What the Dalai Lama Could Learn from Fast Company

By Karen Dempsey
View Comments

“Is it wrong to hide the Dalai Lama’s posts?” I asked on Facebook a couple of years ago. “They’re just so frequent.”*

I wonder if Tenzin Gyatso saw this recent profile in Fast Company, which featured Rufus Griscom talking about how to build online communities around your content. We liked what RG had to say.

(Griscom and his wife cofounded the popular parenting site Babble, which they sold to Disney for a whopping $40 million last year. I loved Babble’s irreverent approach to covering parenting. Babble has also published a couple of my essays and featured another Hired Pen, the ever-awesome Jane Roper, as a regular columnist.)

Griscom argues you should share content on social networking sites because it helps you gauge its effectiveness:

If we have more comments on a Facebook post than on our own site, are we pushing the conversation or the audience away? But of the 6 million folks who come to Babble each month, about 35% are coming through social media — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Stumble-Upon, and various aggregators. And we started to realize that a lot of these are actually filtering our content better than we are.

Ah, filtering. These social networking sites make it too easy to post a picture of that delicious bagel you had for breakfast, or 11 “invitations” to the same event/launch/”opportunity” (as with my small-business-owner Friend),or 4 different meditations in the span of a few hours (You Know Who You Are ;) )

So go ahead and post, pin and tweet your content (we do). But pay attention to those likes, comments, shares and follows, and don’t make your posts so frequent or generic that people skim right over them.

* Three FB friends liked my Dalai Lama post.

Tweet This, Not That: Five Tips for Writing Effective Tweets

By Anna Goldsmith
View Comments

You’ve got 140 characters. Sure, you could use them to tell your followers what you had for breakfast, but you probably know better than that. And if you’re using Twitter to generate new business and strengthen old relationships (you know you should be, right?), the pressure to say something smart, savvy and, dare-to-dream, “retweet-worthy” can be pretty daunting. Here are five tips to use those 140 characters wisely.

1) Be provocative.

No, I’m not talking sexy provocative — although that might get you a whole bunch of attention, too. I’m talking about the kind of tweet that poses a thought-provoking question. Your goal with Twitter is simply to get a conversation started. If nothing immediately springs to mind, see if you can find a news story that is at least tangentially related to your industry and pose a question about that.

2) Do a “how-to” or list.

People are suckers for both. “How to Navigate a Roomful of Strangers in Five Easy Steps,” ”Top Five Tips for Writing Effective Tweets,” etc. Even if you didn’t write the blog or article you’re linking to, you’re still positioning yourself as someone in the know.

3) “Retweet” something you found interesting.

Unless you’re a completely boring person, if something was interesting to you, it probably will be to other people, too. This isn’t plagiarism. This is information sharing and this is what Twitter is all about. Keep a list of go-to interesting people on hand so “you” always have something to say. And yes, if you aren’t simply clicking “retweet,” you do need to give them credit.

4) “Reply” to that something interesting and add your two cents.

Related to #3: Add your own two cents by replying to a tweet that caught your attention. In fact, regardless of how many provocative tweets you can generate on your own, it’s a good idea to reply to other tweets you read so you don’t seem like you’re just out there to promote yourself. (Even though that’s exactly what you’re doing.)

5) Remember you’re writing a headline, not a story.

I know you only have 140 characters, but tweets filled with abbreviations and lingo not only look awful, they turn off all but the most extreme Twexperts. (I may have made that word up, but probably not.) If you find yourself relying on abbreviations, maybe you’re trying to say too much. With Twitter you’re a headline writer, not a novelist.

Bonus advanced tip: That said, if you know what you’re doing, Twitter can be an effective way to tell longer narratives. This is particularly effective if you have a news story that needs to be told in real time. Master of the engaging “mini narrative” is NPR’s David Folkenflik, who regularly tweets about unfolding events and uses a “(more)” at the end of tweets. For example:

  • Fmr NPR SVP for fundraising Ron Schiller caught on tape criticizing Tea Party & GOP as he lunched w fake prospective Muslim donors (more)

But David still follows the golden rule of good tweeting: Say one thing and say it well.

Final word of warning: Don’t be that guy.

Twitter is a great business tool, but use it wisely. If you’re constantly self-promoting, you’re going to turn off your current followers and have no chance of getting new ones. Here’s a good rule of thumb: For every post you do to promote your business, have two that promote something someone else says or does. Remember: Twitter is a conversation, and we all hate the guy whose favorite topic is himself.

Are Twitter and Facebook Headed for a Fall?

By Dan O'Sullivan
View Comments

Social media is supposed to be red-hot, right? Not so fast. According to a pair of recent articles, two of the giants of social media may have trouble ahead.

Although Anna tweets (as do dozens of other people I like or admire), I’ve never been a big fan of Twitter. In certain cases, it can be quite effective. The post-election Iranian protests are perhaps the most potent example, and some businesses have also put it to good use.

But personally, I just can’t get into Twitter. There are enough distractions in my life – I don’t need a constant stream of tweets to make things even worse.

Over on Slate.com’s The Big Money, I have an ally in Mark Gimein. He posits that Twitter is “in danger of collapsing under its own weight.” Why?

“The volume of material that Twitter unleashes now puts impossible demands on its users’ time and attention. The problem, in a nutshell, is information overload. The more Twitter grows and the more feeds Twitterers follow, the harder it gets to mine it for what is truly useful and engaging.”

Gimein goes on to cite his personal experience. Each of his followers on Twitter typically follows 200 feeds; one ambitious soul follows over 3,000. How can marketers expect to break through all that noise, a situation that will only worsen in the years ahead? You got me.

Meanwhile, Virginia Heffernan on nytimes.com notes that “while people are still joining Facebook and compulsively visiting the site, a small but noticeable group are fleeing – some of them ostentatiously.”

Heffernan identifies a number of reasons for the departures. Some users are disgusted with Facebook’s growing commercialization. Others are unnerved by the privacy concerns. Still others have decided to stop wasting so much time posting and checking status updates.

Is Facebook about to face a mass exodus? I’d hate to think so. However, Heffernan’s article is enough to make you wonder whether Facebook is late 1990s-era Whitney Houston – on top, but about to enter a long, slow decline into irrelevance.

Do you think Twitter and Facebook have become a bore? Have other forms of social media sparked your interest? Let us know.

What does it mean to brand yourself?

By Anna Goldsmith
View Comments

If you were a brand, what brand would you be? Apple? Harley? Um … Tide? (This Tide commercial is great.) I know: This sounds like an exercise just made for a corporate retreat … right before the “trust falls.” But in our 2.0 world, where the professional and personal are colliding like never before, it’s not a bad idea to check in with yourself. Or, your many selves … your work self, your Facebook self, your Twitter self, your too-many-drinks-at-the company-holiday-party self. 

Dr. Judith Sills wrote an interesting article about how to become your own brand. See what you think — do you need a little brand management?