Finding Value in New Communities

Over the past few weeks at my internship, I’ve spent a good deal of time putting together lists of bloggers who blog about bicycling (both racing, like Tour de France-type coverage, and bike culture, like those people with bumper stickers on their cars that read “my other car is a bike.”)

lance armstrong

One type of cycling blog: the hardcore bike racing enthusiasts.

While this may not seem like a very glamorous task, it’s totally necessary in public relations because it allows us to understand what’s important to cyclists and teaches us more about bloggers we may pitch stories to. But, it can also expose you to some pretty cool niche communities you may not have known about previously.

The bicycling world is filled with passionate cyclists who love to write and I’m learning to really enjoy their work. While I’m not a hardcore cyclist myself, I’m now immersed in this cycling community and am finding some really compelling blogs and writers.

At this point, I’m only listening and learning more about the topics they cover, but eventually I’ll start interacting with them. From a PR perspective, the bloggers might appreciate that I not only understand the issues that concern them, but that I also genuinely enjoy reading their blogs.

Have you had to spend a lot of time focusing on one particular niche community like bike riders? Maybe it was a group of people devoted to a similar cause or who lived in a particular city. Whatever the case, I’d love to know how it played out: did you just read their blogs? Did you develop a personal interest in the topic? From a PR

my other car is a bike bumper sticker

Another type of cycling blog: the bike culture/advocacy writers.

perspective, were you able to build a relationship with them?

And while I love discovering this niche, not all blogs are created equal. In my research, I’ve found a few that I really love, mostly because they’re hilarious or look at cycling from a unique perspective:

  • Bike Snob NYC: Yes, Bike Snob writes a column in Bicycling, but that’s not why I love his blog – it’s because he is irreverent and funny but doesn’t waver from his position that cycling is a serious transportation method. Everything I’ve read has been great, especially his spot-on, amusing analysis of Portland and its biking community.
  • Bike Portland: Here’s a hometown shout-out. Bike Portland consistently ranks really high on every list of biking blogs I’ve seen; it covers local cycling events and issues and has made itself the authority on the topic in Portland (and, it seems, elsewhere).
  • Riding Pretty and Chic Cyclists: I will never be as cool as the ladies who write these blogs, but they do a great job of giving ideas on how to be trendy while being serious about cycling.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. In PR, or in your everyday social media participation, have you ever come across a passionate blogging or online community? Was there value in listening to and eventually engaging with them? If so, what was it?

Building a Better Blog

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the 3% curve in my Human Physiology class that bumped my grade up from a B+ to an A-. Yes!

Finals are over and it’s nice to be relaxing at home. With a relatively commitment-free week ahead, I decided I’d take the time to spruce up my blog.

I know nothing has changed yet, but that’s what this post is about. Right now, I’m using plain old WordPress.com, but I’d like to move beyond that. Seems like a lot of talk has surfaced lately regarding personal branding and SEO, and while I want to be ahead of the game on those fronts, I also want to create a blog that is consistently updated with valuable content and discussion.

Rather than dive in without a plan, I set forth three goals for my blog:

1)    That it’s a place where people can get smarter through conversation with others. I’m a student of public relations, journalism and new/social media. I have thoughts, ideas and questions and I definitely don’t know it all. My blog won’t become the center of the PR world but it can be a place where creative new ideas can be introduced and discussed.

2)    That I create an online “home” for myself. While I want to spark thought, discussion and action, I also want my blog to be a place where people can learn about me, what I do and what’s important to me.

3)    That it motivates people to act. A lot of times I’ll read a post, say “Oh, that was insightful,” and then move on. I know there’s a lot of content out there, but I want to motivate people to act on this content: to do something, be it in public relations, social media, their community, etc. I want to be walking what my blog is talking.

That said, I need to create a blog that will allow me to do all of those things. Have you made the switch from a WordPress.com blog to another host, like WordPress.org? Have you bought your own domain name? Played with HTML? If you have, I’d truly appreciate your advice regarding how to go about that process, as inexpensively, reliably and easily as possible. Feel free to leave a comment with any tips or resources, or send me a tweet or an e-mail: paige (dot) landsem (at) gmail (dot) com.

The Verdict on #ChatMixer: Awesome.

Like many of you, I participated in #chatmixer last night. It was sort of on a whim: I was starting some homework but took notice of more and more #chatmixer tweets popping up in my TweetDeck notifications.

I jumped in a little late, but I am SO GLAD that I did.

Here’s why:

1)     #Chatmixer connected me with a bunch of awesome new people.

2)     It connected me with a bunch of awesome new chats.

3)     It reminded me why social media is so awesome in the first place.

Usually during a big chat like #chatmixer or #PRStudChat (which I’ve only half-joined once), I’ll view all the tweets in TweetChat but keep TweetDeck open so I can more easily see if someone mentions me and then be sure to respond individually. It was cool to see people actually responding to my tweets/thoughts and then making a real connection with them. You can only get so real in 140 characters, I suppose, but I connected with at least ten or twelve people I never would have known existed had it not been for #chatmixer.

The past few months have shown me just how many chats there are, but the mixer opened my eyes to even more! One that particularly excites me is #InternChat, which debuts March 16 (thanks to Heather Huhman for the heads up on that). During #chatmixer, some fellow PR students and I struck up a mini-conversation about how we wanted a chat like #JobHuntChat that focused on the internship hunt. Thanks to the mixer, we were able to find just what we were looking for (although we briefly entertained the idea of starting it ourselves).

It’s probably nerdy to say this, but participating in the mixer reminded me of why I think social media is so awesome. I’ve connected with new people who have told me about chats that will connect me with even more people. I suppose these connections will only be judged as truly valuable if they yield results in the future, either PR-wise, career-wise or personally. But for now, I’m just excited to keep connecting with and learning from all these new people.

What was the best part of #chatmixer for you? What did you learn? Did you connect with an awesome person and/or an awesome new chat? Please share! Even though the chat itself is over, I’d still love to connect with you and hear your thoughts!

*Oh, and last but not least: Big thanks to mixer moderators Heather Whaling, Justin Goldsborough and Valerie Simon! They get all the credit for the awesomeness. Here’s to hoping it happens again!

Being Social with Social Media

The “social” part of “social media” has been rocking my world lately: I’ve been able to meet TONS of awesome new people through Twitter and the blogosphere.

Every new person I connect with opens my eyes to something exciting and new: I learn about new places, new blogs, new ideas, new opportunities and most importantly, new people.

One of the best examples of connecting with new people came early last week. I was looking for recent college grads to tell me about their job search process. To my happy surprise, I received a lot of response on Twitter and three extremely detailed, thought-out responses via e-mail from young professionals Kaylee Hakwins, Case Ernsting and Kira E. Young. It was refreshing to make a connection via social media that lasted longer than 140 characters. Sometimes I’m so focused on upping my follower count or getting a lot of @replies that I forget how much I can learn from those people if I dug a little deeper.

I think there’s another awesome, if more superficial, side to awesome social media connections. Hopefully I’m not the only one who has a “Twitter crush”: someone whose tweets you love to follow, find humorous or teach you something interesting. Last fall, I was elated when Grammar Girl tweeted me and commented on my blog after I mentioned her book in a post. Not really earth-shattering, but cool at the time.

For the last few days, I’ve wondered what people consider their “best” social media connection(s).  Did a blogger you idolize re-tweet your post? Did your blog or your tweets help you get the job or internship you currently hold? In what other ways have your social media relationships benefited you? As I start concentrating more on building connections and adding value to conversations, I want to hear from (and connect with!) others who might be doing the same thing.

*Brief self-promotion: If you’re looking for some kick-butt job search advice, check out the post I wrote for my journalism class – a post I could not have written without the help of social media connections.