At Some Point I Started Caring About What I Wrote Here [en]

[fr] A un moment donné j'ai commencé à me soucier de ce que j'écrivais ici. Dans le sens de me soucier de ce qu'on allait en penser.

When did it happen? I’m not so sure. At some point, I started caring about what I wrote on my blog. I started thinking about what others would think. I used to just write what I felt like writing. I didn’t have this sense that I had an “audience”. Sixteen years ago, pretty much nobody I knew was online. I knew online people, of course. But they were online people. My tribe.

I realised that after following an online course called Writing Your Grief. It was just after Tounsi’s death, but I’d already signed up – it was coincidental. For the first time in a long time I was writing things that weren’t meant to be published, but that weren’t journaling either. It was an extraordinary experience: not just as related to my grief, but for the writing. We had a private Facebook group in which we could share our writing and read each other’s pieces. A room full of compassionate strangers. I hadn’t written like that in years. More than a decade, maybe. And I loved what I wrote. You know, when words seem to write themselves, and your writing actually tells you something?

Morning Pages do that, but they are less structured. More stream-of-consciousness. I haven’t been able to pick up Morning Pages again since Tounsi died. Maybe I will someday. Right now I feel like I’m holding on by the skin of my teeth, so I don’t have the courage to dive back in.
While I was mulling over this new/old writing I’ve connected with (again?), Adam shared a link to this piece about blogging. Which I read.

You know it’s a recurring theme here on Climb to the Stars. I miss the Golden Age of Blogging. And when I was reading the piece linked above, about how blogging went from carefree online writing to being all about influencers, my feelings finally collided into a thought: yes, that was it. I missed writing without caring too much about what people would think. About being judged. About having to be “good” because my job depends on it now. Similarly, I noted the other day on Facebook that I wasn’t online to sell or market stuff, I was online because I liked it here. Because I enjoy it.

Catch-22, right? Because I enjoy it, I made it my job, and now it matters. I’m not a nobody anymore. I have clients. Colleagues in the industry. And I care what they think. And so I write less. I’m careful. I self-censor – more. I enjoy it less.

And now I’ve found a different pleasure in writing. Writing things I’m scared to show people, because I hope they’re good, but fear they’re banal. Expectations. Ah, expectations.

I guess I’ll just keep writing.


Pet Peeve: Marketers and Advertisers Cold-Sending Junk E-mails [en]

[fr] Un truc qui m'énerve: les e-mails non-sollicités me proposant des liens ou autres ressources pour mes articles. Ou de la pub pour mon blog.

I’m sure you all get these. They’re bloody annoying. Here’s the last one I got:

Subject: Interested in Purchasing Advertising:


I need this type of placement could you do this?

1. We will provide php file with plugin source code

2. Webmaster will need to FTP to root folder of blog, then open folder wp-content/plugins

3. Webmaster will need to create folder ‘footerlinks’, then enter that folder and upload php file that we provided

4. Webmaster will need to log into blog admin area, click ‘Plugins’ in left menu, click ‘Installed’ in submenu, find plugin named ‘Footer Links’ and click ‘activate’ link

5. After that links will appear at the bottom of the blog like here [redacted] see our links in footer.

Very simple work just 1,2 minut only,Our links show on your old ABOUT PAGE.

i can give you $200 for uploading our php file for 1 year time period only.

Let me know are you agree if you agree then send me paypal id please.

Waiting for your Answer


And another:

Subject: Interested in Purchasing Text links Advertising

I am basically interested for business reasons. I found your site:”” really enchanting and would like to buy a number of text-links on your website. Let me know if you would like to hear more of this.We will provide php file with plugin source code.i need links on your old Post.Give you all instructions.I can offer you a good price.


Subject: Partnership with an OTA

Dear Editor,

I would be interested in buying a simple text based advertisement on your website.

The advert will be text, not a visual banner. It will appear on a single page of your website.

The text link will be Travel related ( ex: airplane ticket,airfare, etc.. )

We pay an annual fee to you as soon as the advert is live. It is a straight forward process and we work with you to make sure we fit naturally with your site.

If interested we can also provide you with Unique Travel Articles.

Please let me know if you are interested and I’ll send you more details.

If Possible can you send me a link of the page where you would accept advertising on?

Here is one of the latest, which prompted me to write today:

Subject: An Inquiry About an OpenCourseWare Database

I’m reaching out to you because I was extremely impressed with the content that you have created on As a writer and researcher in the education field, I sometimes find it very difficult to track down good web resources for prospective students–I just wanted to say that you’ve done a great job with your site.

Do you have any interest in adding a supplemental resource that provides your readers with links to hundreds of OpenCourseWare classes? I think could be really valuable for your site’s visitors because the classes are free and cover a wide variety of subjects.

If you’re not the right person to contact, can you let me know who is?

Adding insult to injury, my silence resulted in three follow-up e-mails over the last months. Three! Sure, following up is good. But at some stage it morphs into pestering.

Follow-up #1

I wanted to follow up with you and make sure you had received my email I sent a little bit ago regarding my research project, [redacted].

I had contacted you initially because I believe the readers on your site would find our OpenCourseWare informative and valuable. It would be great to have you include a link to the resource somewhere on your site. Do not hesitate to get back to me with any questions!

Thanks, I look forward to working with you!


Follow-up #2

I hope all is well! I am writing to follow up with you about the resource — [redacted] — I sent you a few days back. Let me know if I can answer any questions for you in regards to it or myself.

Thanks for your help. I look forward to hearing back from you!


Follow-up #3

I hope this message reaches you well. I am following up with you to see if you had the opportunity to review the resource that I sent you?

Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing any feedback you might have.

In your book, do these contact attempts qualify as spam? For me, they aren’t technically spam, as they seem to have been sent out by hand and by human being robots, and therefore do not really meet the criteria for automated mass-sending.

But the end result is pretty much the same. They’re just noise. How do you deal with them? Respond, or straight to the spam box? Or ignore, at the risk of being pestered?

If you know more about the (misguided?) process that results in this kind of junk arriving in blogger mailboxes, I’d love to hear about it.

Here are a few other choice morcels for you, and I’m out to enjoy the Spain sun a while.

Subject: Education News Resource Inquiry

I recently came across your page at

I am emailing you because I am a contributor to the online education publication,, and have been active in spreading the message about it. The site is a vast resource of education news from K-12 and higher education policy and politics all the way to education technology. The editorial efforts of the site have been cited by the New York Times, Washington Post and Cato Institute while also being added as an educational resource in the New York Times Education section.

Given the quality of our writing and breadth of topics discussed, I thought this resource could be of interest to you and those who frequently visit your site. Please let me know what you think; if interested, it would be great to see it listed on your site for others to read and refer to.

Thanks for your help and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Subject: Graphic on How Taking a Break is Saving Your Life

My name is Kayla and I came across after searching for people that have referenced or mentioned workplace health. I am part of a team of designers and researcher that put together an infographic showing why skipping out on your work break might be killing you. I thought you might be interested, so I wanted to reach out.

If this is the correct email and you’re interested in using our content, I’d be happy to share it with you. 🙂


Subject: Infographic about How Plastic Bags are Suffocating the World

My name is Kayla and I came across after searching for people that have referenced or mentioned the importance of living green. I am part of a team of designers and researcher that put together an infographic showing why plastic bags are ruining the environment and the impact of plastic bag bans. I thought you might be interested, so I wanted to reach out.

If this is the correct email and you’re interested in using our content, I’d be happy to share it with you. 🙂

Writing: Source of Income or Marketing Budget? [en]

[fr] Ecrire pour gagner de l'argent (en tous cas en tant qu'indépendant) ça ne rapporte pas des masses. Par contre, écrire est un formidable moyen de promouvoir ce qu'on fait (indirectement). Je propose donc de considérer l'écriture comme "budget marketing" plutôt que "source de revenu" (si on arrive à gagner de l'argent, tant mieux... mais ce n'est pas le but premier!)

A couple of days ago I was talking to a friend, who amongst various activities she juggles as a freelancer, is a journalist. Lately, she’s been less satisfied by her journalistic work, which ends up not paying much, and was wondering whether it really made sense to keep on writing. But actually, her work as a journalist is what gives her contacts and leads for her other activities: so it makes sense for her to keep on being a journalist — but not for the money, as a marketing investment.

Come to think of it, I’ve only very rarely earned money by doing actual writing. I did an article for a local paper once, but honestly, the amount I was paid for the work I put in just made no sense. So, yes, as a marketing strategy, it’s interesting, but not for actually putting food on the table.

Even the work I did for Fleur de Pains, though decently paid, was way more work than expected and ended up being not that much money for the energy it took. Consulting, speaking and training are clearly better sources of income, or managing “my type” of projects (blog editing, coworking space, or conference blogger accreditations for example).

Most of what I’ve read over the last six months about writing fiction also points in that direction: writing for a living is insanely hard work and will not make you rich. We’re blinded by the black swans out there named J. K. Rowling and other successful writers. Most people who write for a living don’t become insanely rich, and most of those who try to make a living out of writing fail.

So, where does that leave us/me? I love writing, and I’m not too bad at it. Honestly, writing is its own reward, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I’ve kept this blog going for the last 10 years (by the way: take a moment now to let me know what your favourite articles from CTTS are — the blogversary is less than 48 hours away!). And honestly, I think I’ll never stop writing. But I don’t think it makes sense for me to try to actually earn a living doing it. Which doesn’t mean I’m closing the door to earning *some* money writing — but if I do, it’ll be a happy *extra*.

So, in times like now where I’m giving quite a bit of thought to all I do for free and which ends up bringing me business, and also (given right now business is going pretty well) cutting back a little (not too much though!) on what does not earn me money directly, I am realising that I need to make it my priority to have enough time to write.

You know these blogging crises I go through regularly? “OMG I’m not blogging much I need to write more?” Well, here we are. If paid work keeps me from blogging, so be it — it means I’m earning lots of money right then, and I can live with that for a while. But if unpaid “marketing budget” stuff keeps me from blogging, something is wrong.

So this is what my hierarchy of priorities could look like:

paid work > blogging > other writing (“for others”, or requested by others) > other marketing/networking/promotional activities

What about you? Where does writing fit in the “stuff you do”?

Content: Paid vs. Free [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur le fait que produire du contenu n'est pas gratuit. En général, celui-ci est subventionné soit par des pubs, soit l'accès est payant, soit il fait office de "budget marketing", ou alors les canaux de distribution sont payants.

Zeldman just wrote that content wants to be paid for, sending us to read Erin Kissane’s Content is Expensive (followed by Paying for it, which examines the four ways in which content can generate revenue).

Although I’ve been writing online for free for over 10 years now, I agree with the premise that content — especially good content — is expensive to produce.

I have a few thoughts around that.

If I can do something, and people have a need for that particular skill (or what I produce), it does not mean that (a) they are ready to pay for it or (b) if they’re ready to pay for it, that they will be willing to pay enough for it to be worth my time/skill/effort/expertise.

For example, I can write blog posts. I’m not too bad at it (I’m not the best, but I’m better than most people). Some of my clients need content on their blogs. I can do it for them. BUT there is a problem: often, the money they are willing to invest for that content, and the value it has for them, sets the price way too low for it to be worth my while. If we actually do go through and reach an agreement, chances are that I’ll feel underpaid and they’ll feel they’re wasting money.

One of my blogging friends is currently in this situation with a client — and maybe in some cases (like ours) part of the problem is the client not realizing exactly how valuable this content can be to them. But the fact remains that it’s not because somebody is ready to hire you to do something that it is a viable commercial endeavour. Another example of this situation is home arts and crafts — Suw and I had a discussion about this a couple of years back on Fresh Lime Soda (remember the times?) for home-made lace she was making: people would simply not be willing to pay a high enough price for it to cover materials and work.

This is also true in the sense that if people want something for free and enjoy it, it doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to pay for it. In that respect, I think that people like Philippe Barraud and Thierry Crouzet aren’t being very realistic if they expect to make their blogs paid content in the future. The fact that people read their blogs (and enjoy them) for free is not an indication that they would be ready to pay for it. That would be misunderstanding the power of free.

Erin talks about the subscription model in her second post:

Subscriptions didn’t keep most print publications profitable even when print was doing well—classified and display ads did. Legal databases, academic databases, super-specialized content . . . that’s something a lot of people or institutions will pay for. News? Bloggy or magazine-style content? Not so much.

That’s the conventional wisdom, which seems to be validated by disasters like Newsday’s acquisition of 35 whole subscribers in its first three months of operating behind a paywall. Jack Shafer provides a nice summary of paid content woes in Slate:, listing the NYT’s TimesSelect, the LA Times’s CalendarLive, and Slate itself as publications that tried and failed to make subscriptions work.


So what’s the upshot? People will pay for content that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere, either because:

  1. the information itself is unique, as with Consumer Reports, Cooks Illustrated, and the Gaming Industry Weekly Report, or
  2. the information is surrounded by obviously and uniquely valuable analysis and context, as with the financial newspapers.

The first is an easy sell; the second is a bitch and a half.

If your content meets either of the above criteria, you’ll also be attractive to advertisers. Funny, that.

Philippe and Thierry are both “writing professionals” before being bloggers — in my opinion, paywalling content (just like slapping ads on pages) is pretty much an “old media” way of doing things.

Now, does it mean that I believe we writers should not be compensated for our work? Not more than my stand on filesharing means I believe that musicians and other artists should not be compensated for theirs. Let’s go back to Erin’s article Content is Expensive and look at the two remaining “monetization” solutions for content (aside from paywalling and advertising). This is where things become interesting:

  • Marketing. A lot of “free” content is subsidized by its function as a marketing tool for the content producers or the people who pay them. Many, many blogs work this way. A List Apart now runs small ads, but long before it did, it worked as a marketing channel, establishing the expertise and credibility of its publishers and writers. Most non-fiction books are also subsidized by their value as marketing tools: they don’t pay well enough to be worth the effort for royalties alone. Most commercial content strategy work deals with this kind of content.

“Marketing” or some kind of self-promotion is the obvious. For more years than I care to count now, I have been answering the tired “so, how do you make money with your blog?” question with “I don’t. I make money because of my blog.” The time I invest in writing on my blog is my marketing budget.

And that doesn’t mean there is no love, or passion, and that this writing is narrow-mindedly self-promotional. I was a blogger before I became a social media professional, and will most probably continue being a blogger if I change my line of work. I am a thinker, and a sharer, and by genuinely providing content because I love writing and I hope I can be useful to others, I happen to also be promoting my business (business which, incidentally, grew out of this blog — and not the contrary).

This is a tough message to pass on to a client: “The money you’re paying me to write is actually marketing money. The content I provide will add value to your website for years to come, and help build your reputation and credibility. How much is that worth?” It’s not just words on a screen, disposable stuffing like so much of what is unfortunately filling our newspapers today. Scanned today, gone tomorrow. Great writing, online, has no expiry date.

Back to Erin:

  • Paid Delivery Channels (The New Hotness). The paid iPhone app is a way of getting people to cough up money for content that they normally wouldn’t dream of paying for so they can receive it in a convenient way. Kinda like how we used to pay for newspaper delivery instead of going to the library to read the paper for free. (Spoiler: there is nothing new under the publishing sun.) We’re going to see a lot more of this in the nearish future as publishers realize that the race to free has resulted in a pileup of bleeding, sad people with no income.

This, honestly, is something I find exciting. As a customer, I will definitely pay for convenience. I may not be inclined for the right to own a file which happens to be a song or an ebook (the slippery terrain of IP — my jury is still out on that one, to be honest) but I will without hesitation buy a song on iTunes, because it’s easy to look up, easy to pay for, unexpensive enough, lands directly on my iPhone and computer, is guaranteed good technical quality, and it comes with cover art. I’ll pay for an iPhone app if it makes it easier for me to access content that is precious for me. I’ll pay for a concert if it allows me to watch a song performed live 🙂 (I’m not sure that’s still in the “delivery channels” department, though…)

Ah well, this was supposed to be a short blog post with just a few links. Now look at me. No wonder I get blogging-anxiety when I haven’t written in a while.

Ecrire pour un blog [fr]

[en] A few tips on writing for a blog: don't advertise, be interesting, use your authentic voice, remember the media is conversational, and be a real person writing something. This is not easy to do if you've been formatted to spew commercial copy or marketing-speak, but it can be learned. Learning requires exercise, and often help from others (peers or a trainer).

Hier, séance de formation chez un client. Deuxième séance, quelques mois après la première. Les bases techniques du maniement de WordPress sont acquises, on parle donc plus en profondeur de:

  • quels sujets aborder sur un blog d’entreprise
  • quel style d’écriture utiliser?

Voici quelques éléments intéressants qui ont émergé de nos discussions, et que je reproduis ici.


En y réfléchissant bien, peu de personnes vont volontairement aller chercher du contenu publicitaire à lire. Toute l’industrie télévisuelle tourne finalement autour d’un but: attirer des gens devant un écran pour pouvoir leur enfiler de la publicité (oui, je suis un peu cynique). Mais sérieusement, la publicité c’est ce qu’on met sous les yeux des gens quand ils ne peuvent (ou ne veulent) pas s’échapper. Si on leur propose de s’abonner à du contenu purement publicitaire, peu de chances qu’ils le fassent.

Avec un blog, et en ligne en général (je pense aussi à Twitter), le public n’est jamais prisonnier. Il peut s’en aller d’un clic de souris. Si on veut utiliser un canal en ligne pour faire passer du contenu publicitaire, il faut le faire avec beaucoup de délicatesse — au risque de crier dans le désert.

Etre intéressant

Du coup, la logique rédactionnelle d’un blog ne peut pas être purement publicitaire (ou purement “marketing”, au sens de “pousser à la vente, à la consommation, promouvoir directement”). On privilégiera du contenu véritablement intéressant pour le lecteur. Pour le lecteur — pas du point de vue de l’entreprise.

Qu’est-ce qui intéresse vraiment les gens, du coup? C’est ça la grande question, mais voici quelques pistes:

  • rencontrer les êtres humains qui sont derrière l’entreprise
  • en apprendre plus sur le fonctionnement de l’entreprise ou son histoire
  • se cultiver (surtout quand la culture est intéressante!)
  • avoir droit à des informations “insider” pas forcément accessibles ou évidentes pour tout le monde…

C’est assez vague, tout ça, et il est possible (malheureusement) d’aborder ce genre de sujet de façon totalement inintéressante… Ce n’est pas une recette magique garantie!

Un ton authentique

La clé réside le plus souvent dans le ton utilisé. Le language marketing, “communiqué de presse”, pub, ou trop journalistique est à éviter. Oui, me direz-vous, mais comment faire?

Ce qu’on cherche, c’est à parler comme des êtres humains. Il faut pour cela souvent se “dé-formatter” (beaucoup de professionnels de la communication sont des crispés du “je”, par exemple). Le ton juste, c’est celui qu’on utiliserait dans un e-mail à un ami, ou bien dans une conversation avec des amis autour d’une table. Bien sûr, c’est de l’écrit, mais on se rapproche de ça.

Pour faire ça, quelques trucs:

  • raconter des histoires ou des anecdotes vraies (ne pas inventer!)
  • se mettre en scène dans l’histoire: raconter depuis son point de vue et utiliser la première personne
  • élaguer au maximum les informations publicitaires/marketing (les lecteurs peuvent toujours laisser un commentaire pour demander des précisions)
  • se mettre dans les chaussures la peau du lecteur, ou du moins l’imaginer en face (“est-ce que ça l’intéresse vraiment, ce que je raconte?”)
  • rester dans un état d’esprit “dialogue, conversation”.

Un petit tuyau: quand on est passionné par ce qu’on écrit, ça vient plus naturellement!

Un média conversationnel

Le dernier point de la liste ci-dessus est capital: avec un blog, nous sommes dans une conversation. Bien sûr, pas dans une véritable conversation en face-à-face, mais quand même, dans une dynamique d’échange.

Vous avez déjà certainement dû subir des cours ou des conférences où l’orateur lit son discours ou débite un monologue assommant. Comparez cela au bon orateur, qui n’est pas en train de parler au public, mais de discuter avec les gens dans la salle (même si ce n’est que lui parle).

On cherche à faire la même chose dans un blog. Si on parle comme une brochure de marketing, personne ne nous répondra. Un être humain, par contre, c’est autre chose: on peut discuter avec!

Autre avantage d’un style informel et conversationnel: votre lecteur retiendra mieux ce que vous lui dites. En effet, il a été démontré que l’utilisation du “je” et autres marqueurs de la conversation dans le language écrit informel donnent au cerveau l’illusion qu’il est dans une conversation. Du coup… il est plus attentif! Kathy Sierra explique très bien tout ceci (en anglais).

Une vraie personne qui écrit

Bloguer nécessite de se dévoiler un tout petit peu. Pas de raconter ses pensées ou envies les plus secrètes, bien entendu, mais quand même de se livrer un peu. Si le blog “marche”, c’est qu’il met le lecteur en contact avec quelqu’un d’humain, d’imparfait, d’atteignable. Quelqu’un comme lui — pas une organisation ou institution désincarnée.

Il est important pour cela que le blog soit formatté de façon à ce que le nom de l’auteur apparaisse à côté de l’article — ou le cas échéant, que les auteurs signent leurs articles. Si c’est Julie ou Sophie ou Robert qui écrit, ce n’est pas la même chose! Je veux savoir qui me parle, et à qui je parle si je réponds.

Comment changer?

Le problème de beaucoup de personnes qui se mettent au blog, c’est d’avoir été “formatté” à écrire dans un language pseudo-neutre, impersonnel, journalistique, ou marketing/commercial. Il faut “désapprendre”.

Heureusement, on sait tous avoir des conversations avec nos amis, ce qui nous donne un point de repère.

Il vaut la peine de se mettre à plusieurs, de regarder ses productions et celles des autres avec un oeil critique et impitoyable:

  • est-ce que ça sent la pub?
  • est-ce qu’on y croit?
  • est-ce que le lecteur de passage a une chance d’y trouver un intérêt?
  • est-ce que le narrateur (celui qui écrit) est présent dans l’histoire?

Puis, si nécessaire, retravailler, récrire. Ça ne vient pas tout seul, mais ça peut s’apprendre.

Donner 80%, ou la loi de Paréto appliquée aux métiers des idées [fr]

On est tous familiers avec la loi de Pareto: 20% d’effort pour 80% de l’effet, etc.

L’an dernier, à SoloCamp, Dennis Howlett nous en a proposé une application en réponse à la question (qui torturait plusieurs d’entre nous): sachant que donner gratuitement est une forme de marketing très efficace, surtout dans les métiers des social medias, où mettre la limite? Combien donner? Quand commencer à faire payer? Comment ne pas se faire avoir, sans pour autant devenir radins?

Eh bien, sa réponse m’a stupéfaite, j’avoue, et bien tranquillisée. D’après lui, quand on est dans les métiers de la “propriété intellectuelle” (en gros, ce qu’on offre à nos clients, ce sont principalement des idées), une bonne ligne de conduite est de considérer qu’on va donner gratuitement (ou presque) 80% et faire payer (cher) les 20% restants.

Donner 80%!

Je suis presque tombée de ma chaise.

Puis, sachant que Dennis est quelqu’un qui réussit plutôt bien en affaires, que j’avais depuis un moment le sentiment désagréable que je donnais de moins en moins et que mon business en pâtissait, je me suis un peu détendue, et j’ai décidé de garder en tête ce principe.

Et si j’y réfléchis et que je fais un peu l’inventaire de mon “travail gratuit”, je me rends compte qu’on y est assez vite:

– tout ce que je publie sur ce blog et ailleurs sur internet
– les Bloggy Fridays
– l’eclau
– les repas, pots, “petites discussions” où je fais du “consulting gratuit” en échange d’une pizza ou de la reconnaissance éternelle de mon interlocuteur
– organiser Going Solo et SoloCamp (c’était pas censé, mais ça a fini par l’être, du travail “gratuit”)
– les personnes que je dépanne à l’oeil, en ligne et hors ligne
– les interviews accordés aux journalistes, participations non rémunérées à tables rondes et autres événements…

Je pourrais continuer encore la liste.

Bien entendu, il y a un retour sur investissement, là. C’est mon budget marketing, si on veut, toute l’énergie que je mets dans ces diverses activités. C’est “ce qui me fait”, aussi, et j’en suis bien consciente. Mais rien de tout ça ne remplit directement le compte en banque: ça fait partie des 80% grosso modo de mon temps-énergie que je ne facture à personne, et durant lequel je “travaille gratuitement”, suivant quelle définition on donne à “travailler” et “gratuitement”.

Me voici donc à répondre enfin à M. Fontana d’Universal, mon interlocuteur contradictoire lors du “débat” sur le piratage à la RSR1 il y a quelques mois, lorsqu’il demandait (ironiquement et sûr de sa réponse) si j’avais l’habitude de travailler à 100% et de n’être payée qu’à 50%. (L’homme de paille favori de mes détracteurs concernant les questions de partage de fichiers semble être que je ne veux pas que les artistes soient payés pour leur travail…)

Oui, oui, Monsieur — et même plus que ce que vous imaginez. C’est comme ça que ça fonctionne, dans mon métier.

Vous me voyez venir: si l’on accepte de sortir d’une mentalité d’employés (ou pire, de rentiers), on pourrait sans beaucoup de difficulté appliquer ce genre de raisonnement au monde des oeuvres de l’esprit en général, y compris la musique. Pour les détails, il faudra repasser, car je ne les ai pas (j’en entends déjà qui hurlent) — mais n’y a-t-il pas là quelque chose à creuser?

What Do We Call Ourselves? [en]

[fr] Un article de plus dans la longue série "Stephanie se demande comment appeler ce qu'elle fait". Si "social media expert" a été usé jusqu'à la corde, que reste-t-il à une "spécialiste généraliste" des nouveaux médias comme moi?

This morning I read 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Brand Yourself as a Social Media Expert. It echoes with a piece I wrote earlier this year: To Be or Not to Be a New Media Strategist, in which I (a) explain that I have finally understood that the core of my work is strategy and (b) wonder what to call myself.

I pride myself in being one of these “early generation” people, not a “me too”. This year the blog you’re reading will celebrate its 9th birthday, which means that although I’m not the oldest dinosaur out there, I was already blogging when many who are now considered respected old-timers wrote their first post. I’ve been earning money in the field of what we now call social media since early 2005 — and this is Europe, little Switzerland, not the US of Silicon Valley. And without wanting to blame all my failures on being too innovative, I like to think that at least some of them have to do with trying to do things too soon, before the market was ready for them.

The facts above are not just to toot my own horn (a little, I’ll admit) but to drive in the point that I have a very different profile from people who discovered social media, noted that it was (or was going to be) hot, and decided to jump in and make money out of it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… I think. I’m somebody who has always been driven more by my interest in things than by “earning money” — my somewhat mediocre business skills (monetizing, marketing, sales). What “title” can I find to differentiate myself from all the other people who are now in the field?

When I was reading Dan’s article, I kept thinking “yes, but what if I really am a social media expert?” I’m not a “had a blog for 18 months” or “I know what Twitter is” kind of expert. And I’m also not somebody who sticks to one kind of activity or domain of expertise (e.g. “teenagers and the net” or “blogging for internal communications”).

A few days ago I came upon this diagram by Budd Caddell, which has had me thinking:

Venn diagram for happiness as a freelancer.

I’m aware that part of my ongoing struggle to define myself for others has to do with my internal struggle to figure out what it is exactly that I do, want to do, can get paid to do. I know what I have been paid to do during the last three years. I have more insight into what I don’t like doing and others want me to do, and am learning to say no. “What I do well” is a bigger problem, because part of me keeps thinking that I suck at more or less everything I do, and though I know it’s not true, it makes self-assessment tricky.

I also think I have a bit of a “generalist” profile: I’m good at a lot of things, but probably, for each thing that I do, you can find somebody who is a bigger “expert” — but who will have a more limited field of expertise. I view myself as a kind of “generalist specialist”, or “generalist expert” in my field.

Many years ago, I wrote a rant in French about so-called “blogging specialists”. (For the sake of the discussion here, let’s consider that specialist = expert.) At the time, I was concerned about the need of the press to be able to quote “specialists”, and they were labeling bloggers “specialists” left, right, and centre, me included. At the time, I felt anything like a specialist, and resented the misattribution.

I guess the same thing bugs me today. People labeling themselves “experts” when, in all honesty, they’re not that much of an expert (see reason #1 in Dan’s article). It’s easy to be somebody else’s expert when you know more than them: au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois. I see it a lot. It annoys me for two reasons: first, there is sometimes a certain amount of dishonesty or deception (conscious or not) involved; second, if everybody is an expert (reason #6), how do you distinguish between the experts? How do I label myself to make it clear that I am not the same breed as the buzzing crowd of “me too” web2.0 or social media “experts”?

Dan offers a solution in his article, but I’m only half-convinced:

The pioneers of new media are still successful today, but they don’t even brand themselves as “social media experts.”  Think about experts such as David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillan, Chris Brogan, Charlene Li, Steve Rubel, and Robert Scoble.  David is an author who has successfully blended social media with PR and marketing before everyone else.  Chris Brogan focuses more on social media’s impact on community building and he’s been blogging religiously before the medium became mainstream.  Don’t try and brand yourself as one of them because you’ll fail trying.

I guess this works if you really have an area of specialisation in social media, but that’s just not the type of personality I am. I see it in other areas too, take judo, for example: most judo practitioners have one “special”, a move that stands out — I have at least 3 that could be my “special”; how about studies? I spent my career switching between arts and science.

So when it comes to my work, what am I good at? I’m good at a lot of things:

But in none of these areas am I “the most extraordinary person out there”. My strength is that I do all these things, and pretty well too — but there is nothing I can put forward to say “I’m the ultimate expert on X”.

How do I market myself? What do I call myself, if I can’t call myself a social media expert?

Update: Prompted by the same blog post, and written as I was writing this one, do read Suw’s excellent article about the necessity of keeping the E-word around: Hi, my name is Suw and I’m a social media expert.

Stephanie Has a Newsletter [en]

[fr] Voilà, j'ai une newsletter. Je la rédigerai en anglais et en français, et y parlerai principalement de mes activités professionnelles. Je vais certainement radoter, il faut vous y attendre -- mais seulement une à deux fois par mois. Je parlerai aussi des choses que je n'aborde pas dans ce blog. Pourquoi une newsletter? J'y ai longuement réfléchi et écrirai sans doute bien plus à ce sujet dans les semaines à venir.

Je suis curieuse. Quelle est votre réaction? Est-ce que vous vous inscririez à une telle newsletter? Je me réjouis de voir ce que va donner cette expérience.

Taking example on my friend Martin, I decided it was time I had my own newsletter. There’s a lot of thinking behind it which I’ll share here at some point (when I’m less in a hurry).

To answer a few questions:

  • I’ll publish a couple of newsletters per month
  • I’ll talk mainly about my professional life
  • Yes, I might ramble
  • I’ll talk about stuff you won’t find on the blog
  • Not everybody reads blogs, no
  • Yes, you can unsubscribe (it’s managed by Google Groups)
  • Nope, I won’t spam you or give out your e-mail address

If you want to subscribe you can do so using the box below.

Google Groups
Subscribe to Stephanie Booth's Newsletter

Visit this group

What’s your reaction to this? Would you sign up for such a newsletter, or not — and why?

I’m looking forward to seeing how this experiment goes.

About Visibility [en]

[fr] Vous connaissez certainement des personnes qui excellent dans l'art de se mettre en avant ou de promouvoir ce qu'elle font. S'il est bon de savoir le faire, une réputation qui repose principalement sur des compétences marketing/vente plutôt que sur ce que l'on produit réellement, ça ne force pas tellement le respect. S'il n'y a aucun mal à utiliser de temps en temps des "tactiques marketing" pour se mettre en avant, et faciliter de façon générale la diffusion de ce que l'on fait/écrit, gare à l'excès. Si l'on se cantonne à "jouer avec le système", on n'est au final qu'une coquille vide avec une grande gueule.

Here’s another post I wrote offline while waiting at the cinema. I was going to post it tomorrow but I just bumped into this blog post by Seth Godin which is on a very similar topic (and way better than mine). So… I’m posting it now, and will go to bed a bit later!

Quite a few months ago I came upon a blog post explaining how to become a successful blogger. How to become “known” amongst the blogging crowd. It had some good advice, but it bothered me. And it’s only a few weeks ago that I understood why.

I’ve tried to dig out this post again, but (ironically?) I can’t make it surface. It was of the “x ways to …” type, “here’s how I did it”, “you can do it too” type.

See, as in the real, offline world, there are two things: the product, and marketing it. Of course, they aren’t really that separate, but please bear with the simplification for the sake of the argument. For a blogger, it comes down to what you actually blog about/do, and how you promote yourself/what you do.

As somebody who’s pretty bad at self-promotion overall (not hopeless, but not a natural by far), I’m pretty sensitive to those who are better at it than me, in a sometimes “jealous” kind of way. I hate to say it, but I sometimes resent it. Some people come across as “noisy empty shells” — good at marketing themselves and putting themselves forward, but not much behind when you start to dig a bit.

Now, some lucky (and talented) people both have something to say, and have got the “self-promotion” bit figured out. And I have no problem with that.

Back to the blog post I was mentioning: what made me uneasy was that I used some of the techniques described there myself. Was I dirty?

And now, I figured it out. There’s nothing wrong with using “tried and tested” techniques to drive traffic to your blog, get people to link to your entries or comment on them, or basically, to put your stuff out there.

However, if that’s all your online reputation is built on, you’re just an empty shell with a loud mouth. If you’re “being good at promoting yourself” and use it to give yourself a boost every now and again, I don’t have a problem with that.

Here’s what it comes down to, because, in the end, this is about my opinion on something and the advice I’d give to those who are interested in it. I’ll respect you more if your reputation is built on your content and actual doings than if it’s built on you making use of every possible technique to maximise visibility of what you do.

5 Lessons in Promoting Events Using Social Media (Back to Basics) [en]

[fr] Leçons apprises lors de la promotion de Going Solo:

  • communiquer directement avec les gens (messagerie instantanée, conversation offline, téléphone) est le mode de communication le plus efficace
  • ne pas négliger l'e-mail, les dossiers de presse, le matériel imprimable: tout le monde ne lira pas le blog ou Twiter
  • rien ne devient automatiquement "viral" parce que c'est sur internet: aider les gens à vous aider à passer l'info, par exemple avec un e-mail "forwardable"
  • aller où sont les gens, les retrouver dans leur communauté (Facebook, MySpace, Rezonance, LinkedIn... partout)
  • ça prend du temps... beaucoup de temps

J'ai été surprise à quel point tout ceci a été difficile pour moi, alors qu'une partie de mon métier consiste à expliquer aux gens comment utiliser les nouveaux médias pour communiquer plus efficacement. Une leçon d'humilité, et aussi un retour à certaines choses basiques mais qui fonctionnent, comme l'e-mail ou le chat. En récompense, par contre, un événement qui a été un succès incontesté, et tout cela sans le soutien des médias traditionnels (pour cause de communiqué de presse un poil tardif) -- mis à part nouvo, qui a répercuté l'annonce, mais qui trouvait que c'était cher!

One of the big lessons I learnt while organising Going Solo is that promoting and communicating about an event through social media requires a huge amount of time and energy. In this post, I’d like to share a few of the very practical things I (re-)discovered.

Even though part of what I do for a living is explain social media and its uses in marketing to my clients, I found it quite a challenge when I actually had to jump in and do it. (Yes, I’m aware this may sound pretty lame. By concentrating on the big picture and the inspiring success stories, one tends to forget some very basic things. Sending managers back to the floor every now and then is a good thing.)

The main lesson I learnt is the following:

  • 1. The absolute best channel to promote anything is one-on-one personal conversation with somebody you already have some sort of relationship with.

Any other solution is a shortcut. And all shortcuts have prices.

This means I ended up spending a lot of time:

  • talking to people on IM, IRC, and offline at conferences
  • sending out personal messages on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Anytime you do something to spare you this time (like sending out a collective e-mail, writing a blog post, or even tweeting — situations where you’re not adressing one specific individual directly) you dilute what you’re communicating. You open the door to:

  • imperfect understanding of what you’re trying to say
  • people not feeling like it’s really addressed to them (lack of interest, or lack of awareness that their actions are important to you)
  • people simply not seeing it.

I have many examples of this. I created a page with material people could use to promote Going Solo, in particular, blog sidebar badges. But not many people put them up spontanously, even amongst my friends. But when I started pinging people on IM and asking them if they would please put up a badge to support my event, they did it. They just hadn’t got around to doing it, hadn’t realised that them doing it was important for me, or it had simply slipped their mind. It’s perfectly understandable: it’s “my” event, not theirs.

Another example is when I started sending out my “forwardable e-mails” (lesson #3 is about them), most people stopped at “well, I’m not a freelancer” or “I can’t come”. It took some explaining to make sure they understood that the main reason I was sending them the e-mail was that they might know somebody who would like to come to the event, or who could blog about it, or help with promoting it. If I spared myself the personal conversation and just sent the e-mail, people were much less likely to really understand what I expected from them, even through it was spelled out in the e-mail itself.

And that was a big secondary lesson I learnt while preparing Going Solo: it’s not because people don’t get back to you, or don’t act, that they aren’t interested or don’t want to. The burden is on you to make it as easy as possible for them to help you.

Let’s continue on to the next lessons.

  • 2. Blogs and Twitter are essential, but don’t neglect less sexy forms of communication: newsletter, press release, printable material.

The first thing I did for Going Solo was to create a blog and a Twitter account. Getting a blog and Twitter account off the ground isn’t easy, and it took quite a lot of one-on-one communication (see lesson #1) (and blogging here on CTTS) to get enough people to link to them so that they started taking off.

But the lesson here is that not everybody is on Twitter, and not everbody reads blogs. We highly-connected types tend to forget that. It didn’t take me that long to get the feeling that I had “exhausted” my immediate, social-media-enabled network — meaning that all the people who knew me directly had heard what I was talking about, linked to stuff if they were going to, or registered for the event if they were interested.

So, here are some less “social media cutting-edge” forms of communication I used, most of them very late in the process (earlier next time):

Some comments.

Our press release came out so late that we got no coverage at all from traditional media, bar one exception, which focused on how expensive the event was. This means Going Solo Lausanne is a great case study of successful event promotion entirely through social media.

When I created the newsletter, I spent a lot of time following lesson #1 and inviting people personally to sign up, through IM most of the time. I sent out invitations through the Google Groups interface, of course (to the extent that I got flagged as a potential spammer). But I also went through the process of inviting people directly through IM.

A word of warning about newsletters: don’t add people to your newsletter unless you’ve checked beforehand that they were OK with it, or if you have a very good reason to do so (they are the speakers/attendees for your event) — but even then, it can be risky. I was recently added to a bunch of mailing-lists without having asked for it, rather than invited, and I find it really annoying. It’s way more impolite to unsubscribe from a newsletter than refuse an invitation to subscribe, so adding people can put them in an embarrassing situation (be impolite vs. be annoyed at getting newsletters one doesn’t want).

  • 3. Don’t expect “viral” or “organic” spreading of your promotion to happen, but prepare the field so it can: the forwardable e-mail.

There is so much talk about the fact that social media allows things to spread all by themselves (and indeed, there is an important potential for that, and when it happens, it’s very powerful) — that we tend to expect it to happen and be disappointed when it doesn’t. And let’s face it, it’s not something that we can control (sorry for stating the obvious again, I’m doing that a lot in this post) and it takes quite a bit of skill to create the right conditions so that it may happen.

So, now that we’ve set our expectations, what can be done to help things spread? I mentioned having exhausted my immediate network higher up, so I needed to come up with a solution which would help me reach beyond it. How could I get my friends to mention Going Solo to their friends?

Of course, our use of social media in general allows that. Blogs, Facebook Groups and Events, sidebar badges… all this is material which can spread. But again — what about the people who aren’t bathing in social media from morning to evening?

Back to basics: e-mail. E-mail, be it under the shape of a newsletter, a discussion list, or simple personal messages, has a huge advantage over other forms of online communication: you’re sure people know how to use it. It’s the basic, level 0 tool that anybody online has and understands.

So, I started sending out e-mail. A little bit of push is good, right? I composed a rather neutral e-mail explaining what Going Solo was about, who it was for, giving links to more information, and a call to action or two. I then sent this impersonal text to various people I knew, with a personal introduction asking them to see if they knew anybody who could be interested in information about this event, and inviting them to forward the message to these people. Nothing extraordinary in that, right?

I of course applied lesson #1 (you’re starting to know that one, right?) and tried as much as possible to check on IM, beforehand, if it was OK for me to send the “forwardable e-mail” to each person. So, basically, no mass-mailing, but an e-mail written in such a way that it was “forwardable” in a “here’s what my friend Steph is doing, could interest you” way, which I passed along as a follow-up to a direct chat with each person.

In a more “social media” spirit, of course, make sure that any videos you put online can easily be shared and linked to, etc. etc — but that will be pretty natural for anybody who’s familiar with blogging and “being online”.

  • 4. Go where people are. Be everywhere.

Unless your event is already very well known, you need to go to people, and not just wait for them to come to you. If you’ve set up a blog, Twitter account, newsletter, then you have a place where people can come to you. But that’s not enough. You need to go where people are:

  • Facebook
  • Upcoming
  • LinkedIn
  • Xing
  • MySpace
  • Pownce
  • Seesmic
  • Existing communities big and small… (blogs, forums, chatrooms)

Again, this is a very basic principle. But it’s not because it’s basic that it’s invalidated by the magic world of social media. Where you can create an event, create an event (Upcoming, Facebook, Pownce, Rezonance — a local networking thingy); where you can create a group, create a group — I waited a lot before creating a Facebook group for Going Solo, because I had a fan page for it already, but as you can see the group worked much better.

  • 5. It’s a full-time job.

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d spend weeks doing nothing else but send e-mails, update Facebook pages, blog, send e-mails, talk to people, IM, tweet, e-mail again… to promote Going Solo. It’s a huge amount of work. It’s so much work that one could imagine having somebody full time just to do it. So when you’re (mainly) a one-person shop, it’s important to plan that a significant amount of your time might be spent on promotion. It’s easy to underestimate that (I did, and in a major way).

Working this way doesn’t scale. At some point, one-on-one communication takes up too much time and energy to compensate for the benefits it brings over more impersonal forms of communication. But that only happens once your event is popular enough. Before you’ve held your first event (which was the situation I was in with Going Solo Lausanne), you don’t have a community of advocates for your work, you don’t have fans (you might have personal fans, but not fans of your event) or passionate attendees ;-), you don’t have other people doing your work for you.

At the beginning, every person who hears about your event is the result of sweat and hard work. Hopefully, at some point it’ll take off and you’ll start seeing more and more people blogging about the event you’re organising — but even then, it might take a while before you can just sit back and watch things happen. But in case this moment comes earlier than planned, you’re all set: you have a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook group and a newsletter. Until then, though, you’re going to be stuck on IM and sending out e-mails.

A few last words

I hope that by sharing these lessons with you, I’ll have contributed to making things a little easier for somebody else in the same situation I was. You’ll have understood that I haven’t tried to be exhaustive about how to use social media for promotion — indeed, I’ve skipped most of the “advanced” stuff that is more often spoken about.

But I think it’s easy to get so taken up with the “latest and greatest” tools out there that we forget some of the basic stuff. I, for one, was guilty of that initially.

Also, one thing I haven’t spoken about is how to talk to people. Of course, some of what you’re doing is going to be impersonal. Own up to it, if you’re mass e-mailing. Don’t pretend to be personal when you aren’t — it’s hypocritical, doesn’t come across well, and can be smelled a mile away.

I haven’t quite finished reconciling my practical experience with how I believe things “should” work. I’ve learnt a lot, but I certainly haven’t figured everything out yet. I would have wanted to do a lot more, but time simply wasn’t available, so I tried to prioritize. I made choices, and some of them were maybe mistakes. But overall, I’m happy with how things went and what I learnt.

If you have had similar experiences, I’d be really happy to hear from you. Likewise, if you disagree with some of the things I’ve written, or think I’m wrong on certain counts, do use the comments. I’m open to debate, even though I’m a bit hard-headed ;-).