Why you should invest time in social media as a marketing tool: 16 May 2011

In today’s digital world, it’s hard to get information or news without hearing about social media. If you turn on the news you hear things like “Today, Newt Gingrich tweeted that he is officially running for President of the United States” or “Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook….” It’s everywhere and it’s inescapable. Social media is the way we communicate.

So why should you invest time in social media for marketing? Social media can, not only help you reach your customers, it can alert you to trends that may affect your business and put you in touch with other resources that you never knew existed. Resources like a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island, for example.

I posted a video here on my blog because it illustrates the dynamics behind your need to invest time in social media. It was created by Erik Qualman, who wrote a book on the topic of social media. Personally, I find the video entertaining and full of verifiable facts. While the book makes some good points, it also makes a lot of assumptions and unfortunately doesn’t back up a lot of his comments with references or provable facts. However, it is an entertaining read and worth the effort.

Social media has become the fastest and cheapest means to reach your customers. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself: Are you using social media to its potential? Do you know how? Do you have the time or do you need to hire someone to manage it for you?

Hopefully, now you’re at least going to think about investing time in social media as a marketing tool. I’ll save my comments on communications devices for a later date.

Have a great day and keep on tweetin’…

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What’s in YOUR gun-rack? 14 May 2011

Here in the great Pacific Northwest we have an insurance company that has commercials which highlight the fact that the people up here aren’t quite like everyone else.  The commercials talk about our different state of mind and local customs and activities which illustrate our certain unique point of view.  Our propensity to wear heavy woolen socks and sandals, at the same time, is one of those behaviors.

Today, our unique Pacific Northwest mentality screamed at me loud and clear today when I took our van to get serviced.

There I was, happily jamming to the radio and waiting at a stoplight.  In front of me was a beat up old blue pickup truck with a rifle rack mounted in the back window.  Nothing unusual there.  Lots of people have gun racks in their trucks.  We do, after all, hunt several species of large woodland game up here amongst the evergreens.  But something was odd about this particular gun rack.  At first, I just couldn’t make out what was in the gun rack, so I did what any other, normal, incredibly nosy, individual would do; I inched my van a little closer to the back of the truck so I could get a good look.

There, occupying both positions that would normally be occupied by high power rifles, and as clear as day, were two magic wands.  They weren’t just little sticks, but twisted and gnarled weapons of magic, complete with beads, leather bindings and feathers.

Apparently, when in Washington State, Harry Potter drives a faded blue pickup.

As the light changed to green and the truck pulled away, I paused laughing, because all I could hear in my head was the tag line of the insurance company:  “We’re just like you… a little different.”

How very true.  We’re different and proud of it.  Now, consider that story from a marketing standpoint and ask yourself “What do I share with my consumers, that I can use to make them think of my brand?”

So to all of you: please, let your inner-wizard shine.  Life is more fun that way.

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Great Googly Moogly! 12 May 2011

Admit it; some words or phrases are just better than others.  This is one of the most important things to understand when writing.  It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a business proposal or a letter to grandma; to force the right impression, you have to use the right words.  Yea, I’m pimping my writing skills right now, so hang in there sunshine. 

As a writer, I fully understand that the right words are important.  It’s when we don’t think of this that we get into trouble.

Here’s an example:

When I was a kid, my parents raised rabbits.  Rabbits aren’t bright animals, but they do have a certain perspective on things.  I like to call this perspective “rabbit logic”.  You see, when a rabbit is in a cage and it wants to hide, it simply turns its back to you.  The rabbit can’t see you, therefore by rabbit logic, you can’t see the rabbit.  This isn’t true of course, but hey, it’s a rabbit with a brain the size of a walnut.

So one day, way back in 1998, when I was stationed in Japan with VS-21, we had a First Class Petty Officer who shall remain unnamed.  The thing about this guy was that he was a LOUSY Leading Petty Officer.  He had a thing for stereo equipment and the young airmen quickly discovered that the fastest way to get out of work was to get into a discussion about audio gear with their LPO.  Other than that, he was cool.

One day, the division chief was looking for our illustrious hero LPO.  The chief popped his head into the work center, looked around real quick then went on looking around the work spaces.  The problem was that this chief didn’t tell any of us he was looking for our leader, who was sitting in a chair in the corner catching some shut eye.

The chief popped in again and again, each time looking more frustrated than the last.

Finally, one of us asked him what he was looking for.  “I’m looking for AT1 ______” he says.

Immediately we all point to the object of his quest, who was still sleeping soundly in the corner.

The Chief yells our LPO’s name, and he jerks awake.  The chief asks where he’s been, and we all inform him that he’s been here the whole time.  To which I (stupidly) comment- “That’s okay chief, you didn’t see him because his eyes were closed.”

This would have been an innocent enough comment if our LPO wasn’t a man of color.  I immediately tried hopelessly explain “rabbit logic” to not only the chief, but the Leading Petty Officer that would be writing my performance evaluations.  I wasn’t very successful, but it did teach me a very important lesson on the power of using the right phrase and the right time.  I hope this helps you in some small way because this lesson has served me greatly over the years.


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How to shop for a freelance writer: 11 May 2011

So there you are, banging your head against your desk, trying desperately to remember a word from your 8th grade vocabulary test while you try pitifully to write a marketing piece for your boss; or worse yet, for your own business.  That little voice in the back of your head says “I hated taking English in school and now I wish I knew how to write this, so I at least look as smart as a fifth grader.”

Well friends and neighbors, that’s where a freelance writer comes in handy.  Someone like me, for example, that walks around with a magic marker in their pocket, correcting punctuation on billboards and graffiti.  You need someone who knows that word you’re trying so desperately to shake loose from your simian brain.

So now, maybe you’re quietly thinking: “Okay Frank.  You’re right.  I need a freelance writer, but what should I look for?”

My good friend!  You’re in luck.  Here are five things you should look for when seeking a freelance writer in today’s economics, and why you should look for them.

1)  Does the freelance writer have a digital presence?

In today’s business landscape, a digital presence is mandatory.  If your freelance writer can’t optimize his or her own digital footprint, the odds are that they aren’t going to be able to help you much with search engine optimization. This is commonly referred to as SEO.  Check Twitter, Facebook, and even do a Google search for their name.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.  Then again, you may not.

2) Does the freelance writer provide samples of their work?

This is very important.  Anyone can call themselves a writer, but each writer has a flavor, or voice.  Some are very wordy, while others manage to get their point across in a short amount of time.  Since some charge by the word while others may charge by the project or even by the hour; writing samples can give you a rough glimpse at what your could end up paying for the job.

3) Will the writer treat your project as their own?

You should choose the writer that will treat your project as their own.  You should get the feeling that they will not stop until you are satisfied.  Moreover they should not require payment unless you use their work.

4)  Is the writer prompt when returning your email or phone call?

If you contact someone to write for you, and they are too busy to get back to you, then odds are they are either too busy to give your project all the time it deserves, or they are unreliable.  Both possibilities are bad for your business.  Being unreliable doesn’t need explanation.  Being too busy to return your inquiry, well that means that they may not give you their best product.

5)  Does the writer use a contract?

Contracts protect both you and the writer.  If they don’t use a contract, then you are putting yourself and your good credit rating at risk.  You are looking for a professional, so expect professional treatment.

There’s the top five pieces of advice I can give you when looking for a freelance writer.  Something that you should keep in mind though when shopping around is that you get what you pay for.  If you expect to pay someone $5.00 for your 500 word marketing campaign, then fully expect to get what you pay for.  Some freelance sites don’t care what kind of writers they keep in their stable.  You may get a writer bidding on your project at pennies on the dollar.  While this may seem financially beneficial at first, you will eventually figure out that cheaper isn’t always better.

Good hunting;


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Getting old SUX 5/9/11

So there I was, painting the spare bedroom yesterday.  Got the trim off and put in the garage, put tape where I should and laid out the plastic to protect the carpet.   I managed to get one coat of paint on one wall when I bent over to put more paint on the roller and I suddenly sneezed.  The pain in my back was bad enough to drop me to my knees!

I bent over and sneezed.  That’s it.  I wasn’t playing football, hauling firewood or even rescuing some damsel in distress from a burning building. I bent over and sneezed.  WTF?  Yea I know I’m 40.  Yea I know I’m a little over weight.  (The fact that I’m so fat, lesser geeks orbit me is beside the point.)  Yes I have back problems derived from 20 years of lifting 500 lb transmitters and hauling heavy electronics in support of combat flight operations.  But I’m not supposed to get crippled from a sneeze!  A hand full of pain meds, some time hanging upside-down in my inversion table and an hour in the hot tub has helped considerably.

Hopefully today I can continue painting without too much risk or personal injury.  Wish me luck.

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Keep digging 5/7/11

Today I find myself still desperately seeking a job.  The past five months has been like being trapped in a mine.  After 20 years of service to my country I find myself struggling in the dark and the walls are starting to collapse.  Each job I apply for is just like being in the darkest place I have ever been and my mind is so desperate for light, I start imagining little flashes of hope.  Each job listing is like dim little fireflies teasing me and my heart hopes that each glimpse of light might be a point of escape.  Meanwhile I can feel the walls starting to crumble and I can clearly hear stones smashing to the floor all around me, and all I want is for that light I see to be real.  A real path to hope; real chance at life and a real chance at freedom.  So I claw at the walls, applying for any job I think I might remotely have the ability to perform.  I don’t care what it pays because anything is more than nothing.

Then in the darkness, I remember that I am better off than many of my fellow Americans.  We may lose our possessions, but at least we will not worry about how we are going to pay for our medical care, or how we are going to afford our prescriptions.  We are not alone, but we are not unique.  I just have to keep digging.  I have the talent and the drive, I just need to keep digging.  If I just keep digging, and applying for jobs, eventually the light will be real.  We may have to rebuild our lives, but I will enable my family to feel the warmth of the sun again.  I just have to keep digging.

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6 May 2011

Today, I’m messing around with a new app on my windows smart phone and writing an article about the Disabled American Veterans.  Oh, and I’m building my WordPress portfolio page and using Twitter. 🙂

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