What social media can offer us as consultants …

At first glance social media might seem to be a bit of a productivity black hole.

Oh, don’t worry – I’ve heard a great deal of reasons and excuses of why it should be avoided.

At best, naysayers are happy to proffer it with a huxleyan warning that it is a cesspool of activity in which people can amuse themselves to death whilst being constrained into an electronic prison where we are targeted by vendors whilst fed a false sense of personal freedom. In fact, the worst thing I have seen it called is an electronic feeding ground for emotionally crippled, narcissistic pariahs.

Yet, to my mind, I think that the accessibility of immediate, transparent, global, (practically) free (as in speech, not beer) communication is one of the most breathtaking information advances since the telephone. Continue reading “What social media can offer us as consultants …”

Removing the blinkers: Being informed and questioning in the age of information overload

I have always work under the assumption that a well read individual is a better informed individual.

So started a conversation between a contact and myself recently.

Continue reading “Removing the blinkers: Being informed and questioning in the age of information overload”

My Rules for when I need to write.

I often forget these myself, but when i used to write poetry and short fiction, these were the rules i followed. no reason they cant be used for blogs as well. Hopefully these may help you too.

The first thing you need to do is write.

Seems obvious, I know, but how many of us are procrastinators? Afraid of not saying it right. Afraid of failing to meet some internal and invisible lofty goal. Afraid of criticism. Judgement.

Forget those things. Just put down a word. Then another. Another one. Can’t find the right word? Put down something that is close enough. No, don’t argue, just go on … put it down.

Now, keep going. Finish what you’re writing. No matter what, just finish it. Let the cat meow once more than you’re comfortable. Let the dog whine at the back door for one more second. Let the kids have that apple that will spoil their appetite … Whatever you have to do to, just finish it. Finish it.

Done? Good.

Now, put it aside and forget about it.

Don’t post it. Don’t look at it for at least 24 hours.

When you go back, do so with a cup of tea and your most critical gaze.

Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Attack it. Choose better words. Rephrase it.

Show it to friends whose opinion you respect . Send it to those and who like the kind of thing that you are writing. Then send it to someone who hates it. Now, put it aside and forget about it, again.

When you get your feedback, accept it. Fix it. Don’t make it perfect. You will never make it perfect. Don’t go chasing that horizon.

Is it good? Great. Post it.

Move onto the next thing.

the rules for blog entries should be the same as they are for essays

Looking at social media, my previous points in regards to socialisation, conversation and interaction still hold, but I do think that when writing, there should be some rules.

If you want to plan out a post, then think of it as an argumentative essay or scientific paper. There is no word limit, but anything over a thousand words and the TL;DR effect will kick in before anyone scrolls down past the first screen.

So, what’s the first rule? Have a subject and stick to it. You can’t cover everything. Don’t try. So, make your point up front. Whether it is an hypothesis, an outrageous claim, a statement of force or a personal appeal – state it.

Strongly. Clearly. Own it. Sell it.

Make no mistake, it’s on trial. You are its defender. So, make the case. Gather the evidence. Highlight the facts. Don’t fall into the common fallacies of logic.

It’s not going to be easy. It’s a hostile jury. They are jaded and sceptical. They’ve been exposed to so many lies and liars in their lifetime. Their automatic assumption is that you are as well. Get that jury on your side!

Careful though, because you need to make sure you are not self-convinced and find yourself seduced by hubris, pride or your own belief system.

Tear apart your subject. Play the devil’s advocate. Don’t become complacent or self-satisfied. Rip into it as if you’re the opposition.

Examine your reasoning. Why are you correct? Have you considered the opposite view? Where did your ideas and opinions come from? Who benefits from your position? Is it misguided? Look for flaws in your own logic and gaps in your evidence.

Be human about it. Sure, ensure your arguments are logical and support your position clearly, but be ethical. Be honest. Establish your position by being fair to opposing views. Connect to the audience. Bring in the emotional element. Share some empathy. Put a human face on the subject. Give the reader a reason for caring. What’s in it for them? Let them know!

So, now, structure it.

Introduce the topic, build the argument, bridge the audience, and the flow it down into the conclusion. It should be a conclusion, by the way. A conclusion is not just summary of what you’ve already said. It is your closing arguments.

Here’s the hard part though, because your blog should be part of your conversation with your readers, don’t forget to provide a way for your readers to interact with you.

Don’t close it off. Give your readers a reason to comment. Pose a related or follow up question. Seek alternative views, or advice. Engage them. Make them interested in participating with you and your conversation.

How to social media …

I am not an SEO. I’m not a “social media guru” or “twitter famous” or even some kind of start-up or business genius.

What I am, is part of the great unwashed social media consumers. What I am, is sick and tired of the crap that people produce because those “experts” think they get it.

They don’t – and here is why. The social media network has a keyword in there. Social.  It is not the “direct marketing” media network nor the “targeted consumer” media network.

Yet this is exactly what I feel most writers of blogs and branded content see it as. This is part of the reason I decided it was time to put down some guidelines and rules for people who want to utilise social media to promote themselves, their products and their business … especially to those like me.

With so many corporations enforcing social media blocking at the corporate gateway, chances are that the majority of people are going to read content from Social Media sources during non-business hours or during breaks and downtime. Even if they are not limited by corporate governance, it is a good rule of thumb to assume they are. So, ask yourself – why would I read you in my time?

This is a very simple question, but one most authors fail to consider. What are you offering me? What makes you worth giving up my personal time for? Are you offering me anything to help me as a person? As a customer? To do my job?

Your content should be like a store window. It should offer me an unobstructed view of the goodies. .

Here’s a tough pill for many to swallow … It is not about you or your clever ideas.

You need to put the reader first.

Your writing should be clear. It should be conversational. Engaging. Offering the chance of interaction. It shouldn’t be an announcement, not some corporate statement … and never preaching. If you are trying to educate, be persuasive. But never try to write to impress.

Focus on the content.

Readers are there and willingly wanting to feel that they can relate to you and your content. So, don’t keep throwing the branding down every second line. Do not keep trying to work in the latest campaign line or sales push into every message. There are other outlets for that. This is a space and a set of tools for conversations.

That said, know your own voice.

Write how you’d actually talk to your customers and your colleagues. The reality is that you will converse with a great range of people outside of the blog posts or choreographed status messages.

Replies, eMails, forum threads will all become part of the way you interact with the people on the other end of those electrons. It is far easier to be consistent when you are being you, than trying to maintain whatever image you think should be portrayed.

That said, do not drop down to writing like you’re texting a teenager. However, there is no need to be a high brow grammar toff either. It is about engaging content – as long as it is well-crafted, interesting and comprehensible, then your job is done.

Which reminds me, not everyone will like you.

That’s the bad news. Get used to it now. Expect it. Expect “trolls” who will come up from unknown parts and attack you. They will attack you publicly. They will attack you mercilessly. They will leave with no care of the destruction left behind.

The good news is that if you assume that most people are jaded and sceptical then you can write with the aim of combating the naysayers. Yes, even those who refuse to believe even concrete, supported, absolute facts. Maybe even those who refuse to look at anything that in some way are at odds with their own beliefs.

Take into account that whilst you hope that people are coming in and reading your content from top to bottom and devouring every word, the reality is that, at first at least, the best you can expect is that they probably found an individual post through a highly specific search or a shared link and they are simply scanning it to quickly glean whatever information they are after.

Does that mean you should just post two hundred word succinct posts with lots of subheads and links? No.

The more engaging the content, the more accessible you are, the greater the chance that readers will stop and search through more of your content. They’ll read other posts. They may subscribe. They may even search more about your company and follow the content you point to.

Which, if done correctly, are subtle. They should be used, by all means, but don’t force the issue. Don’t do the whole “click here” or “for more information” hammer blow. Write your copy. Go back. Hyperlink actual words and phrases that naturally lend themselves to other content that your readers can use to find out more information.

So, that’s the basics. Go. Become part of the conversation with your customers.