This post is for the attendees (and anyone else who stops by) of the March 20, 2009 IABC meeting on Writing for the Web. My portion of the panel discussion is writing for social media. And instead of having boring handouts, I wanted to share the information via a blog post and hopefully get attendees to engage in conversation…because that’s what social media is all about!
Social media is surely the buzz word these days and perhaps you’re ready to tip your toe into the social waters. Before you do…Ask yourself the following:
- Can I comprehensively write in 140-characters?
- Do I know the best practices for blog writing?
- Am I prepared to change how I write news releases?
- Do I know how to write with the unwritten rules of social media in mind?
Twitter and Facebook
On a basic level, Twitter is a microblogging and social networking that allows you to share your daily events (microblogging) and have conversations with other people (social networking) in 140 characters. Facebook, another social networking tool, also lets you connect with people and share ‘what’s on your mind’ in 160 characters. Marketers and communicators tend to be verbose, so how can you chat in 140-characters without sounding like a 14-year? (u know what I mean, kthxbai.)
Shorten your words and say exactly what you mean. Sounds basic, right? But you’d be surprised how hard it can be at first. Writing in 140 characters has really strengthened my writing skills and I have heard the same from other marketers. Also, it’s okay to shorten common words…for example:
- About – abt
- Great – grt
- Good – gd
- Thanks – thx
- And – &
- People – ppl
- Social Media – SM
- Social Networking – socnet
You get the drift…
Best Practices for Blog Writing
Because everyone blogs for their own reasons, styles and mileage will vary. But since we are talking, for the most part, about corporate blogs here are some quick tips:
- Always write your own posts (i.e. don’t outsource to a ghost blogger)
- Don’t use a blog as a vehicle for collateral or news release delivery (that’s what websites are for)
- Use a blog to expand on your news and have conversations around it
- Find and have an authentic voice
- Write about something interesting to your audience
- Use your search engine optimization (SEO) keywords in your copy (but not overtly)
- Always use outbound links to other blogs and sites (just like I did here)
- Ask questions that generate conversation
- Consider having multiple bloggers (Graco’s corporate blog is a great example of this!)
- Write often (1-2 times a week is a good start)
- And don’t forget to have fun
Want to get more information on blog writing? Check out Debbie Weil’s awesome book, The Corporate Blogging Book and be sure to subscribe to her blog too. Another good source to get you started is Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.
Writing a Social News Release
The Social Media News Release (click on the link to see the format) was introduced in 2006 by Todd Defren (the principal of SHIFT Communications). Todd is truly a pioneer because people are just starting to use this format in varying formats. What’s different? The Social Media News Release focuses on less writing and more concise, targeted content. But better yet, it includes information that can be viewed (videos), listened to (podcasts) and shared! Because these days, public relations isn’t just about the media…it’s about putting the ‘public’ back in PR.
If you aren’t quite ready to dive into a Social Media News Release, try an optimized and shareable release that is social without giving up the traditional format. Services like PitchEngine, PRX Builder, PRWeb, Business Wire’s EON, MarketWire, PR Newswire offer the ability to optimize your releases for search and come with the option to make your release shareable (i.e. Digg, del.icio.us, Newsvine, etc.). As well some provide multimedia features that let you add collateral, videos, podcasts, etc.
The Unwritten Rules of Social Media
As a company [or non-profit, agency (government or creative), university, etc.] engaged in social media you’ll find that a community starts to develop. They’ll be the ones to let you know how they want to how they want to be communicated to/with. In other words, there aren’t any hard and fast rules to social media or writing for social media…just guidelines and best practices.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you engage (and write) in social networks:
- Be real
- Be nice
- Be respectful
- Listen then talk
- Give then take
- Try to be consistent
- Apologize when you make a mistake
- Say thank you
- Don’t broadcast (i.e. self promote)
- Don’t stalk
- It’s not a numbers game
- Don’t publicly or privately unfollow/unfriend
Seems like basic etiquette, right? You’d be surprised how often companies [or non-profits, agencies (government or creative), universities, etc.] get off track and then have to deal with fixing their snafus. Try to keep Emily Post in the back of your mind.
What would you add to this information? If there are any questions, don’t be shy and be sure to ask…we’re all here to help!