Getting Focused

(cc) Jonathan Dingman - @dingman -

(cc) Jonathan Dingman - @dingman -

When I first started this blog, it had no real direction. In fact, I’m not even sure why I started it. Posts were few and far between and pretty random in subject matter. Over time, I started to write with a purpose. I highlighted the triumphs of my life. I drudged through some of my darkest moments in recent history. And I captured it all in a format that has the potential to be available for the rest of my life. And then social media stuck its claws in me and refused to let go.

When I say social media stuck its claws in me, I mean it really stuck it’s claws in me. I’ve been in retail management for fifteen years now. I’ve been wanting to make a career change for about ten years. Throughout that time, I’ve considered multiple options, but never really had the courage to take the first step. I briefly went back to college to pursue a degree in marketing and advertising, but my work schedule and short attention span brought an end to that rather quickly. I did pretty extensive research on different design schools a couple years ago. I was pretty sure I could enjoy the life of a graphic designer. But something held me back. It just wasn’t the right move… for me.

Then along comes Twitter. At one point, I described Twitter as “text messages to nobody with 20 less characters.” At first, that’s all it was. This was one of my first tweets.

Standing in line at Subway, waiting for a $5 footlong steak and cheese sammich.

At the time, I knew very little about Twitter and even less about social media as a whole. The more people I started following, the more I started seeing terms that were completely foreign to me. I started following links to a whole new world that had been transparent to me up to that point. I soaked in as much as I could. If I didn’t know what something meant, I Googled it. Invariably, I’d find an article that described the term in question which linked to another article on a related subject. It became routine for me to have a dozen tabs open as I tried to wrap my head around it all.

The turning point for me was when I started watching videos that Jolie O’Dell had posted to her blog. Now that I consider Jolie to be a good friend, I know that it would be easy to apply a halo effect to the experience and just give her credit for the transformation. But I assure you that this is not revisionist history. I remember being fascinated by the topics she addressed, the subjects she interviewed, and the world in which it all existed. It was then that I knew that social media had evolved from an interest to a passion.

I didn’t start writing about social media right away. I knew that I needed to use the monitor more than the keyboard if I was going to get anywhere. Along with the fact that I had a lot more to learn, I also knew myself. As my wife puts it, I have “little obsessions.” If I convince myself that I want something, it becomes all-consuming. I know that about myself. So I decided to sit tight and be a student for a while longer before I put my opinions out there. But when I did, it was such an amazing release. As an added bonus, I got a good response from people that I respect immensely. Then the RoadTwip gang came through town and I got to see the magic firsthand. That was it for me. I knew that this was what I wanted to do for a living. But I didn’t know where to start.

A little over a week ago, Marshall Kirkpatrick put out the word that ReadWriteWeb was looking for new reporters. I thought about it all afternoon, then finally decided to throw my hat into the ring. For those of you reading who aren’t social media geeks, let me explain something to you. Going from occasionally updating a personal blog with ambiguous direction to writing for ReadWriteWeb is like going from a beer league softball team to Major League Baseball. I believed in my developing writing skills, but the realist in me knew that I was probably the least experienced applicant. A week later, I received an email from Richard MacManus requesting two recent samples of my work, much to my surprise. For the first time, I was nervous and believed that it might… actually… happen.

After a little while, I started getting nervous about an entirely different possibility: was I really ready to write for RWW? A handful of friends made for a wonderful support group. They taught me that it’s possible to be confident and believe in yourself without being arrogant. Last evening, I got word from Richard that they went with a more experienced applicant. I was honestly more relieved than disappointed. I just don’t think the time was right.

Along the way, I discovered that Richard MacManus is a class act. Although brief, he put a very personal touch on that email. I felt inclined to respond to it. I wanted Richard to know that I appreciated his time, was honored to be considered for the position, and that the next time an opportunity presented itself at RWW, I’d be better prepared. Thirteen minutes later, Richard responded again. The founder and editor of a blog with 275,000 subscribers took the time out of his day to give me feedback on a possible future in blogging. But what sealed the deal for me was the fact that he did all of this before he announced the name of the writer who was hired. I don’t know why, but that really stood out as a classy move to me.

After receiving word that I was not selected, I was motivated to do my best to be ready the next time opportunity came knocking. One of Richard’s suggestions was to dive into product reviews and the like. I’d already been thinking about breaking my personal posts away from this blog for a little while anyhow. So, from this point forward, this blog will have a clear focus. Topics that you can expect to find here will be in line with those covered on ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, and other social media and tech-related blogs. All of my prior posts that were personal in nature have been removed and migrated over to my new personal blog, which can be found here. The exception to that statement is the post “Date Night And Beyond” because I don’t want to break a couple of links to it. This blog will also be moving to soon. I said soon, not now. Pay attention

I’m currently working on my review of PubliciTweet, as mentioned in my last post. With any luck, Twitter will have worked out the issues with their rate limit and I’ll be able to reach all of my followers this time. I’d like to post the review later today or tomorrow. When I do, I guess it will be like smashing a bottle of champagne against the hull. On with my voyage. I know this post was ridiculously long, but I don’t care. This is a milestone. And I felt that it should be documented as such. If I’ve managed to secure a position in social media a year or two from now, I’d like to look back on this moment and remember exactly what I was thinking. And for those of you who have stuck with me this far, thanks for reading. The only thing that I ask is that you leave a comment to let me know what you think. And in the future, if you like my articles and reviews, throw me a little retweet love. And with that, I’ll wrap this thing up.

And away we go…


Twitter Campaign Analytics Refined

I’m in the process of testing a new tool to help businesses track Twitter campaign analytics called PubliciTweet. The service, currently in beta, was launched earlier today at 140 | The Twitter Conference. Headed by Yahoo! Software Engineer Jaisen Mathai, this new IP aims to “leverage your followers with unique campaigns and tools to track your success.” These tools include graphs and maps to help you determine the precise effectiveness of the campaign. I’ll be using the traffic to this post referred by the PubliciTweet link to explore the depth of these tools.

publicitweetJaisen’s prior projects include Textbook Revolt, a free college textbook exchange. The service utilizes Amazon’s Search API to search by ISBN, title, or author. The site was completed in a mere four weeks. Jason was also a principle on the photo-sharing IP Photagious, a two time winner of Adobe’s Site of the Day award. While Twitter analytics services are popping up like Ashton Kutcher followers, PubliciTweet has the potential to offer a deeper, more accurate look at a campaign’s success.

I’ll be tracking the data that PubliciTweet feeds me from the clicks to this post alone. While it’s certainly not as effective of a measurement as a legitimate business campaign, it will provide me with a deeper understanding of the IP’s mechanics. I’ve spoken to Jaisen about arranging a time to talk a little bit more about PubliciTweet, so my full review will also feature his comments. If you have any specific questions about the service that you’d like me to ask, please feel free to email them to me.