Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Will social media deliver a pot roast? A blogger's Web 3.0 casserole

In this Guardian article about a woman moving in while her mother recuperated from surgery, she marveled at her mother's elderly friends who dropped by day after day with a covered dish and inquiries after her mother's condition. She said, “The thing I couldn’t help thinking was, who would do this for me when I’m old? I’d be getting a few text messages saying hope you’re better soon … social media is never going to deliver a pot roast.”

Except when it does. And that social media pot roast--what I like to call the Web 3.0 casserole--comes not in a covered dish, but in a covered base. Not a roast, but a guest post.

Here's what I mean: Back in 2010, Kate Peters, a speaker and voice coach I'd come to know via Twitter and her blogs, signaled that she was going through a medical crisis in her family. It happened that I had just written a blog post about storytelling and the voice, so I emailed and offered it to her. We called it a "Web 2.0 casserole," my effort to cover the base of regular posts for her.

Then in 2012 another speaker coach, Claire Duffy in Australia, wrote to me privately to ask for help in how to coach her dying friend who'd been asked to give speeches to raise money for her disease. She was willing for me to share that question with the readers of The Eloquent Woman, my blog on public speaking. So I put out a call for help. Several fellow coaches came forward, each with a different example of a speech by someone dying and words of advice; I summarized them all here after sharing them with Claire. Then, after her friend's death, Claire wrote for the blog to share her friend's speech and more about that experience.

More recently, after I blogged about my older sister's death last year, Kate was quick to offer a guest post for my blog--and made it easy by suggesting a specific speech for The Eloquent Woman's Famous Speech Friday series, Toni Morrison's 2011 commencement address at Rutgers University. Her post could not have come at a better time, and really made it possible for me to stay focused on family. This time we decided it needed an upgrade to "Web 3.0 casserole."

In times of less stress, I also have dozens of readers for my three blogs who forward clips, videos, articles, ideas, and questions that become the basis for blog posts, as well as those who offer everything from translations to guest posts. These, too, are a little bit of pot roast delivered to my door, and I welcome them.

While you don't want to plan to have a crisis that requires a Web 3.0 casserole, you can be building a blogging network that yields such a thing when you need it most. Here's how to cultivate that:

  • Cultivate, don't compete with, others who blog in your field of expertise: From time to time, observers of my social media presence will say, "What's in it for you to have other speaker coaches or social media strategists following you? They're just keeping up on the competition." I see it differently. Twitter and the blogs and Facebook are like attending thousands of daily specialty conferences with like-minded colleagues. Not everyone responds in this way, but many of us network, help each other out, and can call on one another as needed. Casting a wide and varied net for your social networks really pays off.
  • Offer a casserole post to get things started: If you *have* been following another colleague's or organization's blog and notice there are gaps in coverage or a crisis has been announced, offer a guest post freely. Don't make it too self-promotional. Do all the work involved, from links to pictures. And don't do it for the IOU, but that's generally what it will yield.
  • Formalize the backup system: Once or twice a year, send out an email to blogs and organizations in your topic area...or start within your company or organization, asking other departments to help. Ask for contributory posts, and offer the same. Not only will you have a small queue of posts that can serve in times of crisis, you'll be building up that network on which you can rely in future.
  • Keep a few casserole ingredients on hand: Which posts of yours, already published, would be suitable if reprinted on another blog? Or, do you have time to write a few posts and keep them to one side, to be offered as needed? A little advance prep makes it easier for you to be generous when the time comes. 
  • Take the long view: If you've read this post closely, you may have noticed that I got much more than a one-off guest post from each of these encounters--Claire's request, for example, wound up being a small series as we updated readers on what happened. And this post is itself a by-product of all these social media casseroles. Content breeds more content, if you're thoughtful about it.
We talk a lot about connection and distancing in social media, and we think about (but don't always offer) guest posting. But what better use for a guest post? This practice brings you closer, virtually and otherwise, with far-flung colleagues. It makes for a delicious casserole!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by H is for Home)

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