How One Writer’s Social Hestitations Led to Something Great

by Marian Schembari on September 6, 2012

I’ve known Khaled Allen for a long time. Our moms are besties for life and since moving to NZ, Khaled and I have stayed in touch, keeping it real in the blogging world. When he told me about his book launch and social hesitations, I told him to write about them here. When I read this, I couldn’t have been prouder.

Twitter scares me.

There I said it. Facebook seems intrusive. I don’t understand what Google+ is for. The idea of a comment thread or a user-review seemed pointless. So how on earth would I even be heard on the online mob shouting match that is Twitter?

Social media, to put it succinctly, was not my cup of tea.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except I am a writer and the hardest part of writing is getting read. I was content to write in obscurity for a while, but I just finished my first big writing project and after several months of hard work, I didn’t want to put it into the world with no reception. I owed it to the book, so for the sake of my baby, I braved the tumultuous, roaring seas of social media.

A Fish Out of Water

I’ve had a Twitter account since 2009, which I treated like an unwatered plant. I kept to myself. Reading my early tweets, I gag at how insincere and desperate I sounded. I phrased my words in ways I thought would get the most attention because I was afraid to speak with my own voice. In the sea of opinions, I worried I’d never be heard unless I went with the flow.

So I wrote it off as pointless. I never felt I could add anything valuable to conversations. While others seemed able to use it for promotion, I certainly had no clue. With no reason to expect my latest attempt to be any better than before, I turned to Marian, a family friend. Our mom’s were buddies, and I had heard a lot about her social media savvy. [Marian’s note: I swear to sweet baby Jesus I didn’t make him say this.]

Laying Things Out

I didn’t know what promotion meant in terms of social media, and Marian cleared that up for me right away: I needed to write guest posts. To do that, I needed establish that I was a contributing member of the community by following people interested in health and fitness – reading blogs, commenting, sharing, and overall trying to be helpful and friendly. I would have to face my fears of speaking up in public comments and tweets.

This seems like a lot to juggle, but Marian had a system which she explained in an article of hers. She explained how to keep things straight and how to make sure I was noticed.

I followed her advice to the letter, and immediately started to see results. Bloggers would thank me for my retweets and shares, leading some of their followers to start following me. Because I was sharing other content that was already tailored to be useful to my target audience, people started retweeting me, which led to more followers.

The Breakthrough

But I still felt phony. In order to fit in and avoid offending people, I found myself espousing ideas I didn’t entirely believe in. I was afraid my particular take on fitness was too niche to be of any interest. (Stupid in retrospect. The whole point of the internet is that is allows niche communities to connect).

I finally confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel I was being authentic and that these online communities just seemed to be parroting the same mainstream fitness nonsense I was so opposed to. He had also used social media to successfully promote his decidedly niche ice cream parlor, and his advice was to say what I felt, to be sincere, and not to modify my message to suit anyone. Revel in my weirdness.

That was when things started to take off.

I started sharing my ideas and blog posts without trying to spin them. Instead of finding myself isolated, I found like-minded people who actually started conversations with me. Through them, I found blogs that were better suited to my particular views. It was also easier (dare I say, fun) to comment on and share blogs I agreed with wholeheartedly. I applied Marian’s advice to my authentic niche and voice, creating Twitter and subscription lists to monitor my chosen community. Every morning, I’d find a new follower notification in my inbox. I was ecstatic to find that a lot of people actually enjoyed reading about my unique take on life, and my writing improved with the increased feedback. Things were going very well indeed.

When it Rains…

I e-mailed Marian a few weeks back to let her know about my success. I mentioned how things were going really well, but also how exhausting it all was. I still hadn’t landed any guest posts, which was frustrating since the book was soon to be released.

The very next day, I got an invitation to guest post on a huge fitness blog. I literally jumped up and down. and I’ve since landed four other guest posts, all set to go around the same time my book is published. As the book is released, I’m confident it’s going into the world with at least a few people watching.

Even better, I’m now part of an online community that will help me grow and develop my ideas, beyond the time-frame of my book.

Khaled writes about integrity and personal growth, as well as value-driven health and fitness at Warrior Spirit and has just launched his first book, Principles of Holistic Health Handbook. You can also follow his newly revitalized tweets @khaledcallen.


5 Tweets I Never Want to Read

by Marian Schembari on August 20, 2012

Is it just me, or are tweets starting to blend together? Gone are the days of sharing what you had for breakfast, and instead I’m seeing tweet after tweet about checking into Starbucks or the same goodnight message. Like anyone on Twitter gives a crap you’re going beddy bye.

Five things to stop tweeting

Where you’ve checked in on FourSquare. I’m all for knowing where you are (not in a creepy way, promise), especially if it involves a good recommendation or warning. (i.e. I’d murder for a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place in Auckland. Just sayin’.) But I don’t think I can stand reading one more check in at an airport or coffee shop EVERY DAMN DAY.

Your horoscope. I wish this one went without saying, but it doesn’t.

The X Daily. I see so many of you doing it all the time so I’m apologizing in advance for the toes I’m stepping on, but I really don’t get those papers you guys post and I’m sick of getting @mentioned in them. I get how they’re useful to YOU, but why post them on Twitter? They’re hard to read and pretty much irrelevant to anyone but the creator.

“Off to bed, goodnight Twitterverse!” I know people who say goodnight to Twitter…. every night. Like a child. Or a lover. That’s creepy.

Your Facebook posts. Despite what some people may think, all social networks are not created equal. If I wanted to be on Facebook I would be on Facebook.

Now your turn. Go.


What Actually Happens When a Celebrity Retweets You

by Marian Schembari on February 23, 2012

Okay. Whew! That was interesting.

Let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

First, this happened: I wrote a post about Stephen Fry and the broadband issues in New Zealand.

Then, this happened: Stephen Fry saw the post, READ IT (God bless that beautiful man) and retweeted it out to his followers. (Then had the gentlemenly quality to thank me.)

Because of that, this happened:

Yes. You read that correctly. That would be over 70,000 clicks in 24 hours.

But because that happened, this happened:

Gotta love, Bluehost, huh?

I almost started hyperventilating. Every blogger dreams of getting their writing found – to have something go at least a little viral. Well, not only did things NOT go as planned (hellllo Database Error!) but I had no idea this would be the post that finally “made it”. I wrote it on a whim at midnight because I was so infuriated by New Zealand’s reaction to Fry’s tweets about our broadband. It wasn’t – how shall we say – the nicest, most non-stereotypically American post I’ve ever written.

Thankfully, reader response was surprisingly positive. I was impressed at the lack of trolls and angry Kiwis. It was pretty awesome seeing so many people agree with what I thought was a privileged-American-girl (or British celebrity) problem.

An since most of you regular readers are also bloggers, I thought I’d take you through a tour of this blog’s undercarriage so you can see exactly what goes down when something so stunning happens.

Exactly What Happens When an Actor with 4 Million Twitter Followers Shares Your Post

Number one: Clicks. Obviously. Lots of them. As of right now there are 295 retweets and counting. The majority of clicks obviously came from Fry’s 4 million followers, and this totaled to around 70,000 clicks on the first day.

Number two: Traffic. Unfortunately, my site crashed (or, as the internets like to call it, my site got “Fryed”). My host was in no way prepared for the influx of traffic and my site continues to have issues and keeps crashing on me. On the first day I received 13,238 visitors. The second day, 15,497. See below for a screenshot of my Analytics. The 300-700 views per day I was getting before? Insignificant compared to what Fry did in seconds.

Number three: Revenue. (Sort of.) I made a whopping $18.06 from Adsense during the past two days. For someone who averages out around $0.20 on a good day, $18 is pretty damn impressive. Now what shall I spend it on…?

Number four: Subscribers. Even with tens of thousands of new visitors, my subscribers only went up by 31. Because people tend to subscribe only when they’ve been to a blog a few times, I’m not hugely surprised, but it’s definitely an interesting non-development.

Number five: Twitter followers. I received 127 new followers in the past two days. It usually takes about 1-2 weeks for me to accumulate that much “organically”.

Number six: Klout. My score went up by eleven points after Fry shared the post.

What They Don’t Tell You

It’s been pretty cool to see all my traffic and stats go up. HOWEVER. The bounce rate on my site is now beyond high. time spent has decreased by over a minute so it’s now it’s at an average (average!) of 30 seconds. Clearly I’m not immediately impressing people with my charm and dashing good looks.

Basically, it was a nice bump in traffic that’s done wonders for my ego, but the lesson here is that just because you get mentioned by an “a-lister” (or Stephen-fucking-Fry in this case) doesn’t mean it will help your site long term.

There’s no real moral to this story other than: here’s a look into what really happens when someone awesome links to you. Pretty interesting, huh?

p.s. Mr Stephen Fry, you’re my new hero. A hat tip to you, kind sir.


Ever since arriving in New Zealand I’ve been developing this chip on my shoulder about the internet. When I first arrived I had been freelancing, which meant spending a lot of time out of the house working at coffee shops and libraries.

Not in New Zealand.

I quickly discovered coffee shops here don’t have free wifi, but the general internet is total crap. Not only slow, but expensive. And dysfunctional anywhere outside cities. And, oh, wait, LIMITED.

What is limited internet?

At the risk of sounding like a first-world whiner (which, let’s face it, the majority of this post is going to be just that), I had no idea what limited broadband meant until moving here.

Essentially it means you can only pay for and use a certain amount of data. Activities like checking email don’t eat much. Updating software, using Skype, watching YouTube videos, uploading photos…. those do.

In New Zealand, that data costs a lot. For $200/month living with five people we received 20GB of data each. In New York, my roommate and I paid $22 total for unlimited internet. You do the math.

Broadband Issues Bad for New Zealand’s Economy

I’m currently working for a start-up in a young industry. I meet a lot of professionals and entrepreneurs who are invested in New Zealand’s growth as part of the global economy. Over the past year I’ve been to many conferences on that very topic – a major event at the University of Auckland Business School, a digital conference run by MSN, a program hosted by Google…

Want to know what all these events had in common?

None of them had wifi.

Someone please explain how you can attend a conference for digital professionals about the growth of New Zealand’s international economy AND NOT HAVE THE FUCKING INTERNET.

But wait! It gets better…

Enter: Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry, master of all that is humorous and national treasure of England, is in New Zealand. And I was giddy with joy when my 15-month-long annoyances were justified when I saw this tweet:

The full story is, apparently, Fry was doing lots of “high-bandwidth activities” like uploading photos/videos. He went over the limit and Telecom slowed his speed to dial-up, which is what happens here if you exceed your limit.

(As someone who does this every month, I can assure you it’s quite the treat.)

What shocked me though were the tweets following Fry’s rant. New Zealanders are a defensive bunch and even if everyone here hates the limits, there was no way in hell they would allow an outsider to insult their country.

One guy tweeted that, well, “maybe internet is slow here but at least it stops people from tweeting too much” (!). Another called Fry an asshole. And, of course, many brought out The Earthquake Card, saying Kiwis who have internet “should be thankful for what they have.”

NZ publications and even the damn government is responding to this issue all wrong. They’re responding as if Fry has had an out-of-the-ordinary experience. I can assure you, he hasn’t. Fry’s issue is representative of a bigger problem in New Zealand.

Dear NZ, You’re 10 Years Behind. Again.

Fry later posted a series of tweets that have made me fall in love with him even more. He said (edited for clarity), “Comcast-style throttling is disastrous for the economy. For visitors and for everyone. It won’t stop illegal torrenting and makes as much sense as closing a lane of traffic because there’s congestion. Yes, Kiwi Land is remote, but if Avatar can be made here and they want to keep its reputation for being the loveable, easy-going, outdoorsy yet tech savvy place it is, then pressure @telecomNZ into offering better packages. Kiwis travel. They know 20MB is routine in Europe and the UK is rolling out ultra fast fibre-optic. Come on, New Zealand, you’re world champions at rugby and film-making. Pressure the providers to stop being a digital embarrassment.”

This has nothing to do with Fry going over the data cap. Or choosing the wrong provider. There is no other provider. There are no real competitors to Telecom. It’s called a monopoly. And it’s not okay.

And, to clarify, most first world countries don’t have data caps. As per usual, New Zealand is about ten years behind. In the words of one commenter, its policies are “primitive.” One traveler even said that as much as he loved it here, the broadband limitations means he “could never work or live here permanently.”

So BRAVO, Stephen Fry. B-R-A-V-O.


5 (More) Examples of Absurdly Well-Written Twitter Bios

by Marian Schembari on January 16, 2012

It’s shocking how rarely I come across a Twitter bio that inspires me. Most are blank, bland, irrelevant or say almost verbatim what I’ve seen a million other times on the interwebs. But sometimes I come across bios that are snappy, witty, laugh out loud funny and make me immediately want to follow said tweeter (and be their Bestie 4 Life).

Like these five…

I clearly have a thing for writers, but they obviously know how to clearly and cleverly talk about themselves. The bio of @akharlamova just so perfectly describes the life of an author in so few words. And it also does a great job showing that she’s dedicated, consumed and in love with what she does. Nicely done, Arina.

It would have been so easy for @showmethesun to have written, “Book lover. Works in Publishing. From Melbourne.” Instead, she eats books for breakfast! She’s a curator instead of just a blogger. She doesn’t just work in publishing, she loves it. She doesn’t just live in Melbourne, she’s happy there. I feel like I know her already.

I love it when a major corporation isn’t afraid to add a little humor in their bio. What @Staples does is genius in that they quickly sum up what they do, then tap into the joys of every office worker on the planet. Like starch.

@KatjaPresnal clearly has a lot going for her. She tells us why she’s great, what she’s up to, what she does for living, then throws her personality at us in full force. This is a girl I could be friends with. And “carpe the shit out of diem” obviously needs to be my life motto. (Thanks to @aodt for sending this bio my way!)

I’m in love with @IsaChandra and think her loud and clear voice on this bio coupled with such simplicity is pretty unique. Sometimes (aka “all the time”) you just don’t need to over-explain. For Isa, four words is all she needs. I like her style and for those of you who eat more than just meat and potatoes can also appreciate her location quip.


1. A few choice words can make all the difference. Take a page out of Steph’s half-eaten book (see what I did there? I crack myself up) and stay away from over-used descriptions when talking about yourself.

2. What’s a really obvious stereotype about your industry/job/passion? Are you an accountant? Poke fun at the fact that you’re not absurdly boring. Social media strategist? Mention you’re sure as hell not a guru/ninja. Make like Staples and stand out from the crowd by being good-natured about the judgments surrounding what you do.

3. Do you have a specific writing style? Do you swear a lot? Have a rad vocabulary skills? Write poetry? Translate that strong style à la Isa Chandra so that voice shines in your bio!

Want more Twitter love? Read parts 1 and 2 here. And if you’ve seen any great bios lately, please share them in the comments!