I spent Thursday afternoon and all of Friday in the Community Media Lab and had many conversations about reaching an audience, how to grow an audience, and building relationships on social media. Some of those conversations were more organic, evolving from a chat about today’s media landscape, while others were more focused and specific.
Michael Mathis, an Ypsilanti attorney who says he’s now “shifting gears,” was my first visitor Thursday afternoon, but he really wasn’t there to “visit” with me specifically. I just happened to be in the SPARK East building, where our Community Lab is housed, at the same time he was attending a Shifting Gears support group meeting. While he was waiting, he asked me if I worked for SPARK. I told him I was part of the Community Media Lab and then explained the mission to him. Michael seemed very interested and mentioned he was leaving his career and considering his options. A mentor had suggested that he start a blog. In addition to law, he has a background in journalism and has done voiceover work on Internet radio. He was planning to attend a workshop on the blogging platform WordPress at the Ypsilanti District Library. As soon as he’s done, I suggested he come back and we would help him set up his blog. I also suggested BlogTalk Radio for an Internet talk show. His first hurdle, however, is figuring out what type of content he would be providing. He’s also interested in making revenue from his online activities, so I steered him toward Google AdWords. I don’t know much about it, but I know the Google offices in Ann Arbor offer 20-minute time slots to chat, or he could simply “Google” the information. I wish him the best of luck as he starts his new venture, and hope he returns to us as a content-sharing partner so we can add his voice to our website and the community at large.
Bob Cummings, a community blogger who partners with us, stopped by on Friday to learn more about Scribd.com, ipadio.com for capturing audio and he wanted links to a workshop presented by Leslie McGraw that he missed on integrating social media into your professional development. Bob has been a regular visitor to the Community Lab and has attended some of our workshops. I consider him our super fan because he is so supportive and enthusiastic about our efforts in the lab. He’s also a dream to work with because he is so curious about all of the technology tools out there for him to share his message. After a couple of hours, Bob had his Scribd and iPadio accounts up and running, and tested on his WordPress blog. Bob is a big fan of Twitter and has had a lot of success sharing his message using the microblogging tool. He also has a true understanding of social media and its power. I look forward to reading his new blog posts and seeing how he incorporates the two new tools he learned about to enhance his storytelling and information sharing.
Donna Gilkey-Lavin also stopped in Friday just as Bob was leaving. I had been expecting her after receiving an email from Kyle DeBoard of SPARK, who referred her to me for help with social media. Donna and her husband, who reside in Belleville, started the company Lavin Lift Straps. She has a very interesting story, which she shared with me as we talked about her business and its needs. The Lavins are getting assistance and advice from SPARK, which is good, but she was looking for a little insight about social media and how she can use it to promote her business. We talked about setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page, and I suggested she check out ipadio.com, Scribd.com, Capzles.com, Flickr.com and we talked about YouTube for sharing her product demonstration videos, as well as video testimonials. The company also recently won an award, and I suggested she return to the lab for help on writing a press release. She was so grateful and appreciative, which reminded me how useful the Community Media Lab can be for people. It really is a great resource. I encouraged Donna to set up a Twitter account tonight as a first step. I also suggested she return any weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to speak to any of the reporters and editors here, who can help her decide on a blogging platform that fits her needs, educate her more on Twitter and help her set up a Facebook page for her product, as well as a YouTube channel.
While some days spent in the lab can be slow and we use that time to work on our own content for Heritage.com or explore new technology tools, it’s days like yesterday and today that make me feel good about the service we provide in the Community Media Lab. The challenge is spreading the word about what we offer and utilizing those very tools I promote to help reach a larger audience.