Posts tagged with “how to use social networking sites”

Are You Following Your Passion?

Monday, 21 June, 2010

I was invited to talk at the BCIT Tech Writing Alumni lunch and workshop on Saturday about using social media as a self marketing tool, as well as taking the online conversation offline. One of the other speakers, Kemp Edmonds, talked about he got into the world of social media and education, and one of the things he mentioned as his career starting point was passion.

To me, this is such a key element to success, in whatever your field of interest. You have to identify your passion, and you have to have the guts, and perhaps a bit of selfishness (in the best sense of the word) to follow that passion. It’s what motivated me to leave full time teaching and begin the adventure of Meerkat Communications.

When I was heading home after the lunch, I thought about how much I love speaking, and sharing information and knowledge with others. It was great to talk to a room full of fellow writers and also to reflect on my own journey. It also reminded me of how good it feels when you are doing what you are truly passionate about. It is energizing and also reassuring; reminding you that you are on the right path.

It got me thinking, too, about the three words I chose a long time ago to sum up what it is I do, and that are the pillars of what Meerkat Communications does as a business.


There is something about words. About how they can roll off your tongue, how they can inspire or hurt, compliment or destroy, humour or surprise. I have always loved words, and have to confess that I even love swear words. There are also certain words that I just hate. They just hurt the ears and seem wrong. I love how certain words just suit their meaning, and how others seem to say the opposite of their meanings. I love word play and jokes, poetry and prose. I really will read anything, from trashy holiday novels to serious academic journals.

I love being able to use words to create and illustrate ideas. I love helping clients express what it is that they do, and promote their company or ideas through their websites and marketing materials. It’s all about finding the right words..

I love being able to also use words to share my own information and ideas, whether it be through articles, blog posts, emails, and yes, even real letters! I am lucky enough to have some correspondents and we actually write real letters. It is such a great surprise to find a real, hand-written letter in amongst the bills and it makes such a difference from the brevity and speed of emails.


I love that I get to pursue both my passions: writing and teaching. I love been able to help my students and give them “real world” skills, and show them how using proper business writing skills can help them reach their goals. I also love helping them learn to feel more comfortable presenting in front of others. I also use my love of teaching to help people advance their skills, in the workshop context. It’s great to see people’s faces when they “get it”. It’s incredibly rewarding and I love being able to pass on ideas, tips, resources, and anything else I can think of to help other people find and promote their passion.


Through speaking engagements, workshops, teaching, my volunteer work for Wired Woman, and also through writing, I love being able to help people make connections – whether with other people, or connections in terms of ideas.  If it helps or inspires them to find their passion, or take even one step towards reaching that passion, then I feel like I have really made a difference, and helped motivate someone.

It is so easy to let the humdrum of daily life trick us into thinking that we have to do something. It is very easy to follow the security (I mean, who doesn’t want to live free of the stress of uncertainty?), but if you deny rather than embrace your passions, the stress can actually be bigger and have more of an affect on your emotions and mental well being. It is important, too, to remember (as a wise person once told me) that just because you have an aptitude for something, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You may have many passions or abilities that you can pursue.

Personally, I have been really lucky to have had great support in terms of family and friends, and wonderful mentors too, who have never let me feel like I have made a mistake and who remind me that I am doing what I love and am good at. It does, however, also take a lot of self belief and a definite leap of faith to stay on the path of your passions. I have learned to trust my instincts, and also to let people know not only what it is that I do, but also what I need help with.

If you follow your passions, your rewards are that much sweeter, but don’t feel afraid to ask for help, seek a mentor, network and put yourself out there.

You will get there.


PS – If you are looking for inspiration, you can read my review of The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry. I highly recommend the book.

Developing Your “Techiquette”

Thursday, 10 September, 2009

Do you remember the early days of the internet and email?  (yes! there was life before all this madness!) We all got a handout with tips for “Netiquette” – don’t use ALL CAPS, avoiding flaming people, in general keep it friendly. Somewhere along the line, though, it feels like our technology expanded more quickly and aggressively than we could develop the necessary etiquette to cope. Unless I just missed the latest handout?

Think about how many times you give out personal information online without blinking. Or have a private conversation on a cell phone on the bus. Or make comments on someone’s photo on Facebook. Should we even be concerned about these things? What is the impact on those around us? And what is the impact on people’s perceptions of us?

I was challenged by a friend when I complained about not wanting to hear someone’s personal conversations loudly discussed on their cells in public. She asked me if I would feel the same way if they were talking to their friend face to face. I have mulled it over and I believe I still would, but what makes the cell conversation more annoying is that it is usually carried on at top volume in public spaces!. The other thing people tend to forget is that you never know who is paying attention. There are so many stories about online disasters (The “Cisco Fatty” fail on Twitter, for example).

It is hard to say whether technology is a symptom or a cause. I firmly believe that people are being brought up with very few manners these days (just ride public transit and note how few teenagers get up for the elderly or disabled) but it seems to be exacerbated by people being plugged into iPods, cell phones etc. People play their music so loudly it is a wonder they can hear at all. [I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but it does always seem to be people with bad music taste that play theirs the loudest.] I have also had the wondrous experience of someone answering their cell phone during a movie, and when they were shushed, they just spoke a little quieter… All this communication technology seems to have cut people off from one another and made them feel like they are moving about in a sound proof bubble.

Another symptom of a lack of “techiquette” seems to come from email, and the phenomenon of social networking sites, as well as cell phones. People expect you to be instantly available. They want you to answer your phone, answer your email and respond instantly. And with that immediacy comes, in my experience, a drop in the standards of communication. When people wrote real letters, they would have to put thought and effort into it, knowing it would take a while to get to the recipient.

These days it is so easy to pop off an email and expect a response immediately. We get impatient when we have to wait. And people don’t seem to give as much thought and energy into their correspondence as they used to. Business emails are dashed off in a matter of seconds and “send” is pressed without a second thought. If you are at the receiving end, it can be frustrating and sometimes off-putting as the person comes across as unprofessional and slapdash. Grammar and spelling and proper sentence construction also fly out the window, which can be equally as damaging to one’s reputation.

So what is the cure? I don’t know if there is one, but there are certain things people can do to develop their “techiquette”. There are a lot of ways technology can work in a positive way for you (see an article I wrote for entitled: How to Use Social Networking Sites) and it isn’t too hard to redeem yourself.

Think about what you want to say and draft your email in Word beforehand. Only answer your email at certain times of the day or days of the week to avoid being overloaded. Write someone a real letter once in a while. And remember there are other people around you, sharing a public space and they may not have the same interest in your personal life that you do, plus you never know who is listening.


Twitter: What’s All the Fuss?

Tuesday, 16 June, 2009

birdI’m sure a lot of people are beyond sick of hearing about Twitter (although it makes a welcome distraction from talking about the recession 🙂 ) When people ask me about it, their first comment always seem to be “I don’t get it. Isn’t totally boring and pointless?”. I’ve also participated in discussions about this very topic on LinkedIn with other professionals and even on Twitter itself and there definitely seems to be mixed reactions.

So, should you jump on the bandwagon?

Well first the basics:

What is Twitter?

Good question. Twitter is a social networking site, but unlike Facebook, LinkedIn etc, you are only allowed 140 character posts (answering the question: “What are you doing?”). Your profile consists of a thumbnail pic, short description, location and web address. Your posts appear in a stream form and to see other people’s posts, you need to follow them. Unless you have your privacy settings set to approve, you can follow anyone and they don’t have to follow you back (this includes popular celebrity tweeters like Ellen Degeneres, Ashton Kutcher and Oprah).

Each user gets a username that starts with an @, so if anyone wants to direct their message to you, they merely start their post with, for example, @geraldineeliot (my Twitter username). This will still appear in the stream so everyone can read it, but I will know it is for me. You can also send private (direct) messages to someone that won’t appear on the stream, but again these are limited to 140 characters. There are lots of different conventions and terms that have sprung up, and of course people have developed plenty of different applications so you can post pictures, songs, add backgrounds, manage multiple accounts etc. (For a more in-depth look at Common Twitter Terms, please feel free to take a look at a recent article I wrote on the topic for but in general it is a lot more simplified than other networking sites.

SO What’s The Point?

This is where I get a bit vague with people, precisely because Twitter is one of those things that really isn’t for everyone. Personally, I find it a great networking and marketing tool for my business, for making connections with other Vancouverites in the tech/media scene, and also for gathering news, interesting articles and insights, and keeping up with any new trends in the market. I am selective, however, in who I choose to follow and unlike many users, go for QUALITY not QUANTITY. I don’t want to sift through thousands of updates – I just don’t have the time.

I un-follow anyone who I feel does not add value – especially if they fill my page with meaningless posts about what they had for breakfast. I always look at someone’s updates and their follow to follower ratio before I follow them to ensure they will add something of value to me. Even then, I often find the volume of information overwhelming and sometimes have to take a break. But I have made valuable work connections, gathered information, got the word out about my articles and services, and have been recommended by a follower to a third party, so I would absolutely say it has its benefits.

There are also plenty of job opportunities advertised, chances to meet up with people you follow at Tweet-Ups (real life meet ups), and to share interesting information. There are already some famous Twitter stories including Lance Armstrong getting his stolen bike back through tweeting about it and Ashton Kutcher taking on CNN for the first to reach a million followers. On a more serious note, currently the Iranian Election crisis has stirred up a storm of tweets. As media is silenced in the country, Tweeters are spreading news to the outside world as well as urging other users to change their location to Tehran to confuse censors. The US Government has also convinced Twitter to delay maintenance downtime so that election news can get through via Twitter.  Perhaps this illustrates the power of Twitter is growing?

Should I bother?

I would say that Twitter is essential for anyone:

1. Running their own business

2. Trying to gain exposure

3. Looking to network with people in the same industry

4. Interested in connecting to people all over the world

5. Into instant gratification 😉

6. Looking for jobs

7. Selling a product

8. Promoting their work

BUT it is not for you if you merely want to keep in touch with friends – rather use Facebook (or here’s a novel idea, pick up the phone!). And if you can’t express yourself in 140 characters, don’t go there!

Like any trend, there will always be those who hop on and proclaim it as the next best thing, but the trick always is how smart a user you are, not necessarily how smart the tool is. You have to decide how you are going to use social networking sites to your advantage, no matter the format, but bear in mind they also take a lot of time and effort to maintain and to really add value to your life.

Ready to take the plunge?

Follow me!