A Portrait of The Marketer as a Young Man

January 11, 2014

young marketer

This post was originally published at Medium: A Portrait of the Marketer as a Young Man.

Introduction

Recently, I read a great post on the Kapost blog by Anne Murphy. Anne’s post was titled “3 Things You Can’t Learn from a Content Marketing How-To Article” and included a paragraph titled “How to Write.” Anne wrote:

“For 18 years, I lived with one of the best writers and editors I know. Her name is Nancy Murphy. I call her Mom.”

Not only did Mom help shape Anne’s writing, but she (Mom) taught her that “good writing takes constant work.”

Today, I’m a marketer (at DNN) who does a lot of writing. My degree is in computer science, not history, communications or political science. I spent the first 14 years of my career in Information Technology (IT). So how did I come to be a marketer? Anne’s post inspired me to consider my own journey.

Careless Mistakes in Second Grade

If there’s such a thing as a crisis in elementary school, then I was in one. Both of my parents had been called in to a meeting with my second grade teacher, Mrs. Trout. I had been making careless spelling mistakes and the pattern was only getting worse. Spelling errors were understandable, but Mrs. Trout was concerned about my consistent pattern of carelessness.

I took that meeting to heart (well, as much as a second grader could). I addressed the carelessness and improved my spelling each year. In fact, by the time I reached fifth grade, I’d be entered into the grade-wide spelling bee.

This second grade crisis helped shape my marketing. It’s put a certain lens around everything I do: writing an article, reviewing an email promotion, writing a webinar description, reviewing a white paper, etc. I have an ability to catch my own mistakes, as well as spot errors in others’ work. I harken back to my days in second grade and know why.

Editorial Independence

The Call of the Wild

Image source: User cdrummbks on flickr.

I’ve now reached fourth grade. We read Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” in class and I was writing a book report at home. My dad briefly looked over my work and thought that I wrote the report all wrong. As he tells the story, I became very upset, insisting that I had written the book report according to specifications.

Based on my strong insistence, my father allowed me to proceed and I handed in the book report “as is.” It turned out I was correct: I received a good grade on the report. From that moment on, my dad gave me full editorial independence in my grade school writing projects.

This feeling of independence can be empowering. If every sentence I wrote could be inspected for corrections, the experience wouldn’t be as enjoyable. And while editorial oversight is important and necessary in many contexts, the independence is one reason I enjoy blogging so much.

Reading about Sports

Also in fourth grade, I developed a love of sports. Starting in high school and continuing into the present day, I read a lot of sports articles.

Best American Sports Writing

Image via Amazon.

I like to read the beat writers who cover my teams and I love human interest stories (i.e. long form articles) related to sports. I adore “The Best American Sports Writing” series. My dream job? To be the beat writer for one of my favorite teams.

I’ve tried my hand at sports writing. At my current job (and at past jobs), I’d write summaries of company softball games and soccer games and share them. My colleagues would tell me that I missed my calling as a sports writer.

Because of all the reading I’ve done, writing about sports came so naturally to me. As I sat at my keyboard, words would emanate and flow like those of more experienced sports writers. It’s similar for the B2B content I write at work: I consume so much of other people’s content that it helps inform and guide my own.

The High School Poetry Magazine

For a high school English class, I submitted a poem that depicted a cold, wintry night from the view of my bedroom window. My English teacher liked it. She managed the school’s poetry magazine and encouraged me to get involved.

So I wrote more poems, attended a poetry conference or two and helped assemble the school’s magazine. I’ve come to realize that marketers are much like poets: we need to assemble words in a way that makes an impact with our audience.

So when I compose tweets, Facebook posts, subject lines, calls to action and promotional copy, I look back to my high school days and realize that my dabbling in poetry helped a great deal.

But Where’s the Beef?

Where's the Beef?

Image source: User xxxbadfishxxx on flickr.

There’s a difference between eloquence and substance. At an early age, I discovered that I had a knack for putting words together. But I didn’t receive consistently high marks on my papers, whether it was AP English (in high school) or Literature Humanities (in college).

The issue? I was missing the beef (i.e. substance). This realization helps inform my B2B writing. Whether it’s a blog post or a white paper, I try to spend as much time (or more) researching as I do writing. The content must be well planned, well researched and well thought out. Words can always sound good, but they must be backed up with information and insights that provide value to the reader.

Conclusion

It’s been fun to consider how childhood events and developments helped shape the marketer I am today. When I graduated from college, I never considered the possibility that I’d be in marketing. I wonder what I’ll be doing ten years from now. Perhaps you’ll find me online, reporting on last night’s Yankees game.


10 Reasons Professional Athletes Love Twitter

September 8, 2013

Bumper sticker: I heart Twitter

Photo credit: Flickr user “…love Maegan” via photopin cc

Introduction

After a big game, with reporters huddled around in a semi-circle, professional athletes are provided with a “platform” to talk about the game, the team and themselves. At other times, athletes are given a platform when they appear on ESPN’s Sunday Conversation, Late Show with David Letterman or The Today Show.

While those interviews and programs still give professional athletes an outlet, today, that “platform” has become Twitter. Just about every well-known athlete uses Twitter’s 140 characters to share thoughts, updates, photos and videos. The athletes love it, as do their adoring fans.

Let’s cover ten reasons professional athletes love Twitter.

1) Their fans love it.

It’s often said that we operate in a 24-hour news cycle. Like New York, Twitter is the “city that never sleeps.” Everything is in real-time and there’s a constant stream of activity, no matter the time of day (or night). In a world where content is produced by the second, fans seemingly thirst for more.

Twitter helps fill that need, as fans check Twitter for updates from their favorite players. Fans also benefit from an extended ecosystem: teams, coaches, general managers, owners, sportswriters and commentators all actively use Twitter to share information.

2) 140 characters suit them.

Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots

Photo source: the Wikipedia page for Bill Belichick.

Sure, there are athletes who can write long-form articles. But for the most part, the brevity of Twitter suits athletes well. It’s kind of like the Bill Belichick school of interviewing: some coaches, like Belichick, already instruct athletes to answer in 140 characters or less.

3) Twitter fuels their competitive nature.

Twitter’s followers and following count naturally leads to “count watching” and competition. Who has the most followers on a given team? Who’s the most followed NBA player? Whose tweets get the most retweets? You can be sure most athletes on Twitter are aware of this stuff.

4) It’s the new and easy way to break news.

Shaq announced his retirement on Twitter. Alex Rodriguez (of the New York Yankees) announced that he’s ready to return to the field. No need to schedule a press conference any more. Use 140 characters (or less) and you’re on Sportscenter a few hours (or minutes) later.

5) They can conveniently follow other athletes.

The “network effect” is in effect on Twitter. Athletes sign up for the service because their teammates are already using it. Athletes enjoy interacting with other athletes as much as they like to share information with the world. They also get to keep in touch and get updates from other athletes.

6) It’s great for engaging with fans.

Today’s Twitter “Interactions” (mentions) are yesterday’s fan mail. Before Twitter, athletes interacted with their fans in person. Today, they interact with fans any day, any time, in short spurts of 140 characters (and often less).

7) It’s great for “gamesmanship.”

Athletes will do whatever they can to get a leg up. During game play, they’ll taunt other players and try to get inside the opponent’s head. On Twitter, they can do those sorts of things well before the game. Of course, this tactic may not be effective, as it often provides heightened motivation for the opponent.

8) Get quoted.

Sportscenter, the 11 o’clock news, CNN and many other news outlets now use athletes’ tweets as primary news sources. 140 characters can bring athletes fame, fortune, applause, respect, shame and embarrassment. The last two aren’t appealing for most athletes, but they’ll take their chances!

9) The RT is the new autograph.

Pen and paper are so antiquated, right? Today, parents no longer wait in line to ask athletes for their autograph. They’ll get on Twitter and ask for an RT. The single click of the “retweet” button has replaced the signing of a ball, cap or piece of paper.

10) It’s a platform for causes, opinions and political views.

Many athletes have interests, passions and causes beyond the world of sports. Their involvement in professional sports gives them recognition and Twitter gives them a platform. Twitter is a great vehicle for branching beyond sports to advance a cause, support a movement or make the world a better place.


10 Ways Your Tweets Continue to Be Seen

June 30, 2013

Tweets can stick around for a while

Photo credit: Flickr user mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Introduction

Conventional wisdom is that Twitter is the essence of the real-time web: a here and now, in the moment medium. If you’re tweeting when your followers aren’t online, then they won’t see those tweets. That’s how the thinking goes.

In May, I tweeted about the San Jose Sharks. A few times this week, users have “favorited” that tweet. The NHL season is long over. In fact, what’s getting “favorited” was a tweet from May 19th, well over a month ago.

The conclusion? Your tweets can live on for far longer than you think. Let’s consider ten ways that can happen.

1) “Activity” on your tweet from other users.

When you access the “Activity” area on Twitter.com (Home -> Discover -> Activity), you see activities taken by the people you follow: whom they just followed, what tweets they favorited, what tweets they retweeted, etc.

If someone came across your “old” tweet and favorited it, that becomes a form of “re-promotion,” as that activity can be seen by many others. Because of hash tags, search, etc. the “favorite” (and all of the subsequent favorites) may come from users who don’t even follow you.

2) Views of tweets on your profile page.

Active tweeters get noticed, which leads to “views” of their Twitter profile pages. On my Twitter profile page, you can see all of my recent tweets.

When you scroll to the very bottom of the page, you’ll notice an “endless scroll” feature, where the page updates with the next set of tweets – and this continues on and on, the more you scroll. So in this manner, you can find my San Jose Sharks tweets from May, if you’re willing to scroll that much.

3) Twitter Cards.

See what I did (above)? I used a Twitter Card to embed a tweet in this blog post. These cards make it super convenient for writers, bloggers, etc. to re-publish tweet content. And the card makes it easy to reply, retweet, etc., directly from it.

4) Getting a Retweet (RT).

Users who retweet (RT) re-surface your tweet to all of their followers. While the RT will preserve the timestamp of your original tweet, the tweet will appear in timelines based on the time of the retweet. The tweet from last week that you thought was forgotten? It could gain a new life via an RT.

5) Search (and hash tags).

Following the eventprofs hash tag is done via Twitter search

Twitter users will often perform searches. They might be looking for something specific – or, they may like to “follow” a hash tag. To follow the popular #eventprofs hash tag (for meeting and event professionals), you’re actually performing a Twitter search. And people checking out #eventprofs activity may see your tweet from one week ago (or perhaps one month ago).

6) Twitter Ads.

Promoted Tweet from Samsung Mobile

Users (and brands) can buy a form of Twitter Ads called Promoted Tweets. They select from existing tweets and mark them for promotion (advertising). In this way, they’re able to take “old” tweets and can keep them “top of mind” by advertising that tweet. As you can see above, the tweet promoted by Samsung Mobile was posted over a month ago.

7) Screen shots.

Celebrities have been receiving a lot of notoriety lately with their use of Twitter. When a celebrity tweets something controversial or inappropriate, they’ll often delete the tweet or shut down their account altogether.

The “undo button” doesn’t entirely work on Twitter, however, as users can take screen shots of the tweets (for posterity). See this Huffington Post article on Alec Baldwin, which mentions his inappropriate tweets (including a screen shot of them).

8) Being seen in a Twitter List.

You’ve probably been added to one or more Twitter Lists. I have a Twitter List of people I’ve met in real life. As users discover new Lists and peruse the related tweets, they may find tweets (of your’s ) from weeks or months earlier.

9) Being seen in a user’s Interactions list.

If you “mention” other users on Twitter, you’ll appear in their “Interactions” area. Twitter users LOVE to see mentions and interactions. So a tweet you consider old may live on in another user’s “Interactions” area. Don’t be surprised if you receive a reply today from your tweet from last month.

10) The Library of Congress.

Via a partnership with Twitter, the Library of Congress is building a digital archive of tweets. In January 2013, the Library of Congress announced that they had archived 170 billion tweets! So behave yourself: your tweets are now a matter of public record in the annals of the Federal government.


10 Reasons to Skip the Web Site in Favor of Twitter (When Researching a Company)

March 25, 2013

The profile page for Twitter

Exception to the rule: when researching Twitter, you’re more than welcome to visit Twitter.com.

Introduction

Let’s say you’ve never heard of a company before, but want to learn more. You land on the company’s home page and need to answer some rudimentary questions:

  1. What does the company do?
  2. Where are they headquartered?
  3. What’s been going on lately?

You’d typically look for pages such as “Contact,” “About Us,” and “News” and perhaps you’d get some answers. Lately, I skip those pages and simply look for the Twitter icon (which 90+% of companies have). Visiting their Twitter profile tells me everything I need to know.

Let’s consider ten reasons to skip the web site in favor of a company’s Twitter profile.

1) Character limit increases clarity.

What does a company do? On an “About Us” page, they have an unlimited amount of space. The description on your Twitter profile has a limit of 160 characters. As with tweets, the economy of characters forces you to be simple and efficient. The description on a company’s Twitter profile is far better than the text on their “About Us” page.

2) A picture is worth a thousand words.

Photos posted to Twitter by @VirginAmerica

Photo source: the profile page of @VirginAmerica.

Twitter’s profile page displays six of the company’s most recently posted photos (in thumbnail size). These images helps paint a picture of the company and are more personal (i.e. “real”) compared to what they might post on their web site.

3) Find out where they’re based (right away).

I like to know where a company is based. On some web sites, you’ll get a “Contact Us” page, but no physical address. You might have to navigate to the Press Releases page and find out where the releases were issued from. It’s all too hard. The Twitter profile asks for “Location” and most companies list their headquarters’ location. Just what I need.

4) Find related Twitter accounts.

Other Twitter handles from Constant Contact

Photo source: the profile page of @ConstantContact.

Companies will use separate Twitter accounts for assorted functions (e.g. customer support). Sometimes, knowing about these additional accounts can be useful.

5) Now what do you REALLY do?

McAfee's Twitter profile

Companies that sell complex products can lose us when they begin to describe just what it is they do. The first instance of jargon brings with it the potential for confusion. The description (above) by McAfee doesn’t go into detail on products or solutions. But it’s an elegant and simple statement that we can all understand.

6) What have you been up to lately?

Read a company’s five most recent tweets. More often than not, you’ll have your answer. Here’s an example of a recent tweet from @Bunchball:

7) What’s your “social persona”?

A company’s Twitter profile can tell a lot about their approach to social. Consider these questions you can ask:

  1. Do they follow back?
  2. Do they retweet others?
  3. Do they interact with other users via “@ mentions”?
  4. Do they post photos?
  5. Do they share others’ content, in addition to their own?

8) View creative images you won’t see on the web site.

I love seeing the creativity used by some companies in their Twitter profiles. When Twitter launched header images (to complement your photo), it unleashed a torrent of creativity. Check out the image combination from @Ford:

Ford's Twitter profile - love that steering wheel

9) What’s your personality and culture like?

A company’s tweets tell us about their employees and their culture. In addition, the Twitter account embodies an answer to the question, “hey company, what’s on your mind?” And that’s something social media provides that a web site cannot.

10) Are you following me?

OK, I had to add this one as a form of “Twitter vanity.” If you’re checking out a company and they’re already following you, make sure you follow them back (if you’re not already doing so)!


Twitter on The Real-Time Web: There is #NothingBetter

November 5, 2012

Image source: User “thecampbells” on flickr.

Introduction

It’s a Sunday afternoon and the New York Giants are visiting the Dallas Cowboys. The game is being shown locally (in the Bay Area), but I’m at an outlet mall in Napa, CA. I search the stores and the food court, but no one is showing the game.

So I do the next best thing. With the battery on my phone running low, I make my way to the mall’s management office. It’s closed, but there’s an air conditioned hallway and bingo! An available outlet. So I charge my phone and make myself comfortable on the floor. From that spot, I take in the second half of this exciting game … via ESPN Gamecast.

ESPN Gamecast

If you can't watch on TV, using ESPN Gamecast on the web is the next best thing

ESPN Gamecast, delivered via your browser, is quite good. I’ve been using it to “watch” MLB and NFL games. It provides near real-time, play-by-play updates on the game, all without having to refresh the page.

In NFL games, Gamecast provides you with the result (e.g. “10 yard pass to the NYG 40 yard line”) and a few seconds later, updates the play with more details (e.g. “10 yard pass to the NYG 40 yard line. On a CROSSING PATTERN”).

Occasionally, I’ll get antsy when no update has been posted for 10 seconds. I’ll refresh the page to see if that pulls in the latest play. Sometimes that works. Other times, the game may have gone to a TV timeout without me realizing it.

An Endless Wait on a Key Play

And then it happened. Late in the fourth quarter, Gamecast posted an update that Dez Bryant of the Cowboys had caught a go-ahead touchdown. I was quite bummed. But then I noticed that no further updates (e.g. extra point, kickoff, etc.) were posted for close to a minute.

I then saw Gamecast post an update that the play was under review. A few minutes turned into a few more minutes. I nervously anticipated the replay result, but no news as of yet. So I turned to Twitter.

Real-Time Updates on Twitter

On checking my Twitter stream, I immediately saw tweets like these:

Twitter users provide insight about a key play in the game

And that’s when I realized:

On the real-time web, there is nothing more real-time than Twitter.

As it turned out, the call was reversed and the Giants held on to win the game.

It's official: the play was overturned

If you weren’t watching on TV, then Twitter was the place where you’d get the replay result first (it beat Gamecast by a few minutes). Twitter can be even quicker than real-time in some instances – it can serve as a leading indicator of what’s about to happen (e.g. sports, stocks, box office receipts, elections, etc.).

How Twitter Facilitates Real-Time So Well

The User Adoption and the Follow Model

Let’s face it, Twitter is the place where athletes, coaches, sports writers, general managers and owners choose to provide their updates, thoughts and musings to the world.

When I watch a big game, I can always turn to Twitter to get real-time scoring updates – and importantly, real-time commentary on what’s happening. And it’s all because the “right” people are active on Twitter – and, I’ve chosen to follow them there.

#WorldSeries was a popular hash tag during the Fall Classic

Additionally, beyond the athletes and the “experts,” millions of fans (like me) are active on Twitter as well. And while I may not follow them all, I can experience their tweets via event or team-specific hash tags, such as #Giants, #Postseason, #WorldSeries and #SuperBowl.

The Efficiency of 140 Characters

Twitter would be an entirely different animal if it permitted 280, 560 or 1,400 characters. The 140 character limit results in short bursts of updates and the smaller “payload” means that information can be distributed, read and processed quicker. For real-time updates, after all, we don’t want essays, we want snippets.

Accessibility Any Time, Anywhere

When watching sports at home, we’re likely on our laptop or tablet. Outside of home, however, we’re probably on our smartphone. And that makes it convenient to share real-time information with others – and to consume it as well.

That’s why Twitter has been effective in providing real-time information during natural disasters. A Mercury News article about the Tohoku Earthquake (in Japan) noted that the Internet (and Twitter) was used to communicate information when the phone system was unavailable.

To quote a member of Cisco Systems’ emergency response operations, “text data uses a relatively smaller portion of bandwidth than voice data does.”

Conclusion

In the big picture, an NFL game is trivial compared to other real-world events. But like those other events, things unfold in real-time.

And experiencing this NFL game via Twitter helped me fully grasp how effective it is for real-time communications. In fact, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s presidential election here in the United States, during which Twitter will provide me with updates. In real-time, of course.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Unable to Attend an Event? 10 Ways Twitter Fills the Gap

October 15, 2012

Introduction

IMEX America, which describes itself as “America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events,” took place October 9-11, 2012 in Las Vegas.

I didn’t attend the event, but noticed that 20+% of my Twitter #eventprofs friends were there. I knew about their attendance from their tweets, but also received additional “color” via the photos, videos, quotes, observations and shout-outs that they posted (on Twitter).

So even though I wasn’t anywhere near Sin City, checking the #imex12 hash tag during the day yielded the next best thing: feeling as if I were. I was able to see who was meeting up with whom, which organizations were there exhibiting and what the popular nightspots were.

Here are 10 ways Twitter helps “remote attendees” experience the sights and sounds of the on-site experience.

1) Take in the sights.

Images tell a story. It’s hard to imagine “following” an event on Twitter via words (text) alone. The images of attendees, exhibitors, speakers and the show floor give us a sense of the event’s character and personality. In addition, imagery adds to the feeling of “being there.”

2) Discover the key themes.

I don’t need an industry publication to tell me about the key themes of this year’s event, because it’s all right there in the tweet stream. Whether Twitter users share their own opinions or a quote from the keynote presentation, the tweet stream is the leading indicator of the event’s key topics.

3) Make new connections.

You’re sure to find interesting people at the event, by way of the tweets they’re sharing. You may choose to follow selected folks and they may decide to follow you back. In addition, by following the event’s hash tag and getting involved, you’re bound to pick up some followers by way of your interactions. I once attended a physical event and made new connections exclusively on Twitter. That’s right, we “met” on Twitter, but not face to face (it’s sad).

4) Gain nuggets of wisdom.

Miss out on a Sunday’s worth of NFL action? It’s OK, you can still watch the highlights that night. It’s similar with events: by reading the quotes shared on Twitter, you still get the nuggets of wisdom (from presenters) and get a feel for what particular sessions were all about.

5) Find exhibitors who provide solutions you may need.

For popular booths at physical shows, you may have to wait in line to speak to an exhibitor sales rep. Many of these same exhibitors are online (on Twitter), posting news and inviting on-site attendees to come visit their booth. If you’d like to obtain more information from an exhibitor, engage with them on Twitter – chances are they’ll respond back and get you connected to the right people.

6) Interact with onsite attendees by answering their questions.

Whether you’re 50 or 5,000 miles away, you can still be a valuable resource to the on-site attendees. How? By answering questions they might have. Provide a meaningful answer and you’ll likely pick up a few followers, too.

7) Learn about important industry news and announcements.

Whether it’s an award, an exhibitor product announcement or news of a new industry partnership, chances are you’ll hear about it on Twitter.

8) Watch live video from the show floor.

Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about the live video interviews that were being conducted from IMEX America’s show floor.

9) Listen to a show’s podcasts as well.

Meetings Podcast, hosted by Mike McAllen and Jon Trask, was the official podcaster for IMEX America ’12. And how did I know that a new episode was up on the site? On Twitter, of course!

10) Discover recaps of the show’s happenings.

A great complement to the “Twitter commentary” are blog summaries that can go beyond 140 characters. Here’s an example of a great daily recap published by Anne Thornley-Brown on the Cvent blog.

Conclusion

I thought I’d conclude this post in 140 characters (or less):

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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