More Than Serving Tea


How To Build Your Platform. A Gentle Warning.

Isn't this what comes to mind when you hear people talking about platforms? No? What's wrong with you?

Isn’t this what comes to mind when you hear people talking about platforms? No? What’s wrong with you? These are my favorite, but I do wish I had bought both patterns of the same shoe because these are so comfy.

 

Now that I have your attention…

I’m not exactly sure on how to build a platform, and by platform I do not mean shoes or a stage. I know shoes, but I am not a carpenter. I am talking about social media platforms, and there actually are experts out there. It’s a thing. Just google it. The experts talk about platform, branding (which I associate with advertising and cattle, but that is another topic for another day), messaging, consistency, etc. I occasionally read about building a platform because I have promised a certain editor or two book proposals multiple times, and book proposals in today’s market require some knowledge or understanding of platform. The experts KNOW. I’m not sure but I have some thoughts and warnings.

  1. Just because you have traffic doesn’t mean you’re a good writer. Deep down we all get a rush knowing the traffic on your blog ticked up or a tweet was retweeted, etc. Admit it. If you can’t admit it, you’re not being honest. And if you’re not being honest, then you will never be able to handle reality which is traffic does not equal your best content. My highest traffic posts involved some megachurch pastor who never communicated with me personally. Those posts were not my best content. Those posts were not examples of my best writing. IF you are just looking to increase traffic write about sex, Game of Thrones, megachurch pastors, or sex.
  2. Just because you don’t have traffic doesn’t mean you’re bad writer. Some of my best posts are the ones that sit there and are read quietly by my dear readers, who don’t number in the thousands but more in the hundreds. In fact, yesterday there were only 42 readers on this blog. I have less than 300 people following my blog.
  3. When you write from your heart, pray while you write, edit, and before you hit “publish”. And keep praying. Much of what I write about hits at the intersection of gender, faith, race, and ethnicity. It’s not everyone’s “thing” but it is the thing that God has compelled me to write and speak about. That intersection is what catches my heart and keeps me up at night because it affects the way I heard and hear God. It also makes people upset, angry, defensive. Racism and sexism are touchy subjects amongst the church-going crowd. If you are writing to build a platform, I humbly suggest you reconsider your motives. Writing for an audience is soul-bearing work. It’s work. It’s a discipline. Just like praying.
  4. Engage with your readers not your critics. My dear readers are thoughtful. They respond with open hearts and honest questions. Writers should engage with their readers. However, when my stats go through the roof because I’ve written a controversial post or about something that became a controversy I get crazy comments and crazier personal messages that demand I repent, retract, kowtow, etc. Am I judging those commenters? Yes. Those commenters usually are not regular readers and their comment is a critique. I let my readers respond to them. That’s right. Let your readers engage with your critics. If your readers are like mine they are thoughtful and sharp, and they will call out a troll when they see one.
  5. If you are serious about building your platform you have to be committed to writing consistently. This is where I offer advice I have heard but have not taken. I am not building my platform. I write when I want to write because this isn’t my livelihood nor is “writer” my primary vocation. However, I have been putting much more thought into being a better, more consistent blogger for my own development as a writer and for my readers who deserve more than a post here and there every few weeks.

For my fellow writer/speaker friends and readers out there, what have you learned about building your platform? What words of advice, warning, and encouragement can you give?

 

 

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Urban Outfitters, Why? WHY???

The whole “hipster” thing is a bit fascinating and strange because new things made to look like old things are made to be cool and hip…and expensive. Which is odd to me because my old things rarely were expensive, and rarely were they cool. But now “vintage” is cool if its new, and you’re making a statement.

But what kind of statement are you making when you buy something like this:

According to the company website, Urban Outfitters offers "a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual in the 18 to 30 year-old range". Why does an 18-year-old need these? Why does anyone need these?

According to the company website, Urban Outfitters offers “a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual in the 18 to 30 year-old range”. Why does an 18-year-old need these? Why does anyone need these?

Better yet, what kind of brand statement are you trying to make when you sell stuff like this?

Last night I spent a few delightful hours with a few delightful women talking about  how this world is going to hell. Girls dressing like prostitutes. Grown women dressing like little girls. Pastors referring to their spouses as their “smokin’ hot wives” and honestly believing that is a compliment. (It really, really isn’t.) Some of those same pastors refusing to be taught by women because their God-given femininity gets in the way but books written by women are generally OK because the woman isn’t in the room.

And that rant actually has something to do with this ridiculous stuff Urban Outfitters is selling.

Bratz dolls. Baby doll dresses on grown women. White evangelical pastors talking about their “smokin’ hot wives”. John Piper and his stance on learning from women. None of it is OK. I am so tired of trying to keep a sense of humor in a world that has lost its marbles. I know there is at least a few others tired and outraged because a dear friend let me know about syringe shot shooters through another blog post.

Seriously. When did selling hipster drug paraphernalia become OK? This isn’t a Domo toaster (which I saw on the UA website and thought, “That would make breakfast awesome!”). This along with a few other items on the website make prescription drug abuse a tongue-in-cheek gag, and that is so wrong. The target audience might officially be 18-30 year olds, but as a mother of two teenagers I’m not stupid, even if UA thinks I am. The actual audience is younger. And even with parents hovering over them like helicopters they are soaking up images, messages, values, ideas faster than we can protect them because the grown-ups who care can’t keep up with this stuff, and the grown ups who don’t care will sell it to you.

Real drugs or hipster versions.

I am so tired of this kind of garbage. Are you? Please tell me some of you are.

E-mail the CEO and chairman of Urban Outfitters, Richard A. Hayne:
richard.hayne@urbanout.com

Or keep the US Postal Service busy and send snail mail to the company:
Urban Outfitters Inc.
5000 South Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19112-1495

Do you tweet? How about connecting @UrbanOutfitters

Or comment on Facebook.

E-mail Oona McCullough, their Director of Investor Relations at oona.mccullough@urbanout.com

No plans right now? How about emailing the board of directors and other important people who care about profits.

And by the way, the same company owns Anthropologie and Free People.

My parents still tell me that here in America the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Here in America, corporate America pays attention to the bottom line and they now also have to manage their social media presence. We have a voice…it gets louder when others join us.

(Credit goes to My Life as 3D for blogging about this first.)


White Privilege & Accidentally Playing in a Public Sandbox

Depending on the circles in which you spin around, you may have come across Gavin McInnes’ piece about Asian American privilege. I won’t link to it. You can find it on your own. (Privilege is misspelled in the blogpost title on one of the websites, btw.)

I don’t know the intent behind the piece. Some say it was an attempt at satire. Others say that’s just McInnes’ style. The godfather of hipsterdom wrote a piece using Asian American privilege as the centerpiece. The piece discusses race, and some people thought it though-provoking; others feel provoked.

“Tackling Asian Privilege” on one website has garnered more than 600 comments. It’s been linked several times throughout the day by my some of my Facebook friends. And then there is Twitter.

Yikes.

Yikes.

I have learned that the rules in the social media/interweb/everyone-is-a-writer public sandbox are slightly different for me. And by me I mean a non-White American. McInnes can use Asians (I prefer Asian American.) as a tongue-in-cheek example in his clever, original take on race dynamics in America so long as Asians don’t get upset. We don’t get to be upset. We just get to be the example. And if we get upset, we are told to grow a thicker skin, get a grip, learn to read, etc. We get ALL CAPS AND TOLD THAT WE DON’T GET IT.

Get it?

It’s because McInnes’ audience, his public sandbox if you will, actually didn’t include me and a host of my other non-White American friends because we aren’t his target audience. He would never say that. At least I don’t think he would. We may read his stuff, and we may even appreciate his cleverness and humor until it smells a bit like appropriation. That is what ought to make “us”, the non-target audience, uncomfortable. We are fine in the sandbox until we realize we are being allowed to stay. We weren’t necessarily invited.

This has happened before. Poorly designed t-shirts or advertising campaigns. Poorly written and designed Vacation Bible School curriculum. Poorly written and designed Christian leadership books. Poorly conceived fraternity parties. Poorly conceived team mascots. White privilege means you get to tell me that I don’t get it. That I misunderstood your intentions. That I should be honored that “my culture” is being represented in such a way. That it’s all in good fun. That I’m being politically correct. That I need to stop taking everything so seriously.

No. White privilege may be and mean a lot of things, but it does not get to determine how I respond or feel.

Mr. McInnes, I’m not humorless. I actually find a lot of things funny, and I am told that I am pretty funny. I just didn’t think your writing was particularly funny. And I didn’t get the point you were trying to make, but because a bunch of people seemed to like what you wrote and followed up with some comments I found offensive and racist I guess I didn’t get the inside joke.

It’s ok. ALL CAPS ARE NOT NEEDED.

 

 


Learning About Leadership and Social Networking=New to Twitter @mskathykhang

This is my guest post for Angry Asian Man, a dear friend and someone I respect deeply. I’ve appreciated his advocacy for Asian Americans, his humor and his ability to manage pop culture fame and humility. You can follow his blog or @angryasianman, where I have finally joined the ranks of Twitter @mskathykhang

I’m on vacation! Taking a much-needed break. But don’t worry. While I’m away, I’ve enlisted some great guest bloggers to keep things going around here. Here’s Kathy Khang and her half-read book review of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li.

I grew up believing that taking advantage of the very best education money and hours of studying could get you was the key to the Asian American dream. There’s no doubt a strong education remains key but an Ivy League degree isn’t the only key. The world of social technology – the development and use of – is changing the way leadership and social power works.

So I was thrilled to pick up a copy of Charlene Li’s fairly new book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. In the business world, the gurus are by and large men of a paler shade. It’s been said of novelists that they subconsciously assume the race or ethnicity of their readers and characters. If you read enough leadership books, you may say the same about those authors as well. Just add gender to the mix.

Readers of AAM know full well the power of social media. Stupid slogans on t-shirts (A & F) may never have gained national attention had it not been for the power of social media. As a reader of AAM, I’m no dummy. When I saw vacation Bible school materials and a Christian leadership book using stereotypical images of Asian Americans it was an easy call to open leadership. My own personal networks are limited, but spreading the word through AAM and later Facebook and Twitter made sure people understood rickshaws and ninjas should not be used in Jesus’ name as a cute selling point.

Full disclosure. I’m not done reading Li’s book, but it has received strong reader reviews as well as positive write-ups in CIO, Management Today and Harvard Business Review. And a little thing I loved right off the bat was she dedicates the book to her parents and in the introduction compares balancing openness and control to being the parent of young children. Great leaders know where they come from and bring authenticity and integration. Can’t wait to finish reading Li’s book.

Kathy Khang blogs at More Than Serving Tea and loves her job as a regional multiethnic director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.


How Old is Old Enough: Facebook

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on Facebook and how old is old enough for Facebook.

My older son is in middle school and has periodically asked about FB, but he has not asked me often enough for it to be an issue. Yet. But I’m sure it will be because I am certain the day is coming when I will be told that he is the ONLY one at school who doesn’t have a FB page OR a cellphone.

My oldest was allowed a FB page before she started 8th grade. We agreed on the following restrictions:

  1. We would be her FB friends. We would not post obnoxious “We believe in you” messages on her wall or tag her baby pictures, but we wanted to be “there”.
  2. We would have her password.

Pretty straightforward. Over time there have been a few minor conversations –  photos I asked her to take down, inappropriate photos her friends have posted and that I can see because their privacy settings are so low that I can see them, etc.

But as any parent learns, each kid is different and each kid may grow up in the same home but in their own world. The three year gap between each kid means my oldest knew a few kids in 5th grade with cellphones and my youngest will know many more kids in his 5th grade year who own phones.

We are a wireless, electronic society. Our desire to be connected to one another has created entirely new ways of communicating (and spelling) bc its fastr 2 txt 2 ur bffs. My kids talk about “Skyping” their cousins instead of calling them. My older son has asked if I tweet. As a parent who wants to stay connected to her children and their lives, I continue to weigh the pros and cons.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed FB. Social media can be an amazing way to connect people, but I can waste a lot of time following tweets and status updates when I should be connecting with people face-to-face or, at the very least, by phone. There is much to be said about tone, inflection and pitch as well as facial expressions and physical posture. I can and do share a lot of information about myself through blogging and FB, but it’s far more difficult to convey emotions and interest. Personally I find it the easy way out to relate to someone. If someone pisses me off I can block them. If I piss someone else off they can block me without me knowing about it. It’s the electronic silent treatment. Honestly it can feel rather soulless and disingenuous, which is ironic for a generation demanding authenticity.

Back to FB and my son. What do you think? When is a kid old enough for FB? What other restrictions, concerns, issues should I be considering?