this summer helping out at their business. They own a sand and gravel company that’s been in our family since 1979. While selling dirt to landscapers and homeowners doesn’t seem related to the world of online communications, I still felt that my time spent there was worthwhile.

Some people don’t recognize the value of working in non-related field, but I’ve seen that the themes of customer service and running a business can be universal. I took orders and answered questions on topics that I was learning for the first time. It reminded me to be patient, think quickly and smile often.

It also gave me valuable perspective on the relationships that help support a family run business. I appreciated getting to see how my dad and uncle interact with long-time customers and community members they’ve come to know well.

I have no idea if I’ll ever take over the family biz. It’s hard to say how I’ll feel in 10 or 20 years from now, but working there reminded me of how I would want to run any future business.  My father always taught me the value of hard work early in life from living by example. He has always been my role model, especially now as a recent college graduate ready to start a new job.

My advice to a friend would be never to dismiss an opportunity and get the most out of any role you take on. Having a strong work ethic is important at any job. Don’t let yourself slack off and use the excuse that your job is a waste or irrelevant to your career. Any experience can be made valuable if you have the right mindset.

What lessons have you learned from working in the dirt…or other jobs?

Becoming a Social Brand

How do you get others talking about you online?

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Having a presence in social media is starting to become the standard for companies. Creating a Twitter account for your organization won’t get you the same bonus points it did just a year ago.

Now consumers are focused on the companies that not only are able to use the tools but also understand the power behind them. Being a social brand is not necessarily measured by your follower numbers. Social brands are driven by personality and connect with their networks on a more meaningful level.

When I think of social brands I think of brands you would not just recommend but actually go out of your way to endorse. I love recommending local restaurants that are active on social networks. They manage to stay at the top of my mind. I like talking about them because I know that someone who works there is reading what I’m saying and cares.

I’m betting a lot of my Columbus friends follow @jenisicecreams on Twitter – a great example of a social brand. They share pictures that others tweet of their ice cream, they respond when you both talk to them or about them. They have fun and sometimes randomly tweet “scoop scoop” just because they can. They not only engage but also have their own persona online.

I crave authenticity and originality from my brands and companies now. Running a contest where you have to retweet a message to win has been done many times. Brands that are thinking creatively stand out now. How can companies incorporate geolocation and mobile technology into a campaign?

My point is, just showing up isn’t enough anymore. What will you do to stand out?

Moving to Australia

I believe in the importance of setting goals, always looking at the big picture and trying new things on a regular basis. I think it’s a combination of these values that is driving me to move to Australia after I graduate this year.

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia for a semester and returning there has been on mind ever since. I loved the culture, people and lifestyle. I know that I really only got a small taste of that during my four months there.

When I was younger I refused to leave my mother’s side and now here I am ready to graduate, pack up and move thousands and miles away from home. My time at college has been part of a transformation and amazing journey, but the best part is I know I’m only getting started. I have many more jobs and careers ahead of me, communities to join, and networks to build.

A wise professor taught me that people often say “life is short” and seem to adopt a seize the day attitude when in reality, life is quite long. We have time to complete or attempt the tasks we set out to accomplish. My international move has less to do with being spontaneous and more to do with looking at the bigger picture of my life. A few years of my life living in another country might seem like a big deal, but really it’s not long at all. I may end up living many places in my life.

I never want to stop learning and experiencing new things. I think that curiosity keeps us sharp, and empowers us. Mahatma Gandhi said “Learn as if you were going to live forever, live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” I can’t think of a more appropriate quote to reflect on as my senior year comes to an end.

I look forward to having more updates to share with you soon.

3 Ways I Check Engagement on Twitter

1. Who are you talking to?

When someone follows me I always go to their page, check if they have a bio and photo and then start to look through some of their recent tweets. I want to make sure they are someone who is interesting and add value, but sometimes even more important than that I want to know if they are conversationalists. Do they have any @ replies? Do they RT others? Are they just automatically feeding links from their Facebook or blog? I like to interact and follow real people.

2. Who is talking to them or about them?

The next step is getting on search.twitter.com and looking for @ replies to this person. Are people interested in what this person has to say? I want to know if people are answering or paying attention. A one sided conversation isn’t helpful to me (aka answering every question a celebrity asks). I don’t count @ replies but I definitely check out the stream and notice if you haven’t had a mention in two weeks.

3. What Twitter lists are you on?

I really like the Twitter list function, but maybe not for the same reasons as others. Often people view individual lists and compare the people who are listed together, or they expect people to follow lists they build as a recommended group to watch. Typically I’m more interested in visiting a page and looking at all the lists someone has been placed on. It helps create a profile of that user. It’s also helpful because it tells the story of outside perception versus self-perception that particular person might have. Their bio might tell you what they think they stand for but when you read through the 100+ lists they’ve been placed on you can start to see how others perceive them. Someone who is on lots of lists is usually someone who is engaged and values community.

How do you check engagement on Twitter? Is this important to you when building your network?

It’s Happening: FutureMidwest

A couple weeks ago I attended FutureMidwest a “technology and knowledge” conference held in Royal Oak, Michigan. They did a fantastic job with programming and the event overall. There were some short key lessons I wanted to share that I took away from the speakers.

Online integration forces listening. Tim Schaden, CEO of Fluency Media gave a presentation on the importance of integration in improving your listening and overall communication. He encouraged all channels, services, agencies and internal teams to work together. This is something that I think is overlooked in many companies. Do you really need ten different Twitter accounts run by each department?

Blagica Bottigliero shared the importance of community building and also reminded me of the power in story telling. Her talk about the Gal’s Guide was filled with emotion and passion. She was able to share the story of the site by telling several shorter stories from her life and past experiences. I think that I need to start focus more on storytelling in my speeches.

Social media is forcing PR back to its roots. — Beth Harte of Serengeti Communications, gave a presentation focused on how to integrate “people relations” into online public relations, marketing communications and social media strategies. Beth encouraged PR pros to know ROI because this not just a practice for marketers. Also, ask yourself the question – how do these tactics help my strategies. If you can can’t answer that your campaign is a waste of time and money.

Ken Burbary who is the Head of the Digital Strategy and Social Media practice at Ernst & Young gave a killer presentation on monitoring online analytics. I really couldn’t even begin to do his preso justice in such a short recap so instead it out on slideshare.

A large part of this conference was also focused on the revitalization of the Detroit community through not only technology but a united community. The messages of bringing Detroit back to a level of respect that it deserves reminded me a lot of my hometown, the lovely Cleveland. I’m not trying to say the cities are in the same situation, but I still related to what these leaders were trying to accomplish for the Detroit neighborhood.

This video will give you a better idea of what I’m trying to convey. They played it before the Friday night keynote speaker. I got chills and again, I’m not even from Detroit. Again, totally awesome conference – hope next year it can expand to truly encompass more of the Midwest scene. This conference could turn into something even bigger than originally imagined.

My Favorite Picks of the Week

Tomorrow is Central Ohio PaRtners Conference. I’ve been part of a team working over the last several months to make this student conference come alive. If you are a PR, communication or business student in the sate of Ohio (especially Columbus) you should be at this event. There will be about 40 professionals in attendance from a variety of industries and backgrounds. We have 12 sessions you can choose from throughout the day. Check out the lineup here and be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter: #ocpartners

This is is simple (and awesome). Follow @ListWatcher on Twitter and receive a DM when you are added to a new list or taken off one. I’m obsessed. Sometimes there is a slight delay but I think it’s been catching all updates and changes so far. Thanks @SeanMalarkey for sharing this tip.

I learned about a new site called Gal’s Guide after hearing its creator Blagica Bottigliero speak at FutureMidwest last weekend. It is designed to help young women who are relocating or moving to a new city after graduation. Although Blagica writes from her Chicago experiences the blog has now grown to includes guides to several cities. Love the community building and the mission.

What are you favorite picks of the week?

My Favorite Picks of the Week

Things I’m digging this week both online and just in general…

20 Something Bloggers — heard some buzz about this community through friends on Twitter. I’ve only started learning about the group but I’ve already been impressed by how welcoming everyone is. I had a comment on my last blog post within the first 24 hours of registering. You do have to request to join, they require you are that you are 20 and actually have a blog. Worth checking out if you are indeed a 20 something blogger.

Raising Kids to Be Entrepreneurs — video from a talk given by Cameron Herold at TEDx Edmonton. I don’t know Cameron but I’m a fan of TED and really enjoyed his topic choice. It reminded me of my own Dad and the business lessons he taught (or always tried to teach) me growing up. Take a few minutes to watch the video start to end. I think it’s an important topic, I’m curious if others agree.

Da Levee — new Columbus restaurant delivering a taste of New Orleans to the Short North. I’ve only had the chance to visit one time for lunch so far but plan on returning again soon. Really delicious Cajun/Creole food. It’s the prefect amount of spice. The buttery garlic bread they served with my etouffee was also a memorable highlight. I’m getting hungry thinking about it now. Hit them up on Facebook for more info.

FutureMidwest — according to the site it’s the region’s largest two-day technology conference (April 16-17). I’m headed there this weekend to check it out and meet some cool peeps. Check out the list of speakers and let me know if you’re interested in making some last minute travel plans from Columbus. Anyone is more then welcome to come along. I like having a driving buddy. You can also check them out on Twitter @FutureMidwest

So tell me, what are you digging this week?