Thursday, 6 May 2010

Keyboard Conversationalist: Let Your Fingers Do The Talking

When I go to a social media site of an organisation I am following, I am not hoping to get their 30-page newsletter dumped on the page. If that was my intention, I would just read the newsletter, or attempt to read it as the case may be, depending on where it falls on the snoozemeter.

Writing for social media is diferent than writing for more traditional channels. Where a magazine or newsletter or press release typically used to be one way, the tools we use today have given readers a greater voice and have empowered them to speak up positively or negatively about a brand. Where writing used to be very business-like, a bit stuffy and in some cases, downright boring, writing for social media, as the name itself suggests is more social, more personable, more conversational - bringing the reader into the conversation and rather than persuading, it engages. Be familiar, but this does not mean "dumbing down" your content either. I don't advocate your English going to the dogs just because it's social media. The same rules apply, but it's your tone and your level of engagement that sets it apart from your Annual Report summary or your quarterly digest. It's pretty much like meeting your readers for drinks and having a conversation. Use bridges to connect your point with their experiences. I used Ellen's iPhone commercial here, not only cause I thought it was hilarious, but also it was a nice segue to the rest of the post. Don't be afraid to talk about yourself, an experience, something you observed at the supermarket etc, once it has relevance to your business point. You're writing for real people, who go to the supermarket and who may have gone through something quite similar and then they can better relate to it. But your witing should be infused with some life...real life.

Twitter is the ultimate space killer and focus enabler, with brands only having 140 characters to get to the point. So you message has to be really concise. I think this is generally indicative of communicating online. I would sit with that 30-page newsletter on my time, maybe on the weekend, if at all and give it the 2 hours of my life that it may require - 2 hours of my life I can never get back. The average person spends around 20-35 minutes a day online (note  said average, and not addicts!), so your content cannot rival the Nile in length. It means you need to be concise, to the point since you now have to write to adapt to people's time, their attention spans online and the space allotted in some cases. The "back" button is a serious thing and you should recognise that where a customer may be trapped for long stretches of time in your waiting room, with just a dozen copies of your newsletter on the rack, and no choice, the internet allows them to "put down" your article and find something else. So, while blogs are fab for expounding, noone wants to read your 5000 word entry, especially when they're networking on the down-low at work or taking a break from screaming babies at home. God knows when I am stealing time before I get ready for work to catch up on my reading, I don't have time to sit and read sermons - not when my toast is burning!

And for heaven's sakes, yes we are using social media to sell and that's how we convince our bosses to let us use it. However, your tweets and updates and blogs don't have to be a 24/7, non-stop commercial about your products. The continuous hard sell gets real old and can seriously come across as spam if you're not careful. Let your readers see the other side of your brand as well - staff, company activities, employee stories, customer events. And ask them questions. It's about engagement, it's about conversation. What do THEY have to say? Do you ever ask? What they say can be great content. It's not really about you as much as it is about you and them. Get excited about everything that makes your brand unique, and get your readers excited as well.

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