How to Avoid Social Network Overload

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social mediaFor freelancers, staying connected is critical for finding the next gig, but it also likely means you’re likely getting burned out using social networks (if you haven’t already.) The New York Times called this “digital fatigue.” Perhaps that’s why Brian Solis, one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media, recommends approaching your own use of social media with a personal strategy. Using a personal social media strategy will help you benefit from using social media and learn how to change your habits to use social media networks more effectively.

Here are five points to consider when developing a personal social media strategy.

  1. Use social networks to benefit you both professionally and personally. There are dozens of social networks around the world, and while Facebook currently reigns as the most popular, many niche social networks are incredibly influential in certain regions and topics. As a freelance journalist, your success may hinge on being able to generate the most traffic for your articles, but this does not necessarily mean sharing your articles on the most popular social networks will attract the most readers. If you know of niche networks or forums (such as Reddit) that have a very active group of users interested in the topic you are writing about, sharing your article with these users may generate more views than simply seeding your article on Twitter or Facebook, where your broad general base may not care. If you consistently write about certain topics, building relationships with users on these niche networks can be critical in generating the traffic you need, and will be a better use of your time than haphazardly building a broad following across dozens of social networks.
  2. Decide how much time to dedicate to each social network to see results. While focusing on niche networks is important to generate those critical page views for an article written about a specific topic, a professional presence across the most popular social networks–such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+–is important for new readers to easily find and follow your updates to read your latest articles. Because your fan base will be much broader than the focus of your articles, it’s important not to spend too much time on any one specific social network unless you know that you have a strong following interested in what you write that will also share your articles with their friends and followers. Once you do find the social networks that help generate the most attention for your articles, be sure to focus your time on these platforms more, and less on others.
  3. Change your habits to use other social networks more effectively. If you find that none of your social network activity is benefiting your professional career as a freelance writer, you may need to dedicate time to building up a targeted fan and follower base that would be interested in your articles and likely willing to share your work with their friends and followers. One of the best social networks for journalists new to social media is Twitter. This social network is evolving into a social platform comprised of users eager to share news and information, and as a result, you may want to focus on using it’s search function to find users interested in your topic and following them, which in turn will usually lead to these users following you back. Twitter users loves to share news, blog posts, and other interesting articles, and as a result this social network is a great place to generate viral attention for your articles. Just be sure you’re actually using Twitter by sharing your articles so your new followers will read and share them with their followers, too.
  4. Reduce the noise of social media. For freelance journalists with well-established social media accounts, your problem may not be a lack of followers, but a total overdose in social media hindering you from using social media to benefit your ability to not just share your work, but source material. For those with noisy social media accounts, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all now feature ways to create “lists” that allow you to selectively choose from which friends or those of whom you follow you want to read updates. This feature is not new to Facebook, but is more prominent and can be accessed from the sidebar on the home page, and on Twitter, you can easily add a user to an existing or new list from the other user’s profile. For journalists, Twitter’s lists can be especially valuable when sourcing information for stories or articles, as you can group users into specific topics and scan through just these updates, cutting out the extraneous noise.
  5. Set a schedule to reduce distraction and accomplish your goals. If you find that you still need to use multiple social networks throughout the day for not just your professional job as a freelancer, but for personal enjoyment or benefit, consider creating a schedule to limit the amount of time spent on each social network. Personally, I will not use Facebook until the evening unless I am doing research for an article or consulting for a client, as I find it’s too easy to become distracted by updates about my friends’ pregnancies, upcoming weddings, and photo albums from last week’s birthday parties. Since I work from home, imposing this limit forces myself to focus on work and just the aspects of social media that benefit myself as a freelance journalist.

Have you found yourself overwhelmed with social media as a freelancer? How do you balance multiple social networks? Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.

This Week’s Headlines: Portable eBooks and a Vanishing Paywall

Two book-turned-movie phenomenons made headlines this week. First, movie-goers flocked to theaters last weekend for the opening of The Hunger Games, based on the popular YA books by Suzanne Collins, and later, J.K. Rowling released Harry Potter in ebook format. But those weren’t the only news stories this week. Here’s what’s happening in the media and publishing worlds.
  • The newsonomics of 100 products a year: News industry analyst Ken Doctor predicts that news organizations will soon cash in on what he call the 100-product-a-year model, producing ebooks and other products to monetize content. Earlier this month, we covered how one newspaper created a multimedia ebook by repurposing content from its website.
  • The New Republic Tears Down Its Pay Wall: With Facebook founder Chris Hughes at the helm of the Washington political magazine, The New Republic has removed its pay wall for recent articles. As we reported last week, The New York Times is reducing the number of articles available for free per month.
  • Daily Variety up for sale: Tinsel Town’s oldest entertainment industry trade pub is up for sale. It’s the only remaining print daily publication to exclusively cover the entertainment business, which experts say could lead to a sales price as high as $50 million.
  • Hunger Games and archery: A quick way to approach a trend story: This behind-the-scenes analysis of how the hit movie is making archery cool looks at how journalists and article writers spot trends.
  • Harry Potter and the Portable E-books: On Tuesday, the Harry Potter books went on sale in electronic form for the first time. Unlike most other ebooks, though, these books don’t use encryption, so readers have more flexibility to move them between devices and read them wherever they’d like. Amazon currently dominates ebook sales, but J.K. Rowling’s new web store, Pottermore, could shift the industry if it proves successful.
  • NPR experiments with local news headlines on national home page: For the next month, NPR plans to experiment with using local headlines from 13 cities on NPR.org. The goal is to use the website to shine the spotlight on member stations’ newsgathering and grow their audience long-term.

This Week’s Headlines: Curator’s Code, New Republic Gets New EIC

The big stories this week in media and publishing show the continuing evolution of online copyright law and best practices, as well as the relevance of new technology like livestreaming and smart phones in reporting on international affairs.

Enhance Your Professional Profile through Online Content Curation

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online content curationYou’ve heard of online content curation—and most likely, you’re already doing it without thinking much about it. Every time you post a link to an article on Twitter, or share a video link on Facebook, you’re curating content for your own network of friends and followers.

But when done well, you may be able to take content curation from a hobby to a professional service that you can offer to clients: For instance, Maria Popova, owner of the design-focused curation blog Brain Pickings, has parlayed her expertise into paid gigs with The Atlantic and other publications. Here are a few tips for taking your curation skills to the next level.

Build a theme. Curating content, along with creating your own, can help you develop an expert platform in a particular field. If personal finance is your focus, use your Twitter feed, your blog, and any other online media formats of your choice (such as curation tools like Paper.li and Scoop.It) to highlight the smartest writing on money you’ve seen that week. Shining a light on others’ work can also help you develop relationships with content creators in your field, which could lead to paid writing opportunities.

Find hidden gems. Successful curators don’t simply tweet and share the articles and videos that are already hot in social media—they dig deep into the web to seek out older or more obscure pieces of content that deserve a chance in the spotlight. Jason Kottke, who runs the popular blog kottke.org, often publishes excerpts and links referring to fascinating older content, such as a 1982 guide to video games by Martin Amis.

Give credit. When curating content, you’ll find mixed views on whether it’s acceptable to include a few lines of the original text excerpt or if you should simply link back with a summary. When in doubt, ask the content creator if excerpts are permissible; if so, make it clear that the text is a quote and not your original writing. It’s also generally seen as good web etiquette to give a “via” credit to other blogs and their content writers where you spotted a link to the content you’re citing.

Bring your own personality to the mix. Even if you’re primarily linking to and excerpting existing content, sharing a little bit about why you’re sharing this particular content will help distinguish you as an expert curator. “Bring your own voice to the topic and each link,” says Laura Brown, owner of the blog Word Grrls, who curates content at Scoop.It. “This will keep the topic from getting stale for you and keep people reading because you’re not just moderating a flat topic without life, personality, a sense of humor, real opinions and real experience.”

The Writer’s Guide to Pinterest

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Lately we’ve heard a ton of buzz about online pinboard Pinterest: how it recently hit 10 million U.S. monthly uniques and how savvy brands and publishers are using the site for content marketing. And yes, there’s been some backlash over how the site is monetized and whether pinning an image might violate copyright law. (Websites can now add some code to make their images unpinnable, but of course they’d also miss out on potential traffic from the site.)

That doesn’t seem to be slowing down millions of devoted Pinterest users, many of whom blog about weddings, fashion, or DIY. It’s quickly spreading to other niches as well. Ebyline talked to several freelance writers and bloggers about how they’re using the platform to inspire and promote their writing.

  • Crowdsourcing ideas. Freelance writer Terri Huggins joined Pinterest in search of inspiration images for her new home, but she also discovered that pins could inspire ideas for articles. “I look for pins that are out of the norm or non-traditional that could possibly make a great angle for a story,” she says. “For example, I found an interesting pin of bridesmaids holding gorgeous, huge paper flowers as opposed to a real bouquet of flowers. It caught my attention because in the wedding world it’s taboo and frowned upon to not have real flowers at a wedding, but yet I found a unique alternative that completely went against tradition. I found a way to craft that into an interesting pitch.” While on the site, Huggins also looks for motivational quotes about writing and life to keep her going on tough days.
  • Organizing ideas. Tara Bellucci, who writes about quirky interior decorating ideas for the Apartment Therapy blog, used to look for ideas and products via Google, but she’s since switched to Pinterest. “I love that Pinterest links automatically to the origin of the pin, where even if it’s not the content creator, it’s a good lead,” she says. As Bellucci searches for products that might work well together for a “mood board post,” she organizes them into pinboards, where she can “easily collect web clips and see what works and what doesn’t.” For instance, she used this board on Pinterest to create this resulting post.
  • Thinking visually. Leah Ingram, a freelance writer and the blogger behind Suddenly Frugal, discovered Pinterest when several readers repinned a photo from one of her posts, generating traffic to her blog. That piqued Ingram’s curiosity about Pinterest, so she clicked over to the site to check it out. Now that getting “pinned” can mean a boost in traffic, bloggers like Ingram give more thought to the images they use. “Whatever ideas I have, I try to think of how I might photograph them and how I can include those photos in my blog post so someone will pin it,” she says. The post that originally sparked her interest in Pinterest instructions for DIY laundry detergent and continues attracting pins. Ingram says she’s seeing more and more traffic via Pinterest.
  • Building your platform. Bethanne Patrick, Executive Editor of Book Riot and author of two nonfiction books, sees huge promotional potential for authors, but more in a creative than an overtly self-promotional sense. “One novelist I know, Randy Susan Meyers, has created boards characters in her novel: hair color, the way she dresses, places she would live,” says Patrick. “Her novel came out two years ago, so it was postspiration if you will, but now I’m seeing people put together inspiration boards for books that they are working on.” Authors or publicists could also create boards of favorite books, places they’ve visited during a book tour, or even artwork created out of books, giving readers a glimpse of the images that inspire them. “It puts a lot of control back in the artists’ hands,” she adds.
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