Thursday, April 29, 2010

How does your writing jive with the online environment?

Feather Dip Pen w/ Stars
Originally uploaded by Tom Banwell

Thanks to Rand MacIvor for getting this thought going and to Jim for giving it a twist...

We were talking about coaches and how they appear online, specifically how to separate the "flowers from the weeds."  It can be difficult to look behind somebody's words, or their website, or their online profile and truly discern  or predict the quality of their work.  Rand and I and a band of our online buds talked about credentials, online quote postings, results, etc.

But Jim pointed out to me later that one question went begging in our discussion - the level of writing capability necessary for the effective use of online networking, blogging, tweeting, etc.  Not everyone represents themselves effectively through the written word.

I'll not ask for any judgments on my blog or my book right now, although if you want to give me feedback, I'm fine with hearing it.  Really.  Especially if it's complimentary.  Seriously, though, the decision of where, how often, etc. to present oneself online, and with what material, depends to a huge degree on how well you write, and on how you write.  Here are some examples of the variations:
  • Photo oriented- Rand, for example is a graphics guy.  He can also write, but the core of his work is to represent ideas in pictures.  He adds captions to elaborate on his graphics concept.
  • Video - Some go without any words necessary.  More often, though, I've seen the video mode used to illustrate, to support an idea that's elaborated upon elsewhere online rather than to present the entire idea.  Fair warning - when you link somebody to YouTube you might be sending them out for a hot dog and they'll stay there for the popcorn, ice cream, a brew or two, and forget to come back.  That's the good and the bad of the video link - in my estimation anyway.
  • Newsy  - This is the no-nonsense sharing of things that you have read, heard on the news, or observed with your own eyes.  It lends itself best to short, frequent bursts.  You can't be truly newsy if you're an infrequent poster - someone will have scooped you.
  • Essay - You can develop an idea in more depth, and you don't have to post every hour or two.  This is my favorite mode - take a nugget and blow it up and explore it.
  • Tweet - This is another of the immediate modes - do it often and don't use a lot of words.  This can really help develop conciseness in your writing, or you can do as I do and thank heaven every day for the tinyurl that allows you to link to something bigger.
  • Link oriented - Perhaps you don't like to write, or your brain is fried today and you can't come up with an idea.  So direct readers to other places you like online - YouTube videos, blogs, news articles, etc.  This can be overdone.  Some people don't like to bounce all around, especially if you give a list of ten links without any connection in theme or thought.  But linking to other good online stuff can help keep your material (and your readers' experience) fresh.
  • Quotables - There are notable folks who have great wordsmithing skills, and it can be inspirational, useful (and efficient) to pass them along.  But if you're marketing yourself online you're marketing yourself or your company.  People who read you may want to read YOU and your own thoughts sometimes.  You need to show them that you have some.  A lovely profile photo isn't enough to sell yourself and your services.  Well, perhaps with one or two exceptions!
Consider your style and your pace of composing when you decide how to proceed.  If you can crank 'em out, great.  If you can't, then choose a mode that doesn't require volume to be successful.  Do research if that's what you do.  Cue off of other personalities online if you do that best.  But ultimately you'll present the best package if you know yourself and capitalize on your strengths.  Online marketing is not a once-and-done venture, so you need to choose modes and methods that you can sustain over time.