Tag Archives: blog

Advice for Bloggers: Write for the World

Internet's universe...

In the new book, The Yahoo! Style Guide, bloggers are advised to “write for the world.” We’re reminded that the web is a worldwide medium and “site visitors probably come from more than one country and more than one culture. Collectively, they probably speak several languages.”

I review the analytics for this site on a regular basis and am often intrigued to see the far-reaching range that posts can have. This past month visits came from 47 countries/territories and 23 languages. (Drilling down a little further I could even see that one recent post was picked up and cited on a blog in Brazil and then viewed most heavily in Sao Paulo.)

So what’s a blogger to do?

• You can start by following five best practices from the style guide: 1) Keep the sentence structure simple, 2) Include “signposts”: words that help readers see how the parts of a sentence relate, 3) Eliminate ambiguity, 4) Avoid uncommon words and non-literal usages, and 5) Rewrite text that doesn’t translate literally.

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The Blog as a New Literary Form

Andrew Sullivan has published a wonderful new essay, “Why I Blog” in the November 2008 issue of The Atlantic. Sullivan a seasoned online writer for Slate, print editor for The New Republic, columnist for The Atlantic, and blogger for The Daily Dish, describes bloggings evolution as a literary form.  Sullivan writes, “Unlike any single piece of print journalism, its borders are extremely porous and its truth inherently transitory.  The consequences of this for the act of writing are still sinking in.”

Sullivan relates the “log” part of the word “blog” to a ship’s log, which tracked the progression of the ship’s voyage before radio, radar, satellites or sonar. “As you read a log, you have the curious sense of moving backward in time as you move forward in pages–the opposite of a book…it is [blogging], in many ways, writing out loud.”

Sullivan says, “Blogging is about brevity and immediacy.” He reminds us, “the key to understanding a blog is to realize that it’s a broadcast, not a publication.  If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.”

I LOVE this essay.  What I love probably more then anything else is seeing blogs given recognition and respect as a literary form.   Personally, I’ve become attached to writing weekly posts.  The discipline of blogging have also had the extra perk of being great narrative calisthenics for writing creative nonfiction essays and poetry.  I love how Andrew Sullivan validates and gives shape and meaning to the blog, which at times feels like a forgotten step-child.

“The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction.  It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before.”

Sullivan’s essay makes the reasons why I blog, easier to explain.

How Many Bloggers Does It Take to Maintain a Company Blog?

Have you ever wondered how many bloggers it takes to maintain a company blog? Well there’s the one who:

  1. dreams about the day they’ll push the publish button.
  2. gives credit where credit is due with trackbacks, linking and citing sources.
  3. sees the company blog as a part of the corporate marketing strategy.
  4. looks for images, video and podcasts to accompany the text.
  5. has passion and the willingness to commit to regularly scheduled posts.
  6. can be serious, whimsical, thought leader-ish, and at times– appropriately personal.
  7. uses a dictionary, thesaurus, and spell checker.
  8. tests links.
  9. reads and comments on other blogs.
  10. develops their own rhythm of writing, whether it’s keeping a folder of many drafts waiting to be completed-or the epiphany writer who taps away on their keyboard when inspiration strikes.
  11. reviews analytics and knows what people have taken the time to stop and read.
  12. isn’t apologetic when they answer, “I’m a blogger.”
  13. experiences blogging as a journey, and is proud to have a collection of recent and archived posts.

While it may take thirteen (and probably many more) processes to maintain and nurture a blog, it can be done with as little as one person!

If you already have a company blog, how do you keep it well fed and alive?

The Elements of Social Media Style: What Would Strunk & White Say?

Be Obscure

You may have an old copy of Strunk & White’s infamous book, The Elements of Style, cramped into your bookcase, or perhaps you’re using it to prop your window open on a hot summer’s night. Or possibly you’re like me, upgraded a few years ago and own a copy of the beautifully illustrated version by Maira Kalman. You have to wonder, if Strunk & White wrote the book today, what would they have to say about social media writing style–mobile communications, iPhones and the likes of twittering?

Roger Angell writes in the forward of the illustrated book, “How simple they look, set down here in White’s last chapter: ‘Write in a way that comes naturally.’ ‘Revise and rewrite,’ ‘Do not explain too much,’ and the rest; above all, the cleansing, clarion ‘Be clear.’”

I imagine Strunk & White would’ve been dumbfounded if they knew over one million iPhones were sold this past weekend; or if they had knowledge of the extraordinary numbers of people who are using cellular and wireless devices for mobile communication, web browsing and all sorts of online navigation in their business and personal lives.

Twitter’s 140 character limit, and the informal lower-case email style with its often omitted salutations and closings, makes you have to wonder sometimes. So what about this issue of social media writing style?

There’s an interesting story about a Twitter faux pas which occurred last year when one of my blogging heroes Steve Rubel wrote a tweet, “PC Mag is another. I have a free sub but it goes in the trash.” Unfortunately for Steve he didn’t make it clear that he does read PC Magazine, it’s just that he reads it online. Naturally, folks at the magazine were upset. People wrote on and on about the incident until Steve tried to put it to rest with an honest and sincere open letter apologizing for the comment “…it does not reflect my full media consumption habits.”

Not to rub salt on an old wound but I refer to this example because of the valuable lesson Steve (and many others) learned, “Post too fast without providing context and it can elicit an unintended response.”

Most of us can probably identify either as the giver or the receiver, and don’t have to dig down too deep to think of an incident when something was written too fast without the necessary context. The example that comes to mind for me didn’t have a public fall-out but it did make me have to stop and take notice.

A couple of months ago a friend emailed me back an answer to a question I’d sent her a few days earlier. Her reply consisted of five short words, and because of the brevity it had a certain je ne sais quoi--bite to it. Only recently my friend told me about the business trip and how she rushed to write and send the email as the flight attendant instructed her a second time,“Turn off your Blackberry, Mam.” Understandably, my friend thought an answer was better then no answer. However, from my perspective, the reply didn’t sound anything like my friend, or the way we usually communicate. I would have been more understanding if I’d known a flight attendant had been breathing down her neck when she secretly pushed the send button.

In deference to Strunk & White and all their good advice about writing naturally, being clear, do not explain too much– there are many aspects which warrant updating. Even though it’s 2008, and rules of usage and approaches to style are different, and most of us are feeling pressured for time, communicating on the go, and often limited by number of characters and screen size, it might help to remember — at least for now, there’s usually a human being somewhere on the other end.

Artwork by Maira Kalman from The Elements of Style, Penguin Press, 2005.

The social media press release

SMPRI recently came across an interesting blog post by Paul Dunay on Marketing Prof’s Daily Fix that I want to share.  Paul’s post entitled “The Power of Social Media Meets the Press Release” made reference to a social media press release (SMPR).    This new, Web 2.0 friendly template was introduced by Todd Defren and the PR folks at SHIFT Communications

According to SHIFT principal Todd Defren, “the SMPR is simply a way to both Web-ify the content that you put in a news release, and also, ideally to socialize it.  So it’s about adding multimedia, making sure these things are more findable than they’ve ever been before in the age of Google, but also giving some community and context aspects to it as well.  Letting people potentially comment on the news, or take and remix aspects of the news and put it on their own blog…and discuss it and find it among their own friends.”

The template is 100% open to the PR community.  It remains to be seen whether the SMPR can be effectively used to generate conversation, but it’s worth a shot.   At a minimum, the SMPR can serve to spark new thinking in how social media impacts the press release and other PR tools.    Has anyone tried using a SMPR?  If so, I’d love to hear more!

Is Your Blog in Need of a Tune-up?

mechanic working on carLast week I addressed the topic of measuring the impact of social media programs and talked about the significant value that is placed on the metric of “participation and engagement.”   I wholeheartedly agree that this attribute is a critical objective in implementing social media tools such as a blog, but what do you do if your blog is not engaging visitors?  What can you do to encourage your audience -  a.k.a., customers and potential customers - to participate in your conversation?

In a MarketingProfs article entitled, ”Eight Ideas for Revitalizing Your Blog” social media consultant, Mack Collier, provided some excellent tips for jumpstarting your blog.

  1. Examine your blog’s content – tailor the content so the visitor benefits
  2. Interact with readers – reply to comments and read the blogs of people who comment
  3. Post regularly – set up a posting schedule that considers your reader’s habits
  4. Add visuals to your post that capture reader attention
  5. Add links to your posts to help your reader find helpful and relevant information
  6. Examine why you are blogging – a primary motivation should be to better understand your customers
  7. Shift your mindset – the blog should be a communication tool not a promotional device
  8. Position your blog from your customers’ point of view – not yours

As marketers, we’ve grown accustomed to reminding ourselves to “think like the customer” when strategizing and executing marketing campaigns.   And, a social media tool like the blog should be treated in the same light…be sure to think like the reader!  This means shaping the tone, content and timing of your blog posts to appeal to the reader.

Did someone say ice cream?

picture of moose's face and tracksThis past weekend I was introduced to a delicious treat…Moose Tracks ice cream. Why am I sharing my ice cream preferences with you on this “Impressions Through Media” blog? Well… I liked this ice cream so much that I was drawn to my laptop later that night to google “moose tracks ice cream.” Not only did I discover where to buy my next pint, but much to my surprise, I learned that its manufacturer, Denali Flavors, is a true player in the blogosphere!

In fact, Denali Flavors was featured in a recent NY Times article, “Blogging’s a Low-cost, High Return Marketing Tool” that describes small businesses who successfully use blogs for marketing. The company specifically caught my attention for its experimentation with various types of blogs over the past few years. Denali Flavors has launched various blogs to determine the ideal “traffic-generator” for its web site. One blog followed a Denali-sponsored bicycle team as it raised money for an orphanage in Latvia. Another, which is still live, tracked the whereabouts of a famous moose as it traveled thoughout the country.

What really intrigues me is Denali’s most successful blog in terms of traffic – Free Money Finance – a blog that has absolutely nothing to do with its ice cream business. The company chose to blog about personal finance as it was a popular search category on the web, and was something of interest to its Marketing department. The blog generates significant traffic and serves as an indepedent advertising and media outlet for Moose Tracks. Visit the blog and you’ll see the Moose Tracks logo prominently featured on the right-hand side. The blog, for a cost of about $400 per year, reportedly receives about 4,500 visits each day and each visitor views two pages on average, which means they see two ads for Moose Tracks ice cream every time they visit. That could translate into a lot of ice cream sales for Denali!

As Denali demonstrates, a blog is a low-cost marketing tool that can be successfully employed to raise company profile and build brand.