Jargon: The Dark Side of Blogging

Your voice might be the most important thing about your writing. Let’s face it, anyone can write a blog. According to Domo, over 340 new blogs are created every minute—and that’s just on WordPress. One of the most valuable ways to make yourself stand out in the wall of social media noise is to have an interesting voice. Simply put, your voice is the unique way you write things. For me, that usually means writing about myself and geeky stuff.

The problem is that sometimes you can’t write about Star Wars or your favorite holiday (mine is Life Day, by the way). Sometimes you have to write about marketing automation or space heaters. That can involve a local of industry jargon. Buried in the acronym purgatory of BTU, SMB and SaaS, your style of writing can become further buried. Suddenly, you’re marking off a list of specs instead of telling a story.

And that simply will not do. We’re marketers; we have a product to share and we have to present that product in an interesting, creative way to potential customers, no matter what it is. So how can you balance your own voice with all of the jargon and product features? I have a few simple suggestions that help me when I’m in the blogging trenches.

Brand-Voice

Be Authentic. That means not only being genuine to yourself, but to your readers as well. If you are selling space heaters, you can be sure you’re selling them to other human beings. That means you need to sound like a human being and you need to connect with your reader on a basic level. That will not happen if you’re just spewing facts instead of building a narrative about your subject.

Bad Idea: The L57 Space Heater comes with real time Thermo 5V sensors that can adjust temperatures between 1 and 8 degrees, if properly programmed with 5-82 remote.

Good Idea: If you need both hands free while at your workbench, our space heater can be programmed to adjust heat output for maximum comfort!

Be Accurate. While it is good be genuine with your readers, you don’t want to swing too far into buddy territory. You aren’t talking to your friends, after all. Avoid generalizations and overly excited prose. You don’t want to bore your audience, but you also don’t want to talk down to them.

Bad Idea: As we all know, the L57 Space Heater is really good, and it can be used pretty much anywhere!

Good Idea: The L57 has been proven to outperform other space heaters in a non-biased heating test performed by Strata College. The L57 is also water and dust-resistant.

Be Honest. While it’s important to avoid jargon for the sake of clarity, it can also be used to make the ignorant seem educated. We’ve all seen (and cringed at) the writer who jumped on a topic with no knowledge, or just enough knowledge to get him/her into trouble. Be honest with your audience and never try to sell a product you know nothing about. The truly educated will always sniff you out.

Bad Idea: The L57 Space Heater is a very good product based on the BTU generation of its fan, which must produce heat through force.

Good Idea: At the time of this writing, we were not sure about the BTU output of the L57. Look for an update in the future, or feel free to contact our sales staff directly at this link.

People come for your content but they stay for your voice. Your unique take on things is what will grow your audience and keep them coming back. Please don’t ever cheapen your talent with false or misleading information.

Have any questions about how to build or grow your own voice in your writing? Or maybe you think something important was missed here? Maybe you’re just lonely want to talk about Star Trek. Feel free to comment below or message me on Twitter.

Blogs You Should Stop Writing in 2014

We’re already halfway through January, and we have already lived through the Best of 2013 lists. Now the “Things to Watch For in 2014” lists have all but sent us out into the streets armed with improvised month-old fruitcake weapons. January 17th is Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day, meaning that this Friday will be the best time to get rid of something annoying. With that in mind, let’s start with some blog posts.

blogpicSeriously, still? That’s right, I’m looking at you, fellow bloggers. Sometimes you create less-than-stellar blog posts, but you can still avoid the biggest sins. These are the big five when it comes to social media blog posts.

  • Obvious optimization techniques: You mean I can really just pay Facebook to boost a post? Well, thank you so much for that tip! Social media marketing is still a new and innovative environment, but it’s hardly the Wild West anymore. We all know to check Facebook Insights for optimum post times.

Solution: Share something that you personally do to improve your social media management. Perhaps you’ve made Twitter lists for all your competitors. Share that. It may not work for everyone, but at least it’s something new.

  • Insanely long list blogs. Hey, I know lists are our bread and butter for content. But the truth of the matter is the average adult’s attention span is only about five minutes. Worse still, less than half of the online audience reads anything beyond 100 words on a website. And less than a third of all viewers of this blog (28%) will finish it. With such short focus, do you really want to test their patience with 57 More Ways to Attract Your Audience?

Solution: Don’t repeat yourself. Be brief. If you really do have 57 pieces of useful content, do everyone a favor and make a series about it.

  • Explaining Social Media Platforms: This one is really about knowing your audience. Anyone that has sought out your blog probably knows what Twitter is. The most recent case of this was the Edward Snowden coverage. Every other blog post re-explained who he was and why the reader should care about the situation, despite the meat of these stories being about something very specific or current.

Solution: Get to the point. If you have someone relevant, just say it. All of your readers have access to Google; they’ll look something up if they aren’t familiar with it.

  • Social Media is like… Please stop trying to say social media is like everything. It’s not. You’re not Forrest Gump, and it’s not inventive anymore. Sure, I’m a little guilty of this, but I was at least a little clever about it. I also didn’t stretch the metaphor like a pair of two year old skinny jeans.

Solution: Ask yourself, does this really fit? Because if you have to work too hard on the connection, it’s not. You went on a cave diving trip and we’re glad for you. You can always do some social media research on the way home. Don’t torture it into a blog post.

  • Exaggerating Your Optimization: If you have a foolproof way to get all of your readers a million Twitter followers, I doubt you’d be writing a free blog about it. Exaggerating the usefulness of your content seems unprofessional and spammy.

Solution: Be honest and show your work. If you’ve had real luck with using text-only Facebook posts, tell your readers how much that has helped you (in numbers) and perhaps show an image of how many fans it reached.

Social media marketing is going to get very crowded in the near future. Trying to get past the wall of noise will be hard enough for someone with useful content so don’t clog up the pipes even more with these posts. Think outside the blog and come up with something cool.

What blog posts are you sick of seeing? Comment below or message me on Twitter at @mendal187.

How Black Hat Are You, Really?

Black Hat through the Ages. The term “Black Hat” isn’t new. It popped up as soon as hackers started using their skills for personal gain and malicious intent. Black Hat hackers weren’t breaking into systems to free information for the world. They were all about personal gain. The term really exploded when SEO came into the mainstream. If you have any experience with SEO, then you’ve heard of Black Hat practices. I was contracted to do SEO for an Indianapolis company in 2010—back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. Even in those dark ages, we were all told how evil Black Hat techniques were, and how we were creating organic, useful content for the web.

Of course, our white hats look a little more dirty as time passes. If you’d like to waste one hour or so, just look up Black Hat SEO. No one fully agrees on what applies. I could have sworn that forum linking—even manually—was considered bad form now, but I find just as many positive statements as I do negative ones. Of course, maybe I was in one of Google’s bad neighborhoods.

The Black Hat terminology has even permeated social media management. And it’s not a new idea. The real problem with all this Sharks vs. Jets banter is that the line is constantly shifting. If you happen to read the Facebook TOS, you’ll find a list of commandments when it comes to advertising. Twitter has a similar—admittedly simpler—list of rules as well. Don’t get me wrong; these pages are important. You need to be checking them often to make sure your brand is still in compliance. But this is a tricky field. For every rule you find and roll your eyes at due to obviousness, there will be another one you’re guilty of at this very moment.

The issue with Black Hat is that everyone knows what’s very bad, but no one can agree on what’s kind of bad, or mostly good. This is doubly true when it comes to Black Hat social media management, because creativity in our industry can outshine edginess. If you do something interestingly, you can usually be forgiven for doing something a little Black Hat. At least the first time.

What to Do? Sadly there is not an ancient tomb of rules about what is and isn’t Black Hat—no matter how many blogs you read claiming such. Aside from abiding to various social media contracts, the advice here is more about media production than social media rules.

Is your content good? No, really. It’s easy to look at your Facebook calendar, your mounting influencer list, and then shrug your shoulders about one little crummy tweet. Forget about engagement and conversion for a moment; are you saying a damn thing with this content? If you were on the other side of the screen, would you LIKE your brand? If you waver, it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing.

Are you following or mimicking? We all look to brand leaders to learn. We’re also looking for potential customers that those leaders have already found. So we borrow what works. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But somewhere along the line we have to start innovating and creating our own content. If all you do is mimic the top brands, you aren’t creating anything.

Are you spamming—but not really spamming? We all know—and hate—spam. But spam isn’t just an annoying, poorly worded email trying to get you to buy something bad. Spamming is bothering people. Are you giving people interesting content 75% of the time so you can then throw products at them in an annoying, obvious fashion? If so, you’re still spamming. You’re just a really good spammer.

Are you not doing evil? There are plenty of brands out there that have done harm without ever turning Black Hat. It may seem obvious, but there is more to the world than the brand you are creating content for. Know when to back off. More importantly, know when to say nothing at all.

Whether it’s 2010 or next Tuesday, we’re all going to get our white hats scuffed up at some point. The key is to be deliberate in your actions. Even on social media, reputation outshines one bad campaign or tweet. Now make sure that reputation is shining.