My wrap on the Emerging Writers’ Festival Digital Masterclass

The Emerging Writers’ Festival Digital Masterclass was held on Friday 24th May at the City Library.

The full day workshop featured an inspiring range of speakers. The broad theme was creating digital content to support your writing and to build your profile, with a focus on blogs and social media.

The diversity of content and speakers made for an information-packed day. There was plenty to learn and take away, depending on your background and interests. The content ranged from the very practical (how to produce a video, podcast and ebook), to the more strategic (planning and goal setting).

I was impressed by the presenters’ expertise and their passion for their craft. What they all had in common was that they had a good idea, and had a go at executing it, even if they didn’t have the technical skills at first. They tried, they failed, they learned and they got better at it. They sought out advice and collaborated with others. They tapped into their community, or built a new one to support their work. They knew what they wanted to achieve, even if the path wasn’t clear. They found their niche. And the warm and fuzzy part is that they are now sharing what they learnt with others.

I love this video that Mark Welker showed us on the creative process. For me, it really summed up the overarching message I took away from the day. Don’t be scared to try new stuff. At first you won’t be so good at it, but if you keep trying and learning, you will get better at it, maybe even become great at it.

 

Here are a few of my personal highlights from each of the presenters.

Rose Powell (@rosepowell) took us through practical exercises on strategic planning, risk identification, asset mapping and goal setting for establishing a successful website/blog. The take away message from Rose’s presentation was to be strategic about what you want to achieve, make the most of your networks, have clear goals, and find your niche.

Jo Case (@jocaseau) took us through a case study of The Wheeler Centre Dailies site, with a focus on how they both generate and commission content. She included a practical exercise on pitch writing. The content model Jo presented included a wide range of different formats and sources including feature articles, curation of content from other sources, reviews, news, entertainment, events and book extracts. Her model was really useful in thinking about how to keep a website’s content dynamic, interesting, and fresh with limited resources.

Thang Ngo (@ThangNgo) is Australia’s #1 video food blogger. He talked about finding your niche, producing unique content, creating an online community, supporting others, and building your profile. Like Rose, he emphasised the importance of having clear goals.

Johannes Jakob (@jojojakob) gave us the low-down on creating podcasts, based on his experience creating the JOMAD podcast.

Mark Welker (@mwelker) from Commoner Films spoke about moving from one medium (writing) to another (video) and the parallels for story telling in both mediums. He stepped us through the video-making process and shared his tips including: capturing natural light, using a controlled camera, getting up close to your subject, and focussing on texture and detail.

Ash Davies (@PhotoGuides) from Tablo Publishing gave us a crash course on creating, marketing and distributing ebooks. He showed us a demo of his new product Bookmaker. If only every 20 year old had Ash’s creativity, initiative and drive. We would have solved the world’s problems by now.

And so, that wraps up my summary of the digital masterclass. Did you go to the workshop? What did you learn?

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ANZ 23 mobile things

ANZ 23 mobile things logo

ANZ 23 mobile things logo

Social media is a powerful platform for connecting. It creates opportunities to reach outside of organisational hierarchies. It busts open geographic boundaries. Social media allows us to eavesdrop on conferences and conversations. We can share experiences with people outside our immediate network. We can listen, participate and learn. A great example of connecting and learning through social media is 23 Mobile Things, a self-directed online course focussed on learning about ‘mobile technologies that are changing the way people, society and libraries access information and communicate with each other’.

ALIA NGAC (Australian Library and Information Association New Generation Advisory Committee) and New Professionals Network NZ have teamed up to create ANZ 23 mobile things a cohort of around 500 librarians in Australia and New Zealand doing the course together. As well as participants, people have signed up as mentors and volunteers to help create and deliver the course. The course is supported by a Twitter account @anz23mthings and Facebook page ANZ 23 Mobile Things as well as a blog. The course has just started and runs from May-November 2013.

The real beauty of the concept is that it is teaching about social media by using social media. It is an immersive learning experience. The course is creating connections between participants and generating a real buzz on Twitter with the hashtag #anz23mthings. I’ve reflected before on the power of connecting via social media. This is another wonderful illustration.

You have to hand it to librarians. They know how to network.

Send in the humans: content curation for beginners

With so much content proliferating on the web and in social media platforms, it can be hard to find good quality information. Search engines like Google can help, but they find content based on algorithms and the search results are influenced by website search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics – not necessarily a good reflection of the quality of the content.

So what’s the answer? Humans! More and more, people are looking for curated content on their topics of interest. Where better to look for good quality content on a topic than subject matter experts or people with a passion for that topic?

What is content curation?
It’s a fairly straightforward concept. I can hear the librarians out there sighing and thinking ‘I’ve been doing that for decades!’ True, if you are looking for someone particularly skilled in this sort of work, look no further than the library.

Content curators sift through a bunch of content on a particular topic, find the good stuff, collate it, give it some context and share it online either on their own websites/ blogs or via curation tools such as Pinterest, Scoopit or Storify.

Why do it?
There are a few good reasons why you/ your organisation might want to curate content.

It’s a cheap and easy way to increase your expertise in a subject matter. I wanted to learn more about content curation, so I started scanning the web on the subject matter. I found and read what I thought were the best articles/ blog posts on content curation and have collated them here (see below). I’ve added context to them by writing this blog post and now I’m sharing them with you. As a result, I’ve increased my knowledge about content curation and have a great set of references on the topic.

You can use curated content to increase your network by finding others who share your interests and connecting with them. It’s an excellent way to build an online community garnered around a shared passion, subject or cause.

It’s a great way to demonstrate expertise, or to use a buzz phrase ‘thought leadership’ on a topic. By curating content on a particular topic you are showing that you have thought about and understand the topic. Ideally, this will lead to others seeking you out for your expertise on the subject and help increase your influence.

Content curation is a great basis for content marketing. By curating content, you are populating your website/ blog and creating a product that you can reticulate as part of your social media strategy. Link to it in Twitter, post it to Facebook, share it in LinkedIn and Google+.

How do I start?
Content curation can be like getting sucked into an online vortex. You could easily disappear for days, forget to eat, and be discovered wandering the corridors in a dazed stupor, so you need to have a plan before you start.

1.    Decide on a goal for curating content – why are you doing it?
2.    Set a schedule – curate regularly, even if it’s just 1 hour a week
3.    Choose your topic – make sure it is linked to your goal/ brand
4.    Choose your sources – don’t wander aimlessly online
5.    Scan, evaluate & select the best content
6.    Read the best content in depth
7.    Think about the content and decide why it is important to your curation
8.    Annotate/ comment on/ evaluate the content to give it context for your audience
9.    Share it and engage your audience – ask for comments, contributions

Is there content curation etiquette?
Of course. Always credit your sources, just like old-fashioned referencing. Plagiarism isn’t any more acceptable online than in a university thesis. On that note, I should mention Beth Kanter here as a major source for this blog post.

Just like any other social media activity, join in the conversation. If you want others to engage with your content, you need to engage with theirs too. This is easy – comment on other people’s content curation efforts, link to them and thank them when they contribute or comment on yours.

What types of content should I curate?
You can curate any sort of content on your topic. The best approach is to mix it up and curate a variety of media such as video, text, photos, blogs, infographics, presentations etc.

Want to know more?
I’ve listed my picks of the best sources for content curation below. Read some of these for inspiration and give it a go.

Please share this post or contribute by adding your comments.

Sources

5 Tips for Great Content Curation

Gaining Authority in the Age of Digital Overload

4 Promising Curation Tools That Help Make Sense of the Web

Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay

5 Ways to Use Content Curation for Marketing and Tools to Do It

Content Curation Primer

8 Ways to Find Great Social Media Content

Are Content Curators the power behind social media influence?

The Curation-Over-Creation Trend That Fueled Pinterest’s Rapid Growth

Content curation – what is it?

The Unanticipated Benefit of Content Curation

30+ Cool Content Curation Tools for Personal & Professional Use

September Net2 Think Tank Round-up: Curating Content

How can publishers survive? By connecting with communities

I’m interested in the idea of creating communities, whether it is virtual or physical and a recent article by Stephen S. Power got my attention. In the article Power suggests 3 ways that book publishers can avoid extinction: publish the e-book first, create communities, and engage more with libraries.

The publishing success of Fifty Shades, which originally appeared as an e-book, supports Power’s first suggestion. Now, I know not every e-book goes on to become a blockbuster, but I’m sure we’ll see other examples in the future of mainstream publishers picking up self published e-books, editing them and turning them into viable hardcopy best sellers. In fact, a recent Guardian article details the acquisition of Author Solutions, a grassroots e-book publisher, by Pearson, the owners of Penguin Books. So publishers may as well compete head-to-head with self-publishers and publish their own titles as e-books before waiting for the long production cycle of hardcopy to hit the shelves.

Then there’s the phenomenon of blogs leaping off the screen to become real-life books, Julie & Julia probably being the best know example, which also managed to cut a film deal. These days, there are even step-by-step guides on how to blog a book and become a self-published author with a (somewhat hopeful) view to being discovered by mainstream publishers.

An online self-publishing community I’ve been watching is Wattpad. I can’t speak to the success of content from this site being picked up by mainstream publishers, but I can say it’s potential exponentially increased recently. Why? Because Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood has jumped on board, taking the Twittersphere along with her. A prolific tweeter, Atwood posts regular references to the site. Given she has over 330,000 followers, that’s a pretty good plug for Wattpad. She even has her own poetry competition running on the site, creating more social media buzz.

This leads to Power’s second suggestion for publishers to avoid extinction – create communities. He points out that authors are household names while publishers aren’t but says this need not be the case in the future. To his point, publishers could learn a lot from – guess who – Margaret Atwood. The author has just run a successful crowd-funding campaign to launch Fanado, a mobile app which allows artists and fans to interact and for the author to sign paper books, e-books, etc over the internet. While it’s hard to imagine a publisher having the same pulling power as a star author, they do have 2 very tangible assets – books and market/sales data. If they can’t find a way to build community by translating their sales data into customer insights in the social media space and leverage off their products, which have a high emotional connection to the consumer, then they’re not trying hard enough.

Speaking of community, this brings us to Power’s third suggestion – engaging more with public libraries. It wasn’t that long ago that pundits were heralding the death of libraries, but they are now successfully recreating themselves as community and cultural hubs, with events, exhibitions, bookshops (handy for publishers!) and cafes. Importantly, many are now also doing a great job of engaging with their communities via social media and are working towards being digital hubs. Did I mention e-books before?

Power’s tips for publishers include more library outreach, sponsorship, collection development advice, and marketing collateral. These tips are reasonable and most likely already happen to varying degrees, but they focus on the products – books. A more innovative approach for publishers would be to try to tap into the community which libraries foster – physical and digital. Books need not be central to this approach, but an author’s pulling power could be.

How about virtual book-signings, creative writing classes and readings featuring well-loved authors hosted in the library, sponsored by the publisher, and using technology like Fanado, with the opportunity for interaction and participation from the community? Or publishers as guest-bloggers/ tweeters on the library’s social media spaces, giving self-publishing advice to aspiring writers? That’s got to earn the publishers some street cred with punters.

I’m sure there are many more creative and innovative possibilities for how publishers can connect with communities, but there’s a starting point and some food for thought…