Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Rediscovering Lists on Twitter

Recently, I’ve gotten back into Twitter lists: making them and finding them.

Lists is one of those features on Twitter that often goes overlooked. They hide on a user’s profile. At least when using the app, you have to click on the gear icon on their profile page to View Lists.

I was reminded of them when searching for authors to follow. I knew the authors, but couldn’t always guess their handle. One of my searches on names and book titles sent me to the Mississippi Library Commission’s list of Mississippi Authors: Missssippi Writes @MSlibrarycomm. This list has 114 members (MS writers on Twitter) and only 5 subscribers, including me with 2 of my accounts. I’d like to see this triple n the next week!

@MSlibrarycomm also has lists for: Mississippi Indie Books, News, Schools, Libraries, as well as Library Associations, Author Geeks, etc.

Following a list is a great way to organize your Twitter feed because you only see tweets from those accounts when you view the list, so you’ll focus on the list subject rather than seeing those posts mixed in your usual feed. It is also a good way to see tweets by people you don’t follow and to discover new people to follow.

You can create your own lists, too. I have lists of literary magazines, writers, literary magazine resources, and bookstores. These help me find the people on Twitter that I want to follow. You can even add someone to a list without following them, if you only want to see their tweets when you view your list.

Lists help me tame the wild Twitterverse (a little) and get more out of its content. So I’m glad I was reminded of this somewhat hidden feature.

Up Periscope: Testing the Waters of Social Video

Last week, I took the plunge into Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming video app. I’ve been thinking about trying this technology for a while now, but frankly, I felt a little daunted. I shouldn’t have. Live streaming video using Periscope couldn’t be much easier. I downloaded the app, tested it with a couple of very short videos (the weather at my house and at my office — each 30 seconds to a minute), glanced at the help files to learn about features like tweeting out, and then launched into my first real half-hour video, which I would count as a success — I didn’t feel completely stupid, and 18 people watched (2 more watched on replay).

So my first lessons: don’t expect to go unnoticed and don’t expect to be an overnight sensation.

Maybe the hardest part of doing a video like this is to have some content worth watching. Look around on Periscope, and you’ll see a variety of topics — some like mine are going to be mostly people talking; others are likely to be of people doing things, maybe even sleeping. You don’t have to be scintillating to get people to watch, at least for a little while anyway. So don’t be too worried about content, especially your first time.

I wanted to use Periscope to promote my university’s new low-residency MFA program in creative writing, and as I’ve done on this blog, I figured a good way to do that would be to offer to answer people’s questions about MFAs in general. I talked a fair amount about our  own program, but tried to compare it to others. Sure, I mentioned our strengths (the flexible schedule, low tuition, personal approach, etc.), but I also tried to acknowledge the differences in other programs that might be valuable to some students. Low-res programs that work on a mentorship model are great for those who want that one-on-one experience, whereas a program like ours that has online workshops during the semester might be better for students who want more interaction with other students.

Lesson Two: Have Props

This is a lesson I learned while doing the video. When I was talking about the #1 ranking we received from Nonprofit Colleges Online, I showed my computer screen with their website on it and scrolled down to the picture of our campus. I don’t expect anyone could read this, but it might help them find it later and it certainly gave them a break from looking at me for a few seconds. Similarly, when I was talking about how to learn more about MFA programs, I realized I had a copy of Tom Kealy’s The Creative Writing MFA Handbook on my desk, so I flipped to the rear camera on my iPad and showed the cover. Next time, I may try to have a few more props on hand that I can use, even if that’s a print-out of titles or web addresses (in large print).

Lesson Three: Expect the Unexpected

I wasn’t too surprised by this, since I had invited questions. Someone wanted to know what an MFA is and how do you join one — I talked about how to apply. Someone wanted to know what I thought about Harper Lee — I gave a quick answer and then got back on topic. Next time I might ignore off topic comments, as I eventually did with a few that seemed to be people checking in to see if they could get me to respond to their comment. You can block a user from your video by tapping on their comment, and I might have to get better about that in the future. Once one person commented with a specious comment, several others showed up briefly to do the same, probably because I hadn’t blocked right away. That’s hard to do while you’re talking, though, so if you can, you may want to have one person operate the phone or tablet while you talk. Then they can do the blocking and you can do the talking.

This strategy would work great for literary videos like a reading. However, you could also read a brief passage on your own and turn off commenting for your video in advance if you don’t want to be bothered with comments (or just ignore the off-topic ones if do you want some comments). The hearts Periscope uses for likes were also a little distracting, but I don’t think there’s a way to turn them off.

Lesson Four: Build an Audience

I’m planning to do a video again every Friday for the next several weeks. As I did this time, I will advertise on Twitter and Facebook in advance, and I’ll post the topics I’m planning to discuss. Next week, the goal is to talk about student debt and how to avoid it. If I get better suggestions of questions to answer, I may go with one of those and save student debt for later. But I found it’s good to plan at least one topic in advance and then see where the comments take you.

When you start your Periscope session, make sure to turn on the feature to Tweet Out your broadcast. This will send a tweet to your twitter account that has your title and a link to the video. This might help drive people to your video. People can also find you on the Periscope global map, and they will see you’re live if they follow you. Now that I have some followers, my audience might grow.

The other thing you can do is write about your experience after the fact. I posted on Facebook and tweeted about it right afterwards, and now I’m writing this on my blog. Check me out at noon CST on Fridays in January and February, if you want to see what I talk about next. I’m using our program’s account, which is @TheW_MFACW on both Twitter and Periscope (good advice is to keep the same name if you like your twitter handle).

Lesson five: choose your app

I chose Periscope because it has one feature I really wanted — it will archive your video for 24 hours. That way, if someone misses the live broadcast, they can still see it. You can also save your video to your device and then upload it to YouTube, Vimeo, or any other service like that. Meerkat, which I like because it came before Periscope and wasn’t bought out by Twitter (but still works well with it, from what I’ve read), didn’t have the archive feature. I didn’t want my video to live online forever, but I did think it would help to grow my audience if some people could watch it later. If you like Meerkat, though, I’ve read it does some things better than Periscope. Archiving was the feature that made up my mind, but you may have other criteria that are more important to you.

A few final notes:

As I was signing off my video, one person said it had been helpful and they learned something. That made me feel it was worth it, despite the trolls who wrote specious comments. Ezra Pound said a professor is someone who can talk for an hour. I figured I could talk on video for at least half that long, and proved myself right. But your video could be shorter. For future broadcasts (once I’m done talking about MFAs for awhile), I’d like to do a short reading to promote my book Barrier Island Suite when it comes out, and I’d like to video student readings or other events at our residency period (with permission of course), and I’d like to give a tour of our campus or building (if I can stay within range of wifi and not use data). I’ll definitely be looking for more interesting backgrounds and other visual elements, and an interview with another writer might be nice to try. So check back later and see how it goes!

How I Survived My First Tweetchat

Until yesterday, I didn’t really know what a tweetchat was. Then AWP announced they would be holding a tweetchat today using the hashtag #MFAchat. Since we have a new program and can use the exposure, I said “sure, I’ll join in!” Then i searched to find out what to expect in a tweetchat.

Essentially, it is a somewhat organized conversation on Twitter. The organizer announces the times of the chat and the hashtag. And I believe there’s a service that helps you schedule yours or at least check to see when others have scheduled theirs so you don’t have too much competition. I didn’t set this one up, so I didn’t have to worry about scheduling. AWP does this every month or so with a new topic.

To get ready for the chat, I wrote and saved about 10 tweets in advance. Since the topic was MFA programs, I wrote the main points I might want someone to know about ours. I included links to more information, and when possible a picture, though that cut into the number of characters I could use.

Doing this helped me in two ways. It was like an outline of what I might want to talk about, and it provided me with a stash of tweets to release whenever I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of tweets that were being sent on the topic, as people from all over the country wrote in questions or tweeted about their programs. Having these ready allowed me to find tweets that I wanted to respond to and actually reply or quote and address people’s actual questions. That made it feel like I was tweeting with them, not at them. But when I needed to, I had a tweet ready to send into the twittersphere on the topic, while I scrolled through to see what else had been said.

I was using the Mac Twitter App for most of this, which worked relatively well. There are other apps that may be more suited to chatting on twitter, and I may explore some of these if I decide to try this again. Given that I had some good conversations, generated a lot of favorites and retweets, and learned from other programs, I probably will try again.

As the hour-long chat wore on, I had used up my cache of tweets in the first half hour and responded to several people. I composed new tweets on specific topics, but didn’t feel like I had to worry as much about linking back to my program or describing it, because those tweets were out there. I could focus on the conversation more and just try to keep up. It was intense.

Once the official hour of chatting was over, I scrolled back through the conversation and responded to a number of tweets that I’d missed at first. I wrote a thank you to the organizers, too, and was glad to see the conversation they’d started was trending (at least others reported that it was — I didn’t have time to check. I had a few extended conversations with people and didn’t worry so much whether I kept including the hashtag. And I kept checking back in with the conversation that kept going for over an hour.

In the end, i had to leave after nearly two and a half hours of solid tweeting. I’ve checked back a few times, and I still get a few favorites and retweets on the posts I made. I’m glad I was prepared, both mentally and with some prewritten tweets. It made the experience much more enjoyable and rewarding, and i hope it made my contributions more valuable to the conversation.

A GeoPoem Project in Columbus MS

You’ve probably heard of Geocaching, the sport where you use a GPS to locate hidden caches with a log and usually some items inside. In my Writing For New Media class, I was thinking about using this technique for writing poetry, but I decided I didn’t want to go around and hide a bunch of stuff. For one, I don’t have the right to stick a cache in some public places. And finding it might be difficult. I had also heard of Earthcaching, where you don’t find something, but instead you learn something about the location you are sent with your GPS coordinates.

We are also studying how stories or essays can be written on Google Maps by mapping the locations in the story and then writing parts of the story in the location descriptions. Google’s ability to let you create personal map layers (and share them) makes this possible.

The combination of these ideas is what led me to what I am calling a GeoPoem project. We are beginning this project in conjunction with The W’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing’s first Short Residency period and the 27th Annual Eudora Welty Writers’ Symposium.

Here is the description of this project you’ll find on Google if you go to my map:

This Geopoem was started for my Writing for New Media class in 2015. The goal is to find each point on the map and add a stanza to the poem of that place, using hashtags to create your own poem that is also linked to each others’ stanzas by the hashtag for each place. The main hashtag for this poem is #gpcmswws — This should appear at the end of every contribution to the poem in Twitter, along with the hashtag for the location.

Your contribution should be one tweet from as many locations as you can find, if you are in my class. Your tweet may be a line of a poem or an independent twaiku or micro-poem. Your lines may be complete sentences or they may continue on with the next tweet (as with an enjambed line). If you use enjambment, consider that it might be read in different combinations, so you might want to break the line where it could work with other random sentences or partial sentences.

You may visit the locations on this map in any order at any time of day. Try to tweet your lines from that place or in the order you wrote them, so that your poem could be seen on your feed in one order. When we view the feed by hashtag, it may turn out differently.

Each tweet will be its own short poem, part of a longer poem or cycle, and part of the poem of that place.

Whenever possible, attach a photo from the place to your tweet, so those who can’t physically be in the place can see something of it. Please, do not include identifiable people in photos unless you have their permission.Images with people in the background are fine.

If you wish to add a location to the poem, include the main hashtag and suggest your location’s hashtag (follow the convention #gpcmsXX, where XX = two letters representing that location). Email them to me or send me a message in Twitter to @kdunkelberg.

Though I want my class to do this project in Twitter, it could also be done in Instagram. Doing it in Twitter will keep all of our posts together and will integrate well with Canvas. As this GeoPoem goes live, it might migrate to other platforms. Virtual geopoeming can be done using the pictures submitted with some or all of the tweets.

To find the GeoPoem location coordinates visit my map. (Links to an external site.)

Find as many of these locations as you can and add your line or lines. Incorporate the hashtags for each location. You can also use other hashtags as you wish, but always include the main hashtag and the location-specific hashtag.

You will do your project on Twitter, then submit your version of the poem here, either by submitting a link to your Twitter feed or by copying from your Twitter account and uploading a Word or other file for us to view.

The best way to get all of your tweets for this project to show up together is to start with a “Title Tweet.” Tweet your title (you can include the main hashtag if you want) and then reply to that tweet whenever you want to add to the poem. You can then view the title and all replies together by going to the title tweet. We will still see the other tweets individually when we view by hashtag.

Anyone who wants to participate may do so on Twitter or on another social media platform. Anyone who wants to may take this idea and create their own GeoPoem map in Google based on locations of your choice.

How to Promote Yourself as a Writer Online

Disclaimer, this is just my two-cents.

In my graduate class, “Writing for New Media,” there has been some discussion about using social media to market yourself as a writer. I won’t claim to have all the answers or even to have done any market research. The remarks that follow are based on what I’ve read about this and what I’ve observed. Mostly, I’m thinking about how I respond to other writers on social media and how I think my audience is likely to respond to me.

Rule #1: Don’t over-promote!

Have you ever been to a party with someone who won’t talk about anyone but themselves? Some writers on social media act this way. The only things they post have something to do with their books or publications. They brag about their successes, and they use everything, even the weather, to remind people to buy and read their book. I have an itchy filter finger; I will ignore them or even block them very quickly. As I would with the guy at the party, I will pretend to listen, all the while looking around desperately for someone to get me out of this situation.

Rule #2: Don’t under-promote!

Okay. You get it. You can’t just talk about yourself, but it’s okay to talk about yourself sometimes, right? Yes! When you have good news, share it. Don’t be shy. But even then, don’t make it all about you. When your book comes out, thank your publisher. When a magazine accepts your work, link to the magazine. Promote others as you promote yourself, and your posts will be relevant to those who want to learn about you and to those who want to know who the cool publishers or bookstores or other resources are. And make sure your blog or profile has information for anyone who’s curious to learn more about your writing.

Rule #3: Be a good literary citizen!

I was hinting at this in my last rule. You want to engage with readers, right? It seems to me that a good way to do that is to provide them information that they can use. So when you’re not promoting yourself, if you promote other writers or magazines or publishers or reading series or… well, you get the picture. The more active and engaged you are the more you can help others. And the better literary citizen you are, the more good will you will engender. You can do this by writing reviews of other people’s books or by sharing their good publishing news, submissions deadlines, etc. If you promote ten people’s books, they will be more likely to share your good news when it comes. And then their followers will know your good news, too. If you help twenty readers find books they like, then when yours is published, they’ll be more likely to check it out, and they’ll be more likely to tell their friends. As I said, I have no scientific evidence that life works this way, but it stands to reason.

Rule #4: Don’t post too much…

This is a little like over-promotion, but it doesn’t have to be about promotion. I know some writers who tweet at least twenty times a day (no lie). Or they update their Facebook status constantly with every game or every cause or every birthday. This may be okay, but I have a fairly low tolerance for frequent posters and I’m likely to tune them out. I don’t think you have to post all the time — not even every day, though that can be a good goal if it helps your writing to do it — so don’t feel like a failure if you’re not keeping up with the frequent posters. Your posts will seem more important if you follow…

Rule #5: Make every post relevant!

Okay, maybe not every post, but try to make your posts valuable to the readership you’re trying to reach. Some people have a separate account for their cat photos and one for their persona as a writer. This is a rule I violate all the time on this blog, and I’m not sure whether it matters. I get a lot of hits on my technology posts, and that probably doesn’t lead to too many people who want to read about cooking or poetry. (Does it help me get noticed by search engines? Do I get noticed for the wrong things? Maybe I should have a poetry blog and a technology blog…) For this blog, I don’t mind writing about multiple subjects because that’s how I set it up. I also like people to know I’m a real person and not just a poet. But for Facebook, I have a personal account and a poet account. On Twitter, I have three accounts: one for me, one for the Welty Writers’ Symposium, and one for the MFA program I direct (plus one for the Suzuki Strings program in our town that I manage in my spare time). If more of my friends or family were on Twitter, I might want a personal Twitter account. Now I have an Instagram that so far is mostly personal. Each of these identities is a little different, and yet I want each of them to make sense with the others for those who have found me in all of those places and want to get a broader perspective on who I am. I wouldn’t want my poetry readers to be shocked by my tweets or Instagram photos, in other words, but I might start a new account if I wanted to start writing Instagram poetry or twaiku on a regular basis.

Rule #6: Don’t use numbered lists!

Okay, I broke that rule, too… this time. But I’m not a big fan of the numbered list because I always doubt that there are Five Rules for Self-Promotion. I always suspect there must be a rule number 6 or 8 or 25, and I’ll probably think of two or three as soon as I hit “publish.” Or maybe there’s only one rule: Be a mensch: do promote yourself, but do it in moderation and with an ounce of humility.

What are your rules?

Writing for New Media

Many things about The W’s new low-residency MFA in creative writing get me excited, especially communicating with prospective students, but lately the most exciting part has been putting together a fall schedule. That is still very much in flux and will depend on the needs and desires of the students who actually apply — as I’ve told our faculty, I have to have students for a class to make, and if we attract enough students, we’ll add classes to meet their needs. We have faculty lined up to teach fiction, poetry, and drama, so I’m excited to start teaching a new course in Writing for New Media.

This is a course that I proposed for the program because it seemed like it would fit a need. It will be cross-genre and will explore the way genres are adapting or can adapt in a new, electronic mode of production. I want to look at everything from e-books to hypertext and social media tools like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.  I want to explore how form changes or might adapt to the different media, and I want to look at how still photos and video can be used by authors, including short narrative films, poetry videos, book promo animations, and you name it: whatever writers are doing on the web might be part of this class!

The excitement I have is tempered just a little by the name I chose for the course, which is a bit of a compromise. I wish there were a better term for it than “New Media,” in other words. Some of what we discuss isn’t new at all (I might bring in some late-medieval emblems and talk about the use of image and poetry, for instance). And some of what we discuss will be obsolete within a few years (who knows how long Facebook or Instagram will last, for instance). Something newer will come along and everything will change or shift slightly. That’s one reason I do like the name, of course. Rather than naming what new media will entail, I leave it open to explore. But I do realize that it can lead to some confusion. I’ve had more than one person (prospective student or prospective faculty) ask what the class is about, and as I tell them, they usually get excited, too.

That’s in part because the course is meant to be one that encourages students to rethink genre and rethink how they will get their words out into the world. A genre-bending class can be very useful in any MFA. But the other part of the class that is exciting to me is that I want it to be as much about how writers make a name for themselves, how we “brand” ourselves, as it is about creating “great literature.” As I think about it, I’d like to include practical discussions of the marketplace in any graduate workshop, regardless of genre. But in Writing for New Media, I want to look at all writing on the same level, whether it is a poetry video or a book review blog or a book or reading promo animation. All can be creative means of expression, and all can lead to opportunities to publish. Some will be paid or will lead to paying gigs. A book promo could lead to other advertising jobs, maybe for non-profits or hip local companies.

I wanted to offer Writing for New Media this fall for a couple of reasons. One is that I want to figure out exactly what it will entail by teaching it once (even though I expect it to be the kind of class that never remains static but always evolves). Another reason to offer it is that I think it can be an exciting class for all of our students, regardless of their primary genre (if they have one). I’ve begun collecting resources on different kinds of media that are out there, and I’ll ask students to take an active role in finding the kinds of new media they are interested in. I especially like a class where the students teach me as much as I teach them (isn’t that always the goal), and I’m willing to make this class a very open format in that regard. It should be a great way to start our new program, and if all or most of our students end up taking the class, it will provide a good common experience for the inaugural class as well.