Social Media Survival presentation

A social media program that makes perfect sense today is likely to be significantly out of alignment in 18 months.

Last night I spoke about social media at Lee Schoentrup’s class on public relations writing at the University of Washington. This is the sixth year I’ve done the presentation. I think when I started, with blogger Peggy Sturdivant, all we talked about was…blogging.

Six years later, the list of social media tools I cover goes on, and on, and on. While in the past I’ve focused on social media strategies for particular tools, this year I revamped the presentation to focus on the need for a social media strategy that can roll with continuous change. I pointed to trends affecting social media, including:

  • Crowds (crowdsourcing, etc.)
  • Increasing use of mobile devices to create and access social media content
  • The return of organic content after the recent obsession with SEO

It’s clear to me that a social media program that makes perfect sense today is likely to be significantly out of alignment in 18 months. Who knew two years ago that companies would be getting mileage out of Facebook and Pinterest? How many companies are providing a good experience for the growing number of people who visit their blogs (or Facebook and LinkedIn pages) using a smartphone? How many are even aware of the social media consequences (good and bad) of sprinkling “Like” and “Share” buttons around their web pages?

I changed the topic of the presentation from “Social Media Success” to “Social Media Survival.” It’s a jungle out there.

Members of the UW class who would like to download a PDF of the Keynote presentation will find it here: SME – UW – 2013.

The return of Amazing Stories

Steve Davidson and a team of 50 bloggers have relaunched Amazing Stories magazine as a community site for science fiction fans.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 1.56.48 PMApril 1926 — Hugo Gernsback, publisher of Electrical Experimenter science magazine, launched the first magazine devoted to science fiction — or what Gernsback liked to call “scientifiction.” Amazing Stories was published for almost 80 years, passing through the hands of a wide range of publishers (including, in the late 1990s, Wizards of the Coast). It debuted writers including Isaac Asimov and Ursula K. Le Guin, but the magazine suffered from uneven leadership, uneven quality, and controversial editorial policies. It ceased publication in 2005.

January 21, 2013 — Steve Davidson of Experimenter Publishing (note the company name) has re-launched Amazing Stories as a web community, with the goal of establishing a market that will enable him to revive the professional fiction magazine. Davidson, curator of the Classic Science Fiction Channel website and author of several books on paintball, spent three years obtaining the rights to the Amazing Stories name. He published two online issues of the magazine last year, as a proof of concept.

“Every genre fan now has a chance to help support the creation of a new market for the stories, artwork, and articles they all love so much,” Davidson said in a news release this morning.

At the core of the new site’s content are posts by a team of bloggers covering a wide range of science fiction-related topics. The site will offer product reviews, convention news and listings, and will take advertising.

I have more than just a science fiction reader’s interest in the revival of Amazing Stories. I’m going to be one of the bloggers for the site, writing primarily (but not exclusively) about my explorations of science fiction-related communities including gaming, girl geekdom, the Maker community, Steampunk, Browncoats, Discworld, and SF/mystery crossovers. Please come join us at Amazing Stories.

Space. Magic. What more could you ask?

An ebook of David Levine’s short story collection, Space Magic, including his Hugo Award-winning story “Tk’Tk’Tk,” is out from Book View Café today.

An ebook of David Levine’s short story collection, Space Magic, including his Hugo Award-winning story “Tk’Tk’Tk,” is out from Book View Café today. You’ll find it at amazon.com, in Apple’s iBookstore, at nook.com, and at the Book View Café online store.

This includes some of the finest speculative fiction I’ve read. David’s explorations of astonishingly imaginative “what if?” scenarios are precise, rigorous, and often deeply moving. Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Levine Space Magic“This Endeavour Award-winning collection pulls together 15 critically acclaimed science fiction and fantasy stories that take readers from a technicolor cartoon realm to an ancient China that never was, and from an America gone wrong to the very ends of the universe. Including the Hugo Award-winning “Tk’Tk’Tk,” the Writers of the Future Award winner “Rewind,” “Nucleon,” “The Tale of the Golden Eagle,” and many other highly praised stories, Space Magic shows David D. Levine’s talents not only as a gifted writer but as a powerful storyteller whose work explores the farthest reaches of space as well as the depths of the human heart.”

The collection is $5.99, and the stories in it are available as individual ebooks for 99 cents each. Highly recommended.

Book View Café (“Because you can never have too many ebooks”) publishes works by Vonda N. McIntyre, Laura Anne Gilman, Jeffrey A. Carver, Phyllis Irene Radford, Linda Nagata, Chaz Brenchley, and many other speculative fiction, mystery, and romance authors. While you’re there, check out Chris Dolley’s Reeves & Worcester Steampunk mysteries, including What Ho, Automation!

The 5 warning signs of deadbeat clients

How to avoid taking on clients who are likely to be deadbeats. In my experience, in every instance where a client has received my bill but tried to avoid paying, the signs were there from the very beginning.

bill for deadbeat clientRecently I’ve been in a discussion with colleagues about how to deal with clients who don’t pay your invoices on time (or at all). It’s an upsetting topic. You’ve worked with someone on a project, you’ve established what you thought was a decent relationship, you’ve given them good work, on time — and then they ignore your bills.

Of course, in some cases it’s just a matter of reminding them, or asking the right person, and you get your check in the mail. But other times, weeks roll by, emails go unanswered, and you reach the inescapable conclusion that you’ve been “stood up.”

I’ve discovered that people react in all sort of ways to a client’s deliberate failure to pay up. In my case, I feel insulted. I feel angry. And I feel even angrier when I realize that I now have to invest time trying to collect my money.

I’ve faced up to the fact that it’s much easier simply to avoid taking on clients who are likely to be deadbeats. In my experience, in every instance where a client has received my bill but tried to avoid paying, the warning signs were there from the very beginning. At least one, and usually two, of the following factors were in play:

  • Inexperience. The client is a sole proprietor with no previous business experience (they had always worked in a  corporate environment where they never had to think about expenses). They have no office manager, no bookkeeper, no budget, and no established system for paying clients.
  • Cluelessness. The client offers a touchy-feely service like “positive visualization.” For whatever reason, I’ve had two personal growth coaches attempt to ignore my bills for web content writing — even though they were using my content on their sites.
  • Delusions. The client is a technology startup. When I quoted my rates, they tried to talk me into a fancy title and ownership of some unspecified “share” of their “sure-fire” company.
  • Shady business. There is very little evidence of the people, or their company, online (by Googling names and email addresses). It’s as if they’d landed from Mars. When I check the state government’s online public records of business licenses and registered corporations, there is no record of the company, or the records connect back to an off-shore corporation.
  • Lack of authority. The person who is contracting with me to do work for a large, legitimate company  is himself (or herself) a contractor rather than a company employee. When my bill is ignored, they’re sympathetic but have no authority to enforce my contract with the company or get me paid.

In the more than 20 years that I’ve been a contractor and freelance writer, I’ve encountered all of these situations. Yes, you should always have a contract or a memorandum of understanding with a client, but only if you are prepared to go to small claims court (for a small invoice) or hire a lawyer (for a large invoice) to get your money. (I am, and I have. But that’s another story.)

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better just to pick the right clients in the first place.

Social media trends for 2013: Bluster is out, thoughtfulness is in

Trends for 2013: Bragging, bluster, and boasting are out. Thoughtfulness, substance, and sustainability are in.

I will try (photo)
“I will try.”

I’ve noticed a refreshing trend in 2013’s social media. I’m seeing it particularly in professional discussions on LinkedIn.

Bragging, bluster, and boasting are out.

Thoughtfulness, substance, and sustainability are in. Credibility is essential.

My own tolerance for micron-deep inspirational blather evaporated last night when I read a sad little rant on Inc.com that asserted that anyone who uses the three words “I will try” is an obvious loser. The only reason I was able to stifle my desire to track this blowhard down and commit mayhem was seeing that a few hundred commenters had beaten me to it.

They heard the words “I will try” as realistic, honest, and heartfelt. Like me, they’d had plenty of experience in recent years with bigmouths standing up and blatting “I will do X! I will do Y!” and not only not doing any of it, but disappearing from the scene shortly afterwards.

I’m thrilled when someone joins me in looking at a complex, difficult situation and says “I will try to fix this.” I find it eloquent, and particularly like the responsibility of the “I” rather than the emphatic but ultimately evasive battle cry of “This is going to get fixed!”

To paraphrase my late father, “Only wimps need hyperbole.” The rest of us can get by with clarity, honesty, and good intentions.

I will certainly try.

What I’ve been listening to and reading:

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