Monday, September 19, 2011
Mentoring Mondays - Kristen Heptinstall
Mentoring Mondays - Kristen Heptinstall
Blog - http://kristenheptinstall.com
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/?sk=lf#!/kristenheptinstall
Twitter - @kristenheptin
Kristen is a social networking guru, she speaks on the subject at seminars and we are so lucky she is taking the time to share with us today. She has some wonderful advice for all of us, I have even purchased a domain name thanks to her Mentoring Mondays advice. Her love for Disney is as strong as anyone, she even planned an event to get Alabama Disney fans together earlier this year. Now on to Kristen's interview.
1. Hi Kristen! I am so excited to have you here. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you expertise in social networking.Hi! My name is Kristen Heptinstall, and I'm a digital journalist and blogger. I moved to Orlando from Birmingham, Alabama, this summer, and I work as managing web editor for WFTV, the ABC affiliate here in Orlando. In Alabama, I served as executive director of the Alabama Social Media Association.
I'm a huge fan of blogging and social media. I've had several blogs over the years, but you can view my most current thoughts at http://kristenheptinstall.com.
And of course I'm a big Disney fan. I fell in love with Disney World both as a child and again as an adult on my honeymoon in 2009 -- we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge. In Alabama, I planned and put on an event at AAA Alabama headquarters with Bob Sehlinger, author of the Unofficial Guide to WDW, and Andi Sims of the WDW Mom's Panel this past May. (Read about it here: http://kristenheptinstall.com/2011/05/how-to-put-on-successful-disney-world.html)
2. Social Networking has really exploded in the last few years, what is the biggest mistake most people make? What’s the best way to avoid it?Over the summer, I gave a talk at the Alabama PRSA conference called "Social Media Etiquette: Avoiding the Epic Fail". The slides are here: http://kristenheptinstall.com/slides-social-media-etiquette-at-alabama-prsa. I think this sums up my biggest pet peeves about social media and how to avoid them. (:
3. Should we be using programs like HootSuite to schedule messages periodically or do you think it’s better to actually write each post individually? Same with FollowFridayHelper, good idea or no?I think it's possible to both schedule updates and draft in real time as you go. For posts and promos you're writing ahead of time, I think it's fine to compose tweets and Facebook updates ahead of time. But engaging in real-time is so important too, so I think you can mix it up. For what it's worth, I'm a big Hootsuite fan and I find Tweetdeck a little tougher to use for multiple accounts. Hootsuite is free for a single user with up to 5 social accounts.
4. When you start networking with fellow bloggers you begin to form personal relationships. Should we have a personal account for chatting with friends and a separate account for connecting with fans of our blog?Some folks choose to have a Twitter account that is @NameofBlog and another that is @FirstNameLastName. I think that's fine, if you'd like to have that divider to avoid excess chatter. If you're only going to have one Twitter account though, I argue that it's more important to have one as @FirstNameLastName. Your personal brand is most important. Blogs come and go -- you may find a year from now that you want to change the name or focus of your blogging, but you and your personal brand remain the same.
5. Would you recommend purchasing an internet address for your blog, or do you think it’s OK to use the free Blogger address (www.abcd.blogspot.com)?I have to admit, I sort of wonder why folks choose to keep the blog address, when purchasing a domain is only about $10 a year, and can now be done through the blogging platforms without any techie know-how. If you're serious about blogging for a specific audience, and not just family/friends, I would really consider the small investment in getting a domain of your own.
6. Most bloggers have full time jobs, I find myself either not having time to post or posting more than once a day. What is the maximum amount of time you should go between posts? Is there an ideal post length that appeals to readers?I call this concept of time with social media "cadence." And your cadence is ultimately up to you. If you have time to do more than one post in a day, consider scheduling some of those for the days ahead, and tease to them in your tweets/FB. Then all you have to do during your workweek is respond to comments and tweets. If you plan to be a truly active blogger, I would aim for something like 3-4 times per week. I don't think every day is necessary, but you do want to be putting enough content out there to keep folks interested. Consider setting up an editorial calendar, just like the magazines do. (http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/09/07/editorial-calendars-and-professional-blogging/). Most of you probably do this to an extent, but put it in writing or on a Google calendar to keep yourself on track.
As far as an ideal post length, I would aim for at least 200 words and no more than 800. This is the ideal length for search engines. And remember to use keywords in your headlines. Think "What would I search for in Google if I were looking for this information?" and add those words). The headlines are the most important part of your post if you want new folks to discover your blog via Google, Bing or Yahoo, so hesitate before being too cutesy.
7. How important is your profile picture? Is it ok to use a Minnie Mouse character, which I am guilty of, or is it better to use an actual photo?I think this goes back to my thoughts about personal branding. I think it's important to put names with faces. I think you can still put across your passions and interests while still putting your face out there. For instance, you could use a Disney PhotoPass picture of you hanging out with a digital Tink or Stitch, or at a meet 'n greet with Minnie.
8. Does the design of your blog play a role in people returning? I find that over time I have added direct link buttons, a list of blogs I follow, my countdown to Disney. Can you have so many distractions on your blog that turns readers off?Here's my rule of thumb: If things are blinking and winking and look more like a MySpace page than a blog, then you may want to consider scaling back a bit. (:
9. What is the best way to get your name out there and find an audience?Engage, engage, engage. Be genuine and real in your writing and your social media activity. Spellcheck! And research on search engine best practices -- search engine optimization, or SEO, as it's called in the industry. The good news is that both social media activity and quality content now affect search engine rankings more than ever, so if you are doing both of those things well, then you will get some search engine love. Feel free to contact me if you'd like some more info on all this geeky-techie goodness. (:
10. What is your favorite Disney song, and why?I'm a child of the Disney "90s Renassiance," so The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King are among my faves. I'd have to say that "Part of Your World" and "Belle" are among my favorites. I also LOVE the queue music at Pirates of the Caribbean. (:
11. Any Disney Vacation tips?My number one tip is to subscribe to touringplans.com from the WDW Unofficial Guide, and install their Lines app on your smartphone. Go to Disney World in the low-crowd months -- September, October and early November are great (Epcot Food & Wine fest!), as is the second half of January and February. I also love the Flower & Garden Festival in the spring. And if you're a foodie like me, then make disneyfoodblog.com a daily stop.
12. Anything else you would like to add?That's all! I invite anyone to reach out to me via my blog if they would like to know anything more. (:
Thanks so much for mentoring us today Kristen!! I know I have learned a lot.
Have a Magical Day!!