Puzzled by the Plus+

Photo credit: edupic.net
Photo credit: edupic.net

(Google Plus that is)

If Linked In were a person, it would be a polite, older Canadian.  “I’d like to add you to my professional network”, Linked In graciously states in an outgoing message from you to a contact, thereby giving the contact the option of declining.

There is no asking first on Google+ – you find people and add them to your profile / circles at will and without their consent.  Perhaps consent is implied?

Therefore, in my opinion, if Google + were a person,  it would be Linked In’s brash, distant relative – the sort of relative that barges into your life rather rudely.  Shama Kobani in her text The Zen of Social Media Marketing talks about importing your email contacts and then you can “drag people to your circles to follow and share”.  Drag is a great word for it. Drag them kicking and screaming perhaps into your Google+ world. Even Facebook gives one an option to accept or decline a friend request.

Nonetheless, I’ve set up a Google + profile.  While I found setting it up relatively user-friendly, I was puzzled by the circles and putting people in the same. Do people know what circle I’ve put them in? What if they don’t like the circle I’ve ascribed them to? Oooh the pressure. I still haven’t quite figured out the privacy settings.

There are a lot of features on Google+ including hangouts where a group of people can all log in at the same time to participate in a chat or congregate together to watch something on Youtube – useful if you are in different parts of the world.  Doing a hangout with friends and family in the same city, though, I wonder: whatever happened to going for coffee to catch up or attending a movie in person?

At the moment, I’m not certain I’ll continue my Google+ profile after the ADL310 Social Media and More course is over.  It’s not feeling like “me” yet.

 

 

 

Linking back in to Linked In

Downtown Chicago.  Photo credit: my husband
Downtown Chicago. Photo credit: my husband

I’m back on Linked In, as part of the requirements for the social media course I’m taking.  I’d previously been on Linked In, but deleted my profile for two reasons:

  • Receipt of endless emails from Linked In asking me to connect with people whom I barely knew.
  • Mis-use of the purpose of Linked In – which, in my opinion, is for working professionals and/or students to connect with other working professionals or students in like-minded fields of employment or study.  Case in point: An 85 year old I know created a profile on Linked In, likely in response to an email from one of their retired, bored friends asking them to do so. After their profile was created, I was sent a request me to add them as a connection.   “They’ve just ruined Linked In” a friend of mine, who is on Linked In, and a professional, stated when I told them this.

In any event I’m trying Linked In again.

According to this article http://www.searchenginejournal.com/linkedin-important-career-2014/95883/    being on Linked In one of the most important things you can do for your career.

LinkedIn is all about establishing connections. When you connect with other professionals in your field, you’re gaining more knowledge and insight since you’re interacting with colleagues.

As a burgeoning freelance writer, having a linked in profile could prove invaluable for me.

What Is “Family Time”?

Obtained under creative commons licence attribution: "Television" by Vande Walle Ewoud  https://www.flickr.com/photos/103635341@N02/11346286793/in/photolist-ihCFLn-82tjig-8SKFUn-ihCKUT-cKUCEW-6Kathh-aD9m6B-64wBNU-9dmrST-56oiSP-4vjYS9-7aG7TF-8vvoRi-8K4HmC-8vsJTt-4R6yMg-4ydgPZ-6k49oe-dgzBjU-8vtsqD-8vwHnS-8vttiV-6GiJEm-4ueaaQ-8vwdWd-8vta3M-8vtGqP-8vsCQR-8vxHZ5-8eWNET-bvwAhF-8vt6ck-bxAnne-8vxKwm-8vtyRx-8vuFTD-8vsUSp-bjFumC-5aHooy-8egY3c-5BzKEz-8NjoZf-2T2jWQ-ghLWWW-4WjYdn-agAr25-4YPRaa-4fp1CU-8gPdR9-z2sbh
Obtained under creative commons licence attribution: “Television” by Vande Walle Ewoud https://www.flickr.com/photos/103635341@N02/11346286793/in/photolist-ihCFLn-82tjig-8SKFUn-ihCKUT-cKUCEW-6Kathh-aD9m6B-64wBNU-9dmrST-56oiSP-4vjYS9-7aG7TF-8vvoRi-8K4HmC-8vsJTt-4R6yMg-4ydgPZ-6k49oe-dgzBjU-8vtsqD-8vwHnS-8vttiV-6GiJEm-4ueaaQ-8vwdWd-8vta3M-8vtGqP-8vsCQR-8vxHZ5-8eWNET-bvwAhF-8vt6ck-bxAnne-8vxKwm-8vtyRx-8vuFTD-8vsUSp-bjFumC-5aHooy-8egY3c-5BzKEz-8NjoZf-2T2jWQ-ghLWWW-4WjYdn-agAr25-4YPRaa-4fp1CU-8gPdR9-z2sbh

Answer: Jeopardy!

As a  teen, my husband watched the television show Jeopardy almost nightly with his mother, father and one sibling.   The three of them would gather in the living room and play along with the TV show, guessing the answers aloud, simultaneously with the contestants.   I’m not sure it was my husband’s favorite show on television at the time, in part because his older sibling got almost all the answers right (show off!), but he watched it sacrificially and out of deference to the rest of the family’s interests and desires.  He’s generous like that.

This past Friday and Saturday we were at my in-laws. And, sure enough, my father-in-law wanted Jeopardy on, even though we were in the middle of playing a board game.   The in-laws were happy a new champion was on the show and remarked, in essence, “the other guy had won too much.”  My husband and I, not being followers of the show, hadn’t a clue what they meant. Researching Jeopardy for this post, it’s likely they were referring to recently dethroned Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu.

I’ve never been a huge Jeopardy watcher, but I daresay the contestants need to be blessed with intelligence, good hand-eye co-ordination (to be the first to hit the buzzer) and, last but not least, exceptionally good at thinking on their feet.  It’s easy for those of us who play Jeopardy from our couch to have the correct answer: we aren’t working under pressure to come up with it.

Jeopardy, which celebrated its’ 50th year in television on March 30, 2014 is, according to Steve Beverly, a prof at Union University in Tennessee “the best mental exercise on television”.  http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/28/showbiz/tv/jeopardy-50-years-anniversary/

This makes sense; most TV shows are a completely passive experience for the viewer. That said, our television watching experiences can become quite interactive:   we wince, clutch our stomachs, and moan “show us the bones, the clean,white bones” at the latest dead body on “Bones”. We groan and roll our eyes at the antics of Quinn and Huck on Scandal. We marvel at the fact that Jack Bauer on “24” never has to eat or use the bathroom while chasing terrorists.

In my husband’s family, Jeopardy time was family time. Armchair psychologist that I am, and not lacking in the cynicism department, I wonder if this was a way for the family to bond that wasn’t too threatening emotionally yet still gave the illusion of communication and togetherness.  The equivalent today, I suppose, could be a family in the same time-space continuum, yet each on their smart phones, texting, facebooking and twittering others.

The “Texting” of Social Media

Guidance on the Social Media Path needed!
Guidance on the Social Media Path needed!

Why have a text on social media? Social media’s easy-peasy– you set up a twitter account, a blog, and other forms of social media and wait for the followers to roll in. Or do they? Not so much, I discovered.

If You Build It, They Will Come – Erroneous Thoughts I Had On Social Media

I’ll be discovered! Now that I am on the internet, I can just sit back and wait for people to find me.  People will line up to follow my blog (and yes, some have, and I am grateful for all my followers). A publishing house will get in touch with me with an offer to publish my food blog as a cook book. 

 

Right. Then I woke up.

Clearly, I needed to get real. Lately, I’ve been re-defining “success.”   “Success” is being able to pitch to UP! Magazine regarding writing an article about a gluten free restaurant in Maui, even though there has been no response from them.  “Success” is getting my nerve up to ask my podiatrist–who recently moved into a new office–to take a look at my photos and let me know if he wanted me to do up any of them for their walls. “Success” is another follower on my blogs. “Success” is having one of my photos re-tweeted multiple times on Twitter.

But I digress.

Direction and guidance in terms of using social media effectively and with realistic expectations may be called for.  Enter Shama Kabani, a social media guru.  In a smart, easy-to-read style, her book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, outlines ways for both businesses and individuals to use social media intelligently.  For entrepreneurs or small businesses with a tight budget,a book on social media marketing is affordable, practical and feasible, whereas outsourcing social media needs by hiring a social media company may not be.

In my opinion, social media is not going away anytime soon. It’s a bit of moving target however in that the forms social media takes change constantly. An interactive, hands-on approach via the online course ADL 310 “Social Media and More”  in conjunction with a text that explains the nitty gritty of blogs, twitter, and other forms of social media steers social media users in the right direction.

Impact of Blogging (Both Business and Professional)

A blog post can be like a good party.
A blog post can be like a good party.

Be patient; it can take time to see the impact a blog is having on business. Progress can be slow because of the proliferation of blogs on the internet. My food blog, which I’ve been writing since 2008, has had over 20,000 views but is just shy of 130 followers. Another way statistics on blogs are useful is to inform content (in other words, what to write about). Check what people are searching for when they come across your blog. For example, viewing my statistics on my food blog, which breaks my posts down by category, shows that desserts is the most popular category. One dessert recipe I have on my food blog is called Kit Kat Dessert. People have frequently searched for that recipe on the internet and thus this is a very popular post on my blog. No wonder — it’s a delicious concoction of cream cheese, chocolate pudding, cool whip and, of course, Kit Kat bars.

Comments – and commenters – on blogs can have an impact both positive and negative. Blogging communities are created in part by readers who comment on blog posts. However, putting oneself out there on a blog leaves the door wide open – anything or anyone can “come through” in the form of comments. Bloggers need a thick skin! “Remember the Human” is netiquette 101. http://sevena.edublogs.org/2012/10/04/remember-the-human-netiquette/Unfortunately this rule is too often forgotten or ignored.  Negative comments can have a huge impact on a bloggers morale.

For a business that maintains a blog, both negative and positive comments can impact sales however this is also a good way to receive instant feedback on your product or company. For example, a blog post is created by a software company announcing information regarding a new version of their software. Purchasers of the same can provide feedback in the comments section of that post. As well, an additional post could be created to include a poll to provide feedback to the business of effectiveness of product, customer service, etc.

Managing comments can be a full time job sometimes.   But interacting with blog commenters is what makes a blog “social media”. It’s akin to attending a theme party where a community of people gathered to converse about a given topic. There is one popular blog I follow whose creator does this on a strictly volunteer basis. Each of her posts gets many, many comments. It’s conversational, lively and interactive – much like a good party is.

Effectiveness of Blogs

downtowncalgary-1-picasaedit-001

The effectiveness of a blog for a business can be measured in part by how many readers convert to customers. Statistics can be tracked by simply asking a customer how they heard of the business and recording the information on a spreadsheet. As well, effectiveness can be tracked in part by the statistics that can be viewed on the blog in the administrator’s panel that show views per day, most popular posts, where readers are situated in the world, the search terms brought them to the blog, etc.

As Shama Kabani explains in The Zen of Social Media Marketing, search engines love keywords, tags and frequent blog updates. These tools help build the blog’s visibility and ranking in search engines. I confess I don’t understand exactly how that works.

Ms. Kabani further states in her book  “content is king”. Content drives people to the website. Content turns readers into customers — assuming of course they like what they read!

As a blog’s popularity grows, it can be quite gratifying to see statistics. In the words of Sally Field: “You like me, you really, really like me.”

As a business blog’s popularity grows so does the potential to convert readers into customers.

My Blogging Experience

 

 

Carousel at Buchart Gardens, Victoria, BC

I have been blogging since 2008. It is so long ago I do not remember my initial reasons for starting a blog. I love to write so I’m sure that factored in to my decision. Words inside me take on a life of their own and need to be expressed and sometimes even purged (hello, ranting!) on a page, on a blog post, somewhere outside my head, at times for my own sanity.

 

This year my blog changed from a personal blog to a semi-professional one and to provide a writing portfolio for potential clients to view. For this reason, posts of a more personal nature have been changed to “private” so these are viewable by my eyes only.

When this blog was a personal one, I enjoyed participating in, and hosting and curating, blog carnivals. A theme for the carnival is chosen by a hosting blog and bloggers submit posts in the form of links to their posts to the blog host.  Problogger.net http://www.problogger.net/archives/2012/02/03/how-to-create-and-host-a-blog-carnival/ has this definition of a blog carnival:

A roundup of timely posts from other bloggers, concentrating on a particular area of interest. Your colleagues write the posts, then you assemble, fold, collate, and link to them for presentation to your regular audience.

 

Here’s an article about promoting your small business with blog carnival participation: http://smmbc.ca/blog/2013/03/14/promoting-your-small-business-for-greater-impact-with-blog-carnivals/

Blog Carnivals are a good way to connect with other bloggers and get your blog known in the blogosphere. With so many blogs in existence today, it’s difficult to rise above the fray to make that happen.

 

Blog Analysis (Social Media ADL310)

My cat Dexter helping me blog.
My cat Dexter helping me blog.

In our textbook, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, author Shama Kabani, in Chapter Two writes about what makes an blog optimal.  Her tips include:

  • posting frequency (at least twice per week, especially when starting a new blog),
  • length of post (at least 500 words),
  • use pictures for every post,
  • provide interlinks (links back to material in previous posts in your blog),
  • use tags and keywords to optimize SEO,
  • have a way for readers to easily follow your blog, share the content of your blog, and find you –  and your blog – on other social media platforms.

In Module Two of  Social Media (ADL310) in one of our posts, we are to:

Find and evaluate two blogs…that use social media effectively.  Share these blogs along with your comments on why they are effective at social marketing, in a post on your blog.

Herewith are my blog evaluations:

Canadian Freelance Writing Jobs (http://www.freelancewritingjobs.ca/) is a blog whose primary purpose is to post writing jobs aggregated from various sources . It also provides a space for freelance writers to post their contact information.  Canadian Freelance Writing Jobs utilizes some of the above mentioned tips:  it’s posting frequency is daily, each post is more than 500 words, and there are numerous ways to share posts across multiple platforms. One can follow this blog by adding it to your reader, following it’s RSS feed. It has a definite social media presence beyond the blog in that it runs and maintains a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a LinkedIn group.

As a emerging freelance writer, I check this site daily.

I am also a food blogger who one day hopes to publish a cookbook.  I create and/or adapt recipes at my food blog to help “those with chronic pain cook effortlessly.”   A local Calgary food writer, cookbook author, chef, and food stylist has a popular food blog “Dinner With Julie”  http://dinnerwithjulie.com/ that also meets many of the criteria Ms. Kabani mentions:

  •  Julie has a frequent posting schedule and each post features many beautiful pictures.
  • She shares her posts across social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Both her Facebook page and Twitter account have many followers.
  • You can subscribe to her posts via an RSS feed.
  • She interacts with her blog readers via the comments section in her blog, and on her Facebook page and Twitter.

Julie’s blog is what my food blog wants to be when it grows up.

 

Sweet and Sour Chicken {Low Fodmap and GF}

Image credit: simplyrecipes.com
Image credit: simplyrecipes.com

4 skinless chicken breasts

1 cup water

1⁄3 cup rice wine vinegar

1⁄3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp wheat free soy sauce

1 tbsp  cornstarch

1⁄4 tsp  hot pepper flakes

1 red pepper, cut into strips

1 yellow pepper, cut into strips

1 tsp ginger

14oz can pineapple chunks

1⁄3 cup cashews (optional)

In a small bowl, combine 1⁄2 cup of water, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, cornstarch, ginger, and pepper flakes. In a nonstick skillet with 1⁄4 cup of water, cook chicken breast (or microwave). Cut into small pieces and set aside. In same skillet, add peppers and 1⁄4 cup of water. Simmer until peppers are crisp-tender. Add chicken, pineapple and sauce to skillet and stir-fry. Bring to boil and add more cornstarch if necessary to thicken sauce.

Spoon out onto a platter and sprinkle with cashews. Serve with rice. Makes 4 servings

A Note About Garlic

I find there is a bit of confusion amongst experts regarding whether garlic powder is tolerable on a low fodmap diet.  I read on Standford University Medical Center’s handout for the low fodmap diet that garlic powder is okay but fresh garlic is not. Other experts say no garlic except garlic infused oil. Personally, I’ve used garlic powder and been okay.  If you want to add garlic to this dish, you can do so with a little bit of garlic infused oil:  cook a garlic clove in a bit of oil until the garlic is browned, remove garlic, add oil to this dish.  Here is a recipe to make garlic infused oil in bulk:  http://fructosefreeme.com/2012/03/29/garlic-infused-olive-oil-that-keeps-for-months

Cornbread {Low Fodmap and Gluten Free}

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I adapted this recipe from:  http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/old-fashioned-gluten-free-cornbread/ to make it low fodmap. I was a little nervous about baking with 100% cornmeal but it turned out beautifully.

 

2 cups cornmeal

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

4 T. sugar

1 egg, beaten

4 T. oil

1 cup lactose free milk, soured with 1 T. vinegar (let stand for a few minutes before using)

1/2 c. lactose free plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Grease  a 9 x 9″ glass baking dish.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk together liquid ingredients in a smaller bowl.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir until just blended.

Pour into prepared baking dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.