Sunday, March 1, 2015

Have Social Media Grammar Police Gone Too Far?

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Full disclosure: Every thing I've written has had at least one comma or apostrophe out of place...

Maybe a letter or word omitted in haste when meeting a tight deadline. I'm not proud of the fact, but it goes with the territory. It's not that I'm careless, or couldn't care less as it were, but like many writers I "see" the finished product in my head. I've always known about this shortcoming and praise copy editors as unsung heroes who make us better while preserving the sanctity of the written word in our increasingly video-obsessed society. 

Like the make up artists and camera operators are to the actor, editors and copy editors make us writers look good -- or at least better. (Heck, I even married my copy editor years ago, and not surprisingly, my column and scripts haven't read so messy since we split.)  So in short, writers need copy editors and we should all strive to be grammatically correct when we speak and write. Copy editors value the writer's creativity and are never condescending. That said,...

It's the self-proclaimed social media grammar police with whom I take exception.

That's because they're not actual copy editors - but there is an assumption on their part that correcting the world is their duty. Common abbreviations get a pass as do the unfortunate typos and poorly chosen auto-corrects when sending texts. They find other errors annoying, infuriating, and maybe even relationship deal breakers like this article's comic illustration. The errors somehow seem to negate the message. Just reread the first sentence of this paragraph if you'd like proof that I know the difference of when to use there, their, and they're. It's that often my fingers do not, so cut them a break, they're just poor helpless digits who at times lose their way.

In social media, we'd all love to have flawless Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, blogs and emails, but that's rare. More importantly, it's really not the point. It's called "sharing" for a reason. Don't belittle the point that someone is trying to communicate their thoughts, emotions and opinions (unsolicited or otherwise) to you. And they should be able to express whatever they can as best as they can. 

I'm one of a fortunate few who has made a career at essentially writing. Granting me the courage to do so was a college professor who sat me down after reading a few of my essays in her office that overlooked the Charles River.

"These are exceptional. Why aren't you majoring in writing?," she asked. I looked down, sheepishly.

"I'm a horrible speller and my grammar is atrocious."

"Don't worry about that for now. That will come," she said. "You're a writer."

She was right for the most part. As I write this article, I still struggle with quotation and comma placement or when to use an em- or en-dash. But social media has breathed new life in the written word which before the Internet was all but extinct. We are all writers now.  Imperfect as we are. But we all have a voice. So listen, don't condemn your friends and your children. Otherwise it's you who are guilty of poor etiquette.

Let's applaud and promote good grammar, demand it in our books and articles, but be forgiving of it in our social media. 

The enforcement of social media "netiquette" has gotten so out of hand that their is nothing I enjoy more then to occasionally use grammar ironically too help those who distract to easily to remember: focus on the thoughts and sentiments, as well as the words.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a digital marketing consultant who helps brands exceed their business goals using the latest tools for marketing automation, SEO, and social media.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Content Marketing: Let Search Engines Be Your Captain

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When I write, I try to do it clearly using words and thoughts which may impress, but my intent is always to enlighten. As a screenwriter, I write what moves me and what I feel will move others. But as a digital content marketing writer for business, I write what moves products.

As a digital marketing consultant, I'm often asked to write website content: from the wire frame structure, calls-to-action (CTAs), emails, eBooks, landing pages, and of course blogs. And often there are long debates and discussions about what to include and what to call it and how long or short it should be. Afterwards, I'm often asked to make the copy more ____*(fun, hip, youthful, financial, techy, you fill in the blank).

My reaction is always the same. If content is king, then Google is the King's Army. Just like that tense scene in "Captain Philips," I get serious, look the client in the eye and say: "Google. Google is the Captain Now. Google decides."

Today, smart businesses start with the website content regardless of whether their products or services sale is Web-centric or not. But it doesn't end with search engine optimization (SEO). I'm saying all of your non-digital marketing decisions - from branding, to MarCom materials, brochures, trade show materials, should be decided by search engine keywords.
"Are you telling me that if I sell hamburgers or hardware, search engines should dictate what I call them, or how and where I market them?"
So I don't care if the copy sounds pedestrian, or if you think calling your coffee shop a "java joint" sounds cooler, or if in your circles "wholesale" means something different, or if all your other products start with the letter "P". While you're making a statement, your competitors who have done this are making a fortune. 

And here's why: If they do want a hamburger they're looking for the highest rated one on Yelp. If they know where The Home Depot is they want to know where the closest one is. And if they know what they want and where to get it, they want to see if they can get it cheaper and delivered to their doorstep by Amazon.

But rather than Barkhad Abdi as the nefarious pirate who forces Tom Hanks out of his Captain's helm at gun point in Captain Philips, try to think of Google, Bing, and the like as your sailing instructor warning on the high seas we call the Internet. Rewarding us with merit badges when we do not play by the rules. (Yes, albeit just as eager to make a buck out of it as the pirates.) All of the search engines have the end-user's experience and satisfaction as their ruling mission. I like them, others hate them, but they unequivocally rule the business world now. Resistance is futile.

In conclusion, when writing content for the web and for your direct mail, trade show materials, TV commercials or anything in marketing, please default to what the search engine preferences dictate.  First make sure your websites are properly optimized. Bad news? They probably aren't. Good news: Neither are your competitions most likely.And if you don't know what "keywords" are, find out now because they hold the secret to your success. Better yet, Google it.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a digital marketing consultant who helps brands use strategic digital marketing tactics to exceed their business, and marketing communications goals using the latest tools for marketing automation, SEO, and social media.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Social Media: No One "Likes" Your Facebook Company Page

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Good news: you created a company page on Facebook for your new business! Bad news? The novelty is gone. Nobody cares anymore. No really. Well I certainly don't, and not  because I'm a cantankerous curmudgeon. It's because I know what will happen when I do.

Liking one page means Facebook "thinks" you'd like similar pages, so it's algorithm bombards you with similar page suggestions. And the real reason we "Liked" most pages in the first place is "likely" out of guilt. Friends, exes, work associates, work friends who became exes -- oh who cares! Just click the button and help the person get free publicity and some mojo going. That's just my point: it doesn't help that either. Being social media savvy, I try to explain this to those in my life but it never ends well. (OK the cantankerous curmudgeon plays into it as well).

The mistake companies make (be they large or small) is concentrate on sending the page to coworkers, friends, family then have to sheepishly ask for clicks like we do for our kids doing school fund drives. Problem is they are not a collector and you are not "fans."  So if "Like" building has been your focus so to appear legitimate or because you believe more is better, then you'll likely generate as much new business as selling beach blankets and bonbons in Boston this weekend.

You can do business on Facebook...if you advertise

The companies with successful track records on Facebook know that number of "Likes" is irrelevant. But trying to convince upper management of this fact can be tough. To them, it's all about numbers, more the merrier, the buckshot approach, fish in a barrel, and all those other sales idioms they tend to throw around. Challenge their "Trolling for Likes" approach by putting it on a personal level.  You know those friends with ridiculously high friend counts? Is this really friendship or a collection of strangers? Can you count on them for help?

Now apply this to your company "Likes."  Can they "help" you? They are useless unless they are potential leads. Visitors care if they get something out of it and care little if others do. The only people you want to click the Blue Thumbs Up should be potential and current customers. You're intent is to build trust, credibility, and foster future business by supplying pertinent content and engaging offers.

So what should a business do?  Make it a destination page. A Facebook Company Page is meant to reinforcenot replace — your sales, public relations, and customer service. The idea of Facebook for companies is to create and capture new leads by building credibility and interest. Think of it as a newspaper rather than a brochure. Then try to push these visitors to their products, websites, custom landing pages, etc. Here are a few simple rules to follow:
  • Vary the sentiment of your posts. In addition to posting news about your products, offer Facebook-only promotions, special offers, and helpful tips.
  • Remember it’s social media. Include photos of the staff at work, company outings, parties, etc. 
  • Cross market and place the Facebook address on all other ads, emails, promotions, etc. to increase fan count.
Let your company page bring us into your world. Give us reason to visit and to return. Who knows? Just like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercials, we just might "Like" it. But if the idea is to build a business, spend your resources on SEO or SEM and get "liked" so much that they actually buy.

Follow Frank Bocchino, a Los Angeles-based writer, designer, and digital marketer who helps organizations create qualified strategies that generate new business using the latest tools for lead generation, SEO, and social media.

Or contact Frank Bocchino for media opportunities.