Mistakes you should avoid as a business using social media

The always smart Kaylynn Chong at Hootsuite has these six good reminders:

Don’t over-hashtag. “Too many hashtags can make you look spammy or desperate if you’re using ones that aren’t relevant to your post. Even if you gain followers, it’s often the wrong kind of follower—like bots or people only interested in being followed back.”

Don’t hop on trending topics.Just because there’s buzz around a topic, that doesn’t mean people want to hear from you on the topic. If it’s not relevant to your brand and target audience, your efforts will fall flat and you might turn people off.” 

Don’t publish the same message all over the place.Even for your fans that are following you on multiple networks—imagine how strange it is to see the same message over and over again?” Create “unique content for each platform.”

Don’t promote-promote-promote.Social media is a two-way conversation. It’s not the place to broadcast how great your business is—at least not all the time. Social networking platforms are place for people to meet and interact with your brand.”

Don’t keep your social media accounts private.A private social media account can convey many things—laziness? Hiding something? Or, you don’t think social media is worth the investment?”

Don’t automate gratitude.An automated thank-you message can come off as impersonal. … Plus, nobody likes talking to a robot. If they did, why hire someone to manage your brand’s social media handle?”

The Interruption

The renowned and divisive Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller would tell this little story about an exchange he had with the great Niels Bohr:

Some of us, including Bohr, were having a discussion about the spectrum and states of molecular oxygen. Bohr had some opinions, the details of which I have now forgotten, but which were in obvious conflict with the facts that were known. In this special detailed case, I knew the situation and tried to explain it. Unfortunately I could not do so to Bohr’s satisfaction.

He began his objection: “Teller, of course, knows a hundred times more about this than I.” With a lack of politeness occasionally seen among twenty-year-olds, I interrupted (with some difficulty): “That is an exaggeration.”

Bohr instantly stopped and stared at me. After a pause, he declared, “Teller says I am exaggerating. Teller does not want me to exaggerate. If I cannot exaggerate, I cannot talk. All right. You are right, Teller. You know only ninety-nine times more than I do.” He then proceeded with his original argument having dispensed with any possibility of further interruption.

I have never forgotten, nor have I often neglected to mention, Bohr’s wisdom: If you cannot exaggerate, you cannot talk.

This is one of my favourite stories.

The Hobo Ethical Code

This is beautiful. From Open Culture:

1. Decide your own life; don’t let another person run or rule you.

2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.

3. Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.

4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.

5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.

6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos.

7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you.

8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.

10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.

11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.

12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.

13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children; expose all molesters to authorities…they are the worst garbage to infest any society.

14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.

15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

Hence, teaching manners matters

In a blog post this morning called “A Raging Snowflake,” my good friend Clarissa writes:

Remember the Oppressed Tiffany, a very special snowflake whose “narrative was erased by the entire field of academia” when a hapless prof asked her to work on her writing?

The administration of her college is now going to humiliate the entire teaching faculty by forcing them to attend classes on microaggressions to appease the raging snowflake. Serves them right for not figuring out that their job is not to teach the snowflakes but to praise them slavishly and exuberantly without pause.

I normally tend to agree with Clarissa but need to part ways with her here. The unnamed professor apparently announced his/her suspicions – that the student had plagiarized an assignment – to the entire class. There is never a reason to humiliate a student that way, IMHO, even if you have proof of such wrongdoing, and there doesn’t seem to have been any in this case.

Below is a photograph of part of the assignment. The professor indicates that this student could not have used the word “hence.” I might have been offended by that remark, too!

hence

I am not certain that this teacher was trying to “marginalize” a Latina student. The prof was, though, certainly being a real oaf and, in those moments, a terrible teacher.

And, too, who the heck doesn’t know the word “hence” – in an academic environment? I teach students from all over the world, and practically to a person the word “hence” is in their vocabulary, and if anything used too often.

By the way, you should read Clarissa’s blog every day. She is very prolific, opinionated, brilliant, and vivid. A joy.

h/t Clarissa

Real Words

One of the best pure writers I have ever seen was a psychology student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University named Emily (she gave me permission to use her first name). She could amalgamate and compress numerous, complex source articles into a hyper-lucid page or two, which on top of that was mellifluous when read aloud. Just the memory still gives me goosebumps.

Once Emily complained to me that professors in her major often dinged her for submitting assignments that did not meet the page requirement. “I wish they understood how hard it is to be so brief.”

I thought of Emily the other day when I read scholar and blogger Bryan A. Garner’s post Law Prose Lesson #260: Acronyms and Initialisms, which I quote here in full:

Legal writers are addicted to defined terms, especially shorthand forms made of initials. (An acronym is sounded as a word [UNESCO], while an initialism is pronounced letter by letter [HMO].) Although abbreviations are highly convenient, it’s a false sense of convenience: they benefit the writer but burden the reader—unless they’re already extremely well known, and most aren’t.

This burdening of the reader skews the reader-writer relationship. The whole idea instead is to make the reader’s job easier, even if this means making the writer’s job more difficult.

A certain judicial opinion defines the following terms: EFP, FCM, HC, NYME, REDCO, ROI, and TOI. Before we know it, we read that an FCM represents REDCO before NYME, expecting an improved ROI, but that the FCM also has duties to TOI, under EFP-1, to certify that TOI owned enough HCs to cover its EFP obligations. To most readers, it’s all gibberish.

Instead, use real words. Make it succinct, but use real words. Otherwise, your readers will rebel by putting your prose down and never again returning to it—or if they do return to it, they’ll detest you.

Dear Reader, Try to make the above piece of prose more clear or more concise. I tried; couldn’t. Emily could probably give it a whirl, but I don’t know what she would come up with.

Readers of this blog know how much we esteem author Garner‘s work, the scope of which is wholly humbling:

Garner is editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary and the author of many leading works on legal style, including Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage, The Elements of Legal Style, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style, The Winning Brief, Legal Writing in Plain English, and The Winning Oral Argument. His latest books are Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts and Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges—cowritten with Justice Antonin Scalia—and Better Business Writing, a work focused on the art of communicating in the business world, published by the Harvard Business Review.

His magnum opus is the 942-page Garner’s Modern American Usage, published by Oxford University Press. It is widely considered the preeminent authority on questions of English usage.

If you are already feeling lazy today, check out these links another time. Just a recommendation.

L’Esprit D’Escalier

staircase

Things have changed, if just a little bit, in ten years. From January 2005:

I’ve been hearing dialogue everywhere, dialogue that seems to be coming from the same play.

At the end of party I went to recently, a woman told me that I talk too much.  I didn’t know how to respond, and left the party shortly afterwards, a bit confounded and mute, and afflicted with what the French call l’esprit d’escalier – “the wit of the staircase” – i.e., my mind began filling with all sorts of things I should or could have said.

So: a mind rewind.

Here we go:  “Bob, you talk too much.”

  • “True, true, true, true.”
  • “Not ‘too much,’ just ‘much.’”
  • “If you subtract the number of times I repeat myself, then you know that at least I don’t say too much.”
  • “I can tell you why: You’re not going anywhere, are you?”
  • “I just keep going until I find a word that makes you friendly.”
  • “Does that mean you don’t think I’m interesting?”
  • “What would you suggest I not have said?”
  • Or, finally: “Oh throw me away and call it a day.”

[A friend wrote me later, charmingly: “You don’t talk too much.  People talk too little.”]

repost from basil.ca

photo by Robert Basil

So, you think you can’t write …

Dana Fontein, a fine blog writer over at Hootsuite, posted a really helpful piece this morning, “So You Think You Can’t Write: 8 Writing Resources for Non-Writers.

Many believe that they simply cannot write, or that they aren’t a “writer,” when the truth is that they really just believe they are not a good writer.

For content marketers, writing is obviously an integral component to most, if not all, aspects of the job. Everything from drafting blog posts to crafting the perfect video script requires the ability to write. While of course the act of stringing words together to form sentences can satisfy the basic requirements, writing is a skill that with time, dedication, and a desire to improve, can be mastered to an exceptional level. Just like the perfect set of graphite pencils helps with drawing, there are numerous tools available to help you improve your chances of writing success.

Bless her heart, Fontein includes two nondigital resources (books!) that I can highly recommend as well: Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (remember the birds, my KPU students?).

Among those digital resources she lists, I follow Copyblogger (“the bible of content marketing”) closely. Others were new to me. Portent’s Content Idea Generator is whimsical and fun and occasionally absurd – and therefore a fine boost to brainstorming blog-post ideas. Others include Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer. (The headline “Why I love kittens” earned me a lowly 51/100 score, but with some precise guidance on how to improve it.)

Fonteyn annotates these and each of the other resources beautifully.

Thank you *very* much

The acknowledgments page to B. M. Pietsch’s book Dispensational Modernism is very funny:

I blame all of you. Writing this book has been an exercise in sustained suffering. The casual reader may, perhaps, exempt herself from excessive guilt, but for those of you who have played the larger role in prolonging my agonies with your encouragement and support, well … you know who you are, and you owe me.

These three sentences do reflect the loneliness, exhaustion, and self-doubt often involved in completing a book – or, worse, a doctoral dissertation. Gratitude in these cases is a learned response for some authors.

editing

Back in the day, as senior editor at Prometheus Books Inc., I would have conversations with authors who had omitted spouses, editors, agents and mentors in their acknowledgments page. One author refused to acknowledge *anyone* – though, following a stern recommendation, he permitted me to write a happy paragraph.

h/t Clarissa

Photo by Robert Basil

The angry period. When texting.

angryperiodWrites Clair Landsbaum in complex.com:

It’s much easier to be aggressive over text because you’re not face-to-face with the person you’re talking to, and people are finding new ways to express that aggression via the humble period. A new study by researchers at American University on text messages and IMs shows that the way we use punctuation has changed in order to convey new meaning through mediums that make it difficult to express tone, The New Republic reports.

Before texts, every sentence ended with a period. But with the advent of impersonal electronic communication, line breaks became a quicker and easier way to express the end of a thought. “The default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania​, told The New Republic. “In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like, ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.'” In other words, because the period is a deliberate choice, including it is especially passive-aggressive.

via Language Log

photo by Bob Basil

Independent Creativity: Making Yourself Successful

The wonderful Molly Crabapple explains what she has learned, in fifteen paragraphs. Here are a half dozen:

Companies are not loyal to you. Please never believe a company has your back. They are amoral by design and will discard you at a moment’s notice. Negotiate aggressively, ask other freelancers what they’re getting paid, and don’t buy into the financial negging of some suit.

I’ve cobbled together many different streams of income, so that if the bottom falls out of one industry, I’m not ruined. My mom worked in packaging design. When computers fundamentally changed the field, she lost all her work. I learned from this.

Very often people who blow up and become famous fast already have some other sort of income, either parental money, spousal money, money saved from another job, or corporate backing behind the scenes. Other times they’ve actually been working for 10 years and no one noticed until suddenly they passed some threshold. Either way, its good to take a hard look – you’ll learn from studying both types of people, and it will keep you from delusional myth-making.

I’ve never had a big break. I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more

Don’t be a dick. Be nice to everyone who is also not a dick, help people who don’t have the advantages you do, and never succumb to crabs in the barrel infighting.

Remember that most people who try to be artists are kind of lazy. Just by busting your ass, you’re probably good enough to put yourself forward, so why not try?