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Here’s why your podcast might not sound great

microphoneI hate to tell you this, but you need to get up close and personal with your microphone. Often when a budding podcaster contacts me because he’s not happy with his audio quality, I watch him in action. Most of the time I discover this simple fact: the podcaster is way too far away from the microphone.

Don’t be afraid of the mic! If you’re far away, you’re recording yourself at low volume – by default – and you’re going to have to amplify your sound during the production process. The problem with this technique is that you’re going to end up amplifying all the sound, including the ambient noise of the heating and ventilation system or the air conditioner or the traffic outside your window. Not desirable! It’s much better to start off with nice, clean, loud-enough sound.

My suggestion is to experiment with your microphone. Sit down (or even better, stand up if your mic stand is adjustable) and record yourself as you find the sweet spot in your microphone. I can’t tell you where your particular sweet spot is, because each of us is different, and microphones vary as well.


The Blue Yeti

Also, if your microphone has different settings, like the Blue Yeti, make sure you have clicked on the proper setting (cardioid pattern) if you are recording just yourself.

If you’re like me, and have a habit of popping your plosives, you might want to invest in a pop filter. This will allow you to get really close to the mic without blowing all that air on it and creating an auditory distraction for your listeners.

So, if you’re trying to improve the sound of your voice on your podcast, don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with your microphone!

Related posts
The podcasting tip sheet
Basic equipment and software for podcasting

What’s the ideal length for a podcast?

ClockThis week we’ve been talking about podcasting in our Foundations classes in the Digital Strategy and Communications Management program at the University of Toronto. I brought a copy of The Business of Podcasting with me, and said I would give it to the student who asked the question contained in the sealed envelope I held in my hands. Some of the students probably thought I was a little nuts, and they might be right, but I was so sure about this question being asked. So. Very. Sure.

What’s the question? Read this excerpt from The Business of Podcasting, the book I co-authored with Steve Lubetkin:

People always ask me, every time I do a workshop, every time I do a seminar, every time I do a coaching session on podcasting: “What’s the ideal length of a podcast?” And my standard answer is, if you force me to answer that question, 15 to 20 minutes, but honestly, I listen to a certain podcast in my industry that’s an hour long every week. I set aside that hour. I happen to listen at the gym, and I don’t always listen to the whole thing in one go, but the content is so good that I’m willing to spend an hour.

If your podcast is crummy, I’m not going to spend five minutes listening to it. It has to be content that’s valuable to me. So if you’re creating audio content for a certain audience, you really need to know what people are looking for, and what kinds of information they are hungry for.

Sure enough, last night when we reached the Q&A session, a student raised her hand and asked: “What’s the best length for a podcast?” She is now the proud owner of a copy of The Business of Podcasting.

What do you think? Am I wrong? Is a certain length of podcast preferable?

Is a New York accent a liability or not?

New York taxi

Do you think a New York accent is a liability or not?

First, some background.

When I moved from New York City to Toronto in the 1980s I quickly realized that my New York accent was interfering with my daily life. You see, I was working as a senior systems analyst at an insurance company (I know, exciting, right?) and had to make lots of phone calls within the organization. “Hi this is Donna Papacosta from the office automation team in the IT department…” Before I could finish my introduction I would be interrupted. Of course, interrupted in a very kind and gentle manner. These were Canadians after all.

They would ask: “Where are you from and what kind of name is that?” Seriously. Papacosta was an exotic name within this company, where most of the people had nice Anglo-Saxon monikers like Smith, Johnson and Martin.

Without announcing it to anyone in particular, on my own I started to scrub evidence of my New York roots from my manner of speaking. My then-husband probably wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. And he was a Scot with a thick burr, so I could not have asked him to help me with this project anyway. As far as he was concerned, the rest of the English-speaking world had an accent, but he didn’t. But that’s a story for another day.

Over the months and years I didn’t even realize how Canadian I started to sound. Then, a few years ago a friend of mine told me that he and his wife were going to New York for the weekend to see some shows, check out the sites – touristy stuff. I said: “That’s great. I hope you have a wonderful time. I’m envious.” Then he asked: “Have you ever been to New York?” I laughed out loud because I thought he was joking. Have I ever been to New York? Really? I spent the first half of my life there! He was dumbfounded. Either he is tone deaf or I had done a really effective job of removing my New York sound.

On the other hand, I’ve met some astute Canadians who immediately ask me, as soon as I open my mouth: “Where are you from in the States?” I always smile at this question because I say, “I’m from only one of those states, New York.”

Sometimes not having a NY accent can get you in trouble.

In January 2002, not long after the 9/11 attacks, one of my daughters and I went to New York for the weekend. It was her birthday and instead of a party and presents she asked for this trip. Why not? It would be fun for us, plus a way to support the city when tourists were few and far between.

When we stepped into a cab at LaGuardia airport I made the mistake of admitting that we were from Toronto. The cabbie proceeded to take us on a joyride over the Triborough Bridge even though I had asked for the 59th St. Bridge. “He thinks I’m a tourist!” I realized. Then in my best NY voice I yelled: “Hey buddy, I’m writin’ down ya name and ya numbah to report ya to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.” All of a sudden he was full of apologies. Now when I’m in New York I revert to my New York sound whenever I want to be treated like a local and not a visitor. (Actually, on my most recent visit I pulled it out like a party trick, much to the delight of my Canadian traveling companion.)

What makes me want to talk about this right now? Well recently I saw an article by Michael Newman in the Opinion section of the New York Times about this very topic. He talks about how Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have one thing in common: a NY accent that makes them appealing.

Here’s a quote from the article:

But how could a New York accent actually play a positive role in politics? Well, we can start with the observation — made by the Georgetown linguist Deborah Tannen — that New Yorkers tend to have a different conversational style than other Americans. New Yorkers usually favor being more direct. We speak over one another, particularly to show our engagement with what our interlocutor is saying. We like to tell long stories. And we don’t mind arguing as long as it is not too personal.

 When other Americans talk to one another, they tend to wait for clear signs that their turns are over before beginning to speak. They make room for others by not, as they see it, “hogging the floor.” They tend to interpret open disagreement as conflict, and so avoid it.

Oh, this is true. To this day, three decades after moving to Canada, I still struggle with not jumping on top of someone else’s words. One close friend, in particular, measures his words, and pauses for SECONDS between sentences. Conversing with him is great practice for me. The phone is difficult, though, because I can’t always tell when he has finished a story.

I’m still not sure what to make of this article, which ends with:

 However, Democrat or Republican, in an age where trust in politicians is at a minimum, it is not hard to see the attraction of that blunt aspect of the New York image. It’s a quality that can be profoundly appealing. Voters might not want to hear from politicians at all, but for many, a stump speech is, it seems, more palatable in a New York accent.

On the one hand, eliminating my accent – for the most part – has helped me to assimilate into life in Canada. I can even say about [aboot] if I have to. In most cases my New York roots are visible only to those with a discerning ear. On the other hand, perhaps part of me is lost. The only solution? Frequent trips back to New York to be with my tribe and to speak my native language.

What do you think? Do you have an accent? Do you think of your accent as a positive or a negative? Have you ever tried to alter it?

By the way, I discussed the topic of accents on my podcast way back in 2007.

Presenting our students’ blogs

bloggingI’ve written before about the classes I’m teaching at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. This is always a fun point in the course, when the students start blogging in earnest. This afternoon I spoke with one of my students, who was positively buzzing with excitement at the prospect of sharing her creativity and her ideas through her brand-new blog.

For your reading pleasure – from vegan food to First Nations issues to parenting to art, improv, organization, laughter and much more – here are the blogs of the students in my sections, to date:

Advanced Beauty Blog
Andrea’s Canadian Stories
Berard North America
Canadian Automotive Professional
Ever Changing Chameleon
First Time Dad!
Go Healthy Food
Implications of the Digital Order on Being Human
Let Go Live and Laugh
Mighty Invisible
Om Organization
Paperless: A Personal Journey
Passion Project Challenge
Perhaps, Why Not?
Raise the Mind
Riding the Train of Life
Room by Room
Salt and Cocoa
Succulents in the City
The 4th Culture
The Improvisational Leader
The Sketchy Mom
The Subway Scene
The Wait Game
Traveling with Luke
Vegan From the 6
Walk the Aisle with Me
Wandering Mind

My colleague Diane Begin, who is also teaching the Foundations class this semester, had already posted links to her students’ blogs as I was working on my post. (She is far more organized than I.)

If you want to keep up with some of the insights, tips and questions from the students on Twitter, follow our #digitaledu hashtag.


10 years of podcasting

Donna PapacostaOn September 12, 2005 I produced the first episode of my own podcast. About six months earlier, my friend Dave, a geek of the first order, had suggested that I look into podcasting, since I’d been dabbling in audio production and had recently completed voiceover lessons. My reply to him was: “What’s a podcast?”

As soon as I discovered what a podcast actually was, I dove right in. While walking on the track of the Y, I devoured episodes of For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report, The Daily Source Code, and anything Tod Maffin produced. By September I felt ready to record, edit and publish my first show, without much of a plan, other than to share “communication tips.” Just as I had built my first website to learn about websites, I put the first episode of the clumsily named Trafcom News Podcast out there so I could learn about podcasting. As I say in my workshops, had I known in 2005 that people would listen to my show, and continue to listen for 10 years, I would have put more thought into naming and branding it! (“Do as I say, not as I do.”)

A lot has happened in the 10 years since.

  • Both clients and organizations I volunteer with have enabled me to produce hundreds of podcast episodes.
  • Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson invited me to be the “outro” voice on For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. It’s nice to be able to give back to the show that’s taught me so much.
  • Because I’d received so many questions from blog readers about podcast scripting I wrote my first book about podcasting, The Podcast Scripting Book.
  • In 2014, I began collaborating with Steve Lubetkin on a book, The Business of Podcasting, now available in both Kindle and trade paperback.
  • I’ve worked with some great people on podcasting productions, including Andy Donovan, Andrew Findlater, Chris Herbert, Cyrus Mavalwala, Ingrid Norrish and Lura Flynn, creating shows for Autodesk, SAP, Horizons Exchange Traded Funds, Front Street Capital, Grand & Toy, the YMCA of Oakville, the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners and other organizations.
  • I’ve led dozens of podcasting workshops. The latest one will be on November 5, 2015.
  • So many podcasters have become colleagues and friends. One of my favourite events is Podcamp Toronto, where I can hang out with my podcasting tribe every February. My life wouldn’t be the same without knowing (in no particular order, and I know I’m leaving people out!) Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson, Steve Lubetkin, Tod Maffin, Wayne MacPhail, Victoria Fenner, Mark Blevis, Bob Goyetche, Leona Hobbs, Eden Spodek, Connie Crosby, Martin Waxman, Joe Thornley, Gini Dietrich, Terry Fallis, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Chris Penn, Luke Armour, John Wall, Lee Hopkins, Heidi Miller, Dan York, Bryan Person, Rob Cottingham, Mignon Fogarty, Elsie Escobar, Karin Hoegh and so many others.
  • Sheridan College invited me to teach a new course in Audio Journalism to post-grad students.
  • I’ve created and taught a podcasting segment within our Foundations class at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies program in Digital Strategy and Communications Management.
  • I’ve been a guest on many other podcasts and written dozens of articles for industry publications.
  • Producing podcast content has led to scores of speaking, consulting and training opportunities outside the podcasting realm, because a podcast helps you get known and get remembered.
  • Most of all, I’ve had more fun with podcasting than you can possibly imagine.

What’s next?

I’ll continue to learn the craft and business of podcasting. There’s always something new. Steve and I will continue to promote our book. I’m also looking at retiring my Trafcom News Podcast in 2016 and launching something completely new, although the editorial calendar for Trafcom is pretty full for the remainder of the year.

To everyone who has listened to one of my podcasts or invited me to speak or write or collaborate, thank you. I couldn’t think of a better community to be involved with.

BONUS: Yes, you knew this was coming, right? Here is the first (cringe-worthy) episode.

Toronto Podcasting Workshop coming soon

I don’t know about you, but it seems I’m hearing about podcasting everywhere I turn. Just this week, I was mailing copies of our new podcasting book at my local Canada Post outlet, and the postie took one look and said, “You wrote this? Can I get a copy?” Yes, even the fellow selling postage is a would-be podcaster. He wants to launch a comedy show.

How about you? Are you excited by the prospect of podcasting, but find the whole idea too challenging? Or have you thought about using audio on your website or blog but don’t know where to start? Then come to the Toronto Podcasting Workshop on November 5 to get your questions answered.

Some of the things we’ll cover include:

  • What podcasting is all about, and why it seems so hot right now
  • Why good sound matters in audio, video and other multimedia presentations
  • How to record, edit and produce audio clips and podcasts with both mobile and desktop devices
  • How to write an audio script; when NOT to use a script
  • An overview of popular, inexpensive gear
  • How to make money podcasting, and how to use a podcast as a form of content marketing
  • And much more.

Content for this new workshop is being developed; when you register, feel free to email me with suggested topics to include.

Each attendee will receive a copy of the newly published book, The Business of Podcasting, by Steve Lubetkin and Donna Papacosta, valued at $32.97 Cdn.

Thinking of upgrading your strategic and digital skills?

UTSCMany of my friends know I teach at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, in the Digital Strategy and Communications Management certificate program. Some have asked about this program, so I thought I would share a link so you can peruse the school’s website yourself.

Of course you are more than welcome to contact me directly if you have questions about the Foundations course, which I will be teaching on Tuesday nights at the St. George campus, in addition to the Hybrid sections at the U of T campuses in Mississauga and Scarborough.

The class on Tuesday nights runs from 6 to 9 p.m. for 12 weeks, while the Hybrid version features three classes interspersed throughout the term on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the rest of the learning online.

I’ve been involved in this program since May 2014 and I have to say that each semester the course gets better and better, because we build on the content and the student experience each time.

If you’d like to upgrade your digital skills, this might be the program for you. We’ve received excellent ratings from students.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone this fall. Maybe you too?

Tips for producing podcasts for clients

This is an excerpt from the newly published book, The Business of Podcasting, by Steve Lubetkin and Donna Papacosta. The book is available on Amazon.

Organizations as varied as insurance companies, banks, professional associations and trade groups have recognized that telling their stories is essential. At the same time, your clients might need hand holding when it comes to designing podcast episodes with punch. Amazingly, some will ask you to produce a podcast series for them, even if they don’t listen to podcasts themselves.

We suggest you gently encourage them to listen to others’ podcasts, both in their niche area and outside it, to get an idea of how different producers put their shows together. They should make notes about what they like and what they don’t. What kind of voice do they want to put out there? Authoritative, helpful, fun? You wouldn’t design a website without knowing what a website looks like, right? It’s the same for a podcast.

Just as a writer can improve her skills by reading great writing, a podcaster can strengthen her abilities by listening to great audio. Make a point of subscribing to well-produced podcasts and continually discovering new ones.

Let’s suppose your client wants to publish a podcast that will be easy to listen to, with valuable information and compelling stories. This sounds like a tall order, but with a little planning and a lot of energy, you can help them make it happen.

You likely will not reach the lofty heights of This American Life, Serial or RadioLab – all outstanding podcasts – but that’s OK. We can all learn from the techniques they use.

Here are some tips for creating great audio content:

  • Be sure there actually is a story to engage listeners, not just a laundry list of “to-do” items.
  • Book the right guest; a renowned expert may not be a talented storyteller, so be sure to conduct a pre-interview to evaluate his skills.
  • Outline the content in advance so you know the points you want to cover and how the story will flow.
  • Record high-quality audio; give your listeners the gift of pleasing sound.
  • Edit, edit, edit so the podcast episode contains only the best bits.
  • Don’t be afraid to kill an episode if it’s not good enough.

podcasting cartoon

In the book, we also discuss the ins and outs of dealing with the lawyers and compliance people, as in this cartoon by Rob Cottingham.

For more information about the book, visit The Business of Podcasting site.

Toronto friends, come out to learn about podcasting

As the fall IABC season begins, I’m happy to be the guest speaker at the September 8 meeting of the Professional Independent Communicators group of IABC/Toronto, talking about my favourite subject: podcasting. If you have ever thought of adding audio podcasts to your communications plan, or if you’re just curious about this thing called podcasting, please join us on Tuesday, September 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. We will cover:

  • What a podcast is, and why podcasting is enjoying a resurgence
  • How podcasting can become part of your marketing or communications program
  • Why good sound separates you from the amateurs
  • Why Google hates your podcast, and how to get around this limitation
  • A quick podcasting workflow; how to get started.

I will share some of the things I have learned and the mistakes I’ve made. There will also be a draw for a copy of my new book, The Business of Podcasting, co-authored with Steve Lubetkin.

Please register in advance; you cannot pay at the door. More info and registration here.

You can listen to a sneak peek here. I hope to see you on September 8!

Early praise for The Business of Podcasting

The Business of Podcasting coverMy co-author Steve Lubetkin and I are gratified to have received early praise for our newly released book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional, which focuses on the business aspects of producing audio programs for the Web. The Kindle edition is available now; the trade paperback edition is coming soon.

Our book has been chosen as the first title in the new Inside PR podcast book club, and we’re looking forward to the opinions of co-hosts Joe Thornley, Martin Waxman and Gini Dietrich.

Unlike other podcasting books that delve into the mechanics of creating a podcast, The Business of Podcasting describes the business side of podcasting: how to position clients’ expertise through podcasting, the best business models, how to find clients, contracts, legal reviews and much more.

Here’s what a few early readers had to say:

“Reading The Business of Podcasting was a pleasure … The book is a great blend of practical business and technical advice about the value, pitfalls and practical realities of producing a podcast series for money, not love (well, okay a bit of love is okay). For seasoned podcasters who have the chops to tell great stories with strong audio, the book will give you insights into turning your passion into at least a part-time paycheque. Professional communicators will find the text a great starting point to enter the podcast business, from a technical point of view. Anyone with an interest in the now re-emerging podcast market will find the book a concise, readable and practical guide to a medium that has been around for over a decade and feels brand new to a market ready (finally) for the pleasures of anywhere audio. Donna and Steve have been doing this since the early days of podcasting, and and it shows in their nicely chosen case studies.”
– Wayne MacPhail, president, w8nc inc.

“I have to say I love the book. Too often business books fall into one of two piles. Dry reads with lots of boring information or smarmy tactic books. This book is a fun read with very useful information. This isn’t a get rich-quick scheme; this is how to put in the work and make podcasting work for you. I love it! Doing things the right way is always hard work, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Seriously good read.”
– Paul RJ Muller, host, the Caffination Podcast

“Donna and Steve represent a perfect mix of knowledge – and experience – radio production, corporate communication and podcasting. Reading and using this book is a must whether you come from a professional background in communications or from a non-professional background as a podcaster offering your services to businesses. The book completely lacks ‘snake oil’ talk about podcasting. What a relief. The book is not an attempt to oversell the benefits of audio podcasting. If you know the medium, you already know the pros and cons. The book is, however, the perfect way to guide the person who is going to offer her services  and expertise to companies in a professional, safe and convincing manner.”
– Karin Hoegh, owner, PodConsult

You can learn more by visiting the website for the book.

If you read the book, please feel free to write a review on Amazon!

The Business of Podcasting book is now available

The Business of Podcasting cover

UPDATE: The book is now available in Kindle edition at your local Amazon site, and in trade paperback at both the Amazon.com and Amazon. ca sites.

At long last, the book I’ve been writing with Steve Lubetkin is ready. You can pre-order the Kindle version of The Business of Podcasting right now, or wait a few weeks for a print copy. In any case, it’s been a long time coming and Steve and I are delighted to reach this stage.

We’re also grateful to the people who’ve helped make the book possible – the experts we interviewed as well as Rob Cottingham, who drew hilarious cartoons for us, and Val Sanna, who designed a cover we love.

The Business of Podcasting is not a how-to-podcast book. Instead, it’s a book about the business side of podcasting. Why did Steve and I write this book at this time? To quote from the book’s introduction:

Anticipating a growing demand for podcasts, we’ve come together to write this book. It’s geared towards the person who knows how to produce audio but is unfamiliar with the business of podcasting for clients. It’s one thing to record and edit your own podcast show as a hobbyist; it’s another matter entirely to create a podcast for a client, whether that’s a corporate entity, a nonprofit, an educational institution, or something else.

This book is also aimed at professional communicators who have an interest in audio and who perhaps have taken a podcasting course or attended a podcasting conference or Podcamp, and who want to learn to integrate podcasting into their communications, whether inside an organization or for clients. Many of the skills you’ve developed as a communicator will help you to become an effective podcast producer.

If you’ve wondered what it’s like to turn your podcasting passion into profit, we hope you’ll read our book. If you do, please let us know what you think! In the meantime, you can read more about the book on The Business of Podcasting website or listen to Steve and I discussing the book in this podcast.

Podcasting growth continues; thanks, Obama

Marc Maron interview with President Obama

By now most online denizens have heard that U.S. President Barack Obama was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast last week. According to the New York Times, the episode set a new podcasting record, with more than 900,000 downloads in the first 36 hours. Wow.

What you might not know is that the president’s office – not Maron – initiated the interview. Once plans were set, the president flew by helicopter and made his heavily guarded way to Maron’s garage in Los Angeles to record the interview, in which they discussed race relations, gun violence, fatherhood and more. You can read more about the background to the story in this Slate article.

As podcasting continues to grow in popularity, we podcasters revel in the visibility an interview like this brings to our medium.

If you want to learn more about podcasting and its possibilities, I can recommend a few of my resources:

I also offer various podcasting-related services.

And soon, Steve Lubetkin and I will happily announce that our book, The Business of Podcasting, is available for sale. Watch this space!

Toronto Twitter workshop

Toronto Twitter Workshop“Help! I have a Twitter account but I don’t know what to do with it!” is, hands down, the most popular comment I hear about social media, from colleagues, friends and even family members.

That’s why I’ve decided to offer an intensive half-day workshop all about this micro-blogging tool. Participants will learn to use Twitter to follow news, to connect with influencers, to uncover business opportunities or to spread their nonprofit organization’s message.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Optimizing your  bio
  • Learning Twitter etiquette: following, direct messages and more
  • Finding influencers
  • Protecting yourself against hackers and phishers
  • Hashtag best practices
  • Safely scheduling tweets; the dangers of over-automation
  • Dashboards like Hootsuite and TweetDeck
  • Why you should use lists, and how to set them up
  • The power of persistent searches
  • Participating in Twitter chats and parties
  • Benefiting from tools like Topicurious and ManageFlitter
  • Curating tweets with Storify and Paper.li
  • And more!

Each participant will receive a Twitter workbook so that learning can continue after the workshop is over.

Space is limited. I like to keep the group small.

Interested? Please let me know. And feel free to spread the word to your friends.

Eventbrite - Toronto Twitter Workshop

Will Clammr be the Instagram of audio?

When I was at NMX in Vegas a few weeks ago, something Mark Ramsay said resonated with me: “People don’t share audio. They share conversations about audio.”

Well, this may change. Soon.

Shortly after Mark’s presentation, I met Parviz Parvizi, on the team of a new app called Clammr. Guess what? Clammr aims to be the Instagram of audio, allowing us to quickly share snippets of sound. This would be a boon for podcasters seeking to build their audiences.

ClammrOver the next few weeks I hope to put Clammr through its paces for my own podcast and for those of some clients. Stay tuned for a report in the future.

For now, here is my recap of the overall NMX show.

And here is a Clammr (edits are a little rough to meet 17-second limit).

You can download the Clammr app (iPhone only for now) here.

Have you tried Clammr? Please let me know in the comments.

The Twitter Tip Sheet

Donna Papacosta Twitter profile

The most common questions I hear from clients about social media tactics relate to Twitter. Those unfamiliar with this platform are often confounded by the lingo, the hashtags and the brevity. Here then is the Twitter Tip Sheet I often share with those who want to learn more about Twitter. Anything I’m missing? Please let me know in the comments.

Getting started

  • Decide why you want to use Twitter, and how you can complement your marketing and communication efforts.
  • Sign up at Twitter.com
  • Insert relevant and interesting facts in your profile, to help people decide if they should follow back.
  • You have 160 characters for your profile (bio) and 140 characters per tweet.
  • Don’t use all 140 characters; leave room for retweets.
  • Add a photo or logo plus a link to your Web site and/or blog. Do not use the default “egg” avatar!
  • This Mashable article will help you figure out the vocabulary of Twitter.

Making the most of Twitter

  • Write about 10 tweets before you start following others. Twitter notifies you by email when someone follows you, and people usually check out the follower’s profile before deciding whether to follow back.
  • Find people to follow; start with your own address book. Use the “Find People” tab on the Twitter Web site. Follow people that your friends follow.
  • Do not feel compelled to follow everyone who follows you.
  • To retweet someone’s tweet, either write “RT @username” or use the TweetDeck or other system shortcut.
  • To reply to someone’s tweet, put an “@” before their Twitter name.
  • You can send a direct message (DM) to someone by putting a D before their Twitter handle; you can only DM someone who follows you.
  • Think about using a Twitter client such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite instead of the Twitter Web site. It will make Twitter easier to manage.
  • Create Twitter lists of clients, prospective clients, colleagues and other interested stakeholders. Note that you can see someone’s tweets in a Twitter list even if you are not following them. This is handy if you want to track your “competitors” on Twitter; use a private list for this purpose.
  • For employee or volunteer use of Twitter, governance is important. Check out Social Media Governance for ideas.
  • To search through Twitter bios for keywords so that you follow people strategically, use one of these techniques.
  • For help managing your Twitter followers when the numbers grow, try Manage Flitter.

Related content
Why people don’t follow you back on Twitter

How to use Twitter lists

Toronto Social Media Workshop

Hands-on Social Media WorkshopI’m delighted to announce my next Hands-on Social Media Workshop in Toronto: May 1, 2015 at the Toronto Board of Trade. The group will be small, so each person can get individual attention. If you want to devote a single day to sharpening your social media skills, this is it. I hope you can join us.

Eventbrite - Toronto Hands-on Social Media Workshop

Pricing tips for independent communicators

As you may know, I belong to the Professional Independent Communicators, part of IABC/Toronto. On March 5 we’re featuring a panel on the hot topic of pricing for independent communicators. If you’re an indy in the Toronto area, I hope you’ll join us. Here’s a sneak preview from two of the speakers, Sharon Aschaiek and Randal Boutilier.

More information and registration on the IABC/Toronto website.

How Google just blew my mind

When I moved my home office from Oakville to Toronto, one of the things on my to-do list was to update the Google listing for Trafalgar Communications, my business. While procrastinating on a project today, I suddenly remembered the Google listing. Avoiding actual work, I just had to accomplish this feat immediately.

So I went to the Google listing for Trafalgar Communications and attempted to change the address. A box came up explaining there would be a verification step involved.

Google map of Trafalgar Communications

At that point I decided I needed to finish some genuine work, so I closed my browser.

Then the phone rang. The display said: “Mountain View, CA.”

Could it be?

Yes, it was Google – a real live human Google employee – phoning to verify that my business had indeed moved.

Google, you blew my mind.

I remember reading an article last year about how some unethical people had hacked Google Maps to destroy their competitors. Perhaps this is less likely today? I like to think so.



My most popular blog posts of 2014


The Blue Yeti

Looking at my Google Analytics for 2014, I spot a trend that doesn’t surprise me in the least: my most popular blog posts were all about podcasting. In case you missed them, here’s the list:

How to read a podcast script and not sound like you’re reading. This is a perennial favourite, first published in 2008.

The podcasting tip sheet. This post gets shared quite a bit among podcasters, especially newbies.

How to publish a Google+ Hangout on air as an audio podcast. Inquiring minds want to know.

Equipment for podcasting in a noisy environment. Say WHAT?

Basic equipment and software for podcasting. A great place for new podcasters to start.

The Podcast Scripting Book is now available. This post announced my ebook. If you like this you may want to check out my next book, co-authored with Steve Lubetkin, The Business of Podcasting.

The podcaster’s checklist. Another handy resource, I’m told.

Sharing stories with audio: podcasting for internal communications. I’m glad to see there’s interest in this topic.

Check out my friend Sue Horner’s top posts for 2014. There’s some gold there for communicators.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

Hands-on Social Media Workshop back in Toronto

Donna Papacosta at workshopBy popular demand (thanks to word of mouth!), I’m hosting another Hands-on Social Media Workshop in Toronto, on Thursday, February 5, 2015. If you’d like to wrap your head around social media in the new year, please consider signing up.

Here’s what some previous participants have said:

“Donna is an experienced, knowledgeable and generous presenter. I would highly recommend her Hands-on Social Media workshop.”
– Patricia Davies, trainer, writer, editor

“Great workshop! Very informative. Gave me more focus and confidence moving forward using these tools, both for my own business and in support of my clients.”
– Lynn Woods, communications consultant

“Impressed by the richness of content and the engaging delivery!”
– Susanna Smith, communications consultant

“Lots of useful, practical information… I am eager to put into action what I learned today.”
– Amy Baskin, copywriter, author

“Excellent. I will definitely recommend this workshop to my network.”
– Randy Smook, HR professional

“This was REALLY helpful. Thank you, Donna! I really liked your approach and generosity. I liked your patience with basic questions and your insight into more complex ones.”
– Maryjane Martin, corporate communicator


Amazing gourmet lunch included.

“Donna is extraordinarily knowledgeable and very generous in her sharing of information, and very responsive to participants’ questions and needs. As always, very professional and well done!”
– Eileen Chadnick, Big Cheese Coaching

“Donna is such an expert and explains social media in an engaging, informative manner. Fabulous day!”
– Kristy Elik, Along the Lakeshore magazine

Eventbrite - Toronto Hands-on Social Media Workshop