Here is a great project for your copywriting class or inhouse brainstorming session: give everybody five minutes to write the best possible Twitter bio, which has to be 160 characters or less, including spaces.
Your Twitter bio is what shows up in another user’s inbox when you follow them and they make a split second decision about whether to follow you in return. The New York Times had a nice sidebar piece in which they join Slate and the Washington Post in anointing Hillary Clinton’s bio a superb example of the craft:
Wife, mom, lawyer, women & kids advocate, FLOAR, FLOTUS, US Senator, SecState, author, dog owner, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass ceiling cracker, TBD …
It states her qualifications, though not in a pompous way. It veers off into some relevant light touches (Hilary’s lack of hair savvy and her predilection for pantsuits are well known non-presidential attributes) which are amusing without being frivolous.
A bio like that promises that the tweets also will be interesting, and that you may meet other cool folk by following her. It’s much more effective than a straightforward statement of qualifications, or an unabashedly promotional bio like the one Lady Gaga is currently running: BUY MY NEW SINGLE ‘APPLAUSE’ AND PRE-ORDER MY ALBUM ‘ARTPOP’ HERE NOW!
Before writing this post I checked my own neglected bio for @otisregrets and found it pretty terrible:
Results-focused ad copywriter; blogger about writing, marketing, customer service, technology and more.
I gave myself the five minutes and came up with: I write direct response ads, web pages, emails, direct mail & whatnot. Gold Echo & Caples Silver Cup winner. Guilty pleasure: streaming bluegrass videos at work.
Some work qualifications hopefully written in a casual way… but I don’t like the personal aside because it might imply to some that I bill for time when I’m actually not working. (I don’t.) So I tweaked it to:
I write results-oriented ads, web pages, emails, direct mail & whatnot. Gold Echo & Caples Silver Cup winner. Read my blog for marketing tips & off-topic rants.
The blog’s a good call to action since that is indeed where I want the reader to go next, and the throwaway about “off topic rants” will hopefully garner curiosity. I’m sure I can do better but I only had 5 minutes. Let me know how you do on your bio.
Have you seen this? According to a media commentator, Applebee’s has a new campaign in which they are urging hipsters to dine at their restaurants “ironically” which makes sense since they are never going to get them there through conventional advertising. Take a look:
Funny thing is, Applebee’s actually is running a social media campaign that is far more bizarre as this, called “Girls’ Night Out. Life is better shared.” A Betty White character harangues ladies for spending too much time online, then tells them the solution is to get down to Applebee’s for some facetime. Take a look:
There’s also a tumblr page that anchors the campaign and has links to Pinterest and Twitter pages (no Facebook, maybe because it’s a regional campaign). All the elements of a well thought out and expensive social media campaign.
Speaking of social media, Applebee’s is also marketing this thing: which is a life size inflatable dummy you can leave at your desk while you sneak out for lunch. This one is on Facebook, where you can take the Desk Lunch Diagnosis Quiz (I am the “Break Room Hero… people are tired of cleaning up the microwave after you”).
Does this stuff work? The “goddess” video above has over 50,000 hits but how many of those are potential customers? There are only 400 plus followers on the Twitter page and the selection of inflatable dolls on Amazon was originally 7 but is now down to just 2. The bottom line is that Applebee’s is still Applebee’s (check the hashtag #applebee and you’ll get a far more realistic snapshot of Middle America’s view of the chain) and there’s only so much you can do to get hipsters to change their behavior… unless they do it ironically, perhaps.
Years ago, around the turn of the millennium, I was walking near the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park when I saw an impeccably dressed man blow his nose and then toss his tissue into the manicured garden. I was outraged at this behavior and also by the realization that, since I myself was too meek to beard him, he was about to get away scott free.
I saw what you did, CVS...
It was at that moment I decided to create an online bulletin board where people could register outrageous things they saw other people do. On some level, miscreants like this could be brought to justice if only in the mind of the poster. I registered the domain name that day: isawwhatyoudid.com.
That was a nasty and brutish era where there was no Facebook, no Twitter (imagine!) which today could serve the purpose of venting my outrage. I never got around to doing anything more with the concept and after a couple of years I let my ownership of the domain lapse. It was immediately snatched up by Warner Brothers, probably as the website for a teen movie they were planning. But the movie never got off the planning stage, they in turn let their ownership expire, and I bought it back again.
I think this website could still be useful today, for a somewhat different purpose. Above is a photo of an outrageously worthless product I bought at my local CVS pharmacy. It’s a travel-size bottle to be filled with shampoo or whatever, and it’s an abomination because the screw top doesn’t seal. If I had taken this on a trip it would have leaked all over and made a mess when air pressure changed on the airplane.
At $1.99 my reasonable response would have been to just throw it away, but instead I took it to CVS and got a refund and asked the cashier, a competent woman named Jodi, if she would report it to corporate and ask them to stop carrying this defective product. She said she would but I have doubts how much difference it will make. So let’s suppose I also record my story on isawwhatyoudid.com. In its new configuration the site is not going to be an organized BBS, just a soup of angst where people can post whatever they like (except there will be an adult content filter) and it goes into a searchable database.
Thus, months after my experience, when another customer has their Louis Vuitton toilet bag ruined by one of these bottles and sees that CVS was asked to stop selling them but did not, then they will have some fodder for appropriate action. Make sense? There will also be a tag cloud documenting the frequency with which certain words or phrases are used…. Unlike the tag cloud on this blog, which is created manually, it will grow organically like a boil to reflect current topics. Commonly used words will be excluded from the tag cloud and there will be extra weight for recency so it’s constantly changing and relevant.
Actually, I’m probably going to be too busy to do anything with this for awhile. If any of my readers wants to take this project on, shoot me an email.
At this moment I’m sitting in #DMA2011 listening to Biz Stone and trying to follow the stream on his tool… wait, that sounds odd. What I’m doing is watching the tweetstream on my preferred reader (Hootsuite) which though it does not say so is only bringing me the Top Tweets as defined by Twitter’s recently instituted algorithm. And then I have my twitter.com open manually reset to “all” with the #dma2011 hashtag and I’m getting so many more tweets and it is so much more interesting.
The irony of Twitter filtering our results, so only the cool guys show up, is that it’s exactly the opposite of the behavior that caused Twitter to catch fire at SXSW 2008 (or was it 2009?)… people in a session tweeting that there was a better session next door and everybody gets up and leaves because everybody is tweeting and following the same hashtag. If only the Top Tweets were permitted those folks would probably still be sitting in that room at the Austin Convention Center.
Just sayin. You can find a less instantaneous, more well-thought commentary on Top Tweets here.
A number of folks have asked me to share the talk I did for the DMA in San Francisco in October, “How Twitter Killed Direct Marketing Copywriting (Just Kidding)”. I now have an MP3 of the audio which I will be happy to email you… just use the “contact” links on this site to get in touch.
I can also give you access to a private site where you can watch my Powerpoint slides with audio (which is same as the MP3) but it won’t add a whole lot because the DMA techs did not capture any of the videos. It’s a lot simpler to just listen to the MP3. Let me know if you want a copy (it’s a 13 MB file).
Here’s a good strategy for working a conference as unpredictable as South by Southwest Interactive. Give yourself an assignment, e.g. a resource you need to find or a topic you learn about, then refer back to it whenever there’s a choice to be made in your activity flow.
The Silent Majority: Facebook developers at SXSWi
Here are my two. First, I wanted to find out about Facebook and SXSW. Specifically, I wanted to follow up on my hypothesis that while it is a vast online community, people in the geek world don’t want to talk about Facebook because it runs on a proprietary platform. I started by putting up a #Facebook #sxsw hashtag search in TweetDeck and watching the traffic. Yep, not a lot of it. I did run across the Facebook Developer Garage off site event and spent a couple of hours there yesterday. Show of hands requested from the audience: how many of you are Facebook developers? (almost everybody) How many actually use Facebook? (quite a lot fewer.)
We all love Twitter because it’s an erector set, but meanwhile Facebook is Dad’s muscle car (or maybe Mom’s) idling in the driveway. You can’t ignore 400 million users indefinitely. Josh from Gowalla got cheers on the stage and everybody loves Josh/Gowalla and how they now have their Facebook Connect check-in. So what happens in a few months when Facebook introduces its own check-in feature?
Meanwhile, my second assignment was related to the fact that several folks have recently asked me about being a social media consultant for them. I’m not sure it’s a good fit because social media marketing requires constant attention (similar to good P.R.) and as a freelance copywriter I sometimes need to hole up for a couple of days at a time. So I wanted to find folks who actually are social media consultants and are good at it. Through the #facebook #sxsw tag I ran across the the folks at The KBuzz. I went to their mixer to meet them and talked to some of their clients and was impressed. Mallorie Rosenbluth is their Director of Small Business which is what most of my inquires would be; for $1000 they will design a Facebook page for you and do a detailed analysis of your business and your social media opportunities, then provide recommendations which you can execute on your own or through a monthly contract with them.
Check them out. UPDATE: Mallorie contacted me to say that if you use the code OTIS10 they’ll give you 10% off above pricing.
I did a workshop last week for the DMA on social media. It was called “I’m on Twitter and Facebook, now what? How to REALLY put social media to work for your business.” The premise is that a lot of businesses jumped into social media marketing in 2009 without really thinking through what it was all about, and 2010 is the year they’ll now get analytic and practical about it.
In fact, I found that a lot of attendees are using social media, especially Twitter, to promote their businesses. They are tweeting offers, news related to their products, and links of interest to their market. Yet few of these marketers said they regularly use Twitter themselves. I think you need to walk the walk: you can’t effectively use the medium unless you invest time in participating in the user experience by being a user.
Meanwhile, almost nobody including me was paying proper attention to Facebook. This is dangerously short sighted. Facebook is amazingly successful, approaching 400 active million users of whom 50% sign on every day. A single Facebook application, Farmville, has more users than Twitter. But Facebook seems so consumer focused that many of the business marketers in the room can’t take it seriously.
The other thing is that, while Twitter is easy to play around with, Facebook is very rigid in what you can and can’t do. Twitter is the PC (or maybe the Unix workstation), Facebook is the Mac. It’s their way or the highway. But the “page” tools (used to build what used to be a “fan page”) and Ad Manager are so easy to use it is a low time investment to try them out.
Nielsen reported that 13% of 2010 Winter Olympics viewers were online while watching the competitions, and of those 40% were “Facebooking”. That is a term I first heard during the Super Bowl when the hostess of the party we attended was disappointed my wife hadn’t brought her laptop so they could Facebook with their friends about what snacks were being served, how boring the game was etc. Of course your could do this on Twitter but why? On Facebook you’re among a cozy circle of friends and there’s no 140 cc limit.
The PowerPoint of my DMA workshop is available here. Look at it in slide view mode, because almost every image is a clickable hyperlink.
I’m wondering why I and so many others were so ga-ga about Twitter at SXSW earlier this year. Maybe it was the new TweetDeck app that allowed us to chirp back and forth about the session that was happening in front of us in the same room. But anyway, I was expecting Twitter to change my life and it hasn’t.
If you want to make money with Twitter, what marketers are realizing is that it’s a great platform for communicating with your EXISTING customers—the same discovery we all made about email. Example: the Korean taco truck telling followers where it will show up next. A company letting its best customers in on a “secret” sale. And an organization like Zappos which has discovered Twitter is an effective vehicle for internal communications. I guess this isn’t really making money per se… rather, you’re saving money or expanding your base with an efficient means of targeted communication.
Best way to make Twitter relevant in your own life: go through your tweets and ruthlessly unfollow anyone who tweets frequently with info that is not fantastically interesting. If you are disappointed with what you read in Twitter, do this immediately then replace the unfollowed by going to http://wefollow.com/ and following a few media sources or people that seem interesting. Repeat on a regular basis, unfollowing those who aren’t interesting after all. Yes, this is work, which is the antithesis of what Twitter is supposed to be.
Twitter founder Biz Stone calls it “curating” your tweets, as if we all had a roomful of Hundertwassers instead of inane tweets about needing to go to the gym. Okay…
A good writer quickly learns the importance of developing a voice for his or her writing. Readers get more involved when they feel like a real person is writing to them. And over time you know what that voice is for a particular genre or publication and you fall into it like an actor playing a familiar part.
The author of otisregrets, for example, is somewhat professorial, a bit stuffy, yet tries hard to be approachable and takes extra care to explain what he means if it’s not immediately clear. While Otis M writing on Yelp is very different. That author is about 10 years younger and something of a wise guy. He uses catch phrases and occasional puns and enjoys going off on tangents in his reviews.
I know both these writers well and so do my readers. These voices haven’t always been there, as you can see from reading some early posts in either forum. I didn’t set out to be that person, but rather evolved into it over time.
All of which is my preamble to a theory on why I haven’t developed a habit of Tweeting frequently: I can’t find a way to develop a voice in 140 characters (which I try to keep to 120 for retweetability). By the time I say the bare minimum I have to say, I’m close to the limit.
After I realized this I started looking at other people’s tweets to see who had a voice I can recognize. @the_real_shaq has a voice, but he’s one of a kind. (Shaq’s eulogy for former NFL quarterback Steve McNair, who was shot to death yesterday: “Rip steve mcnair Roo roo q dog”) @broylesa has a voice, but she is nearly always writing about food in the Austin area… maybe very specific subject matter is a key.
Everyone else in my tweetstream is sticking to the facts, unless it’s personal. Here’s @heatheranne who works in advertising which is probably why we follow each other: “Trying to get glass out of my now-jammed garbarator. Oh my…” Now that is good writing, a vivid word picture plus a made up word and comment that makes you feel what she is feeling. I am going to go for adjectives and a personal aside next time I tweet and see what happens.
What’s so different about Twitter? And how do you use it to best advantage? One wonderful SXSWi panel, featuring rhetoric professors from the University of Texas, answered these questions by going back to Aristotle, the original documentarian of the use of words as a persuasive medium.
The original rhetoric, as Aristotle described it in 330 BC, was temporal: arguments were oral and words could only be processed in the order they were spoken. Once the written word came along, texts could be read in any order but there was a new limitation, spatiality: once words were put on paper, the printed information itself could not be moved. The web has made possible easily movable written information and Twitter carries this to the logical extreme with a constantly moving stream which is in essence a personal newspaper with an audience of one. (Here I am brutally paraphrasing the segment of Prof. John Jones which can be seen on ZDnet.)
No two people will ever see the same Twitter stream, and you yourself will never see your stream in exactly the same way twice. Yet it is very easy to control and edit your personal newspaper through the people you choose to follow. My experience is that if you start with a few people you find inherently interesting, like @guykawasaki or @broylesa (the terrific food columnist for the Austin Statesman, who stokes my interest in eating and makes me feel like I’m still at SXSW) and then check out @ tags in their tweets to see who THEY correspond with, you will soon build a fascinating stream. And if you’re interested in a topic, whether news or personal curiosity, a # search takes you in another satisfying direction.
Back to the panel, they said the best way to write your own tweets is to take into account the possibility of modularity and reuse. Prof. Jim Brown observed that every tweet has both an intended audience (the person you identify with an @ tag at the beginning, plus your known followers) and an unintended audience (everybody else, now or in the future.) A corollary of this is that the often-levied charge of Twitter narcissism is bogus. “Narcissism isn’t in the status update, it’s in the person annoyed by the update. If you’re annoyed by the tweet, it wasn’t meant for you.”
Apparently last year was the year of Facebook at SXSWi, and 2009 was the year of Twitter. Many of the sessions were specifically about Twitter, and everybody everywhere was twittering away on the new TweetDeck desktop application. We SXSWiers seem to like Twitter very much. Savant and trendsetter Guy Kawasaki was asked in a session to confirm, “If they charged for Twitter you’d probably pay whatever they asked” and he responded “that’s right.”