Where will you find your community manager?

You recognize that you need to be on social media. Your neighbor business to your left is bringing in new business after spending a year meeting locals on Twitter, then in real life, and the referrals just keep rolling in. The neighbor to your right is killing it with coupons they upload to their Facebook page and ask customers to print out. The folks across the street have had these Foursquare stickers in their windows for weeks and you see everyone who walks through their door whip out a mobile phone.

You haven't lost when it comes to social media, you're just not winning. You're behind, and you don't have the time, the inclination, or the knowledge (or some combination of those) to get going now. You'd like to bring someone in-house to be your community manager, but how do you find these people?

On the one hand, that person might already work for you. If you listen to your employees' conversations and you've heard words like "Twitter" and "location-based" sprinkled between the words you understand, you might have yourself a community manager.

On the other hand, talk to your customers. If you have customers who have been coming through your door for four or five years, you recognize them, you might make small talk, you might even know a lot about them. The one thing you can be sure of, though, is that these customers are loyal to your brand. They like you, your products, and/or your prices. Something about your business keeps those customers coming back. One of them might be the perfect brand ambassador for you.

I've recently taken a job as a community manager at the Gold's Gym franchise in Dewitt, New York. I've been a member there for five years; I really believe in what they do. I like the way they operate. I like the people. I'd already known many of the staff members and already recognized a lot of the gym members when I joined the staff. With the exception of the details (logging such-and-such in this book, using UPC A in Case 1 and UPC B in Case 2), I already had a good idea of how the gym operated.

In this case, I approached the gym; if someone who fit that description approached you, knowing you needed the social side and willing to do other things you needed, you'd likely have a hard time saying no. On the other hand, could you just reach out and ask someone? Try it. It might get you far.

Visions of Utopia: Experiments in Sustainable Culture

This comes to me from The Alchemical Nursery.

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"Ordinary people with extraordinary visions tell their stories of living and working together to build a better world"
                —Visions of Utopia

Come together at the Westcott Community Center during the Westcott Bulb Project Garden Extravaganza Saturday, October 2 at 11 a.m. to view this award winning documentary (The Communal Studies Association's Outstanding Project Award)and take part in a panel discussion with communitarians from around Syracuse (including Bread and Roses House, Common Place Land Trust, and the New Environment Association).

» Flyer (PDF)
» Press Release
» Discuss & RSVP

"Visions of Utopia" (94 min.) is a great way to experience a sampling of community life "up close." You can see and hear community members tell their stories in their own words.

Part One includes: Profiles of seven diverse communities. Exploration of the "glue" that holds communities together. Honest revelations about what is working and what is not. A brief history of 2500 years of shared living.

The communities featured in Part One are as follows: Ananda Village (Nevada City CA) Breitenbush Hot Springs (Detroit OR) Camphill Special School (Glenmoore PA) Earthaven (Black Mountain NC) Nyland Glossary Link Cohousing (Lafayette CO) Purple Rose (San Francisco CA) Twin Oaks (Louisa VA)

This event is part of the Westcott Garden Extravaganza which includes: Free flower bulbs (for Westcott residents), view our award-winning film, purchase fresh vegetables, flowers and handspun yarn from Daily Harvest Farm's Farmers marketwww.dailyharvestfarm.com, enjoy live music by Larry Hoyt and Friends; buy handwoven baskets from Ghana ideal for organizing your garden tools or harvesting the fruits of your labor, from Bluetree Studios, purchase a pumpkin for your child, hyacinth and allium bulbs, earth-sourced jewelry and note cards from Songs of Earth and support the WCC Kid's Club bake and perennial plant sale/fundraiser.

My favorite newsletters

I have two favorite email newsletters, and I wanted to take a minute to share what they are and what I enjoy about them. There are two motivations behind this: (1) to offer you suggestions on how to get me on your list as an email subscriber, and (2) to get you to let me know what your favorite email newsletters are.

1. Funds For Writers by C. Hope Clark

I forget what first got me interested in FFW – possibly a ramp-up to my first National Novel Writing Month – but Hope Clark's weekly newsletter provides a message from her about how to find success, motivation, inspiration or some other writing-related topic; an article from a contributor about writing; available grants, fellowships and contests; and freelance opportunities.

FFW hits my inbox Friday afternoon or evening, and gives me enough food for thought for the weekend – and enough action items to keep me busy as long as I want to be busy.

Clark also does a free small markets newsletter and a free WritingKid newsletter, as well as a paid newsletter.

2. SearchCap from Search Engine Land

SearchCap is a round-up of everything going on in search (SEO, SEM, PPC, local, maps, etc.), social media, and analytics. It's a daily, sent out in the evening, with whatever is new on Search Engine Land that day, along with links to blog entries by many different people across the social/search landscape (Friday's edition, for instance, included summaries of six of SEL's posts, links to 40 blog posts by other writers, and summaries of some of the top items on Sphinn, which is SEL's social sharing site).

The things these two newsletters have in common that I particularly enjoy are:

• They have lots of information
• They arrive at a good time for me to read them and utilize the information in them
• They save me time on searching for all the info
• They provide me with information I wouldn't have thought to look for

Which are your favorite newsletters?

Banned Books Week

Are you ready for Banned Books Week? It begins tomorrow.

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.

I was surprised to find, among the 10 most frequently challenged books of 2009, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple are still making the list.

The American Library Association also maintains a list of banned or challenged classics, which is interesting, because the association hasn't been able to find evidence of challenges or bannings for 54 of the 100 books on the list.

I'm a might bit embarrassed to say that I've only read 31 of the classics on the list, although some of them are my favorites (I'm kind of a glutton for dystopia). I may not read anything new to me on the list this week, though I may re-read something, just for ha-has.

What are you reading?

Syracuse Peace Council Birthday Dinner

This comes to me by way of the Alchemical Nursery and the Syracuse Peace Council. The Peace Council's dinner is this coming Saturday, the 25th.

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The Syracuse Peace Council will be holding their 74th birthday dinner this coming Saturday Sept 25th, 6pm at St Lucy's on the Near Westside in Syracuse.

SPC is a great organization here in Syracuse, and a group with much affinity to Alchemical.

The dinner will feature retired Col. Ann Wright, the highest ranking officer to resign in protest of the US invasion of Iraq. Ann Wright also helped to reopen the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001. For the past 7 years, she has been a tireless activist for peace - showing up everywhere a person of conscience might be needed. She traveled to Iran on a citizen diplomacy delegation, returned to Afghanistan in 2009 with a study group, joined the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza in 2010, and in September she will be an expert witness for the "Creech 14" trial of nonviolent activists protesting the Drones.

Sliding scale donation: $15-74

Make reservations ASAP to guarantee your place at the dinner! Walk-ins are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis.

6:00 PM - doors open, appetizers
6:30 PM - Dinner is served (featuring Middle Eastern cuisine, all dishes are vegetarian or vegan)
7:30 PM - Program

Ann Wright is is the co-author of "Dissent: Voices of Conscience" and one of the featured portraits in artist Roberty Shetterly's "Americans Who Tell the Truth" series (on exhibit at the ArtRage Gallery while Ann is in town, check their website for details on the September 26th book signing!).

Contact Jessica (315-472-5478, jessica@peacecouncil.net) to make your reservations, or make online reservations at www.peacecouncil.net/bday.

Fond farewells, and the trouble of leasing for business

Clark's Ale House, which has been a local favorite since the mid-1990s, is closing on Saturday.

Let's first talk about Clark's. It's a small, two-level pub with primarily ales on tap. They're locally famous for their roast beef sandwiches, and for a while, that's all that was it for the menu. Just shaved beef, and if you wanted, onions and cheddar. Always on a roll, always with a shot of jus.

The only noise at Clark's is talking – no loud music, no TVs, just people getting together and doing what people do best: talking about whatever they talk about.

All About Beer named it one of the 125 places to have a beer before you die. In the world. Yeah. It's that kind of place.

In it's history, Clark's typically has done steady business, but you could pretty much count on not fighting a crowd to get a drink or a sandwich. This week, it's crazy; all that steady business is coming back for a final round.

Clark's has almost two years left on its lease, but announced to its employees last Friday it would be closing. It's not for lack of money (though that's one explanation for them not moving right away), and certainly not for lack of customers.

It's that the Landmark Theatre – a Syracuse institution since the 1920s (it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the '70s) – owns the building and is expanding so that it can bring in deep-stage shows (as in shows that require a large set, like "The Lion King").

And you can't blame the Landmark for that, can you? It's really hard to hold a grudge against a live performance venue with a rich history. And kudos to Clark's for not spending two years fighting them, for recognizing that another Syracuse institution needs the space to survive.

I'm a little miffed that there's been nothing to this point on the Landmark's Twitter account, since that seems the logical place to host a discussion. [Maybe that's one reason they need the expansion.]

If anybody's looking for a good real estate investment downtown, try buying the former Stoop building in Armory Square and inviting Clark's to re-open there. Good things would come of that.

Winning customers by stretching the rules

For those Syracuseans not in the know, Funk 'N' Waffles is a great little spot on the SU hill. It has a menu of interesting waffle creations (including chicken & waffles, pulled pork waffles, and a new favorite for some of my friends: a stuffing waffle with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce), good coffee, and free wifi.

They are good citizens, opting for local eggs, Dinosaur BarBQue sauces, and other local options when possible.

The only complaint I've ever thought of is that they close at 4:30 on Mondays, which is kind of early.

So, as co-chair of the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force, I approached the venue about staying open a little later to host a social networking event, which started at 5:30. I arrived a little before 5, and was pleased to see they had something of a walk-in crowd, which meant they weren't bored in that hour between when they typically close and when we were to start.

Then we brought in 16 people – very few of whom had been there before. And almost to a person, they were so impressed with the venue that they said they would not only return, but bring other new people.

If eight of those people do return with two new people each, and then half of those new people do the same, that's a lot of new customers, thanks to being willing to keep the lights on and paying two employees for four extra hours.

That's a minimal investment for a lot of new customers – and let's not forget that so much of small business marketing is helping the non-profits in your area.

Awesome job, Funk 'N' Waffles.

New Twitter: Sexy? Sure. Useful? Well…

We all use social media differently. Personally, I rarely use Twitter.com to read Twitter, unless I'm using search. I'm a HootSuite or sometimes TweetDeck kind of guy.

I got to see the new Twitter in action yesterday. It's shiny and new, and admittedly kind of sexy. If there's a photo or video in a link, it will load in the right sidebar. Same with threaded conversations (though, oddly, not hashtags or trends).

That's awesome.

Will I use it? Probably not.

» Kyle Lacy: Twitter is Changing and Exploding Myths
» Chris Brogan: Why I Am Still Not Ready for New Twitter

I keep my following list very low, in the 200 people range. But that's still too many people to entirely keep up with. And that's why I prefer to use an application that allows me to set up lists in columns across the page; I can see my mentions and tweets from people in three lists that are important to me spread across my window, which allows me to concentrate on those people.

There are others I follow whose tweets I don't necessarily want in my timeline during my work day. They're not people who I'm likely to go to lunch with today, or who are sharing information I find crucial to my job. They're people I like (or I wouldn't be following them), but viewing them in my stream would destroy the productivity of Twitter for me.

And that's why the new Twitter, while sexy, isn't enough for me. I can't put those people on hold for part of the time and catch up with them later.

What do you think?

Public Art = Exciting

Steve Powers for Love Letter to Syracuse

So it's not on the scale of what's happening in France (watch that video below), but we went to the press conference Monday for the launch of Love Letter to Syracuse.

It was your run-of-the-mill event. People who had something to do with funding (Bill Magnarelli) and planning (Maarten Jacobs) spoke quickly to avoid the rain, while the artist (Steve Powers) tried not to speak much.

But these bridges are beautiful. They are going to draw eyes at the end of the Connective Corridor and the geographic beginning of the Near West Side. It's an area most people just drive through, and this will give people reason to pause in a place they may have never paused before.


via Josh Spear