Social Networking for Newbies

The Internet today contains an ever increasing proliferation of social media tools with millions upon millions of subscribers each.

How do you traverse your way from wide eyed newcomer to proficient and prolific social media power monger?  The loving Melbournistas team will hold your hand and guide you through the sometimes tricky terrain of getting started with social media.

Planning & Personas

It may seem silly to think about planning your Facebook or Twitter profiles, surely you just post how you feel and what you’re up to and you’ll gain followers right? Wrong!

Because the Internet is full of social media sites and the people that use them, to make the most of your online presence you need to make sure you have a clear idea of what part of your personality or interests you want to focus on.  You only need to look at the Janoskians or Cody Simpson to see how influential Aussies can be in the social media stratosphere.  But they each have a specific persona that they are using social media to portray.  You wouldn’t find the Janoskians posting a video where they enact a scene from Romeo & Juliet or talk about the latest performance from the Australian Ballet Company because that isn’t what their YouTube channel persona’s are popular for and it isn’t what their subscribers are expecting.

So think about yourself and your life, what’s interesting? What’s fun? What do you enjoy doing? What do you love to talk about?  What do you want to achieve?  Are you promoting yourself for potential job opportunities or is it just for fun?

Use these questions as a starting off point to decide which part of yourself you want to focus your social media presences on.  The key here is to focus on something you love!  To have sustained social media power you need to keep your posts coming, this is A LOT easier if you love the topic!

Your Avatar & Username
Now that you’ve decided who you are online & what you want to talk about it pays to take some time to decide on what Avatar & Username you’ll use for your social media presences.  A big part of convergence & social media is having a coherent presence across all the social media platforms you’re engaged in.  A great way to ensure you can keep your username consistent is to check beforehand via a username validation service such as Namechk or Usernamecheck, that way you can decide on your username & ensure it’s available on all the social media sites you want to work on BEFORE you get your profiles underway.
Similarly your avatar is an image that represents you in the online stratosphere.  Next to each of your online profiles you have the option to add an image of yourself or something that represents you.  If you decide to leave your image blank – Beware! This can be interpreted by other users as being inauthentic and a possible spambot profile.  Also make sure the image you choose is consistent across all your social media profiles, it builds your brand and tells the reader that you are the same person they connected with on Twitter & it’s your awesome blog they read.
Now that you’ve got your Avatar and username ready to roll, lets get social!

Chose your Social Media Platforms

Once you have an idea of what you want to say, then you need to get out there & explore where to say it.  Obviously there is not right or wrong answer to this, so instead of telling you where to go (so to speak) check out the list below of some of the plethora of social media sites that you can use:

The list above are for general social media use, which is a great place to start, but it’s always worth investigating to see if there are social media and networking sites that relate to your specific field or persona.  For instance DeviantArt is a fantastic social media site where artists create profiles & post their work online for artists and potential  clients alike can check out their work and collaborate.  There are literally hundreds of social media sites out there, so let your fingers do the walking to find the one’s best suited to you!
We highly recommend setting up your own blog or website so that you can publish your own content & have a central online presence for all of your social media nodes to link back to.  Publishing your own information and content can also help establish you as a thought leader in your chosen area, but more on that later…

Contribute & Connect

This may come as a shock to you but, to get the most out of social media you have to actually post things and get involved!  It may seem daunting at first, but the best way to find out how to use social media to your advantage is to dive in.  If you’re a bit shy, why not comment on something someone else has posted thats related to your persona.  Commenting & engaging with other people is as important as posting your own work on your blog/youtube/flickr/deviantart profile.

The whole point of social networking is to Network! Make sure you get out there, get involved, post a video, upload a photo, write a blog post & then link them all to each other!  If someone is interested enough to look at one piece of information you post, chances are they’ll like more of your work, make it easy for them to find you.

Keep your ear to the grindstone

The fun part of social media is that it’s always changing, there’s always new people to meet & a great new platform to try out.  Make sure you subscribe to any other blogs, social media sites or bookmarking sites (such as Digg or Mashable) to keep across any changes that are happening in your area of interest so that you’re in the know and ready to post your own thoughts and views as soon as possible.

Most importantly have fun! Social media and networking is there for you to be creative, show the world what you can do and what you think!


How much is too much?

What do you do when you feel like you’ve got so much on you can’t catch your breath?  When as soon as you get a grip on what you need to focus on and what you need to accomplish the list doubles and doubles again?

As I’ve said before at the moment I’m juggling the delicate balancing act of working full time and studying full time.  Granted that I’m using the amazing technology of the internet to earn a University degree online without ever having to attend a lecture or tutorial in person.  But this comes with it’s own challenges.  To study online you need to be dedicated and self motivated.  There is no set time of the day or week that you HAVE to do anything.  No recurring lecture to attend, no tutorial group to discuss ideas with and get an immediate insight on the topics with.  You find the time, whatever time that is.  For me it’s increasingly becoming about 5 in the morning when I get home from work and can’t sleep I log on do some readings and post in the discussion board.  But unless you make yourself keep on track, unless you prioritise your life and commit to making study work, it won’t.

Up to this point I’ve been able to navigate the rocky terrain of this journey relatively unscathed.  Sure there is always a time when everything is due at once and work needs my full attention as well.  But that’s the exception to the rule, usually I’m able to plan things in advance enough for me to be able to maintain some form of balance and still have some form of life outside of work and Uni.

Recently there are more and more things coming up that I need to focus on.  I’m still working hard at work and uni, I’m also putting a lot of effort to build my social media skills and develop a genuine online presence, on top of that I’m working on a freelance design for Pride March Victoria, I’m getting the framework and website together for my freelance web design company Blushing Toms Design and I’m also committed to enhancing the website and web presence of Blushing Toms to generate more sales, reach more people, develop new products and really establish us as a renowned business in the LGBTI community.  On top of all that is another new venture that’s knocking on my door, it looks amazing and enticing, but it will also take an incredible amount of time, energy, enthusiasm, creativity and persistence to make it work.

Is that too much?  Will it be the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back?

Usually it’s easy to tell when there is too much of something, you’re filling up a glass and it overflows, thats too much.  You feed your dog a bone that is double the size of it’s entire body, regardless of what your dog may tell you that IS too much.  But when it’s intangible things, when it’s your time, your effort and your energy where do you draw the line?  Do you wait until you burn out, have a breakdown and can’t do anything other than watch bad daytime TV for a year to recover?

That’s not something I’m all too keen on, don’t get me wrong daytime TV can be a good break but there’s far to many bad infomercials for my liking.  Truth be told I think your body and your instincts give you the signal when things are getting on top of you, even if you don;t always recognise what they’re trying to tell you. The trouble is your mind can sometimes take over and override those natural signals to slow down and focus.  Because your mind is part of your ego, and I don’t know about you, buy my ego always wants me to be capable, responsible and in control.  It wants to get a sense of achievement from doing things that seem impossible, from pushing boundaries and taking on the world no matter the cost.

This is the dilemma I’m facing at the moment, is it all too much?  Is my ego clouding the judgement of what my body and mind can handle? Or am I just scared of what might happen if I dive in and fail?

To be honest I think I know what I need to do, but knowing it and doing it are two very different things.  There have been a number of times in my life that have pushed me to make tough decisions, stand up for myself and live my truth no matter what anyone thought or the consequences it may bring.  I’m starting to think this is one of them.


I want it all, I want it now!

I think this is a problem that a few people face, particularly in creative pursuits.  You finally find something that you love to do. You become a sponge and read everything you can find, follow all the latest news and trends and you get an idea of where you want to go and the look and feel you would like.

But there is one small problem, you haven’t given yourself time to practice, to refine your craft and develop the strong foundations you need to support you as you launch yourself into the stratosphere.

Now as a few of you may have already guessed, this is a realisation that is hitting me hard at the moment.  I spent so long looking for something that I love to do, that I understand and that inspires me that I want it all now, I want to be an expert now, I want to know everything, to be able to do everything, to not make mistakes and be able to create the visions of design that I see in my head.  But alas this is not always the case.  Of late I’ve been pushing myself to the limit trying to get everything moving as fast as possible, I figure why wait? It took me this long to figure it out, I can’t waste anymore time in getting where I want to go.

But is it a waste of time to develop and hone and refine your craft?

I think not.  As hard as it feels to do at the moment, I’m starting to realise that I need time and practice.  That pushing myself to be a professional freelance web designer in one easy step really isn’t giving me the foundations and grounding I need to really succeed.

I’m beginning to understand that if I rush too much now, I’ll finish my degree and still be uncertain of my own style, still not have the foundations I need to be great, and still be unable to create the elusive visions that flash across my mind.

So if you’re at the beginning of something you really want, although it may seem better to move fast, speed through the boring fundamentals and get to the fun stuff at the end, my advice is take your time, practice your craft and give yourself the space to learn, to make mistakes and to grow.  Because if you don’t allow yourself the time to develop your foundations, you may fly high, but you’ll fall back down just as fast.


Down the rabbit hole I go

On beginning this journey, I knew that it would be a challenge.  I knew that web design and SEO was more than a set and forget occupation, rather an interactive pursuit of ever moving targets, strategies and timeframes.  But I think it is only just starting to sink in exactly how detailed and vast my knowledge and experience needs to be to make myself an expert in the field that I love.

So to help myself think through everything that has been running through my mind, I’ll break down my main learning and focus areas at the moment:

  • Web Design

Now this heading is deceptively simple, however the breadth of knowledge needed to be an expert for this one portion of my journey is mind boggling.  Currently I’m refining my already well versed skills in HTML, XHTML, CSS, Photoshop, Illustrator, file naming conventions and the W3C standards of design.  To the uninitiated this may appear to be a fairly long list of experience and attributes.  Sadly this isn’t so.  My aspirations in this area of development include PHP, Flash, JavaScript, Ruby, Perl, XMS, Ajax, Asp.net, jQuery and MySQL.  Not to mention perfecting the graphic design, typography, color theory, accessibility, strategy and planning, wireframing, designing for mobile devices.

This may seem excessive (though I’m sure many of you can cite dozens more areas that I haven’t mentioned), but I’m a perfectionist, I want to know not only what needs to be done, but how to do it, and more importantly how to do it with flair and passion!

  • Project Management

Clearly as a freelance worker of any kind you need to have super human project management skills, and web design is no different.  To be able to manage your time effectively, deliver your clients objectives on time and on budget everything needs to be planned, re-planned, tested and re-tested.  Just like you can’t decide one day that you’re going to build a house and the next day start installing the fixtures, everything in the web design timeline needs to come in the right order and have the right amount of time to percolate and develop.

  • SEO & Social Media Marketing

You can create the best website in the world, with the most amazing graphics and the formula for everlasting youth, but if you don’t market it, no one will ever know.  The mere creation of a website is only half (maybe less) of the job, to make it work, bring in visitors and convert those clicks into sales/referrals/enquiries requires even more dedication and an extremely flexible approach.  Now I think I’m fairly good at letting go of my ego, evaluating what’s working and what isn’t, and changing my approach based on that.  This skill is ESSENTIAL for good SEO and SMM (Social Media Marketing).

It’s great that you know HOW to enter SEO information into your webpages, but unless you know why, who you’re wanting to attract, what action you want them to take once they get onto your site and how you’re going to build the relationship beyond a single click or transaction, then your not marketing, your just on the sidelines hoping that people will miraculously be drawn to your site on the 88th page of Google results.  Good luck with that :)

  • Web Analytics

Not only do you need to create, upload and update websites, but more than that to be successful you need to analyse what you’ve done.  You need to test your formats, check your clickthrough rate, your conversion rates and your bounce rates.  You need to keep coming up with ideas and inspiration and test them against your other ideas.  Always be testing!

  • Domain & Database Management

As I’m discovering very quickly, the design of a website is great.  But where do you publish it?  What domain do you use? Do you have keywords in your domain?  Do you have a main domain that is your brand, with other keyword domains that redirect to the same content? How do you keep track of all the domains you acquire?  Keep them fresh, keep their content coming, make sure they’re registered loaded and have maximum uptime.

Once you get customers, or subsctibers, where do you track them?  How do you store their information? What do you use their information for?  What do you disclose?  Do you use a mySQL database to keep your customer data in or do you generate an offline portal?  Then comes the issue of needing to communicate between your site and the server.

  • Personal Branding
  • Business Management
  • Logistics and order fulfilment
  • And on and on and on….

Down the rabbit hole I go, will I stop, I’ll never know


I’m a hoarder

My name is Sara and I have a confession to make, I’m a hoarder.

I can’t really pinpoint where it started.  Like most people it kind of snuck up on me, I’ve never thought of myself as a hoarder but things get to a point that they’re so overwhelming you need to face the truth.

If I’m really honest I guess it started a couple of years ago.  Back then though it was just the one, and I was happy with that.  But as time goes on you start to realise that maybe one isn’t enough.  What if it goes missing? What if I can’t find it? Even worse what if no one can find it?

So I branched out, and got one more.  Just one more I told myself, it’s no big deal, I need it, just to be safe.  Then two turned into three, that turned into 5 and from there I just stopped counting.  Now I can barely move around my apartment for fear of knocking into a stack of them and sending my precious hoard tumbling over the floor.  I spend my nights searching, compiling and collecting more and more to add to my collection.  With each find I convince myself that this would be the last, this one was the last one I needed.  Just one more….

But there’s always another one waiting around the corner ready to take hold of my senses, entrance me in it’s beauty, sell me on it’s indispensability and how much easier and more fulfilled my life would be if I could only posses it.  So I dive in, I become ensnared by it’s song, it’s promise and add it to my collection, in essence to my identity.

So this is my confession, to cleanse my soul, my guilt and move on with my life.

I’m a hoarder of domains, you name it I’ve got it. I’ve got .com, .com.au, .net, I’ve got the plurals, the singular, you name it I’ve bought it.

I’ve ordered a skip-bin for Monday so I’ll do a big clear out and hopefully be able to move on with my life.


Freelance Design Step 1 – Complete!

Today I made a small but significant step towards getting my freelance web design & SEO business off the ground and into the marketplace.

I’ve successfully registered my domain and business name!

As I am already a partner and head designer of the wildly successful Blushing Toms e-commerce store, I thought it only fitting to gain leverage off my previous success and extend the brand into web design and SEO.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen I proudly announce the birth of……..

Blushing Toms Design.com

Weighing in at 264kb and soon to be open for business, I now have a platform to launch myself into the stratosphere of web design stardom!

Now begins the inconsequential task of designing the site that sells me and my design prowess to my many and varied prospective clients, talk about pressure!


In for a penny, in for a pound

When embarking on a journey such as this you start to question your previously held beliefs about your value in the world.

At the moment my ‘day job’ (which is actually a night job so that I can study and create while my mind is fresh) pays what is a decent amount of money for my skills and expertise.  But as soon as you begin to create something, to branch out and generate thought, ideas, content and creativity all preconceptions about what your time is worth go out the door.

Looking into the winding and unknown road of freelance and entrepreneurialism makes you double check the value you’re putting on your time.  At the moment I’m selling the precious hours of my life for a price that on the surface seems acceptable even inflated for the work I’m doing, but on contemplation feels ridiculous.  My time, my life is worth less than $30 an hour.

Don’t get me wrong I really enjoy my job and the people I work with are great, but it’s not what I love.  It doesn’t excite me the way even the vaguest daydreams of my own freelance Web Design & SEO business excite and energise me.

This is what Robert Frost lovingly referred to the road less travelled by, and as with everything that is not a standardised, prepackaged, mass marketed portion of a ‘normal’ life experience, comes an inherent danger and fear of the unknown.  The unknown in the journey and the unknown in yourself.

So how much am I worth in this new world?  Who knows.  At the moment I’m working on web sites just for the pure fun and experience of it.  My time is reimbursed through knowledge, experience and ignited passion and creativity.  Now thats a trade that makes you smile.

But how to make the change from the mainstream to my own stream?  How much will my time be worth?  How much will I need to compromise myself, my creativity and my values in order to make a living doing what I love?

 


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