Bruce Sallan is one of the most friendly and engaging people I know online. I asked him to tell his tale, which is different from chasing his tail. Big Dogs don’t chase their tales. If they do, they get over it.
My Online Life: This Big Dog Began as a Piddling Puppy
by Bruce Sallan
My given topic, for this series, is how to unleash your blog’s potential and play with the big boys! I’ve learned much in my years of writing, interacting with the Internet, and from the granddaddy of all TweetChats, #blogchat. But, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it is that both passion and content (quality) are the keys to any success in the blogosphere. It’s truly that simple and you can’t fake it!
But, let’s begin with a little history lesson – my history. I’m a baby boomer. I know everything because our generation invented everything, changed everything for the better, invented rock ‘n’ roll, MTV, the Internet, and Starbucks. Oh, and we also ended a war. I have a second career — I really made two career changes — and I had to re-invent myself, throw out all my assumptions, and truly start over. It wasn’t easy, but it has been one heckuva ride!
That ride began as an uber-achiever. I graduated high school at 16, college at 19, and had my MBA at 21. I entered showbiz and produced my first movie-for-television at 23 and was Vice President of Movies at ABC Television at 29, back in the days before cable or even Fox.
As far as family went, I was an under-achiever or “late-bloomer,” however you want to define it, as I got married, for the first time, at 39. I became a father four days after my 40th birthday and had my second son at 43.
Five years later, I retired from showbiz and became a SAHD (stay-at-home-dad). Shortly thereafter, my marriage ended and I found myself a 24/7 single dad, while at the same time caring for my ailing parents and dealing with the “pleasantries” of an ugly divorce.
I was lucky in that I’d made and saved money during those eighties heydays and after. I was lucky to have bought and sold homes at close to just the right times. I was lucky to have supportive and wonderful parents and I was lucky to have good and honest financial advisers. I look back at that decade; from 40 to 50, and pretty much describe it as, “My 40th birthday present was the birth of my first son, while on my 50th it was divorce papers.”
I wasn’t supposed to be “retired” at 50, dealing with divorce, and taking care of two young boys, full-time. My parents weren’t supposed to get old and be unable to care for themselves, relying on their only surviving child for care, money management, and counsel. I was a boomer. We invented rock ‘n’ roll and now I was a stay-at-home-single dad?!
What became clear during those mid-life years, after my marriage ended, was that I was stagnating. Raising my sons and caring for my parents was necessary, but it wasn’t stimulating. My brain was atrophying, frankly. I was getting irritable, angry, and depressed.
The turning point for me came during the times I volunteered at my son’s elementary school and was usually the only dad in sight. My encounters with the moms shocked me by their consistency. They tolerated me but really didn’t want me in their midst. And, more amazingly, they invariably asked me the same question: “What do you do all day?” Can you imagine them asking another mother that question?
At school Open Houses or other occasions when I’d encounter the (working) dads, they’d also ask me the same consistent question, quite different from their wives’ question: “When are you going back to work?” “Hmmm, taking care of my boys 24/7 when their mom abandoned them and caring for my ailing parents doesn’t count?” was what I thought and wished I’d said.
These experiences galvanized me, as I wanted to communicate my strong feelings of contempt for the reaction I was getting as a full-time dad. I began to write: first, for a local throwaway paper. And, I began to learn and use the evolving technologies available in the years since I’d thrown away my Rolodex.
I resisted at first. “I don’t need that” was my gut reaction. Facebook and Twitter were for kids. The Internet was for pornography and dating.
The divorce finalized after several years and my ex almost literally disappeared. My boys relied on me for their sole emotional and day-to-day sustenance. And, we had to move from the family house, due to the cost of the divorce settlement. I began to slide downhill myself, emotionally, and only the comfort of my two dogs and the job of parenting my boys kept me sane.
My epiphany came when a friend asked me to help him market his web site and writing by reaching out to a database of newspapers and other web sites he’d collected. That offer inspired me to do the same for my own fledgling writing efforts.
Along the way, I re-visited my resistance to learning the emerging tools of Social Media, specifically creating my own web site, learning and using Facebook, and eventually Twitter. I hired a consultant, essentially a tutor, to teach me how to do these radical new technologies. My stubbornness was such that I kept on resisting learning Twitter. “Why do I need Twitter,” I repeatedly said.
Eventually, I had my own web site, a Facebook profile, and did succumb to Twitter. Literally, the whole world opened up to me. I made friends with a girl’s school in Ghana, Africa. I developed relationships with men’s groups in India. My “A Dad’s Point-of-View” column was carried in over 100 newspapers and websites, worldwide.
I learned to “work” these amazing social media tools to my advantage. A Facebook profile led to a Facebook page for “A Dad’s Point-of-View.” The “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Page gained several thousand “likes” with members from over 30 countries. The city with the most members is Mumbai, India. Mumbai, India! Becoming a Tweeter led to leading my own #aDadsPov Twitter Chat. And, just recently I was listed as the #5 Daddy Blogger by Cision.com and the #3 Twitter Dad by Klout.com. It works. It really works.
And, maybe most importantly, my brain was re-activated. I was getting up early every morning, eager to get to my computer. So, you ask what lessons can you learn from my “history” and what I’d suggest to enhance your blogging and Social Media experiences. In no particular order, here they are:
1. Persistence is key. Don’t take rejection personally. Go after what you want diligently, regularly, and without ego.
2. Learn the major tools of Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any others that may serve your particular writing or professional interests.
3. Write a lot. Be sure, when ideas strike you, that you have a method of remembering them. I text or e-mail myself a message. Do what works for you – post-its nearby – whatever.
4. Comment, comment, comment! Just like the “Location” mantra in Real Estate, the more you comment on other people’s blogs/web sites, the more relationships you’ll make and the more you’ll get comments on yours.
5. Help other people. It ALWAYS comes back to you.
6. Make your message, your brand, your voice, your number one priority. Don’t worry about income as that can follow, but it won’t come at all if that is your sole goal. If money is your sole goal, work at Starbuck’s.
7. Don’t take “No” for an answer. I literally sent out thousands of e-mails to newspapers and web sites to get my “A Dad’s Point-of-View” column launched. I got about a 2% return rate. That means about 2% responded. Only about 25% of those expressed interest. That’s a lot of rejection. The 2% that responded, but said “No,” ALWAYS got another e-mail in a couple/three weeks.
8. Learn from others as I’ve done on the #blogchat Twitter Chat. On Facebook, embrace your competition and “like” their pages. Again, it all comes back to you.
9. Develop a mutual support “team” in which you all look out for one another by commenting on each other’s material. This is a reciprocal relationship or it won’t work.
10. Forget your friends and family for any meaningful support and don’t bother them with mass e-mails about all the wonderful things you’re doing. They don’t care. The irony is that your “virtual” friends will!
I hope these 10 tips give you some ideas. You can be a “Big Dog,” too. But all dogs are puppies first, piddling along the way. Enjoy it and be patient with yourself, too!
I’d love to hear about your experiences getting into the online world.