Cave painting analogy to social media

How Social Media Isn’t Different from Traditional Media

Social media is credited with communications breakthroughs, bringing seemingly instant fame to the previously voiceless and helping brands reach their best customers with targeted messaging. But it is really anything new?

Early man painted stories on cave walls. These large graphics told of their triumphs and dreams. Kind of like Pinterest boards.

After man learned to utilize and control fire, humans sent smoke signals across the horizon to alert each other of their goings on. Just like Twitter.

Can you hear me now?

In more recent centuries, we had the town crier, whose job it was to call out every hour if all was well or if something required attention. Now, we all have that friend on Facebook who updates every little thing as well as the big issues of our days.Colonial men for town crier to social media analogy.

The printing presses of American Colonial days brought us pamphleteers. These narratives are now told on websites, blogs, or in your crazy uncle’s diatribe on Facebook.

During President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, the nation paused to listen to his fireside chats on the radio. Now, we have Trump tweets to alert us to the pulse of the White House. The nation definitely hears him, right?

Of course, we can’t forget the old soap box, upon which people could stand in a town square to make their voices heard. Now, we have video raps by Eminen and some random people you never heard of ranting into their phone cameras in cars.

flaw: current lack of accountability in social media

So, what’s wrong with social media? Currently, there is a gaping void when it comes to accountability. Traditional media, such as newspapers and TV, continue to face accountability. If something is libel or slander, they face lawsuits. The defense against libel and slander is truth. That’s if you end up in court, of course.Old-time radio to refer to fireside chats are akin to Trump tweets.

Propagandists from abroad leveraged the power of Facebook as a far-reaching medium to publish fake news, such as Pizzagate, and there hasn’t been anyone held accountable for that falsity.

As for businesses on social media, they can face harsh backlashes for poorly executed messages, such as the Dove soap ad with a black woman morphing into a white woman. In that case, the company deserved criticism.

Other times, however, social media can fail businesses, such as allowing negative reviews by people who are not verified customers. Before social media, a person could stand on the sidewalk ranting negative things about your business, but it would not have too much effect. Now, a disgruntled ex-employee, crazy customer or unscrupulous competitor can damage a brand.

This is where social media gets a bad rap, and deservedly so.

The false rumors problem can scare people away from social media, for fear their message won’t be believed if conveyed on these platforms. For example, in a recent blog, I related how a water utility was not keeping residents updated during a flooding crisis because it’s leadership considered social media to be a misleading grapevine. In response, its customers suggested at a public meeting that it provide daily and intraday updates during a crisis on its website and then link to those updates with social media.

be part of a better social media landscape

Your customers and prospects are looking for you on social media. Your message can be delivered directly to them, and in large numbers, with targeted social media advertising and content.

Businesses cannot ignore social media. It’s not going away. You’ve got to be in to win it. You don’t need to saturate your social media outlets, but you should consistently and programmatically get your messages out.

What kind of messages? Tell stories about good customer experiences. Paint a picture of how your product or services make life better for your buyers.Cave painting analogy to social media

Pick which social channels to be on. Select the most appropriate handful. Do not try to do it all. Decide which mix of media showcase your stuff best, e.g., blogs, videos, graphics, etc.

Plan your social media content calendar around events, sales campaigns and seasonal specials. Be a part of a larger discussion and share relevant stories by others with your audience with your own thoughts.

Define yourself first, before others try to do it for you. No one can do that better than yourself.

For more information, contact communications consultant Katharine Fraser.

 

Crates representing the concept of content.

A Plea Against Content

Please don’t call it content. It’s a story, a narrative, a digest of valuable information. Content just sounds like some stuff you shoved into a space without much consideration that the stuff should be interesting or helpful.

The word content did not spring from the mind of a writer. Similarly, the word blog is short for web log. A log is usually a register of data in chronological order, such as the captain’s log on a ship. Those logs do contain valuable information, and in some cases, compelling narratives.

A few years back, I was working as an editor (not a content reviewer, mind you) and a company that historically was in the publishing business. It evolved into an information provider. A colleague was walking guests across the floor (used to be called a newsroom) and swept his hand in our direction, pointing out we were the content creators. I cannot help but note that the website of this company still touts its news, data and analysis. See? News, data and analysis are specifics, while content is a bland blob of something.

What exactly is content?

A lot of people don’t know what content is. I once encountered a guy who asserted that social media and content marketing are different things. Note: he is in a different business. I’m still scratching my head if he thinks social media posts go out without any content in them. People are confused because the word content is unclear to them.

For content marketing, it is essentially marketing copy. You are telling your customers what you do, why you do it, why you do it better than the competition and how what you do is valuable. This can come in the form of a special offer, a personal story, an educational article about a product or current event or even beautiful images related to your product or service.

I agree wholeheartedly with the story told here by the Content Marketing Institute about content marketing failures. This entity even claims to be the first to call it “content marketing.” Because some people have heard of that, I will use the term myself, but I really don’t like it. For one client, I recommended we call the blog section of their website “Stories & Videos.” It is specific and it far more inviting for a click than “Pile of Content Here.”

Yes, I call my blog just that, but when you land on the page, I talk about tips and insights. I am sharing perspective, advice and experiences. Will I continue to use the word content? Sure, but begrudgingly so.

Words have jobs to do and they should serve very specific roles.  A word like content is just terribly vague. When I was a kid, my family hosted an exchange student from Spain. One day we walked into CVS and the store was having some kind of inventory blowout. There were stacks of products and big sale signs. My sister remarked, “wow, look at all this stuff.” Our guest was not fluent in English and asked for a definition of stuff. My sister was stumped. Stuff, you know, stuff. It’s stuff you have and put somewhere. It’s stuff. Sounds like content to me.

Adroit Narratives logo with daily miracle imagery.

The Daily Miracle of Content Creation

How do you decide what to write every day when it comes to video scripts, blogs and social media posts for your business’s digital marketing?

Perhaps you’ve created an “editorial calendar” and pegged its topics to your seasonal offerings or otherwise organized a list of topics to systematically cover in this content marketing. Great! Plus, you probably know you ought to stay consistent and push out this original material on a regular basis.

Now, if you are lucky, determined and resourceful, you have created time in the schedule to do this. Or rather, imagine you floated to work on a cloud and miraculously have time to write a bunch of social media posts and blogs. Now what?

Do you have writer’s block? Is a cursor blinking on your screen, calling out begging for copy and tormenting you with its relentless blinking? Perhaps you do not like this.

Did you know there is an entire segment of the population who likes writing. Many of them, by dint of education and formal training, have actually become quite adept at this writing thing.

The Daily Miracle

Many of these writers are veterans of the Daily Miracle, an age-old ritual commonly known as news writing. When I first got out of journalism school, I wrote for a weekly business newspaper, which meant you had some time to craft your story. The bummer was that anyone writing for a daily newspaper could easily scoop your weekly news outlet. (To supply some context, I’m old enough to remember the Stone Age before news was available online. During this period, the Internet was primarily used by academics and such, and not commercial enterprises, newspapers and certainly not common peons or ink-stained wretches.)

When I moved to a daily financial services paper, I became subject to the overlords of the Daily Miracle, who required me to file my stories every weekday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. This was especially fun the month I spent reporting from San Francisco on New York time. Yes, I had to submit my copy by 11:30 a.m. Pacific time. This was more than 20 years ago, yet I still think of 2:30 p.m. as a major demarcation in a workday.Adroit Narratives logo with daily miracle imagery.

As a young writer, I often felt stressed out by the 2:30 p.m. deadline and, moreover, by the requirement that I have a good story to write about every work day. Sometimes the morning commute served as a big brainstorm when I thought of everyone I would call to find a story. Usually, I had written a lot of my story by lunchtime. Meeting the big deadline become more and more doable.

Nowadays, I still write the daily miracle, mostly for clients’ digital marketing campaigns. When it comes to ensuring I keep up with my own blogs, I can feel like a plumber with a leaky faucet in my own home. When I must write, I just shut out everything else, reflect and start typing.

Be sure that you create a grand plan for content marketing and then devise ways to create achievable every day action items to make it happen.

For more information on content marketing, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Graphic reading I love writing

No Such Thing as Free Writing

Here is my free professional advice: talent is not free. I recently received an unsolicited offer, i.e., spam email, from a guy offering his free writing services to me. He wanted me to post his blogs on my website. Riiiiiiiight.

My response included this tidbit of advice: “never work for free. Professional writing is a craft and it commands a price.”

Another offer for poor writing services arrived as as a comment on a client’s well-written article posted to their company website. See below – do you see the grammatical error here?

Best Writing Service

Get an expert academic writing assistance! We can write any post on any subject within the tightest deadline.

To correct the syntax, the first line should read, “Get expert academic writing assistance.” But, I’m wondering why this marketer is offering academic writing to a commercial entity. Don’t get me started on opening a sentence with the word “get.” Also, do they only provide a single service? Better make that “Worst Writing Services.”

Am I nit-picking? You bet. I used to get paid to pick apart other people’s writing. News editors see the darndest things. Many errors result from rushed writing, which is an occupational hazard for reporters writing about breaking news.

To give you an example, I will out myself as someone who may have goofed at some point in a 20+-year-career as a working journalist. I was covering a fire at an oil refinery or some such and urgently pulled together all the facts. This involves pressing and priming real people for information, not just running a Google search. I wrote a tight story with clean copy to quickly deliver the best information to our paying subscribers.

The story’s editor remarked it was excellent work, but for a crucial omission: the time element. The story’s first sentence left out the fact this disaster had broken out that very day. Why would I tell you this? To illustrate that good writing requires self-awareness.

There is an inverse correlation I have observed many times: the worst writers are the most confident. Good writers check themselves, use the dictionary, perform solo dramatic readings of their work to listen for and detect errors, and seek review by others. Bad writers think they nailed it. Bad writers are also the sort of people to offer their work for free. This reminds me of a job applicant for a reporting job who boasted in his cover letter he would “work long and hard,” if he got the position. The editor moaned, “No, I don’t want anyone who wants to work long and hard.” His premise there being that good writers can quickly synthesize information to deftly draft a compelling, error-free story.

If someone offers to write a blog for a buck (per blog, not the $1.50-2.00/word rate magazine articles can command), ask them how they can be so cheap. Ask them for a resume and work examples. Ask them if they provide content writing as a full-time profession. Ask them if they love writing. There are many factors that foster excellent writing skills, including relevant educational background and professional credentials, but the love of writing is essential too.

For a quote on my writing services, please contact Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives, LLC.

love writing

On Good Writing and How to Get It

When I tell people I am a writer, I tend to get two reactions:

“Oh, I could never write well.”

“Do you like it?”

For the latter, consider whether I would work as a professional writer for more than 20 years if I disliked it. As for the former proposition, the only way to become is a good writer is to do a lot of writing.

You also must be willing to take and incorporate critiques. In college, my two majors happened to require contrasting writing styles. In journalism, you start a story by telling the reader the upshot or outcome. For history, by contrast, you start at the beginning and build a case toward a conclusion. One day, my history advisor stopped me on campus to tell me that my writing had become “weird.” That was to say I opened a history paper with a news lede.

At my first newspaper job, I was blessed with strong editors who gently guided me away from writing too much or writing in a manner too fancy to get the job done. With good writing, there is no need to gild the lily. You just say it straight. Get to the point. Yet so much of what we read online buries the lede. For example, how many recipe blogs start out with hundreds and hundreds of words before mentioning the recipe’s ingredients and directions? To be fair, I publish a lifestyle blog that narrates my cooking adventures, but they are rarely more than 500 words and the instructions are higher up in the copy. By contrast, I have found myself scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down a recipe post before finding the recipe.

Now, to be sure, there is some SEO method to this madness, but let’s not get totally carried away by padding blogs with search terms. I also suspect that people who write meandering musings in their blog never had a tough, wise-cracking news editor bearing down on their copy. Remember, the whole point of writing something is to engage the reader. What is the use of bringing someone to your blog if you are boring?

You have just a moment to grab their attention, which is the objective of a news headline. That’s akin to a great Tweet or the opening of a social media post. In news writing, people ask themselves – before hitting the keystrokes – what is my lede? (Lede is old-time news spelling for lead sentence.) In other words, what is the most important, new thing you need to convey to the reader? For marketing a product or service, you should give the reader information they just may not have been aware of; this educational material shows you know your stuff and gives the audience a reason to know who you are.

Say you own a jewelry store. Running a social media post about the cheapest diamonds in town is going to send the wrong message. What if instead you crafted a post about an electric toothbrush being a diamond’s best friend? That made you curious, right? Turns out, some jewelers recommend using a electric toothbrush to polish your diamond. Just don’t use the same brushhead you put in your mouth. My point is social media is supposed to be fun and you can use elements of humor and surprise to be quirky in marketing. Still, don’t go crazy. If you are a small business and doing your own marketing, be sure to go to trusted friends as sounding boards and test out any wacky ideas.

The beauty of social media, though, is it more often rewards experiments than it punishes mistakes. Your experiment would have to be really, really awful to hurt much. I like to try different art or animations for the images. I play with video editing and photo editing on design platforms. As a result, I can stay fresh with content presentation.

The writing can be playful too. As for regular day-to-day writing for your newsletters and social media, have a coworker read it first. At the very least, they can clean up the copy to free it of typos, which can hurt your credibility. Finally, one piece of biased advice: do not publish yourself unless you are an experienced professional editor.

Cheers,

Katharine Fraser, Adroit Narratives

How to Ensure Your Marketing is Coordinated

Whether your business is large or small, you want the messaging of your marketing to be coordinated. For corporations, where most of these functions are performed in-house, there should be greater assurance that all the engaged parties are working off the same page. For smaller businesses, there arguably is more control exerted because there are fewer people involved. But, in either case, you should run some reality checks to be sure.

Firstly, some basics for big organizations. Do the sales people know any of the people who produce your widgets? Moreover, are the people who create your marketing content familiar with, let alone in regularly contact with, either the production or sales groups? Both?

Are you, the senior management, interfacing with these groups and assured they all are in agreement about your company’s core competency, target markets and execution? If you haven’t internally communicated the plan, how will these constituencies properly and effectively communication your business story?

When you outsource any marketing function, be sure to clearly communicate your needs and objectives to that party so that they can represent your business in a seamless fashion. Are they asking you the right questions? Enough questions?

Questions for the Marketers

Now, you ought to be asking questions too. Ask the marketers, in house or external, how they will decide what factors will drive their content creation and how they will map out a campaign. If this is an outside agency or consultant, is that person in turn outsourcing components of the work to other parties?

It is possible you are buying a bundle of services from someone who is building that bundle with an assortment of subcontractors? If that is the case, then you ought to know and be involved in approving the selections. The key is that you know who is writing the content (e.g., blogs, social media posts, ads, etc.) and that the content writer knows you. How can they channel the voice of your business if they don’t have direct knowledge of the business and your approach to it?

It Starts from the Top

Ensure that all the parties involved in your marketing campaigns, at every level and in every facet, are working in concert with each other. As the business owner, this is your responsibility. Are you asking for regular feedback and reports from the people performing the marketing? Are they offering to be proactive with you?

It’s often said that the tone is set at the top, which is why it is important that the tone of your marketing reflects the C-suite. Similarly, what is the tone of your audience? Are you speaking the same language as your customers? Again, the tone of the marketing campaign ought to reflect the marketplace as well.

How engaged is the top management in the marketing campaign? Delegation is vital to operating a business, but so is engagement. Don’t set it and forget it. Don’t assume everyone is doing what they are supposed to do when it comes to delivering your marketing message.

Online Marketing Advantages

The beauty of online marketing is that you can monitor it in real-time along with your marketplace. You can see the wording and the results. Online marketing has the advantage of being nimble. If a message falls flat in social media, you move on; you aren’t stuck with a particular message for a long period of time. If a message works, you re-engage with a similar message.

Another advantage in online marketing is the interactive nature. The marketing team can directly engage with customers in positive discussions. The online marketing, when well-thought out and executed, can fall under an umbrella message to your market. Everyone involved should adhere that that umbrella terminology and thus each post (social media, blogs, etc.) will stay consistent in tone and content. If not, it will be obvious and can be quickly rectified. You just want to be sure that the parties responsible for content creation are thorough, accurate, nimble and responsive — responsive to you and your customers.

For more information about online content creation, especially blogs and social media, contact consultant Katharine Fraser of Adroit Narratives.

Convert Digital Window Shoppers into Customers with Blogs

Blogs are ubiquitous and may seem like too much to take on in the digital whirl of social media. Yet, blogs are part of the social media landscape and not just in how we use social media posts to promote blogs. A social media account is in essence a running blog. After all, the etymology of the term is web log. In advocating for blogging in marketing, I like to remind people that blogs do not have to be much longer than a blurb. You can blog in two or three paragraphs (for those who still think in paragraphs), or longer if you’ve got room to roam with your material.

Remember, this should be your material – either something organically created, or, if outsourced, something you drive and review. If the material is outsourced, make sure you know the background of the author(s). Do they know your subject matter and your market? Are they professional writers with extensive careers or just tossing in the blog writing with a package deal on your website? Blogging is not an afterthought. It puts your product offering on display for digital window shoppers and must be on point, not the stuff of boilerplate.

When it comes to blogging, many business owners and decision-makers know they probably should post blogs to create more content, but let those fleeting thoughts pass as they focus on their core competencies. Yes, they know that blogs are a great way to showcase products and define who they are. Yes, they know it is important to get content out there in the web search space. But, they just don’t have time for it. I get that. I also believe too many people are over-thinking blogs and talking themselves out of it.

Each blog is a little commercial

It does not have to be long and it does not have to be complicated. Think of all the little anecdotes you tell clients and customers that give them a clear picture of who you are and what you do. Make a list of 10 of those, or if that’s too ambitious, then five such anecdotes. Now, the big obstacle people place in front of themselves when considering a blog is thinking they should write an encyclopedic narrative of every aspect of the subject matter, like a dissertation. Blogs can be short. Let that sink in. Analogously, if you met someone at a party, you would not tell them your life story. Instead, you’d share a short anecdote. That’s it. Those stories come naturally, don’t they? The blog format is a means of telling a bunch of business anecdotes. And, anecdotes are far more memorable than dissertations.

Now that we’ve agreed blogging has an important role to serve and is a simple format, let’s review how you might go about blogging:

Take your list of topics and write up several in one sitting. These can then be scheduled for publication on your blog platform. WordPress and others provide the option of publishing immediately or scheduling the publication time and date. If your budget or organizational structure provides for it, have someone else edit these before you press the publish button.

Hand off your list of topics to someone else in your organization or a freelance editor/consultant/marketer to create a set of blogs. See above about scheduling these in advance. The beauty of scheduling is you’ve exerted control in your task management. Rather than think about blogging everyday, you already took care of it and can go about your normal business. Bear in mind or mark your calendar when that series of blogs ends so that you can gear up for the next round. Keep a list of blog ideas as they come to mind and jot them down. If something especially timely pops up, you can quickly turn around a little blog and publish immediately.

Integrate your messaging with social media posts

As you organize your blog calendar, create a set of attendant tweets or other social media posts (such as LinkedIn updates) that you can schedule to run to promote those blogs. For social media management and scheduling, I highly recommend HootSuite.

Finally, decide who should write the blogs. You and you alone? This is probably fine if you have a professional writing background. Others in your organization? With this option, you can amass a pool of willing writers and give them deadlines. This group can also include designated editors who review each blog before it is scheduled for publication. An agency or other outside writing professional? Meet with the author once a month or quarter to review the blog topics. Have them present the blogs to you for an approval process. If you have arrived at this point in this blog, I have informed you with advice and demonstrated that a blog can be simply written. For further information, contact consultant Katharine Fraser.

Adroit Narratives