November 1, 2012

Guide to events & conferences in December

A scene from Le Web London this summer. The original Le Web, in Paris, returns next month (Photo by kmeron on Flickr).

Ayelet NoffDecember, with all its holiday cheer, eases the pace of conferences and events in social media, marketing, and technology.

This December I’m most excited about Le Web in Paris, the city of lights, love and Internet innovation. This year Le Web will focus on how Internet-driven devices are taking over the world; just look at how much time people spend surfing “le web” on their phones. I’m also thoroughly excited for the 2012 startup competition where sixteen emerging startups will duke it out on stage. To learn more about this great conference read my take on Le Web.

For the full year, see our full Calendar of 2012 social media, tech and marketing conferences.

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May 12, 2011

Simple language isn’t for bird brains

Write simply, not simplistically, in your messaging and outreach

Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) with one leg...

Image via Wikipedia

Chris AbrahamUniversally, the biggest gasp I get when I meet people new to marketing, PR, or advertising is that most ad copy is restricted to a 6th grade reading level. I am going to use this blog post to reassure everyone that writing simply should mean writing elegantly and not writing simplistically, resulting in young adult fiction. While the reading ease is kept simple, we’re generally not writing to appeal to 12-year-olds. One of the biggest challenges that writers have across all disciplines is with interpretation. While ambiguity and nuance is favored by poets and novelists, creating copy that isn’t concise, clear, and succinct is a disservice to my clients.

What is required, at least online and when engaging bloggers, is messaging that endures the obligatory game of telephone that always happens when sharing between people. If you’ve never heard of telephone, I thought I would share this from Wikipedia:

The first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first.

Social media is essentially a game of telephone, so it is critical to make sure the last player receives as intact a message as possible, no matter who is in the chain. No matter their background, native tongue, education, gender, cultural heritage, age, or disposition, our most important job is creating messaging that both injects a durable copy into the mind and consciousness of the consumer while also making it past the client’s review.

It isn’t easy, to be sure. If I choose a word that someone isn’t familiar with, they generally won’t take the time to explore the OED—not because of intellect but because people are busy, people have limited time and attention, and we don’t have them on salary. The time we have with them is generally limited to five minutes from opening an email pitch to when a blogger clicks on [Post] on their blog.

Gustave Flaubert was fastidious in his devotion to finding the right word, le mot juste, and so should we be because when you’re able to spend a little time distilling your message, the client’s message, or your company’s mission, then you’ll probably learn quite a lot about yourself as well as how you’re perceived.

I had been using the word premasticate in my talks about blogger outreach and online messaging because I like to think about how the kiss was developed, in a time before Gerber’s when baby food was made by a mother who would pre-chew food for her child. I also like to think of sea birds going out to sea, fishing for smelt, and then coming back and feeding their chicks through regurgitation. I loved these visuals and it always amused classes when I did my Blue-footed Booby mating dance (pictured above) and subsequent feeding of chicks as marketing metaphor. However, I now know that the visual is vile and is often considered infantilizing to bloggers.

Like I said, I am always listening and always learning. Progress not perfection.

When you think carefully about your core message, think about not just the ideas but also the consumability of each word (6th or 7th grade reading ease), you also realize that thinking this way can also be very useful for organic SEO and search.

How? Well, when you consider every word, you’ll start to think about how other people read and comprehend your brand. Have you ever listened to an interview of someone who has a highly-technical job? Their responses tend to include acronyms, nicknames, and references that are only understandable by other scientists, politicians, engineers, doctors, and lawyers. A good interviewer asks what those acronyms means, slows the interviewee down, asks them to explain what they’re saying. They call this unpacking your thinking, or layman’s terms.

Google runs on layman’s terms—all search does. And because search engines don’t use thesauri and are painfully explicit, it’s important to broaden your choice of words (search keywords). For example, a television is also popularly called a TV, a flatscreen, a plasma, a big screen, an HDTV—even a boob tube and idiot box. If you don’t include them all in your online copy—if you don’t know the potential lingua fanca of everyone, you really had better cover your bases.

In summary, the resulting “simple” of any copy you write for general consumption should be as accessible as possible—not simplistic. More like Hemingway—to the marrow—rather than of a lower fidelity. Writing like this requires and demands that we, instead, work harder, become more concise, and distill the larger prose, copy, corpus, text, into something more essential, more easily and universally comprehensible and intact.

It demands the we bear the brunt of the load, do all the hard work, instead of depending on others to parse what we’re on about. And, on that note, I am well aware that I didn’t follow any of my rules while writing this post. Let me know if I should have.

Via Biznology


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February 1, 2010

Is it still pompous to announce, ‘I don’t have a TV’?

David SparkWe’ve all had this moment. You want to talk to a friend about some great TV program you just saw. Instead of engaging or heeding your recommendation they simply announce, “I don’t have a TV.”

We all know where that conversation leads. Either they’re considerate and just let it go. But more often they tell you with a wave of their hand, “All television sucks” and/or that will be followed up with the declarative statement, “I read.” It’s impossible for this whole episode to go down without the non-TV owner coming off as incredibly pompous and you being resentful and condescended to.

There are tons of things I don’t have. I never feel compelled to publicly announce to people what I don’t have. Why do people who don’t have a television feel compelled to publicly announce that they don’t have one? Continue reading

July 14, 2009

The future of television: Social TV

JP Rangaswami
JP Rangaswami

JD LasicaBehind closed doors in offices from the media centers of New York to the entertainment capital of Hollywood, content programmers and code jockeys are no doubt trying to figure out how to marry traditional television with social networking.

Does the lean-forward experience, interactivity and backchannel chatter of social networks have a place in the tightly controlled, lean-back world of television? I’m among those who believe the two will wed in a satisfying way, though we’re likely five to 10 years from that happening. I blogged about Intel and Yahoo’s experiments with the Cinematic Internet (or Widget Channel TV) last year, and I’ve written over the years about the largely discredited experiments with “interactive television.”

But a week ago today, in the corporate offices of BT in London, the Traveling Geeks were treated to a 10-minute presentation by Tanya Goldhaber, a graduate student at MIT just finishing up an eight-week internship at BT, about “Social TV.” We were so intrigued that we kept tossing questions to her well after her allotted time.

Peer-influenced viewership

As audiences continue to fragment, as more of us multitask with laptops on our laps while we’re watching TV, as the major social networks continue to amass millions of more members each week, and as the Internet finally comes to our living rooms with a new generation of devices like Boxee, it’s only a matter of time before television becomes social.

Goldhaber showed some screenshots of what a prototype social TV screen might look like. (Prototypes I’ve seen at the Intel Developers Network and at LinkTV a few months ago take it in similar if somewhat different directions.)

I suspect most of us don’t want to see a CNN-like crawl of our friends’ comments at the bottom of our prime-time programming. But I certainly would like to know if my friends were enthralled by a one-time PBS special, or if DirecTV was televising the ninth inning of a no-hit game, or if one of my friends was interviewed by a news crew.

Goldhaber noted that today’s Electronic Program Guides are all but impossible to navigate, and she cited studies that people would rather get viewing recommendations from a friend than from a computer. In survey of TV viewers, 37% of respondents said they started watching their favorite TV show because of a friend’s recommendation or word of mouth.

I asked Goldhaber if, a few years out, social networks might lead to “swarming behavior” among TV viewers, causing quick spikes in viewership for little-known niche programs based on social influencers’ actions. Certainly possible, she said.

I’d be intrigued by a system that automatically feeds me information about what my friends are collectively watching, instead of having to wait for them to tell me through a kind of tweet burst. And I’d also be interested by a peer, or friend of friends, recommendation system that elevates obscure but high-quality independent Web programs.

Social TV could reshape the television landscape — which is why you’ll never see the major networks lead this transformation. Like Napster and Apple in the music industry, the innovation will come from the bottom up, well outside of the media and entertainment industries.

BT and open source

I’ll be honest: Before I visited the UK, I assumed that BT was Britain’s version of AT&T: monolithic, imposing, not terribly open to innovation. An evening of conversations and an afternoon of presentations at BT has disabused me of that notion.

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May 26, 2009

A step-by-step video walk through of SM2

Chris AbrahamI have been thinking a lot about the social media metrics post I wrote back on May 3rd, Real social media metrics from SM2, and I don’t think it did a good enough job at exploring some of the ways I use SM2 by Techrigy so I thought I might put it all together as a step-by-step, unscripted (obviously) process screencast for you to check out.

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