Monday, April 27, 2009

Social Networking: When Does it Become Too Much?

Seems I've stumbled into a lot of conversations lately that begin the same way.

"I can't keep up with all I have to do. The frustration paralyzes me."

Last week I blogged about it in a post titled "Stuck in a Rut?" It wasn't long before AJ picked up on it at her Always Juggling blog too, in a post that addresses social networking, and how hard it is to keep up with what we perceive as commitments.

Well, this week I'm determined to sort through my commitments. I'm slicing and dicing them to see what's critical and what has become nothing more than a fun way to waste time. So far, I've concluded that I can live without most social networking tools except LinkedIn and Twitter. For now, at least, I plan to pull back from the others.

I haven't taken the Facebook leap yet and I'm glad I didn't. It sounds like something that I would end up liking way too much. I might forget that I have real work to accomplish.

It's interesting how basic it is to take a step back and just breathe. Who knows, I might even find time for gardening this week. Sort of reminds me of a tv commercial I love, where a twenty-something guy is describing an awesome sight--this gold and pink explosion of color across the sky--as if he'd never seen such a thing before. The older guy with him throws him this little smirk and says, "Yeah. It's called morning."

Backing off of social networking feels a little like seeing my first sunrise. I plan to enjoy it.

Rainbow of Fashion Colors

Hi, it's me, rms, and I wanted to tell everyone about my newest passion; my Rainbow of Fashion Colors Group.

The group is based upon my theory that many people shop for clothing and home decor specifically by color, such as a "blue" bedspread, "red" dishes, or maybe a "tangerine" shawl, or a "white" pair of sandals.

The group is growing by leaps and bounds because I've got an awesome group of highly recognizable and extremely hard-working lensmasters creating wonderful niche market color lenses, some of whom are even claiming their own color spectrums to work on.

Sound interesting? Stop by the Rainbow of Fashion Colors Group Headquarters and join us by claiming a color and building some incredible Giant Squid fashion lenses!
This group is not for Giant Squids only but your submitted lenses need to be Giant Squid Quality to be accepted.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Giant Squids Take Note: Purple Stars Are Here

Purple stars are the latest incentive for Giant Squids only. Pretty cool if you ask me. Initially there were going to be six per week. Now I understand that there will be 21 per week.

Why are they cool? Bragging rights mostly, but also "The lens gets a generous one-time editorial turboboost in LensRank." Sounds good to me.

I applied for my Laser Hair Removal Lens (I like that lens!). But it didn't get selected :( poor me, sniff, sniff.

Oh well, I will keep trying. The winners of the first purple star awards were announced on the Giant Squid Showcase. Congrats to all of the winners!!

Did anyone else submit?

Photo by hellokitty-skittles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lensrank Explained

Spirituality (Katinka) wrote an excellent lens explaining Lenrank. In her lens, she discusses the factors which are known to influence lenrank. I learned several things from this lens. For example:

* "Giant squids get the equivalent of 2 angels blessings on every lens they make"
(This is a good insentive to becoming a Giant Squid)

* "Anything a visitor does on your lens is counted towards lensrank. Whether it's writing in your guestbook, voting in a poll, voting in a plexo, adding a link to a plexo or joining a duel"
(A good reason to put polls, plexos and duel modules on your lens)

Why is lensrank important? For one thing, as explained in my post about "How to Earn a Few Extra Dollars on Squidoo" lenses with higher lensrank earn more money. Currently lenses with lensrank above 2'000 earn over $10/month and lenses with lensrank above 10'000 earn over $2/month. That adds up.

Also, if you get a very high ranked lens, that can bring traffic. At the moment, I have two lenses with lensrank above 200. They both get significant traffic due to this, mostly from being in the top 10 for their topics (health, shopping, food, etc)

Here is another tip. Spirituality notes that "Click Outs" are an important factor for lens rank. What is a "click out"? Anytime someone clicks on something and leaves your lens, you get a "click out". This might seem counter intuitive, because you want someone to stay on your lens, right? Well, not if you want higher lensrank. What can you do to increase your click outs?

* Create relevant and valuble links on your lens that people will want to click. This might be to a related resource, a wiki article or anything a reader might be interested in for more information.

* Exchange links with a blog or website that is relevant. This has several advantages: you may receive traffic from their website to your lens, you should receive a relevant link which will boost your Google PR, and you will receive a "click out" if a visitor clicks on it.

* If you place a Youtube or Flickr Module on your lens consider using a thumbnail view rather than "show a full sized version" (examples of both can be seen on this lens about laser hair removal). If visitors want to see the video or photo, they will click on it and it will open in a new window. This click will count as a "click out". Watching the video on your lens does NOT count as a click out, though I have no idea if is might count as "visitor activity" as does voting in a poll or writing in a guestbook.

Does anyone else have other suggestions for increasing click outs?

(Image by Eurosquid)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

7 Things I Ask Myself Before Creating A Lens

Below are the 7 questions I asked myself before/while creating my lens, BEARS: The 8 Wonders of the World.

1. What am I hoping to accomplish?
Raise awareness of the world's 8 bear species and raise money for Wildlife SOS.

2. Am I focusing on a singular sub-topic or giving an overview?
A brief overview / introduction of the 8 species.

3. How can I organize it to make it easy to navigate?
With only 8 bear species, it seemed logical to put the bears in alphabetical order.

4. How can I make it interesting?
Most people don't know the 8 species so I included their aliases (Brown Bear / Grizzly), photos and conservation status. I also added a Flickr slideshow and videos.

5. What do I want to link to?
I had already created more in-depth lenses on each of the 8 bear species so I linked to each of them. I also linked to organizations saving bears.

6. What can I sell?
I added bear Wildlife SOS's CafePress and Amazon books and bear gifts.

7. How much royalty do I want to give to what charity?
100% of the royalties goes to Wildlife SOS so I make sure I added a Donation Module.

Adding a guest book, some featured lenses, and a link to the Save Our Bears (SOB) Group made this a 5 star lens (in my opinion) right from the get-go. I have, of course, continued to update and add new items often.

Mixing Humor With Sales

Want to ramp up your sales lens? Mix humor with your sales.

Why? Sales lenses are typically SO boring. Most of them just do not work.

But if you add a bit of humor, you will get postive rankings and this will help your lens to obtain high lens rank.
Recently I created a lens about hair removal. Sounds like a dull topic right? I searched through flickr and found a few funny photos which were available under creative commons license. I searched through Youtube and found a few cool videos. Voila! My new lens was born.

Photo By Pure1967

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Groups changes - a lot of debate

Squidoo HQ came with a bit of a bombshell on April 8th: they're going to be closing down low quality groups. This caused a lot of groupmasters to close their groups down immediately. There are a lot less groups out there any more of the 'anyone can join' variety. Some smaller groups disappeared as well - some included that I didn't think were all that bad. So far it's self-censorship.

But some people are panicking a bit. One lensmaster started a rally to make sure that the right lenses would be allowed to stay around - having misread the blogpost. He thought that there are only going to be 100 groups left AT ALL... Which is not what Kimberly said. She said that the best 100 groups were going to get extra features. Which is a very different thing.

Right now we know only two things: 1) no new groups can be created right now and 2) the worst groups are going to be closed for us if the groupmasters don't improve them or close them. Beyond that - this post by squidophile summarizes the consequences pretty clearly.

The bid for quality over quantity is going to mean that all big groups are going to have to offer more to lensmasters to stay in the air. This could mean featuring the most prolific lensmasters, making sure your group page is changed reasonably often (as in once a month I should think) etc.

Aside from groups now having to make sure they have a decent group page, it's unclear whether we can keep using the groups platform as a convenient way to create a lensography and interlink our lenses. It is clear that the technology wasn't created for this purpose, but for giant squids and others with more than 50 or even 100 lenses - they do have to be connected somehow. That's just good SEO.

In the meantime some people are responding by really improving their game. Like Paula Atwell, who has decided to start promoting her group in hopes of getting actual search engine traffic. That's really going to benefit the lenses featured on her group page and her own lenses as well. I doubt it's going to help her group rank though - Even the most focussed group is not going to be niche enough to get much traffic.

So, for those of you in that last camp, trying to make your groups better so they can stay up, do read up on what Barkely (giant, squidangel and Citizen) has to say about getting your group from good to great.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The new angels :) & I'm one of them

I'm honoured to be one of the new squidangels. The new system is that each squidangel takes special care of 5 categories on squidoo. For instance I personally keep track of new lenses in Religion & Spirituality, Books, Duels!, Squidoo Tips and Green Living.

And - in the spirit of squidoo - I of course made a lens about being a squidangel. I listed all lenses about being a squidangel by the current angels (that I could find - please tell me if I missed any).

Photo by MaryN

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Bucket List

Okay, this really doesn't have much to do with Squidoo except to say that you'll find all kinds of lenses on topics you never thought to write about. One topic was the bucket list, and I was reading all these wonderful dreams people have of doing before they "kick the bucket". I started thinking about a bucket list of my own and realized that mine would pale in comparison because thanks to my Aspergers, I'm just not that adventurous. The stress associated with travel and change is enough to make me happy with just staying home. So, I've come up with my perfect "bucket list" of things I would love to accomplish that wouldn't over stress me. Mainly because they would be next to impossible, so I wouldn't have to worry about them.
1)Learn to make myself completely invisible. (I wouldn't have to socialize)
2)Travel to other dimensions at will. (No travel preparations or cost)
3)Find the fountain of youth. (In my backyard)
4)Discover another planet capable of sustaining human life. (During those dimension travels)
5)Uncover a diamond mine. (Beside that fountain of youth in my backyard)
6)Write a speech that inspires all people to live together in harmony. (If only...)
7)Create a teleportation device. (No more airports)
8)Win a Nobel Peace Prize. (For that harmony speech)
9)Discover a way to make all food and drink good for you. (Wouldn't that be awesome?)
10)Build a holodeck like the ones on Star Trek. (So I can pretend I've accomplished my Bucket List)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

YEA! New Giant 100 Club Member!

Just received the news this morning that I have been inducted in the Giant 100 club. That is very cool! I am honored! Thank you Squidoo!

Does anyone have suggestions about where to upload the badge?

Monday, April 6, 2009

What Do You Do When You Are Crabby?

When I am crabby, I try to find things online to do because I can do them by myself and not push my crabby mood on other people. I like to work on the computer, and writing so I tend to write articles and update lenses when I am in a crabby mood. It doesn't seem to stop my creativity, just changes what I feel like working on.

Today I was feeling kind of crabby, but I actually ended up having a great day. I became a Squid Angel for the first time ever, I was written up on Squidlog today by Mimi, and I was interviewed on the Giant Squid Community Showcase. So even when you are having a bad day, you can have a good day at the same time. That is why it is so important to keep at it, and continue to work toward your goals, even when you are not in the mood.

Have You Got What it Takes?

The next wave of Giants will be announced later this week and that means YOU have plenty of time to make 50 awesome lenses before the next deadline, June 30th 2009.

Why bother making 50 awesome Squidoo lenses? Because of all the great perks you'll receive!

Here's just a few:

1. Access to our (secret) Giant Squids blog, full of first-looks at new features and insider tips.

2. A private email address to reach Megan about Lens of the Day submissions.

3. A Giant Squid shield automatically added to all their lenses.

4. Gold stars on all of their published, featured lenses. Gold stars not only look nifty to your readers, they also give your lenses a littleadded LensRank boost. Learn more about badges and stars here.

5. A shot at making the Giant Squids Top 100 List, a list of the top Giant lenses, sorted by LensRank.

6. A Custom Lens Template Tool for superfast lensmaking.

7. First crack at Squidoo's coolest new tools and features.For example, the Giants got to hear about HeyMonkeyBrain, the new lens layouts, and the new dashboard days before the rest of Squidoo. They even helped test some of it.

8. A special Lensmaster dashboard just for Giants.

9. A chance at being featured on the Giant Squid Community Showcase.

Need some help getting there?

Stop by my Giant Squid Mentor lens where you'll find all the help you'll need!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Giant Thoughts

At some point between trying to keep my Giant status, content writing, trying to launch a new business and raising my Grand kids, it hit me; Don't try to do something you can't. It is much like don't try to be someone you're not but I think a lot of us take on things without really having thought them through.

How many lenses have you in WIP? I have about 5, which isn't bad but if I had my way about it there would be about 15 there. Every week I go through and delete WIPs. Why? Because I know that I will never find the time to do them or I get a much "better" idea for a lens.

I was thinking back to when I was trying to become a Giant Squid. That was pretty much priority with me. I worked very hard on the lenses and I put a lot of thought into them. That is probably why I made Giant Squid. Because of my work on Squidoo, I got a job as a content writer. I write between 5,000 and 10,000 words a day/ 5 days a week. (That is a LOT of writing, folks) and it is for the most part about things I don't give a hoot about. But, it's my job and I am glad to have it. It definitely cut into my Squidoo time, however. Then, I got caught up in all of this internet marketing jazz and quite frankly wasted a lot of time and money at it. I then started a couple of websites. To make a short story long--I am lucky if I spend 30 minutes a week working on Squidoo and that is what I loved the most.

So, after a lot of soul searching and retrospect, I have decided I am going to make every effort to go back to what I love; Squidoo. If I make a little extra money at it, fantastic! If I don't, thank God I have a job! What was the final revelation that caused me to decide this? Yesterday I was talking with (read: Bitc*** at) my teenager about something and I said "If you aren't going to do it right, dammit, don't do it at all". Boing!! I should listen to myself on occasion, I make a lot of sense!

So, my fellow Squid Giants, there are no links to follow here, no fantastic products or brilliant lenses that I am going to link to. There is just some advice; Do what you love and don't try to take on more than you can chew. Some people can do more than others and I, for one have a full plate-How about you?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Online Income - Stop Learning, Start Earning!

Make money online NOW! (This is my new mantra.)

It's been a while since I've posted on this fabulous blog. I've been busy squidooing, learning, angeling and most importantly - building a new online venture with my dear friend and fellow Squid Angel Squidster: - a new online magazine with news, tips, entertainment and resources for Squidoo lensmasters.

(Hang on for a sec - I'll get to the "make money online" thing after the next paragraph!)

Anywayz, I've been posting a lot over there and I've learned a ton about blogging and online marketing. Matter of fact, I've found so many incredible resources on this topic that I thought I'll need several more years to wade through these before I can start making any moolah. Ugh.

And then I stumbled upon these quotes:

“…probably the biggest enemy of achievement of success online…is the notion that you’ve got to learn it all before you begin.”

“The biggest key to succeeding with online marketing is simply being brave enough to get down on the ground and get your face muddy enough times that you’ll eventually stumble into success.”

These pearls of wisdom can be found in a post by Ian Hollander on his blog Karmic Consulting. I wrote a comment on this post here, or if you prefer to ignore my 5-cents-worth you can jump right into this fine article here:

Cash Crash Creation Q & A: Marketing, Meditation and Momentum

Btw, Ian offers a free ebook on article writing and marketing that is packed with his tips on this subject. I downloaded it, and so far Mr. Hollander has been a true gentleman in regard to further marketing mailings (for not-free stuff). Go get it straight from the side bar on his blog.

So, what am I saying here? Well, I say the same as I venture to suspect in my blog comment on SquidLog:

Could it be that my delirious info hunt is nothing but an excuse for not getting ‘down and dirty’ and doing it?

  • Research keywords
  • Pick the product
  • Create the lens, blog, website
  • Promote the hell out of it
  • Repeat
I have too much fun with lensbuilding, twittering, blogging, reading blogs, etc. - this has got to change! I need to manage my time better and think more about which of these activities contribute to online income in the near future!

I need to start applying what I know already. I've learned enough for now. I can do it!

What do you think about this plan?

(The puppy image is from the gorgeous Creative Commons collection of lensmaster Heather Katsoulis.)