Monthly Archives: January 2012

Example of what you would see on your main Pinterest page (stream).

Pinterest explained, and how to use it.

I am doing a week of blog posts about Pinterest. If you are already a user, this particular introductory post may not be relevent, but I will be publishing six posts total on Pinterest:

Please visit again or subscribe to be alerted about future posts in the series.

Pinterest is a bit like Twitter was a couple years ago. You may have heard about it, and understand the basic concept, but here is a quick overview.

Pinterest is about viewing, organizing and sharing images (they offer video too, but that hasn’t taken off).

The two key parts of Pinterest are pins and boards.

Example pin of a glass bowl.

Pin

A pin is any image that you want to post. You can also add a text caption to any image as part of the pin. Pinterest offers a bookmarklet that you can add to your browser to quickly pin images you see on most websites.

Boards

You have to then put the pin on one of your boards. Boards can be labeled anything you want, but people usually use them to organize images around themes. Pinterest will automatically add some boards in the signup process if you approve it. You can always delete or rename boards later. It is helpful to have the default boards as a place to start.

Followers/Following

Example of what you would see on your main Pinterest page (stream).

Your pins show up in the stream of pins that your followers see, and likewise, you see the pins of people you follow on the default Pinterest page.

You can follow all of a person’s boards, or choose to only follow the one’s you are interested in.

Pinterest uses an algorithm to place some pins at the top of your stream largely based on “re-pins” and “likes” from other users.

Re-Pin

You can re-pin other peoples pins to your own boards and have the option of changing the text caption when you re-pin. Unless the caption is highly personalized, most users make very few changes to captions.

Like

You can “Like” a pin, and that will show up in a separate stream that others can access from your profile. Likes are often used when a person literally likes a pin but doesn’t want to re-pin it. This could be because they don’t have an appropriate board or don’t want to make their interest as public as re-pin would make it.

Example board from my personal account.

Ways to use Pinterest

Like most social networks, you often don’t know how best to use it until you try it out. I personally started on Pinterest because my wife uses it, and I am interested in social networks. I use Pinterest to collect images of different art I like in addition to other random collections of images that interest me.

Popular board categories include:

  • Places
  • Food
  • Decor
  • Humor
  • Organization
  • DIY

The list can go on and on. Essentially any topic you could think of could be a board. And you can make it as broad or specific as you want. Most people start out creating broad catagories and over time make them more specific. But like most social networks, there are many ways to do it right. Pinterest’s search function is excellent, and when you find and image you particuarlly like, you can then explore all the images that are on that board.

Pinterest heavily leans to female users, but I believe the human impulse to collect and organize things, will make Pinterest of use and genuinely fun for most people who give it a try. Whether Pinterest can make the experience relavent to people outside of core female demographics remains to be seen. But being able to follow individuals by board (essential interests) and not just by person, naturally lends itself to more an individualized and relevant experience.

I have only used Pinterest for two months, so I welcome your ideas, thoughts and suggestions on the service. Comments are appreciated.

If you need an invite to Pinterest, just email me at jd12345@gmail.com with Pinterest in the subject line, and I will send you an invitation.

 

Steps

Two tips for working on difficult projects.

A couple weeks ago I had one of those Saturdays were I really felt like working on some projects, but I kept running up against road blocks.

I wanted to create an email list for this website, but I was finding Mail Chimp difficult to use. I was attempting to create a template for future emails, but despite my efforts I kept running into barriers. I need a header image, but I didn’t even have a header image for this website. And there were a dozen fields I need to customize for Mail Chimp before I even had a usable template.

Two years ago, I would have just given up. An email newsletter is not essential to this site. I could keep blogging without ever having one. I have an RSS feed and most of my traffic comes from social media anyway.

But that Saturday, I used two tricks to keep me going.

Breaking up work

I didn’t sit in front of the computer for more than an hour at a time. I would take at least a 15 minute break to do something else. The activities weren’t particularly exciting, but at different times I took the dogs for a walk, helped my wife with laundry and called my Dad to visit.

You likely already know this, but I have found that after 60-90 minutes of intense work, a person’s level of focus and productivity goes way down. So instead of just pushing through I took breaks.

Each time I came back to the computer I felt more energy and at times I had a different perspective on how to best accomplish a task.

It not just about today.

Another obvious statement, but I have come to realize that if I put all the benefit of work on just getting the project completed, it can be overwhelming. Instead I kept reminding myself, “the work you are putting in now on Mail Chimp will likely help you get a newsletter setup for this site, BUT you are also learning so much from the process.”

The process placed road blocks like needing a theme or logo for this site, so in the process I created one. The process of learning how Mail Chimp worked proved to be more difficult then I expected, but I realized what I was leanring could be valuable in the future. I could use this knowledge for other projects, helping with a Social Media Club of Lawrence list, helping a client, or even just helping a friend. I wasn’t working just for the end goal of getting the newsletter setup, but rather I was appreciating that I was learning along the way.

The next time you feel the desire to just give up on a difficult task, consider these two ideas. No guarantees of project completion, but I hope you end up getting something out of the process.

By the way, the email newsletter did get completed. If you want to get updated about new blog posts or when I share exclusive newslettter content, you can sign-up here.

 

Evernote for blog organization and composition

Why I like Evernote

I have been using Evernote for close to two years and regret that I haven’t written a blog post about it sooner. At its most basic, Evernote lets you type notes into their application and access and edit them on any Internet connected device. This simple premise can be expanded to the level of complexity you desire using their organization system of Notebooks (essentially folders) and tags. You can also add images, audio and attach documents.

Reasons to like Evernote

Simple:

  • No save button. Everything is saved automatically, and if you make a mistake, then you can restore a previous version.
  • Add a new note, compose and edit on any Internet connected device.
  • Small foot print. I have never had a device crash using Evernote. It is simple and doesn’t take many resources.

Powerful:

  • Transfers your thoughts to text
  • No pressure
  • Build thoughts up over time
  • Access information anywhere
  • It is heavy on creation vs consumption
  • Ability to search
  • Flexible
  • Integrates with other relevant online services

Add a new note, compose and edit on any device.

I use three primary devices to access the Internet: my desktop, notebook and Android phone. I can start writing in Evernote in the living room, continue working on the same note in the office, and then even add a couple thoughts on my phone while waiting to get my hair cut. Not having to thinking about synching my notes at any time, is a huge benefit. The best tools tend to be reliable, not take too much thought and provide value; Evernote fits all of those.

It is heavy on creation vs consumption.

While you can certainly save other people’s writing to Evernote, I find the majority of my use falls under creation. Whether it is documenting my own thoughts or composing for a web site or blog, I generally find myself creating without distraction in Evernote.

Capture your thoughts and then review them.

One great thing about journaling is being able to look back and see what you were thinking in the past. I did a personal journal from 1999-2003, and I still enjoy reading what I was thinking at that time. I don’t have an official journal anymore, but I do consistently write my thoughts in Evernote. Being able to accurately see what you were thinking about a topic at any given time is a big advantage. My mind often tends to think that however I am thinking now was always the case. A review of my notes, quickly shows that isn’t always the case.

No pressure

When I write in Evernote I am generally writing just for me. At times I am specifically writing with an audience in mind, but the ideas that I put in Evernote are mainly for me, and this takes away a number of writing barriers. Have you ever set down at a blank screen wanting to write up a blog post or organize your thoughts on some idea, and were then overwhelmed with all the steps it would take to get the point of actually publishing? Hopefully for you, you can just start writing and everything flows really well. That isn’t the case for me. The pressure of a blank page can be difficult, but with Evernote I don’t feel any pressure. My history has taught me that I should write down whatever I am thinking at the time, and even if I don’t use this piece of writing right away, I have something to use in the future.

Organization for the disorganized

I am pretty messy. I don’t have a place for everything. My use of Evernote is often the same. I take random notes and don’t always add tags or put them in a certain notebook. Evernote helps me still get value from this disorganized style by having a good search function. When I am ready to put my thoughts together or act on a key piece of information, I can search for keywords on the topic and find my thoughts.

My other routine is taking an hour every month to go through my existing notes and organize them. I start with the most recent notes in my general folder and then drag and drop them in appropriate notebooks or add tags. I currently am adding about 80 notes a month to Evernote, and I can easily organize those in under an hour.

Another way Evernote has helped with my composition process is doing a small amount of editing each time I look at a note. I will read through what I wrote before and look for things to add to already written ideas, but also edit for readability on anything I have already written. This makes the process of article or idea creation systematized and routine.

You have to start somewhere.

Most complex ideas don’t get implemented in one day. I don’t generally wake up one morning and decide today is the day and knock out a whole project. If nothing else, Evernote is a great way to slowly transfer some of your ideas from your mind into text. It can start as a one line idea, that then becomes a paragraph and then maybe an executable plan or blog post; Evernote really makes it easy to get your thoughts down, organize them and then build on them.

Easy to start

Evernote doesn’t ask much of you. You can download their software for almost any device or just access it in a browser.

I know a number of people are now using Evernote. If you use it, I would love to hear your process and/or any tips you would like to share. In the next couple weeks I am going to write about some use cases, and it would be great to include yours.

 

2011

A personal year in review: Success, failure & help from my friends.

Inspired by Gareth M. Skarka, I am doing a quick year in review of my own personal social media and web projects. I hope you can indulge my self focus. Many of the projects never went anywhere, but I learned so much from small tests, little steps, and the generosity of others who shared their knowledge.

January

Started a social media podcast series. I had one interview that went well, but a lack of people to interview and audience development caused me to shift the format to news updates. After two months of doing that, I let the podcast series end in March. One of the great things about this project was that I got to work with Philsquare who I hope to do business with again in 2012.  They do great work.

Started blogging on LLSocial more frequently. And by frequently I mean at best once a month.

Started a GroupMe SMS account as a backup communication system for Lawrence if Twitter and/or the Internet went down. Seven invited people signed up, but thankfully it hasn’t been needed yet. I admit this is another project I started with enthusiasm, but have not worked on since.

February

Blogged about my frustration with a lack of investment opportunities in social media and advised investing in one’s self whether with personal accounts or business projects.

March

Started attending a weekly Sunday morning breakfast organized by Ray Munoz. A number of people joined over the year, and it keeps going strong. You can join us 9:30 AM at Genovese in Lawrence almost every Sunday.

Started researching Twitter names I thought would be good to base a large account around. In the process I secured @free on Twitter.

April

On April 1st, I first posted to @free with a Google April Fool’s offer of “finger warmers” for typing. Google actually delivered them in the mail.

In mid April, I decided to shift @free follower development from a follow-back model and try promoting it with MyLikes.

On April 22nd started the Twitter account @Lblogs to automatically tweet most of the blog posts in Lawrence.

In late April I decided that an SMS text system for @free might make sense.

My one year anniversary working with ITFO Communications. Working on a variety of thought leadership, marketing and social media projects has helped improve my skill sets in a number of meaningful ways.

May

Launched a completely custom SMS text service for @free. While I learned so much from the developement, if I had to do it over again, I would have started smaller and used existing technology.  As it is, this was an expensive project that might be more than I need in terms of local targeting.

June

The one year anniversary of the formation of Social Media Club of Lawrence. I attended most meetings over the previous year and learn so much from everyone who attended and participated.  If I had to point to just one thing that helped me over the past year, it would be the knowledge this group shares every week.

In mid June I started more aggressive development of the @free audience including the use of sponsorships. For more details on this, I am doing a talk about it on Janurary 18th. You can find more details on the Facebook events page.

Predicted that Twitter would need to start doing @ message ads based on keywords users used. While Twitter has yet to attempt to put ads in users @ message sections, they are placing ads in timelines based on keyword usage.

July

Wrote about my early attempts at using Google+ for audience segmentation. While I am no longer particuarlly excited about Google+ due to a lack of users, I used those same principles to launch new Twitter accounts focusing on students as well as iPhone and Android owners.

In late July I considered creating stickers or key fobs for @free users that could help with branding and/or be the basis for contest entries. I abandoned the idea due to cost and more importantly, the realization that the time it would take to do fullfillment wasn’t reasonable or the best use of my time given the early nature of my startup.

In late July we launch the @free website.

August

Begin to explore monetization ideas for @free. At the end of August I ask @free readers what they thought.

Create a Facebook app page with Shortstack apps to promote the @free Facebook page.

September

Suggested a book author topic meeting for Social Media Club of Lawrence. On October 12th we had the meeting.

Put the call out for contributer for new @free accounts. In the process I found my sales lead, Matt, and student lead, Haley.

October

Launched @universifree, @atFreeiPhone and @atFreeAndroid.

Attended a KU Small Business Development Center introductory class on starting a business. I had created several businesses before, but still found the class very helpful. I followed it up with a meeting to brainstorm ideas for @free as well as doing a monetization plan.

Attended a Social IRL conference where I got some good advice from Ben A. Smith.

Decided to list Documentary Films .Net for sale, and wrote up copy for it.

November

Attended, and @free sponsored, a SocialIRL event in St. Louis.

Put a blog post on Documentary Films. Net saying it was for sale.

@free got its first five business sponsors.

Created my first YouTube video to go along with a blog post about Follower Wonk. The video has less than 30 views, but I learn a considerable amount in the process. I am thankful for all the advice I got from Patrick Conroy about video over this past year.

December

Sold Documentary Films .Net to a Danish entertainment content company focusing on films.

Update my LinkedIn profile to reflect some of the changes over the last year.

Tried out a new service, Clarify.FM and as a result got to have a phone call with Dan Martell, one of the Internet marketers I respect most.

Changed my personal Twitter username to @JoshD from @lawrencekslive.

Joined Pinterest and found my collecting impulse reignited.

I know many people limit themselves to one resolution or focus for 2012, but if 2011 has taught me anything, is that I will keep taking next step on current projects, try lots of little experiments and then put the focus on what works and keep building on little wins. 2011 had so many failures (I use that in a good way), but out of those, I am really happy with many small wins that built on themselves.

I used Evernote and PostPost to help with my memory of when and what happen this past year.  I highly recommend both free services.