Live-tweeting an event? Set your hashtag UP FRONT!

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter, and I also follow a lot of events (especially conferences) via Twitter. One thing I’ve learned: It helps your Twitter audience immensely if, before the event (or at the start) the people tweeting it develop a consensus on the hashtag for the event.

That’s what Horn Group VP Susan Etlinger did earlier, for the PR/Blogger panel her company is hosting tonight. She’s one of several Twitter users who helped launch this hashtag simply by adopting and promoting it:

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

And here’s the fruit that this kind of coordination can bear: Check out the #PRblog hashtag

…So: what’s a hashtag, and why is this so important?…

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Media Career Insurance: Your Blog

Last month I spoke to a class of journalism undergrads at the University of Colo., Boulder. These people are just starting out in journalism. Not surprisingly, most of them hope to land more-or-less traditional reporting jobs in more-or-less traditional newsrooms.

I asked these students whether they read blogs. As is common, the vast majority said no. But, as with Web users of all types, it’s likely that in fact they do read blogs far more often than they think. That’s because nearly all Web users frequently encounter blogs through search engine results. But they may not realize that, since many weblogs don’t call themselves (or resemble) blogs. In fact, they often look just like any other Web site — except that they happen to be supported by a blogging platform on the back end.

Why should young journalists care about this? Because in a professional environment where staying findable equals sustained opportunity and flexibility, search engines are a key arbiter of your career. The more findable and linkable you are, the more search engines will reward you.

…And search engines really, really love blogs…

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The Stereogram Approach to Finding the Meaning of Life

Gary W. Priester (Click image to enlarge.)
Often, the first challenge in life is simply to see the target.

I really used to hate stereograms.

When they became popular in the early 1990s, they often reduced me to serious frustration and headaches. I would stare at them — glare at them, really — trying to will their embedded 3D images to leap out. Everyone else seemed to enjoy these hidden illusions with ease. But my eyes and brain stubbornly refused to do the trick.

Then one day, I realized that I was looking at a dolphin. I just glanced at the cover of a book of stereogram art, and there it was. I was delighted to discover that the image wasn’t “leaping out” at me — rather, I was “seeing into” it. I wasn’t even sure how I’d started to see the hidden picture. All of the sudden, and quietly, it just worked.

Years later, I’ve come to realize that whenever I’ve identified a key mission or purpose I should pursue, it’s emerged (very much like that dolphin) from the background of the world around me. I get a sense that some vision is waiting to be seen, and I prepare my mind to be open to it. Then eventually I see it, and it feels like I always should have seen it.

In contrast, whenever I’ve tried the top-down, primarily rational (rather than intuitive) approach to choosing a course in life, I usually end up not really wanting what I’ve been working for, or liking what I’ve done — which is frustrating and demoralizing on many levels.

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately, mostly because I’ve been spending more time conversing, research, reading, and journaling. To be honest, I’ve been searching for purpose. For a couple of years now — although I’ve been doing a lot of interesting work, meeting a lot of interesting people, and learning a lot of interesting things — privately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been flailing around, seeking direction and purpose.

Finally, I feel like the picture is starting to emerge. Here is the outline so far…
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Where’s Your “Personal Brand,” and Why?

There are lots of different ways to brand yourself.

Yesterday my colleague Jim Kukral wrote about why he’s decided to focus on centralizing his personal brand. He wrote:

“My biggest mistake from the past 7-years or so was not building my personal brand on my own blog hard enough, earlier enough. Some may wonder why someone like me who’s been around for a long time blogging (since 2001), only has about 600 rss subscribers. I’ll tell you why… because I never focused blogging and building my brand here on JimKukral.com until recently.”

That got me thinking about Contentious.com and my own “personal brand.” Although I have an innate dislike to the term “personal brand,” I’ll admit it’s a useful and important concept for people in media-related work and many other fields these days.

The simple reason for that, I think, is that these days it’s unwise to rely on any company, organization, or institution to stick by you. The only leverage most professionals have these days depends on their ability to find or make their own opportunities — which means they need to be known as individuals. not just as faceless functionaries.

Jim seems to gauge the success on his personal brand by traffic to his site and feed. For a lot of people and purposes, that’s perfectly valid and appropriate.

But personally, I see a lot of value in the hybrid home base/distributed presence approach to personal branding…

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Dammit, this blog has been hacked again!

MSNlive
Despite what MSN’s search engine thinks, I am NOT hawking drugs on this site…

(UPDATE: Since initially posting this, I’ve learned a bit more. The plot thickens…)

My friend the SEO maven Brett Borders just alerted me to some disturbing news. Apparently, Microsoft’s search engine thinks this blog, which I’ve run since 1998, is drug spam.

Brett got tipped to this by a Mar. 25 Search Engine Journal story, Hackers Forcing Sites to Cloak Search Engines with Link Spam. The screen grab illustrating that story showed Contentious.com near the top of a list results from a “linkfromdomain search on MSN so I can prove that, indeed, there are over 2,000 links FROM Twitter pointing TO pages about Viagra.” I just repeated that search, and sure enough my domain is on that list — showing spam content that somehow has been hacked into my site.

I also just searched Google for references to Viagra from my domain, and saw that Google is caching that same spam content for my home page as well.

As far as I can tell, this spam content has been inserted my home page as well as at least three recent posts. Obviously, this WordPress blog has been hacked again. Like I didn’t have enough troubles with this last fall.

This is annoying, and could be potentially damaging to me. I’m on a deadline and don’t have time to delve into why this is happening, but would appreciate tips for Contentious readers about why this might be happening and what, if anything, I can do to stop it. I’m getting really tired of this, and hate that I only find out about it via third parties.

Got any suggestions before I can dive into this myself? Please comment below.

Thanks!

Making your home page “bloggier,” but not “a blog.”

JoniMitchell.com
A bloggier home page definitely doesn’t have to be ugly.

Right now, several of my clients are working on site redesigns and also are looking for ways to increase site traffic. One of the most basic strategies for attracting more traffic to your site is making your site more appealing to search engines. That’s why I’m suggesting that these clients might consider adding a “blog” to their home page, because search engines love blogs.

…OK, I realize now I need to learn to say that differently when talking to clients. All of these clients are from major, respectable media organizations — consequently, they have a generally negative immediate reaction to the word “blog.” Even though these people are savvy about online media, they still tend to immediately associate “blog” with a negative and largely inaccurate stereotype: poorly designed rant-fests that attract trolls and flamers like cockroaches.

No, that’s NOT what I’m advising for their home pages.

Rather, I’m saying it can be useful to manage the newsiest parts of your site with a blog-like back-end — a content management system interface that makes it easy to post discrete items, categorize and assign a permalink to each, and present them online in reverse-chronological order. Then you generate a feed (RSS) from that content, so you can syndicate the most recent items to a space on your home page layout.

Here’s how you can benefit from that strategy…

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Finding local Tweetups: A humble proposal

Tweetscan
The search tool Tweetscan may be one way to find spontaneous gatherings of local Twitter users.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that it might be nice if there was an online tool or service that would facilitate local “tweetups” (informal, spontaneous gatherings of local Twitter users). Right now, tweetups start when one person in a town or city proposes one — like: “How about a Tweetup at The Cup in downtown Boulder this afternoon, 2pm?”

…But this approach mostly works to assemble Twitter users who already know or follow each other. What about if you want to get together with local Twitter users you don’t already know, or who don’t follow you? Since I’m a big believer in serendipity, I’d love a tool like that. Knowing that there’s no such thing as a truly original idea, I checked on the logical domain for such a tool, Tweetup.com.

There’s nothing there yet, just a placeholder page. I e-mailed the domain owner to ask of their plans for this domain, and here’s the response I received this morning…

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