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Archive for Social Media

The first rule

The first rule of professional writing is “have it edited”. I don’t mean for writing professionals, I mean for anyone writing professional copy. Websites, workshops, handouts, fliers, if you are creating something for the whole world to see, have someone, almost anyone, read it for you.

When you look at something you wrote, you can only see what you think it says, not necessarily what is really there. You’ll catch some mistakes, but maybe not the most important ones.

Of course, there are limits. I’m not suggesting that your Facebook posts on behalf of your business need outside editing. They are usually quite short, so any errors are easy to see and generally at the level of a typo, and Facebook viewers are remarkably tolerant of typos. I’m not really talking about blogs. Heaven knows if I had to wait for a 3rd party to edit every blog post I write, I’d never get anything posted. Blog posts, until you become tremendously famous, are usually light and chatty and your audience is likely to forgive a small error or two.

On the other hand, I recently attended a conference and was very impressed with one of the speakers…until I saw her event flier. I was still impressed with her vision and presentation, but it was tempered by her lack of attention to detail. There were 2 major errors that would have been caught by just having one other person look the material over before printing. When you are putting materials out that represent you and your business, you can’t afford to be sloppy in the details. It is counter productive.

Even as a seasoned professional with years of editing experience, I stick by this rule. On the very rare occasions that time pressures cause me to be over confident? It seems that it always comes back to haunt me. Which is very embarrassing. Have your work edited by someone you respect. It doesn’t have to be a paid professional, but it has to be someone other than you.

Should you bite your tongue?

I’m constantly amazed at the things people feel it is acceptable to ‘say’ via email and social media that I don’t think they would ever, ever come out and say to your face. Maybe they would and my friends are just unusually polite and restrained…but I don’t think so. Restrained isn’t the first thing I think when I consider the people dear to me. So it is probably something else. Here are a few techniques you can use when conflict and nasty communications are forced upon you.

Don’t take it personally. Often there are multiple ways to interpret something in writing. Reread the offending piece a few times and see if you can find a way to take it that isn’t offensive. Even if you’re pretty sure they meant it the offensive way.

Consider not responding. What will really happen if you just let this go? Will it really hurt your business? Are there real world consequences? If not, let it pass.

Keep it cool and professional. If you do need to respond, make your responses temperate and professional. Try to choose words that don’t provoke. Don’t escalate the situation; respond as neutrally as possible. If you must, you can say you find the situation unprofessional, against current policy, contrary to normal guidelines. Don’t say they are idiots, ill mannered morons, or liars. Even if you are quite certain they are all of the above. Call your friends and be honest some other time. When you reply, be professional.

Be brief. In conflict less is more. Let them bluster if they must. Make your points count and then withdraw. The longer you engage the more hostility that can come up and the more opportunity they have to drag you down to their level. Answer any salient points they offer, and stop. Don’t respond to anything but facts.

Stay off the phone. If you must engage the conflict, do it in writing. That gives you more space to think about what you’re going to say, and possibly to run it by someone you trust before you respond. If you’re on the phone it’s easy to let your mouth run away with you in the heat of an exchange. Email also gives you a record of the conversation, should you need one.

Just one more word to the wise. When writing a cathartic email, write it in word, in note-pad, anywhere but an actual email . Then you, or someone helpful, can’t accidentally send it before editing. Don’t be a cautionary tale.



A few tips for better blogging.

Blogging is an important way that we market ourselves, our businesses, and our beliefs. Everyone feels the need to have one. The question is, are people reading them? Here are five things you can do to improve your readability.

Keep it short. One idea per blog. Say what you have to say and move on. If it starts to exceed about half a page, then you should review it and see if maybe you have enough to say to make it 2 blogs.

Within your audience, keep it informal. Obviously if your audience is corporate lawyers then your tone and vocabulary should stay more formal than for the home puppy training set, but even then, you want to be a relatively easy, quick read.

Don’t forget the personal. Why is this relevant to you? Why do I come to your blog rather than someone else’s blog?

Proof, but don’t fuss. As a professional editor and writer, I know better than most how important it is to be grammatical and well written, but frankly, if it isn’t horrible, then most of your readers won’t notice. Blogs are the one place that I break my own rule about always have someone else proof your work. I read, re-read, and then post. If I’ve made an error, someone will gleefully point it out. If I take too much time, the blog doesn’t get finished, and I don’t make my posting goals.

Stockpile when you are in the mood. I’m not always in the mood to blog. I don’t always feel inspired. Sometimes you have to make yourself write something anyway. I get around this by writing more than one blog on the days I’m really inspired and saving them as drafts until I need them. You’re more interesting when you’re interested. Save it up.



3 Ways Your Business Bio Can Hurt Your Business.

Are you happy with your business bio?

Most people I talk to aren’t, they just don’t know if it’s important enough to fix. It was pretty torturous to write in the first place and no one wants to mess with it again.

Fix it. It is that important.

For a small business the bio is an important sales tool that most entrepreneurs are ignoring. On the Internet or on your print based materials, if someone is taking the time to read your bio, they are already looking for your product or service. Your bio needs to help them see that YOU are the one they want to buy it from.

Is your current bio doing the job? Here are three ways your current business bio can hurt your bottom line:

It’s badly written.

People say they hate to write their bio. It’s a chore that gets put off until the last possible minute. That shows, and that’s the wrong sort of message to be putting out there. Is your bio clear? Is it concise? Is it properly directed, in tone and vocabulary, to your target market? Did you have it edited before you posted it? All these things can make or break your first impression – you only have a few seconds.

It’s boring.

Corporate speak is for corporations. If you are a small business you need to be personable and approachable. A boring bio suggests you are a boring person with nothing new to offer. An enticing bio needs to sell you as a person at least as much as it sells your professional skills. Be engaging, be fun. If you can make the reader smile you’re already on your way to a sale.

It’s too long.

Your business bio isn’t a full resume. It isn’t designed to tell everything about you. It’s a quick snap shot that should intrigue your audience and encourage them to contact you directly if they want more information. What makes you and your business uniquely different and why do people buy from you? It probably isn’t what you think. If you want to really understand what sets you apart? Ask your clients.

So, are you ready to be honest? Is your bio one of the tortured ones?

Are you ready to fix it? Do you want some help?

It’s all about the platform.

This weekend I attended a conference sponsored by Hay House. (They’re a publishing company.) The first session I attended was by and for writers presented by best selling author Cheryl Richardson and Hay House CEO Reid Tracy.

Every third point was about platform. Possibly every second point. So they are very, very serious about it. Particularly Reid Tracy. He said that when they get a book proposal at Hay House, the first thing they do is read the query letter where you tell them about the idea for your book. If that is at all interesting, the very next thing they do is look at your platform.

So what is the platform?

Your marketing. What have you done. What will you do. Who is your audience and how are you going to reach them. How many of them have you already reached? How do you stay in touch. Do you have a blog? How many followers.

I had no idea that this was the critical turning point that could make or break your book. Apparently, it is. I highly doubt that Reid Tracy is alone on this in the industry.

So what do you need to do? You need to find your people.

Start a Facebook page. Not just your personal account, but a page for your book, or your interest, or yourself as an author or subject matter expert. Use this page to start collecting people who are interested in what you have to say.

Start a blog. Blogs are a way to share your subject matter expertise, ideas, questions, and to reach the people who are interested in what you have to say without them having to invest too much into accessing your message. If you can build a following for your blog, then you’ll already have reached the people who will then want to read your book.

Collect a database. If you offer a newsletter, or if you have a piece of information you’ve written into an e-Book (or if you can think of one that would be interesting) then send it to people via email. Once you have their email addresses, then you can inform them when something new happens. Like the upcoming release of your new book. There are a lot of rules and regulations and guidelines about emails. That’s another topic. Go with a reliable provider like AWebber or MailChimp, they have all the rules worked out so you can follow them.

Buy domains. If you’re going to be a brand then owning the domain that goes with it is a good idea. If the one you really want isn’t available, figure out some permutations that make sense. Try to own the domain for any book titles you’re working with. You can always relinquish or sell them later, it isn’t that big an expense.

Build a website. If you have a subject matter expertise then maybe you have a website devoted to that long before you put your book together. Or if you have a business website, add a section about your interest/cause that your clients and friends can start connecting to.

Answer emails and comments. If people are  taking the time to reach out to you (and they aren’t being ugly about it) then you have given them something they wanted and you have become someone they admire at some level. When they reach out to you, reach back. Maintain those connections.

Reid Tracy highly recommended the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. I haven’t read it yet, since I’m currently in the middle of 3 other books, but I have downloaded the kindle version so I’m all set as soon as I finish one of the others in progress. It was just published in May so the details should all be very relevant and Reid said the instructions he lists are extremely detailed and easy to follow.

One question that came up during the session is, shouldn’t I wait and do all this when the book is done and being published? Absolutely not. If you want to go  the traditional route, then without it, you might never be published at all. If you self publish, getting noticed will take that much longer.

And even in our 24/7 media hype twitter fueled world, it still takes a suspiciously long time to become an overnight success. Start reaching out now with what you have. They’ll notice when you have more.

Make time for praise.

How often do you take the time to write a recommendation on LinkedIn?

Usually that answer is ‘not as often as I should’.

Why don’t you?

What tends to stop people is the idea that they don’t know what to say.

Recently my husband’s company made some lay offs. It happens even in the best companies. Actually, the best companies do it regularly to make sure that the people who are there are contributing to keeping that company one of the best. People who don’t contribute, or don’t fit the culture, or are negative… there are lots of reasons to let someone go that have nothing to do with competence, although certainly that is an important reason too.

So what happens when someone you liked working with but didn’t know very well but found pleasant and competent is one of those people who got the axe, and then you get a linked in message asking for a recommendation? Around here you talk to your favorite writing expert and she gives you some guidelines!

1. You weren’t the boss and that will be clear on your recommendation.
LinkedIn makes it clear when you start what your position relative to the person you’re recommending was. A colleague, someone you hired for a specific service, a friend. You’re making your recommendation based on that.

2. LinkedIn will also ask you to pick a few highlights of the service you got that you’re recommending about. This will help you decide which parts of your interaction were most significant to you. Where they helpful? Exceptionally competent? We often find it easier to pick from a list of options, so that’s what LinkedIn gives us to work with. Let that guide you.

3. If you look at the list of options and none of the things listed are what you wanted to focus on, then pick some for the form and then write your paragraph about what you do want to focus on.

4. Remember, it’s a paragraph. 2 at the most. You can be as brief as you want and still say something meaningful. Pick 3 characteristics (or only 2 if that is what comes to mind) and say what you need to say. Then stop. Be genuine. Be positive. Be brief.

5. Don’t over think this. This is the biggest stumbling block. We get caught up in saying things just right. Does this sound too…whatever. This is not a make-or-break document! This is a friendly gesture. Write it as a gesture of friendship or appreciation of service well provided, or professional respect, and then move on.

If you’d like to see examples, check out this recommendation I wrote for the person who built my spiffy new website, or for one of the amazing health coaches I work with. I’ve also been gifted with some great recommendations of my own.

Who are you?

This is not an existentialist, meaning of life question. Its serious. I’ve gotten 5 separate requests just today from people who want to connect via LinkedIn. People who I would not recognize if we were making idle conversation in line at the grocery store, face to face.

When trying to build your LinkedIn network, the very best thing you can do is type over that pithy generic default message that comes up. Just highlight it and type over it! Then take a few seconds to remind me who you are, and why you think we should connect. Are we friends with many of the same people? Did we meet at a networking function? Are you my second cousin twice removed? Who are you?

LinkedIn is about building business connections and relationships. They should be based on something other than you saw my name in someone else’s list.

If I can’t figure out who you are, then I probably won’t connect with you. I’m not that kind of a girl.

Are you networking? Really?

When we go to networking events in person, there are really 2 kinds of attendees. The people often referred to as card ninjas, who are here to pass the maximum number of business cards as though it were a competition, and the people who are there to meet other people with whom they would hopefully like to do business. Certainly its really a continuum, but those are the biggest categories.

People work social media the same way. Some people want to have as many links, fans, or followers as they can possibly manage. My question is, to what purpose? If you aren’t taking a moment to connect with any of these people, to exchange a few words or Tweets about who they are as a person, then it isn’t a connection, its just a crowd. And yelling into a crowded room just isn’t useful. Few people will actually hear you, and only a few of them will actually care. And at least one of them will probably take exception to what you just said!!

So lets back off on the card-ninja approach and take a little time to hear what other people are really saying. If you listen to them, you’ll have a much better chance of them listening to you.

Personalizing your professional voice.

They say “you have to be personal on social media”. So we get people talking about the most narcissistic stuff. There’s personal and then there’s over sharing and many people are definitely over sharing.

The problem is, a lot of the people who use social media are entrepreneurs and business owners. What that really means is, we have no life apart from business. Or does it. Maybe what it really means is that business is an integral part of our real life so personalizing it is really easy, once you realize what ‘personalize’ means in this context.

There are a lot of levels of ‘personal’. Lets go with beach-personal and water cooler-personal.

At the beach, you’re really letting it all hang out. Fish belly white skin. Grey hair. Saddlebags. Beer guzzling, really bad volley ball, whatever it is you as a person are and like to do, its all out there. And the beach is an appropriate place for most of that.

At the water cooler, that’s still in your office, but its become axiomatic for a place for relaxing a little. Talk about what’s new in sports or your favorite TV show. (I’m so ready for Big Bang Theory to start the new season!) We had a great weekend up in Estes Park. Things you could tell your boss (assuming you aren’t embarrassed by your choice of television viewing) or your grandmother with equal confidence. But here there are definite limits. When asked what’s up for your weekend you might say “My mother in law is coming to visit” and roll your eyes, and that’s just the right side of appropriate. You’ll get some commiseratory groans and eye rolls and then the conversation will move to the next person in line. It is definitely NOT the time to explain, in detail, about the time when your mother in law did some horrible thing. That would be crossing over into the wrong side of the line. Definitely.

Personalizing social media is like that. Had a business lunch somewhere? Well, was the service excellent? Or Terrible? Did you learn something new about the restaurant, or owners, or menu? “I had lunch with Pamela today. Did you know Jason’s Deli serves items on gluten free bread?” Its personal, because we have a friendly relationship, and its about sharing with others. “Went to the Women in Business Breakfast today. Did you know (insert interesting fact you learned.)”

Share your perspective, your insight, in short *you*, the inside of your head, what makes you unique or interesting. If it happens in a business environment, that’s ok, that’s part of you too.

Please keep up.

Facebook is for chatting. Facebook is for connecting with friends. Facebook is for passing information and being available to people you know. Facebook is for building social connections to your business and professional friends. Facebook is for messaging people who’s email address you can’t find…

Yes, it has now become common place to use Facebook messaging to communicate with business connections. Don’t shake your head at me. Its hugely convenient. I may not have your email address handy. I may not be sure which of the 5 emails I have for you is the one you actually check. But I’m betting your Facebook notifications go to the useful one. And I was there anyway.

Facebook has become a one stop shop for all things connectivity. I’m sharing my business blog while consulting with my newly married sister and talking a good friend through moving.  I like it that way. All the pieces of my life jumbled together, just like my life.