Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

~~~

Wow. Okay. Hi. So it sounds like you want a Genderplayful Marketplace to happen. Awesome.

I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the letters, comments, tweets, likes, views, posts, and reblogs from the last 5 days. Ya’ll are phenomenal.

And videos are a lot to ask. I know. So far I’ve received four of them. I can work with that, but really, it would make a huge difference to our upcoming fundraising effort if we could bring in more. Also: all of the videos I’ve received so far appear to be from transmasculine crowd (trans men, butch/androgynous women). These are fantastic, and please keep them coming, but it would also mean a lot to the balance of the project if we could pull in some representing trans women, femmes (men, women, and so on), drag queens, and other genderfabulous faces.

So here’s where we get serious. If you’ve been thinking about making a short video of yourself explaining why this marketplace is important to you, go do it. Get it done. Go go go! Don’t worry too much about making it clean and perfect — I’ll be editing it down to chunks and weaving it together with other videos. You will be beautiful.

The best way to send them appears to be through Google Docs. Just log in, hit “Upload”, get it up there, and then hit “Share.” Share it with genderplayful@gmail.com.

For those who might be new to this conversation, here’s my overview of the project, complete with me sitting naked in a towel:

And here’s a small handful of the things people have written…

Why is a marketplace for androgynous clothing important? Because of people like me.

I want to be able to dress up, feel comfortable, feel like myself on a daily basis. I want to be able to have variety in my clothing styles besides just “jeans and a t-shirt” while mainting an androgynous image. I want suits and dresses and kilts and dress shirts that don’t accentuate the fact that I was born biologically female. I want to be able to find a place to buy and replace binders and packers of all varieties. I want a place where boots and shoes are bought and sold that fit my feet and don’t have a high heel.

To those trying to get this project off the ground, and turn this into a reality, I am grateful.

You’ve been to the department stores…

Here is an example of a genetic male androgyne shopping experience:

Go into any department store and look for clothes in the mens section, and you will find the following colors: beige, brown, gray, black, and navy blue. If you’re lucky you’ll find some red, forest greens, or maybe even a colorful Hawaiian shirt. The only place you’ll ever find a sense of color is in men’s dress shirts, but they all of the same cut, and usually are solids or pinstriped if you’re lucky – no scoop neck, V-neck, or something innovative and fun. If you want teal trousers or a paisley patterned shirt then you’re out of luck. Also, the men’s clothing isn’t fitted – it’s meant to fit baggy and not show off your figure. Fitted shirts or slacks are a rarity for men in department stores.

So you go shop in the women’s section and find the color and pattern you’ve been looking for. But the sizes aren’t big enough, the tail of the shirt is too short to tuck into your pants, the darts in the shirt are useless on your flat chest. The trousers would look cute on you, but don’t fit right around the hips, so you find a pair that does, but the pant cuffs are too short and barely cover your ankles.

I think there is a niche market for genderqueer fashion – the only other option I see is to break out my sewing machine and spend all of my free time making my own clothes, and I’m not that good at it anyway.

–Timi

Buying from our peers just feels better.

Where I get my stuff from matters to me. I like the idea of being able to dress the way I want to and buy from my community at the same time. I love the idea of a place where the genderqueer community could come together to swap second hands stuff that worked. I adore the idea of having a place to talk about how to make stuff fit or look cool with other people who get it. It would be fabulous to have a place where I could find people who made genderqueer stuff and support them in making my life a little bit easier.

I am also super excited about having a place where I could sell (or heck, give away) some of my funky femme clothes to my super beautiful funky femme brothers and sisters and siblings.

These are rocking my world, ya’ll. Keep the stories coming!

~ ~ ~

Update! The fundraiser is live and we’re over here now: http://genderplayful.tumblr.com

deviants online

I’m really excited, and really proud, of what’s starting to happen with Deviants Online.  Not familiar with it? No problem – here are the basics.

Deviants Online was started because, while there are plenty of social media resources for mainstream businesses, there just aren’t many (or any!) for us “deviants” – queer folk, artists, sex geeks, undergrounders, and others that don’t walk the straight and narrow. We wanted to create a way for us to network, learn from each other (and from guests who are experienced at handling the personal / professional / volunteer blend), teach each other, and talk about best practices for handling social media and online networking. Think – a Facebook tutorial for the queerly minded….a Twittering lesson for those who value their personal privacy but want to get the word out about their projects…ideas for blogging artists to get their work in front of more people…and other sexy things to do with Google.

While we’re having the workshops monthly in San Francisco, we wanted to make the conversations available to others who can’t attend, so we’re happy that we’ve got the edited recording of the December ’09 meeting up for your listening enjoyment. We give attendees a chance to chat “off record” and we edit out any mentions of identifying information that slip during the gathering, so what you’ll hear combines the amazing resources & information that come up during the discussion with a healthy respect and protection of personal privacy.

>> Listen to the first workshop here! <<

We’d love for you to join us in coming months – you can see a full schedule at the website. On January 12, Meitar “maymay” Moscovitz will be our featured guest for the next workshop. While we encourage donations to cover the cost of the meeting space, please don’t skip it if money’s an issue for you – we value your presence and energy far more than your money!

Any questions? Just ask…and please come check it out!

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.)

We, the people who spend most of our waking moments immersed in Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google, smart phones, and email, despite overwhelming evidence that we’re so good at this stuff we’re over it already, are still trying to figure out how the Internet works.

We are explorative, experimental, creative, excited, and highly judgmental of how everyone else is doing it. We universally agree that spammers and trolls are lame, and we believe we know how everything should be done better, despite the fact that our rules and tools change every day.

Me being no exception to this trend, I hereby proclaim my manifesto of how everyone should use the internet without sucking.

——-

I believe that all web-based interactions operate on the same principles as in-person interactions.

I believe in social karma. I believe that all people deserve to be respected and treated with kindness, and that whenever you choose not to do this, you set yourself up to suffer consequences, whether directly or indirectly. I don’t care how much they pissed you off. You still have the choice to be nice. (“Smile from the wrists down.” –@Gwenners)

I believe in social capital. I believe that if you have something to sell or promote, your existing relationship to a community determines your ability to get what you want when you ask for favors or put things in front of people. I believe that if you want your community to support you, you need to first support your community.

I believe that your web presence is an extension of your offline presence, and that the sum of all your parts make up you as a complex human being. I believe it’s okay to represent different personas online as long as you can face the fact that they’re all parts of you.

I believe that too many people put ads on their blogs expecting to eventually earn good money from them, and are disappointed. I believe that using your blog to build community and attract or maintain clients, customers, support, and exposure is often a much more realistic and higher-yield endeavor.

I believe that the best opportunities never make it to Craigslist. They go to friends and to friends of friends.

I believe that in order to get followed, read, or subscribed to, you need to first be worth following, reading, or subscribing to. If you look at your web presence from an outsider’s perspective and aren’t excited about what you see, chances are you have more work to do.

I believe that people are here for themselves. They care about you to the extent that you have an impact on them. Even in their most generous moments, it always comes back to them somehow. I believe you should look for how, and feed that.

I believe that “opt in” only counts if they really want it and it continues to benefit them. If you stopped sending your regular newsletter/posts/updates/etc, would your network be disappointed? Or would they not notice? Or would they be relieved? I believe you already know the answer to this question.

I believe you can make money on the Internet with just as much social manipulation and sleaze as you can use in person. I believe you know the difference between benefiting the people around you and exploiting their weaknesses. I believe you understand that, in terms of long-term strategy and overall quality of life, the latter approach has severe drawbacks.

I believe you cannot escape the practical importance of personal ethics by doing business on the Internet, even if you attempt to be anonymous.

I believe that creating meaningless clutter, promoting low-quality products, or talking about things you don’t actually care about on the Internet is littering, and that it affects both your social karma and your social capital, even if you don’t tell your friends about it.

I believe that if you’re blaming the Internet for your problems, you’re not looking at your problems hard enough.

I believe that if you’re starting to hate the internet, it’s time to turn it off and go outside.

I believe that social media only works well when people genuinely care about what they’re talking about.

I believe that if you’re excited about something, you have a responsibility to both yourself and to your extended communities to explore that and express it (in a way that respects both you and them).

I believe excitement is the best indicator of what’s worth sharing.

I believe that if you’re not excited about anything right now, you should seriously consider fixing that.

I believe that showing off is usually okay because a lot of people get excited about watching. I believe that watching is usually okay because a lot of people get excited about showing off.

I believe we have more success to gain from being honest, open, and sincere online than we do from acting like the kind of person we think will be most successful.

I believe that when try to make others feel more comfortable by ignoring what motivates us, we deplete ourselves, and by extension, we damage our relationships.

I believe we benefit ourselves best and most sustainably if we are continually benefiting others.

I believe that sucking at the Internet is both voluntary and optional.

I believe the Internet is awesome, and that it is worth getting excited about.

I believe that we are awesome. And we are worth getting excited about.

———

I believe a lot of other things, too. But I’ll stop here. For now. Until I get excited again.

(What do you believe?)

I recently overheard a very useful quote, which was something along the lines of…

“Engagement leads to loyalty. Loyalty leads to sales. A good product leads to repeat sales.”

And I just wanted to jump up and scream, “AMEN! YES!” But instead I politely continued my meal and tried not to interrupt the strangers’ conversation.

Can I say it again, though?

Engagement -> Loyalty.
Loyalty -> Sales.
Good Product -> Repeat Sales.
Burn it backwards into your forehead.

To the social media marketers, please notice that Engagement and Loyalty don’t directly lead to a Repeat Sales, because they often have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you have a good product.

To everyone else, please notice that Engagement and Loyalty are important for getting Sales. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your product is — if you’re not telling the right story and getting people emotionally involved in it, they probably haven’t realized how great it is yet.

The point is, you have to do both.

And while I’m standing up here on this soapbox, let me yell a little louder to those in the back who are zoning out: Product is just a jargon placeholder for Anything, and Sales is another way of saying Commitment.

Whatever it is that you want people to connect with — your blog, your outfit, your party, your basketball game, your performance, your job hunt, your friend, your hot sexy body, your tweets, your…. (keep going, I’ll be here all day) — you care about it, so you’re interacting with the world in a way that helps you get the response you want. But unless that thing you care about actually matters to the world in the way it wants, even if you’re a great storyteller, you’re only gonna get that response once. If you want it again, that thing you care about has to be good. Good means it meets their needs. This isn’t about yours.

But then again, if you never tell the story — if you never break the ice, or use that cheesy pickup line, or send in that resume, or pass out those invitations, or hand them your business card, or twitter it, or give them that elevator pitch — then they’ll never know.

It’s both. It has to be both. If you’re only doing one well, you’re limping.

(And frankly, you look pretty silly, since we all know that both of your legs work just fine.)

I had the giddy pleasure of speaking on the Indy Arts and Media panel last thursday on DIY Online Promotion for Artists (alongside the inimitable Abi Jones and Hannah Eaves). We started a wiki of good online resources for the topic, for those looking for the Cliff’s Notes.

Things I wanna keep pontificating on…

Addictomatic — Woah! Hannah brough up this resource, and it pretty much won for Awesome Tool Recommendation of the night. It aggregates all online vanity searches onto one page (think google alerts + twitter search + everything else you forgot to check). My only complaint is that doesn’t seem to do daily email summaries (I want info to come to me). Maybe we can join together and sway them to add the feature. (They’ll probably find this blog post within minutes of it going live anyway.)

Bit.ly — I had NO IDEA this URL shortener included analytics tracking! (This means you can tell how many people clicked on it when you posted it to twitter… and whether or not they did it through a web browser or another client.) Sorry, is.gd — I know your base URL was a character shorter, but think just found my new best friend.

Asking for money — One of the audience members jumped in with an important question: “So if your bread and butter is getting people to buy your art, where do you put the ‘ask’ in all of this communication stuff?” We fumbled a bit on this one because it’s kindasorta not about that, except it always is. I said: treat social media as a metaphor for your in-real-life friendships… if you ask your friends to buy your stuff every time you see them, you’re not going to have many friends. But if you never ask them at all, they won’t realize the opportunity is there. So you have to strike the right balance of reminding them without being annoying.

There’s more, though, and I realized it on my way home from the panel (so question-asker, wherever you are, here’s what I meant to say): it’s not about asking. It’s about making it really easy for them to buy when it occurs to them that they might want to. Yes, your job is also to get them to want to, but that doesn’t have to be an ask — it could be a matter of talking around it, about it, over it, between it, and consistently building buzz about the awesomeness that is inherent to everything you do. What’s way more important is having the Buy button right there (or as close to “everywhere” as you can get while still being tactful), with a super easy checkout process and as much perceivable instant gratification as possible. We are an impulsive people, and we like to think that buying stuff is our own idea. But we also get distracted by the next shiny thing really easily, so turning our interest into a sale before that happens is your real challenge. The ask is secondary to that.

And in other news… I’ve been avoiding upgrading to iPhone 3.0 software because I’m moving to a place that doesn’t get AT&T, and if I decide to change phones along with carriers, I’d rather do it with a maintained resentment for my current phone’s lack of copy-and-paste and video-recording than with a feeling of lost love.

But someone demoed the new copy and paste function to me at the panel, and my blissful ignorance has been destroyed. Thanks, dude.

The BlogHer Geek Lab in Washington, DC was loaded with questions about how to improve a blog and increase its reach.  I ended up on my soapbox more times than I expected, ranting about misinformation and imploring bloggers to rethink their strategies.

I’m summarizing most of my rants below because I think they’ll be helpful to some people.  Please keep in mind that I’m coming at this from my own experience.  I’m not an “ad revenue” blogger, and there are plenty out there who can give you tips on what they’ve done to be successful. I encourage you to go talk to them, too.

The Goals Rant

If you ask me, “How can I make my blog better?” I’m going to ask you what “better” means.  What are your goals? If you don’t know, stop whatever you’re doing right now and figure them out.  Here are some common ones:

I want to…

  • express myself in a creative, positive way.
  • vent my frustrations in a safe and constructive way.
  • work through some challenging issues.
  • document a process or experience.
  • create a space for myself that’s separate from my daily life.
  • establish a certain kind of reputation.
  • convey a certain tone and aesthetic.
  • serve a certain community in a certain way.
  • build a community that supports me.
  • make money with ads and affiliate revenue.
  • find new work/jobs/clients/customers.
  • maintain my existing work/jobs/clients/customers.
  • give friends and family a way to keep track of me.
  • keep track of my thoughts and the interesting things I’ve found on the web.

If you have a lot of these goals (and hopefully some others I haven’t named yet), that’s great!  Now you need to prioritize them. Which ONE do you care about first and foremost? How about second? Third? Fourth? Lay them all out in order — NO TIES! It’s fine if your priorities change in the future, but you need to be honest with yourself about what they are right now.

Once you’ve got that, you’ll know what “better” means. And you’ll probably be able to brainstorm about 20 answers to your original question without any help from me now, too.

The Money Rant

So you want to make money from blogging, and you’ve heard that ad revenue is the way to go.  That’s great and I completely support you, but let’s talk about it for a minute.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Just in time for SXSW, I am really excited to announce that Cerado (the firm I consult with) has launched a handy “Unofficial Pocket Guide” for SXSW. It’s a mobile-friendly widget based on the beta of Cerado Ventana, and it gives you quick access to:

– People (who are here)
– Agenda (of panels and parties)
– Books (that authors will be signing in the book lounge)
– FAQ (‘cuz we all get confused sometimes)

It looks killer on the iPhone, and other devices are reporting sexy UI as well.

For the People tab, we’ve built a self-reporting directory (instead of scraping the registration database for everybody’s information). Adding yourself is like adding a blog comment: enter info, click submit, see it immediately. No email addresses; just your name, photo, and URL.

If you’re here at SXSW and fancy yourself an Early Adopter, go ahead and add yourself to the People listing. Just click to the People tab, and hit the “+” button — that’s it. I’m a big fan of posting your blog or twitter stream URL, but you could also post your Facebook or LinkedIn or company website (or whatever) — however you want your SXSW peeps to keep tabs on you.

This is a clean and classy way to get some exposure and remind people that you’re worth checking out.

The homepage is here: http://sxsw.cerado.com

And you can jump directly to the “Add Yourself” form as well.

Takes two minutes. Tops.

Check it out. Here’s what it looks like:

SXSW Unofficial Pocket Guide - PeopleSXSW Unofficial Pocket Guide - AgendaSXSW Unofficial Pocket Guide - Shop

However, when building this, we also realized that the whole world isn’t mobile. (Yet.) So, it’s also available as a widget that you can put on your blog. You can get that here.

I’m really excited about this project, and it’s already been a lifesaver for me in getting oriented to my week at SXSW. So check it out, see if it’s what you need this week, and grab the free publicity opportunity. People wanna know who you are.

Oh, and if you want to see any features added, just send me your wishlist. :)

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As I talked about in previous posts, Social Media can help you reach lots of people for very little money if you know how to use it well. For me, the magic key to Social Media is blogging. But through talking to other people, I’ve found that most non-bloggers either

A) don’t think it’s for them, or

B) don’t know how to approach it.

I’ve also noticed a few myths floating around the blogosphere and its conferences lately, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t helping the situation. So here are my debunkings:

Myth #1: The blogosphere is full. Whatever you want to say is already being said.

Fact: The blogosphere is a cloud, not a box. If you have something to offer, start sharing it. Some people will pay attention while others won’t, and that’s not what matters. What matters is that you’re giving yourself a voice, and you’re joining a network of other voices. You might just need to trust me on this one — it’s worth it.

Myth #2: You can make money from your blog.

Fact: You can make money through your blog. It’s possible to make decent money by putting ads on your blog, but first you’ll need to become absurdly popular and get tons of visitors coming to your blog every day. The bad news is: most of us will never get there. The good news is: your blog can still put money in your pocket, even if you’re not displaying any ads at all. By building a relationship with your readers, you develop an audience asset that can bring you business. By having a public voice that is continually posting new thoughts, you present an image of authenticity that adds value to your reputation. And whether you’re a consultant, an organization, a business, or an employee, all of these can have a positive impact on the amount of money others are willing to give you. But watch out, this brings up another myth:

Myth #3: Blogging will make you valuable.

Fact: Blogging will amplify your value. If you have something of value to offer the world — be it your insight, your advice, or your experience — your blog will crank up the volume on how much people appreciate you. If, on the other hand, you’re not already tapping into something of value within yourself, blogging isn’t going to help.

I’m of the (admittedly idealistic) opinion that everyone has something of value to offer, though, so I think you should start blogging right now.

Start here:

  • Typepad.com – If you’re willing to put a little money into having a truly awesome blog.
  • Blogger.com – If you’re looking for something free and easy.
  • WordPress.org – If you have a few tech skills and want to make it your own.

Once you’ve got it running, please send me the link. I’d like to keep an eye on it. Thanks!

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I love Tara Hunt’s post today about Social Capital and Community Freeloaders. She dives into the nature of “favors from friends,” and writes:

“Now, I don’t want to reduce every interaction we human beings have with another person to being a transaction, but, in effect, it is. If I ask a friend for a favor, she is bound oblige. However, if I ask that same friend for ten favors, she may start to feel like I’ve depleted my “allowance” on my account with her. Of course, with different people, we have more leeway. With our close friends and family we have loads of Social Capital to withdraw from and as our relationships get more casual, the less influence and favor we carry with others.”

Basically, you have a bank account. The more Social Capital you’ve accumulated in that bank account, the more of a safety net you have when things get rough and you need help.

Tara breaks Social Capital transactions into a very nice table of deposits and withdrawals. “Performing a favor,” for example, is a deposit. ” Expecting that people come to your events when you don’t go to theirs,” on the other hand, is a clear example of a withdrawal.

I appreciate that she lists all of these deposits:

  • Asking for the first favor
  • Asking for a lateral introduction
  • Encouraging people to get involved in your projects.
  • Requesting simple advice.

It’s the second favor, the prestigious introductions, the unsolicited sales pitches, and the extensive advice that send hits to your Social Capital resources. But simple and friendly “I could use your help” shoulder-taps can actually strengthen a connection. They show someone that they’re important to you, and that you value what they have to offer.

Another fun read on this subject is Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.

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