"What's this?" you say. Kind of a what-I-do and why-I-do-it. With pictures. Maybe you can jump in with your thoughts? Your questions?
We're so inundated with social media options that most of us take on a defensive stance - "I won't let that obsession happen to me!" And then there's the fact that popular platforms come and go, leaving you wondering if you should follow the crowd, or not. If you're anything like me, you need a good "reason" to jump on board, all the while considering that trump card we call time. If you're on the fence about where to be online, this post might help you choose. If you're firmly established, then why don't you spout off what you adore about your spaces? You know you want to! I'm listening!
Call me biased, but my #1 favorite place to be online is reading blogs. It's kind of like the book series that never ends (usually) or the magazine that's honestly free. Ok, it's a LOT like a free craft book too, since sewing blogs are peppered with awesome step-by-step tutorials. For a while there I thought I'd be content reading blogs, but it's kind of hard to make friends that way. And, even if you don't think you'll make "real" friends online (I totally have!), there's the lure of feedback on your projects and opportunities to participate in quilting bees and fun swaps. For many of these social sewing extras, having a blog may not be strictly required. But it helps. It helps people to know that you are real, and that you have some level of commitment to being involved. Your blog doesn't have to be all about crafting either. Your blog is what you make it. How often you post, what you post about - don't feel that you should apologize for any perceived "shortcomings" in these areas. Just enjoy it when and how you like.
My blog is hosted by Blogger, which I'll recommend to you quite highly. I've been on both hosted and self-hosted versions of Wordpress, and I quite like Blogger better. With Blogger I don't get spam (which can be a HUGE problem, trust me!) and it's integrated with lots of cool things like Google Friend Connect (which loosely tracks "followers"), since Google owns Blogger.
For reading blogs, I use Google Reader. Before Google Reader I used to try to keep up with email subscriptions, but that was pretty overwhelming to say the least. Hard to focus on your task when fun emails keep popping into your inbox! If you've never tried a blog reader, please do! This one is a sanity-saver for sure. I've not used any other readers, but usually you can't go wrong with Google. Here's a peak at the dashboard:
You can organize the blogs you subscribe to into categories, which is useful. I know someone who keeps her favorite blogs in a "Must Read" folder so that she never misses a post. The other blogs in her reader she may or may not read, depending on time constraints. Anytime you want to, you can clear out your reader by marking all posts "read". You can also star posts or email them to people right from the dashboard. However, you do have to click to go to the blog itself to make comments. And comments are so important! Show some love!
You can add blogs to your reader by copying and pasting the URL into the "add a subscription" tool in Google Reader or add new blogs by clicking "Join this site with Google Friend Connect", which shows up in the sidebar of many blogs and looks like this:
Psst... I joined Flickr before I started my blog! If you're a crafty type and you're taking pictures of your finished projects, I know you're saving those pictures on your computer. With a few clicks, you can upload pictures to Flickr for free to share them with friends and/or the online crafty community. And the sewing community on Flickr is huge. Massive!
That said, if you create a Flickr account and add your pictures but stop there, nothing much will happen. I suggest you take 2 more steps.
First, find bloggers you love by searching for them under "contacts" or finding a Flickr link straight from their blog. Add these people as "contacts", which is a way of subscribing to their photostream. Now you'll have a stream of photos coming in at you full of inspiration. So, this is like following blogs, but pictures only. A great way to keep up when you're crunched for time! You can engage with your contacts by commenting on their photos, asking questions, even leaving notes directly on the images to talk about some particular part of the photo. Here's an example of some of my "recent activity" where people have talked to me on Flickr and a bit of my contacts' recent uploads. I check back with this Flickr landing page quite a bit!
Here's my photostream, should you like to add me.
Ok, the 2nd thing you should do on Flickr is check out the groups. Groups are little clubs of sorts, but most are open for anyone to join. They're a great place for inspiration, finding new contacts to follow and new blogs too. Fresh Modern Quilts was one of my favorite groups getting started:
I even use groups to check out a craft book before buying. The Handmade Beginnings group, for example, gives you a good idea of the types of projects in the book. There are also groups for fabric collections, so if you're not sure you'll like a fabric in person take a look at it in action in a great diversity of projects.
And add your images to these types of groups so that people start finding YOU! There are also lots of private groups on Flickr for organized communities like swaps and quilting bees. Here's our page for do. Good Stitches, where you can learn all about the bee and apply for membership.
You can see what groups I'm active in at the bottom of my profile to get you started. If you're a sewing/crafting blogger and want to be active in the community, I think Flickr is a wonderful place to be!
Pinterest is the new kid on the block, but she's definitely turning heads. I joined Pinterest because I appreciate being able to keep virtual pinboards of inspiration. You can have lots of different pinboards, so as to keep things organized, and you can "pin" photos from anywhere on the web through a button you add to your browser bar. Pinterest tries its darndest to keep track of where images originate, so that you can always get back to the source. Because of this, you can also use Pinterest to catalog your tutorial bookmarks. Visual bookmarks are way better than the old-fashioned kind!
The social aspect of Pinterest is following other members. You can follow everything someone pins or just particular boards that interest you to keep your Pinner-stream relevant. I'm pretty selective on what I follow for now, in order to keep things manageable for me. I also rarely pin things, though that has been picking up as of late. You can find me on Pinterest here. If you need an invite to join Pinterest, this girl would be happy to help you out. Add a comment with your email address!
I like to search Pinterest if I'm looking for images, since they tend to be of such a high quality! And, by the way, Pinterest is not something you need to "keep up with", instead it's just a place to go when you're in the mood. And you can certainly find some perfectly delightful things! In fact, my most favorite board that I keep is called "Perfectly Delightful". These are not things that I'm necessarily planning to make at all. They are the supreme things I'll dub perfectly delightful, and they are few and far between. Maybe, just maybe, you'd like to come see?
And so that concludes our tour of Rachel's social media brain. I hope you enjoyed the ride. If you have any questions about how to get involved, I'd love to lend a hand! And those of you out there who are already quite snazzy, don't be shy to share your thoughts. I always love a fresh perspective!