Overwriting and knowing when to stop

A few tips on making your content more shareable

Just look at the headline above. It’s neither here nor there. The word shareable is all on its own on the second “deck” of the H1 headline.

Now take out today’s paper or any newspaper and you’ll see that in all likelihood that there are no lone words on second or third decks of headlines. They tend to be filled out across one or a few decks and tightly written to fill the space (with a little help from layout programmes such as InDesign or Quark to increase or decrease the space between letters/words very subtly).

If you’re putting any sort of a heading, sub-heading etc on your website, blog or email newsletter, think about how it many characters as opposed to words will fit across either one or two lines before writing. It’ll look tidier. *

Fitting concise messages into Twitter

A handy way of practicing writing within a confined amount of characters is by using Twitter. 140 characters. Wow, that’s short you may think, if you’re not a regular Twitter user. But if your message is something other people might like to share by retweeting (RT) it, you may need to consider writing a 100 to 120 character tweet.

This morning I saw a tweet from a Bus Eireann twitter account which I thought would be worthwhile retweeting for another account I manage @housemates. I prefer manual retweeting, where you can edit the tweet or add a comment after it. So, in Hootsuite, the Twitter programme I use a lot of the time, I hit Re-Tweet and I saw the message was 156 characters long – 16 too many - because it included “RT: @buseireanndeals: ” Including spaces, that’s 22 extra characters to RT something from @buseireanndeals manually. I didn’t RT it. I didn’t want to go to the bother of editing it. Other days I may have, not today. At least not yet.

If you want your tweets to be more shareable and retweetable then you have to take into account the number of characters in your usernname and the space taken up by the other stuff. The other stuff, to save you counting, comes to 7 characters. If I am tweeting from @elainelarkin I know that anything I think could be retweeted should come to 140 characters minus 7 characters (the other stuff) minus 12 characters (username) = 121 characters. Make it short enough and you make it shareable.

*Disclaimer: Sometimes we’re in a rush too and to prove we’re human and not robot, there have been occasions where we’ve left one word hanging on its own on the second deck of headline in previous blog posts.

Have you checked your Facebook privacy settings?

About a year ago I went about making a list with 17 points on how to ensure your privacy on Facebook (see below).

Now I have just one: Have you checked your privacy settings lately? You better go check ‘em because since Facebook made some changes to the privacy settings I’ve heard of people who assumed their profiles were completely private being not so private.

Here’s the original 17 points:

  1. Click at the top of the page, Friends.
  2. You will see a list at top left of page: Friend Lists.
  3. Not sure if Limited Profile is there or you create it, but go into it or create it and start adding people who are distant/not really in your life.
  4. Then on very top of page go to settings, there’ll be a drop down menu.
  5. Click Account settings.
  6. Go down to the fourth option: Privacy Controls. On the right hand side of that line will be manage in blue.
  7. Click on manage.
  8. Click on Profile.
  9. There is a range of dropdown menus, you can change what people see here, I’d recommend, friends, or friends of friends but never My Network – anyone in Ireland network can see your stuff.
  10. To be really selective about your privacy go into each drop down menu and click customise.
  11. There you get the option to choose who doesn’t see your stuff – ‘except these people’
  12. Rather than choosing a load of individuals make sure you have your Limited Profile or whatever list made up, type in that list name, and hey presto you’re on the way to privacy. You could even make up a list Schoolfreinds or People I don’t know that well or Professional contacts or whatever and stop them seeing silly drunken pics etc…
  13. Save Changes
  14. Click on the Privacy link towards top left of page.
  15. Now click on News Feed and Wall.
  16. Tick or untick whatever boxes you want to.
  17. Save changes.

What areas of business can you write about?

In my line of work I come across all sorts of businesses and organisations. Large, small, long established, start-ups, all with one thing in common. They do not have the in-house skills or expertise or time to put together website content and digital and traditional marketing communications.

Something else they have in common, is the question: what areas of business can you write about? This question at first puzzled me, in my career as a journalist I have turned my hand to writing about all sorts of industries, organisations and business areas. I can write content for any type of business. How, you may ask?

It’s quite straightforward – my personal professional experience is as a journalist whereby articles are written through research, the helping hand of PR companies, and through the knowledge shared by interviewees. At Elaine Larkin Media, we take a similar approach to writing your website content or e-mail newsletters.

We research the business area and industry and get the key information from the company and suitable personnel. We distil this information and order it in such a way that it will be of interest to readers. That’s just part of our formula.

Our team of writers all have experience as journalists and editors, so you’re guaranteed a high level of service if you ask us to write your website content.

So back to the question in hand. We don’t have encylopaedic knowledge of every single business area, but we know how to source the information through research and thorough interviews. Keep that in mind, and get in touch if you think your website content is looking a bit tired or you need to engage a professional to source and write interesting news items for your website or e-mail newsletter.

Do you know who you’re LinkedIn with?

Somebody posed the question on Twitter today, what do you do if someone you do not know/have never met adds you as a contact on LinkedIn?

My honest answer was, yes, I have done it in the past. But I don’t accept such invites anymore.

Creating a network of trust

LinkedIn is about “trust” you see. If we all only add people we trust, well then it’s a more secure network for contacts of mine to do business with contacts of one of my other contacts.

If a contact I trust and trusts me back goes to do business with someone I don’t know at all and it backfires, well then the circle of trust is broken.

Enough of the preaching, but honestly that’s the thinking behind LinkedIn. So, 10 minutes later I deleted about 7 contacts in my LinkedIn network that I had never had any contact with, or former colleagues who added their LinkedIn profile a few years ago and forgot about it. They’ve all moved on from the roles and companies they’re listed as working in.

Maintaining your profile

They should really just delete their profiles or maintain them – and by maintaining them I mean using them, updating them, interacting with others through LinkedIn.

By being there still as my contacts, they’re really just numbers. They can add me as a contact when they resurrect their LinkedIn profiles.

If you don’t know somebody on that network and they add you as a contact, there could be the chance they are interested in doing business with you. If you have a website or your contact details are available through a straightforward enough Google search, or directory enquiries, and LinkedIn is their first point of contact… Well, maybe they’re just not that tech savvy, or they’re just looking to add loads of contacts for the numbers as opposed to anything else.

It’s good to talk

You don’t have to say no, though. You can always just chance it, make contact and see what happens, it could be the business deal of the year. You could always ask why someone wants to connect with you. Or you could suggest connecting elsewhere if you don’t think LinkedIn is the place. There’s loads of other social networks.

Facebook friends

Sometimes getting an invite to be someone’s friend on Facebook is just as puzzling. Facebook to me is about friendship. It’s not a place I want to connect with clients, customers or competitors unless we can really both say we are good friends. If I felt it was appropriate, naturally I could set up a Facebook page for my business, but at the moment I don’t feel that would serve any useful purpose.

I already have a Twitter and LinkedIn presence (not to mention some Irish business networks) which is where, I believe, relevant conversations and connections happen – well at least for my business.

What works for you?

Developing a habit – blogging regularly

Blogging is something that many people have a mental block about actually doing.

Still, they invest heavily in the concept. They invest time in talking and blogging about starting one; they are kept awake into the wee hours thinking about topics they could write about, if only they had the time; and they spend valuable man hours tweeting on Twitter about how they’ve been too busy to sit down a get one done. They’ve great ideas, they claim, or no ideas, or no way with words; they’ve great excuses.

Plenty of us are guilty of that. But what can we actually do about transforming inaction to action? How do can you go about writing a regular blog that develops a following, helps people find your website, and gets people talking about, if not buying your product or service?

If you want to start blogging, do your market research. Sure, find out who your audience is and who your competitors are, but what’s most important is that you find out what a blog actually is.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Online know-it-all Wikipedia explains that “Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries.”
  • Blogger.com describes blogging as a “way to share your thoughts — about current events, what’s going on in your life, or anything else you’d care to discuss”.
  • The benefit of a blog to a reader, in the words of Blog.com is to “observe the world, from the smallest details to life-changing events”.
  • WordPress.com takes the assumption that most of its users are familiar with blogging and give no explanation as to what blogging is, apart from the very succinct message: “Express yourself. Start a blog.”

I think that’s enough. If you’re still not sure, think about what Posterous, one of the newest blog kids on the block says to do: “post everything“.