Dream:

Last week my teeth fell out.  Not all of them — just the ones on the left side of my lower jaw.  And they didn’t really fall out. They just came loose in their gum casings like a suction force had been broken. I tried to hold them in place like rocks pushed awkwardly into a long trough, but every time I moved my mouth they clunked and crushed against each other, trying to chew themselves to pieces.

It was ridiculously upsetting, but they’re teeth — impermanent little buggers that are dependent on their foundations to stay in place, and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it once they were out of their holes.  What bothered me even more was that the whole thing mirrored such a classic dream image.  I actually paused to consider whether this horrifying experience might really be a dream, but then quickly dismissed that as wishful distraction.  I needed to focus on the problem, not escape from it.  So I just vented to everyone around me that it really really sucked that this wasn’t a dream.  They agreed and kept doting on me, frantic.

I dug through my iPhone to look up my dentist, but I have a new dentist, and I couldn’t remember his name. So I just scanned through all the names in the address book as quickly as I could trying to recognize one as him, but none were right. It was the middle of the night, anyway. I’d have to wait until morning.

A little while later, I was halfway to the bathroom when I realized I’d just woken up. Which meant I’d just been asleep. Which meant I’d either fallen asleep with my broken teeth or I had been dreaming the tooth crisis all along. My money was on the former, but I checked my mouth anyway and my teeth were just fine, roots and all.

I was more disoriented than relieved.

Today was weirder. Read the rest of this entry »

Someone I’m personally close to works at a marketing agency. She emailed me this morning, asking about how to contact bloggers for a campaign.  Here was my advice…

A number of bloggers are used to being contacted by marketers.  As a result, they can smell a good one from a bad one from a mile away.  Therefore, you should…

– Do your research. Don’t contact anyone whose blog is a bad fit, and if possible, make an effort to show that you get the topic and style of their blog when you approach them.  Contacting fewer people more personally will probably yield better results than contacting more people less personally.  The smaller newer bloggers might take anything, but the seasoned ones with real readership are very selective. If you treat them well and they like your products, they’ll expect to develop a relationship with you and be on your list for future offers.  It’s like being in a secret elite club.

– Have a single person on your team be their contact person.  They need to feel like they know someone.

– Speak in plain English and edit out any marketing language that may sound unnaturally excited or insincere. They need to feel like that contact person is a real human being that they could have a drink with.

– Don’t expect them to do you any favors.  They won’t blog about your product just because you ask them to — there needs to be something in it for them.  Offer something free to them that they’ll consider to be of value.  That might be the product itself, access to a really cool event, cash payment, something valuable that they can give away to readers on their blog through a contest that they create themselves, etc.

– Don’t ask them to blog positive things.  Ask them to speak honestly, and mean it.  They have to have your permission to speak negatively if they don’t like it.  (If they like and respect you, they won’t be jerks.)

– The FTC changed some rules this year, and bloggers now legally need to publicly disclose when they get free stuff or payment for a post.  Go look this up and read about it — bloggers will appreciate it if you know more about the rules than they do.

– Screwing up on any of the above will either result in being ignored or being publicly ranted about. They don’t really have a middle ground.

For contact info… Most bloggers have their email addresses listed on their blog somewhere, or at least provide a contact form.  Also try checking their sidebars for other blogs they like to read… that’ll clue you in on what the social circles are and who’s popular.  Also check who regularly has comments versus who doesn’t — that’s sometimes an indicator of popularity (tho really not always).

(Friends don’t let friends market badly to bloggers. Pass it on.)

So… look.

I am part of a wonky industry. And by wonky I mean hugely imbalanced, superficial, bubblicious, and lined with unkeepable promises.

I’m a web presence consultant, and I’m good at it. I build nice websites that people can update themselves, and I train people on how to use the Internet better so that they can survive and grow on their own. I’ve been building websites for 12 years, and I’ve been completely self-employed in the industry for five. Despite having just ended a large contract that was my primary (and often only) source of income for the last two years, I (magically) have no lack of clients right now.

But I also have an identity crisis. (You’d think I’d be good at those by now, but no, they still get me every time.)

I present to you Exhibit A, courtesy of the Laughing Squid blog:

It’s parody, but it’s not a joke. This is my industry. Or at least, it’s one of them — the “Social Media Douchebag*” industry.  The other professions I pledge allegiance to seem to include:

– Sleazy Marketers
– Naive Self-Helpey Life Coaches
– Overpriced Web Designers
– Out-of-Touch-with-Reality Engineers

Apologies to all the peers I just offended, but come on, you know what I’m talking about.

Normally I don’t let this reputation game get to me, but I’m going through one of those Repositioning phases where I have to start telling people what I do for a living again. Unfortunately, this is quickly turning into a game of, “No, I’m a good witch. You want to drop your house over there, on my sister, the green one.”

You ever try to define yourself by explaining what you’re not (like how I’m doing in this blog post)?  It puts the focus in the wrong place.  DON’T THINK ABOUT THE GROSS STUFF!  I SAID DON’T THINK ABOUT IT! EWWW!  (Bear with me — I’m getting this out of my system.)

Now couple this industry reputation crisis with the fact that clients’ needs, on the whole, are changing dramatically.  Tools have gotten easier to use, and the people who hire us are so much more capable and Internet savvy than they used to be. We no longer just build a website, optimize it for search engines, and walk away until something breaks. “Success” on the Internet now requires frequent content updates, and clients are willing to take that work on themselves. The ones who want help want long-term partnerships with consultants who can advise them on their processes and fix little techie things when they get stuck.

It used to be all about building the website, and everyone left the maintenance as an underfunded afterthought (meaning that’s when consultants moved on). Now it’s all about the maintenance… the kind that says, “You’re doing great work. What do you need?”

But tell me honestly: who here is setting up sustainable businesses that support the “I just need a few hours of help a month” clients?

My hunch is that we may need to drop our Web Development Consulting models and go learn from accountants, therapists, attorneys, doctors, and professors.

How do we build a business on maintenance?  How many clients can one consultant handle?  Can we teach our peers to do this, too?  And can we do it all without being Sleazy Naive Out-of-Touch-with-Reality Overpriced Douchebags?

If you’re already doing this work, please come find me.

And I’ll keep the rest of ya’lls posted on what we figure out.

* Yes, I do know the term douchebag is offensive and tasteless, and represents a form of social oppression, and refers to something completely useless and bad for people. That’s partly why I accept its usage in this context.