Bi-Postal Blogging

I can’t believe I launched another blog. What could I have been thinking?  Only a few months ago, I was bemoaning the hype around social media, wondering how to get back to my writer self.   But I realized it wasn’t the blogging that got me crazy; it was the disappointment that I didn’t have much of an audience (which didn’t prevent me from feeling deeply grateful to the six of you who did tune in!).  I kept saying to friends, “Blogging is like sending an email into the Universe, but you have no way of knowing who’s read it.”

So here I am again, now with two blogs–Consequential Strangers and MotherU–each representing a totally different part of my life.   I’ll funnel some ideas into in one blog, some in the other, and with others, such this one, I’ll be “bipostal,” contributing to both sites.   I’ll express my thoughts and hope that they resonate somewhere in the Universe, share my expertise and hope that it helps.  But I’ve let go of the expectation.

I’m not the only bi-postal blogger out there, according to some recent stats on blogging.  Approximately half of us are working on at least our second blog, and 68% have been blogging for two years or more.  To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s famous quote about second marriages, “Second blogs are the triumph of hope over experience.” Continue Reading »

I Have a (Social) Dream

This must happen all the time to bloggers:  Earlier today, I intended to write about other connections I’d made through social media over the last many months (see What CS Taught Me).  But once Jason Simon (right) popped into my head, I went to his blog, where I found it far more interesting to respond to his question, What is your dream? Continue Reading »

Why Shorter Posts? A River Runs By Us

I’ve been trying to keep entries shorter these days, because who has time to read? According to a Forrester Research survey, a quarter of us on line are “creators”–we write, post videos and music–leaving less time for others’ ruminations.  Making it worse is the sheer volume of information.   Facebook may be the water cooler in the sky, but email, blogs, and Twitter are part of a river that flows past us each day. 

Digital life has become a constant offering of links.  Read this, because someone you admire suggests it. Read this, because the information will help you [fill in the blank].  Read this, because it’s outrageous.  Read this for a good laugh. Read this, because it will bring a tear to your eye and rest0re your belief in humanity. I only recently have begun to give myself permission to not have to read it all.   Enticing, fascinating, and compelling though it all may be, my day simply isn’t long enough or my brain wide enough.  

The best we can do is think of ourself as gold miners–sifting through the stream, plucking out nuggets that seem to glitter, and then storing them to examine later.  It’s so time consuming, that we either give up altogether or rely on others to do the panning for us.   For example, I trust to keep me up to date on social media.   Which brings me back to my point of this (somewhat shorter) entry:  I will continue to try to be concise.  Except when I can’t.  Thanks for understanding.

Thank You, Under 30’s

Inc. magazine online is asking readers to chose their favorite from their “30 under 30” honorees whom the editors describe as “America’s coolest young entrepreneurs.”   A teaser to the article, “For Young Entrepreneurs, Safety in Numbers,” which describes the willingness of this new generation of business leaders to look beyond the walls of a traditional company, says it all:

Despite the economic gloom and doom, the honorees on this year’s 30 Under 30 list are building wildly successful ventures with the help of their peers, parents, professors, and patrons.   Why enlisting these loyal tribes of support has become so important in the start-up world — and how the smartest companies foster that same loyalty among their customers.”

The honorees are the vanguard of the Millennial Generation (those born between 1982 and 2005), and as you can read in this excerpt from Chapter 7, they were born to connect.  They intuitively know the importance of consequential strangers, and they can teach the rest of us a thing or two about collaboration and connecting across traditional boundaries.  My vote went to Pete Cashmore, the 23-year-old founder of the website–which provides one-stop shopping for advice about using social media, as an individual, a business, or to promote a cause.   Last year when this old dog set out to learn some new tricks, fortunately someone recommended the site, which has been an invaluable resource, praised by experts as well as newbies like me.   I didn’t know most of the honorees, but reading about them gave me hope!

Social Networker or Snake-Oil Salesman?

The question that seems to be on the lips (including my own) of any person or company that wants to use social media to get a message out is:  How do you reach out to people–strangers, consequential strangers, or close friends–without coming off as a snake-oil salesman?  (Sorry guys, although I normally prefer the non-gendered “salesperson,” have you ever heard of a snake-oil saleswoman?)  From my personal and very limited experience, here’s my best advice (subject to change, of course, as everything in the Internet age is):

Welcome diversity
. Seek out connections who are different from you given any of the usual parameters of difference: class, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age, occupation.   This will connect you to people who have different ideas.  In the last several months, mostly because I’m open to it, I’ve “met” men and women of all ages–people who are thinking about new concepts that might have taken me years to discover and whose opinions are different from my own.  This has allowed me to build “bridges” to new communities where I find resources and a fresh perspective.  I can then pass those ideas onto others.  Otherwise, I’m just sitting here recycling my own ideas, which gets both stale and boring.

Position yourself as a collaborator
Thanks to thetechnology, it’s possible to communicate 24/7.   Ask not ask what others can do for you unless you’re also willing to help them with their projects. Comment on their blogs, retweet, recycle–and give them credit.  Social media should not be about numbers of “followers” or “friends” or how many people we have in our social convoys.  It’s about connection.  Admittedly, some of our online social ties barely qualify as relationships.  You might visit a website only once because you happen to see an idea that intrigued you.  But take the extra minute and add your two cents–and it will probably come back to you.

Be sincere.
Not that there’s anything wrong with profit and gain (as Seinfeld might have put it), but they can’t be your only motives. If you’re connecting with people only to better the bottomline, get more bodies into your church or store, or convince people to buy your book, they’ll catch on sooner rather than later. And they’ll probably desert you.  Everyone’s busy, everyone has an agenda.  And while social media has increased the possibility of getting large numbers of people to pay attention, it has also made us a little more selective, if not skeptical.   In my opinion, instead of figuring out “schemes” and “strategies,” just be…yourself.

Learn from people who’ve been there. It’s hard to believe but social network media dates back only a few years.  And before we had the software to allow us to be in touch with our convoys, there were internet communities and other precursors of what is now exploding on the Internet.  Here are some of the people/sites that have given me the best understanding of what it’s all about.  Start with Nancy White’s excellent blog, “How I Use Social Media.”  It’s one woman’s journey, but Nancy has been there from the beginning.   I’ve also found Pete Cashmore’s Mashable an invaluable resource for understanding what various social network sites are best for and how individuals and companies are using them.  Best of all, the site speaks to beginners as well as veterans of the net. I’d also suggest reading anything by Barry Wellman or Howard Rheingold.   They’ve both been looking at internet communities for decades; reading their papers and blogs is like getting a crash course in how we got here.  If you have any favorite people or sites, please include them in your comments.

Spend social currency not money. If you’re still uneasy about the new media, you might be tempted to hire one of the so-called experts out there–you’ll come across many of them.  Their blogs and tweets promise to teach you “how.”  And perhaps some of them can help, but it’s important to remember that no one knows “the best way” (or even the five best ways) to reach out to your people.  So why not begin by spending social energy rather than money? It might sound kind of old-school and not very flashy, but the best idea might be to just get out there yourself, find a slice of common ground, and connect–one consequential stranger a time.

Old Folks (Not) At Home

With all this talk about social media, let’s not forget that as far back as smoke signals and tin cans, resourceful people have always found ways to connect and communicate. (For a great review of a recent and yet long-ago time–the nineties–check out this article .) One thing is different now: It’s easier–and cheaper–to keep in touch.

So why should anyone be surprised that “older” people have found their way to–gasp!–sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.  They are using them the way they once wrote postcards or made the occasional phone call to an old army buddy.  Online venues are great for rediscovering acquaintances from the long-lost past and meeting new people as well. And unless illness or geographic isolation stops them, research shows, they’re bringing those encounters into the real world as well.

Staying connected and involved are the keys to graceful aging–and that means stepping outside our inner circles. In fact, it’s the people we don’t know so well who are more likely to…

Introduce us to a novel activity or experience. The people closest to us know what we know and often think the way we think. Make a new acquaintance or join a new group, and it opens a new door.

Allow us to exercise a different persona. Our loved ones can finish our sentences for us, but consequential strangers wonder who we are. With them we can be a blank slate all over again. Members of the Red Hat Society, according to its founder, “don’t have to conform to an old image or explain that they are changing certain aspects of themselves.” Try that with your partner or a really close friend!

Remind us that we are, indeed, part of something bigger. When you’re wielding a hammer as part of a Habitat crew or schmoozing with a old fraternity brother on Facebook, you’re connected to the greater mass of humanity.