Thursday, August 12, 2010

Three Quick Tips to Get Your Content Liked, Retweeted, and Ripped Off

Tweets are racing by us. New web pages are filling the web like space debris. Even your grandmother has a blog.

How do we get our content noticed?

Here are 3 quick steps to help you reach (and increase) your audience.

1. Start with a list of SEO words
Remember those grammar exercises in school where you needed to use key words in a sentence? Having a list of SEO (search engine optimization) words is like a vocabulary list with power to pull more readers.

Consider your list of SEO words as one metric to defining success for the content. If you don’t see those key words in your content, your content is guaranteed to reach fewer new readers – an especially important consideration when you’re trying to build a regular audience.

Check out this great post from the #1 position search result for "SEO blog" on Yahoo! and the #2 result on Google. Rand Fishkin explains how SEO is like baking chocolate chip cookies.

2. Twitter Size Your Content
You can convey a lot of information in 20-30 words, which is about the equivalent of Twitter’s 140-character limit. Remember, Twitter is content, (consider VeryShortStory’s entries on Twitter). Accordingly "Twitter-size" your content.
  • Paragraphs: no more than 3 sentences per paragraph.

  • Sentences: Less than 10 words per sentence.

  • Words: Use shorter words where possible. (Notice I didn’t say “utilize” instead of “use”?)
Sounds tough, doesn’t it? Consider some of the following examples of Twitter-friendly sentiments that express strong, clear ideas in less than 140 characters:

  • I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country. #nathanhale 62 characters
  • You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. #winstonchurchill 87 characters
  • Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever. #chiefjoseph 117 characters
  • Nuts! #generaltonymcauliffe 5 characters
Can you think of other good examples of Twitter-friendly but powerful quotes? Add them in the comments!

3. Include a reader benefit statement
What’s in it for the reader? Why should they keep reading or click through – let alone make a purchasing decision? The title of your blog, your web page, and your entire Twitter entry needs to give your audience a reason to break a sweat by clicking through.

Why did you click through to this article? Let me know in the comments.

Check out this advice from pro copywriter Joe Robson about the importance of AIDA – no, not the opera.

By making sure you’re incorporating these 3 simple steps into your content development process, you’re going to see increased site traffic and overall audience satisfaction.

Thanks to for the retweet symbol.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Castro 2.0

Are we there yet?

Former(?) Cuban President, Fidel Castro, emerged from apparent convalescence for an August 3, 2010 speech to Cuba's parliament. That, in and of itself is remarkable; however, things got even curiouser and curiouser as he seemed to be simultaneously environmentalist, anti-nuke, anti-war, anti-terrorism, pro-diplomacy, and, perhaps most-astonishingly, pro-wiki.

Wikileaks, any way.

Castro referenced the classified documents available to the world via wikilieaks regarding the U.S. war in Afghanistan. He assured his audience that U.S. intelligence agencies wouldn't able to "hurt a hair on the head" of Bradley Manning, identified as the leaked documents' key source.

Although there is a meandering quality to Castro's speech (which lacks a clear thesis, but not necessarily purpose), it is evident that he tried to convey genuine concern for the future of planet earth. That broader view belies, perhaps, a person hoping to affect change on the macro spectrum instead of using the macro to advance the micro of nationalism. Note this excerpt, liberally translated by yours truly and web translation.

For the first time, I address this message to President Barack Obama:

It is in your hands to offer humanity the only real opportunity for peace. Within your purview is the power to launch an apocalypse, but also the opportunity for peaceful resolution. Whether on the political right or left, American citizens will applaud your efforts, and they remain faultless in these dire events in any case.

This speech signals something -- for Cuba, for Earth. Not that Fidel Castro is going to shake things up for the American Empire, but that Castro is a barometer of just how much technology has changed society, and how society has changed technology, demanding openness, moving dialogues into public forums, and seeking an increase in the quality of ideas we exchange with one another.

It is a strange circle, the grizzled dictator of pro-Soviet Cuba, calling on the allegedly socialist Obama administration, to enact the change promised in those upstart speeches in 2008.

The world waits in the comment boxes for the response.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Transparency is a Two-Way Street

The United Arab Emirates wants to ban the BlackBerry. You know why?

Because it works too well.

Canada-based Research In Motion uses encryption (“AES” encryption, in fact – whatever that is) for all data traveling between your BlackBerry and the enterprise server. The only problem is that that foils snooping by certain curious emirates who may want a peeksie of what’s going on in your world.

Quid pro quo, isn’t it?

We certainly want to know what’s happening in the corridors of power, so why wouldn’t a government have an equal right to know where you’re going to have lunch, or who won your office fantasy football league?

The fundamental problem is that we have developed an “us-and-them” paradigm, where government is the Other, something that is separated from us and clearly interested only in keeping us under “its” jack boot of despotic control. In the “us-and-them” model, if a government wants to monitor our allegedly private communications, they are one step away from forcing us onto box cars headed to re-education camps.

If I say the occasional controversial thing in a casual phone call, I hope the DHS agents will consider it constructive criticism, and pass along my ideas to the appropriate agencies.

But when we want to see the goings-on in the smoky backrooms of Congress and governors’ mansions, that is simply well-informed citizenry. In a democracy, after all, should not the government work for us?

Of course, most of us were pretty comfortable when the Patriot Act passed in 2001 – with broad bipartisan support, by the way.

It’s all about context.

9/11 made us comfortable with a lot of actions that just a week before the twin towers fell, we never would have imagined.

From the spin angle, all the UAE has to say about encrypted BlackBerry messages is that they undermine the country’s ability to identify and eliminate terrorist threats. In fact, if Americans are uncomfortable with the UAE’s stance on privacy, they will be likewise uncomfortable with Saudi Arabia and India, who may follow suit to ban the BlackBerry.

What exactly do we own in terms of our communications, anyway? What’s so special about my emails or my phone calls that would cause me alarm when I learn that the Department of Homeland Security might be listening in?

I was raised to believe that sharing is caring, after all. I should be proud of the things I write in electronic missives. And if I say the occasional controversial thing in a casual phone call, I hope the DHS agents will consider it constructive criticism, and pass along my ideas to the appropriate agencies.

We could turn our entire communications system into the largest suggestion box in history.