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I wrote here a couple of issues back about the perils of the modern age of journalism. Hate to say it, but I remain on the edge financially and am still trying to figure out the revenue streams of the current era. With global upheaval, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and more, many think these are birth pangs of biblical proportions. Regardless, the world continues to move at a pace most of us would have preferred to have said, ‘errr, no thanks!’ to. Sorry pal, but the train doesn’t make that stop; we are all in it now.
However, one thing that I see as a momentary positive is the phenomenon of social media. When I began blogging over at redletterdodge.com late last year, Dave Hakim asked if I was on Facebook. Facebook? Isn’t that something for your kids? Besides that, I remembered a time I signed up for instant messaging while working for IHRA years ago, and I hated being asked questions by inquiring minds when I was busy thrashing out deadline content. However, things have changed in the ensuing years, so I decided I should look into it, especially since I was getting regular requests from a site called Linked In as well.
Facebook is a pretty simple tool, and it’s free. You create an account, add as much or as little info as you want, and put it out there. Pictures of your car project, links to interesting stories on web, posts about your plans for the weekend, whatever. If you decide to use your email to find out who else is on this network, Facebook will use your email address to import the names of people you have already been in contact with before. Whichever of those names you select to contact are notified by you asking to be a ‘friend’ and they can choose to accept or decline that offer; this process means you have a pretty large amount of control over who is contacting you (I did turn off the CHAT feature and do not intend to turn it back on, however!).
My final push was not Hakim, it was a girl whom I had known in high school. She told me a lot of my old pals were staying informed through the site, so I finally joined up.
Within 48 hours, I was connected to over 100 people, not just old school chums, but racers I had done stories on years ago, fellow journalists, car enthusiasts, skateboarders, and others. In the last couple of weeks, I have been able to use Facebook to launch info related to the stories I am doing. One of the coolest (in my opinion, of course) was last month’s Mopar Max story on the last run on Frank Lupo’s ex-Strickler/Jenkins 1964 Hemi Dodge; I was able to link that story and its Flickr content to my Facebook page and then send it out to the people on my friends list. Instead of them getting an email, they see it on their ‘wall,’ which is a sort of forum listing things going on with the friends on your personal Facebook network.
The other nice thing on Facebook was the storage allowed for photos. Once you start looking through some of the drag racing images on there, you’ll find all sorts of things past and present. Some of this is copyrighted, but its still cool. I have watermarked and put up a couple of files myself, one showing ‘cars you’d love to own’ using features I have shot, and one showing vintage funny cars, mostly in the pits, from slides that I own.
There are other networks. The LinkedIn deal is more of a professional network rather than simply social; it is a way to connect with businesses and people in your industry. I am being asked about Twitter, but haven’t investigated it yet (so many networks, so little time). Seriously, when you first begin social networking, you will want to put a limit on your time, but you will find that once the novelty wears off, it’s manageable.
One thing I did do was set up a blog. This is really easy, too; lots of people use Facebook to blog, but I wanted one that did not scroll away the content so quickly. The site I chose is called blog.com; start a free account, figure out how to work the html listing tools, and you’re ready to go. Again, like the Facebook site, I am using it to talk about stories that are being published, website entries, artwork I do, and more.