Advise, Don't Advertise

There's lots of good advice out there about how to launch a social media marketing campaign, and luckily for you, most of it is in agreement.

However, one thing you should remember is this - people don't want to be advertised to when they log in to Twitter. Sponsored tweets and promoted trends are already annoying lots of people, so don't let your own marketing tweets have a compounding effect.

You might think that sounds like an impossible situation, but it's not. You just have to remember that social networking is about word of mouth - you only need to give people a positive impression of your brand, and they'll do the hard work of converting themselves into customers the next time they need a product or service that you provide.

And that is why I say this: Advise, Don't Advertise.

Ways to Skin a Cat

It might not look like a pun, but it is, because 'skinning' can also mean changing how something looks... so there.

Anyway, following on from my post just now about how digital copywriters are more awesome than typewriter copywriters (well, the ones who refuse to make the transition to online conventions, that is), I got to thinking about some of the other aspects of writing for the web.

Look at this word: bold. It's bold. And so are these two. And so are these.

But they're all emboldened in different ways.

The Digital Revolution and Single-Spaced Sentences

I've owned typewriters in the past. I'm not totally unfamiliar with monospaced typefaces and fonts. But it's fair to say I'm what most people would call a 'digital copywriter'.

That is to say, the majority of my work is published online, I write most of it on a computer (as opposed to drafting by hand or good old-fashioned typewriter ink) and, in actual fact, I learned to type (one-finger typing, but typing nonetheless) on a ZX Spectrum before I could even hand-write in block capitals.

All of this means that digital copywriting is my 'natural' way of working. Directly into an eCommerce platform, or a blog posting page (like the one I'm typing into now...), or a Word document if it's text that needs to be sent elsewhere before publication.

It also means I'm au fait with the conventions of writing for the web.

The Shopping Basket Analogy

Isn't it nice when an analogy seems to suit its analogue? In this case, it doesn't get much better than using a shopping basket as an analogy for eCommerce best-practice.

When I say 'shopping basket', I mean your bog-standard, real-world, handheld shopping basket, like this one from Reading-based Arrow Wire Products:

Take a look at it, and wonder at how such thin strands of metal manage to support as much weight as you can manage to load on to them on your way to the checkout...

Reasons Why I'm Freelance

This isn't a self-promoting blog post (for a change) - more of a confessional. Y'see, part of the reason why I'm freelance is probably that I'm not much good at job interviews.

I've been an interviewer in the past, and to be honest, everyone says the same boring things. Of course you don't really want to work for that exact company - it's just that they had a vacancy. You're not gonna sit on the breadline waiting for their next round of recruitment if you get turned down, you'll just apply somewhere else. It's not rocket science, and if you say anything to the contrary, you're probably just lying in order to get the job.

So when I'm being interviewed for a job, I tend to take the honest approach. It's paid off in the past - the following exchange took place in the interview for a job I stayed in for almost five years...

Wikipedia Blackout Workarounds

Today (January 18th 2012), Wikipedia's English website was replaced by a large, mostly black notice urging users to educate themselves about the legislation currently being considered in the US.

Briefly, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are designed to allow websites to be blocked in the US, if there is reason to believe they cause the dissemination of copyrighted material.

However, critics have raised concerns that the new laws could be manipulated to effectively censor all kinds of websites with very few options for their owners in terms of getting them unblocked again.

This article is not focused on that issue - although clearly, if the concerns are well-founded, it is a significant obstacle to maintaining free speech and freedom of access online.

Instead, I'm looking, ironically, at how hard it can be to prevent people from accessing your information - and, in particular, at how easy it is to work around the Wikipedia blackout.

Hello Goodbye

Why say hello, just to say goodbye?

Plenty of what happens on the internet is just small talk. The big websites - Facebook, Twitter - are based almost entirely around chitchat, just giving people a way to keep up with the events of their friends' lives.

Other websites, like Google and StumbleUpon, just point people in the right direction rather than providing information in their own right.

In eCommerce, though, your content isn't really there to entertain readers (although making it entertaining can help to achieve the desired outcome), nor is it there to coldly inform readers (although it may include product details to help them make up their minds).

In eCommerce, your content is there for persuasion - to convince the reader to purchase your product or service. And that means you have a limited number of words in which to make your case, and win them over to your way of thinking.

The Feltham of the Opera

Rachel Feltham of BD Recruitment is one of my most cherished Twitter friends, along with Claire Lomax, formerly of BD and now at Instinct.

Both of them are mould-breakers, recruitment consultants who actually care about the candidates on their books, rather than pitching role after unsuitable role and generally wasting everybody's time.

Rachel has an added distinctive feature - connect with her on LinkedIn, and you're as likely to find the next job ad written in song-lyrics form as you are to see bullet points and key candidate requirements.

I'm partial to a bit of song parody myself, so I often fling a few lyrics Rachel's way on Twitter - and you may well have seen one of my previous rewrites on here.

The piece below came to me late last night, as I sat in the quiet of my darkened lounge, a refuge from the bustle and business of the day, and is written to fit one of my favourite musical compositions.

Rachel, I hope you like it!

Sentence, forming, with no words of warning.
Typing - writing - with artificial lighting.
Instinct now is ruling, from 20 years of schooling,
helping to decide which words I write.
For I compose the language of the night.

Alarm bells, ringing, bleary eyes are stinging.
Salesmen calling, concentration's falling.
Later, with a beer, now everything is clear
and what was wrong in daytime now feels right;
yes, this is the language of the night.

Snuff the lights, for the lights will only show the room
and the room isn't what I need to see.
In the dark, it is easy to perceive
that the words are just as they should be...

Deftly, gently, words are elimentary,
type them, write them, never try to fight them.
Let the darkened room be a crib and not a tomb;
inspiration brings its golden light
and helps me write the language of the night.

Snuff the lights, start conversing with my inner voice,
and my inner voice tells me what to say.
In the dark, then the words can set me free
and I can see they're just as they should be.

Sing each sentence, passion's in attendance;
nudging, steering, now the haze is clearing.
Darkness is my friend, now my opus has been penned,
lifts my senses to the highest height
as I compose the language of the night.

You alone can help my words take flight
as I write the language of the night.