I was Google’s 59th employee and first marketing director. Ask me anything.

Larry and Sergey really believe they can transform the world with technology that makes things work better, beginning with a better way to find information when you need it. That information is not restricted to text found on web pages. I believe they won’t be satisfied until everyone has a brain implant that augments their sensory perception of the world with a constant stream of relevant data instantaneously delivered. The Google you see today is a technology still in its infancy.

I’ve been tempted to buy this book and found this interesting Q&A page with the author’s responses. In particular I find this passage illuminating because I’m often confronted with quite sneering attitudes towards social media, particularly the 140-character limit of Twitter. My response nowadays is to say that, well, it might not be exactly what you want right here right now, but then the telephone, radio and television were all probably also fairly naff when they started out. Books were the new-fangled technology once upon a time. So I like that this describes Google today as a technology still in its infancy. I’m not wholly certain that we’ll all have brain implants some day, but certainly Google and other technologies such as social media are only just at the beginning and one day we’ll realise it started here. Or there.

Avoid The 70% Failure Rate Of Change Management Initiatives | Forrester Blogs

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I’m a big fan of what Forrester say and do. Increasingly I’m coming to realise that social media is closely allied to culture change – that is, people need to change their ways of thinking about communication, and they need to do it from the inside out. It’s pointless trying to get communications agencies to practice social media for clients until or unless they start embracing it for themselves.

So I like this post. I like the way that it neatly encapsulates what I’ve been vaguely thinking about for the past year or so. Change management is difficult, and if social media involves change, then that’s why we’re finding social media so difficult too. Hop on over to Forrester and have a read.

Top 75 Apps for Enhancing Your Facebook Page | Social Media Examiner

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Everyone needs apps, and not just mobile developers. If you’ve moved beyond the basic Facebook offerings, or think you might be about to evolve, then you should be considering some of the extremely useful apps out there. One word of warning: when you use them, they can reap data from your account. But if you’re happy with this (and let’s face it, you don’t get much choice whatever app you use), then go for it. Mari Smith gives probably the best run-down of available Facebook apps, even if it’s very slightly out of date by including FBML (just one of the tyrannies of time when blogging). I’m pretty sure the rest of it is intact. If you’re not sure, check it out. All of it.

Ranking top UK PR blogs using social network analysis | Much ado about nowt

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I’ve been playing around with NodeXL recently and found it quite an eye-opener. It’s a free social network analysis plug-in/add-on/strap-on/whatever for Excel and whereas I’ve known about social network analysis for a while, I’ve never really looked into it deeply. Tim Hoang was the ‘new Brendan’ at Porter Novelli and I’ve read this post before but just rediscovered it. He gives a really nice, straightforward account of his work with social network software and I think it’s going to come in handy both to understand this myself, and explain it to other people. Definitely worth a read and not, as Tim would have you believe, ‘much ado about nowt.’

Models for working with social media: what works, what sort of works, and what really doesn’t

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how best to work with clients. It strikes me that this is a process that should, at the end, have a client who knows about social media, and can talk about it and use it with confidence. This is important: clients can smell fear at a hundred paces, and if you start talking social media with your own clients, without knowing what you’re talking about, they’ll sniff you out. I know. I’ve been sniffed a-plenty.

But if you get this process wrong, the opposite can happen. Instead of growing, the client loses confidence, and social media becomes the stuff of nightmares. I’ve had enough midnight fears to know this, but I think I’ve slowly dragged myself up to the point where I know what works and what doesn’t, and I’d like to help clients avoid palpitations too.

So here’s my take on what really doesn’t work, what sort of works, and my recommendation for what really works. Naturally, my recommendation is what I actually do for a living, but this is my blog and I can say what I like on it.

Really doesn’t work: Getting someone in to do everything

If you really don’t know a thing about social media, then pretty much the worst thing you can do is get someone in to take over the entire operation. And this is me talking as a social media consultant.

For why? Well, for a start you won’t know what you’re selling in to the client, and as the client continues to ask questions, and you continue not to know the answer, the panic, fear and intimidation you feel now will multiply tenfold.

Secondly, you won’t understand what the social media person is talking about. You’ll feel like having a little cry because it’ll all seem so foreign. You’ll lose confidence because you’ll continue not to understand, because you haven’t invested time in finding out for yourself, or being trained.

Thirdly, the social media person will also want to have a little cry because he or she has to explain everything, all the time, over and over and over and over and over again.

Finally, the pressure on the social media person is immense. He or she has to become the content expert in everything you do, as well as actually do it, and explain everything, and manage everything. Eventually you’ll find you’re actually getting in the way of managing your own account, and you’ll want to have another little cry.

Basically, no one really learns anything and everyone wants to have a little cry.

Sort of works: Learning on the job

‘Owning’ social media in-house is your ultimate objective and if you already have someone who knows about social media – that is, someone who has used it in a professional communications or marketing context rather than someone with a Facebook account – then you’re lucky. Cultivate that person, and make sure they spread the knowledge far and wide across your organisation.

But often, just fumbling through is the surefire way to reinvent the wheel, and we all know how painful it can be, for example figuring out what shape that should be or indeed what colour. So you really will learn about social media, warts and all, but with pain.

Really works: Training and counsel to achieve in-house expertise

I know, I know, I know, this is a blatant sell, but I really think this is the best model. I’m helping several clients through training them in a series of small sessions. Then I’m helping them put into practice what I’ve told them and then, finally, they get to do it for themselves, just asking me occasionally when they get stuck.

This comes after thinking that, by working with clients, they would learn by a process of example or osmosis. They didn’t, because then they think “Brendan does the social media”, and that’s the “Hand it all to someone else” model described above.

But in this model, everyone gains: the client gets clued up and confident without the pain; the social media person feels he or she is actually getting somewhere because they can discuss social media without explaining the basics over and over again; and the client can manage their own accounts in their own way, taking their clients through the options and winning their confidence. No more sniffing.

So, that’s my take on it. Imagine curves going up, or down. Model one, everything goes downhill. Model two, sort of up a bit, down a bit, but you get there eventually. Model three, you grow up, I push you out of the nest, you plummet momentarily then ascend like a magnificent golden eagle. I know which I’d rather have.

Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen | Video on TED.com

You’ve never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.

Sometimes I think TED is all about going ‘wow’ a lot with little real significance (as in: it’s easy to go ‘wow’ at someone moving pictures around on a virtual desktop with their hands but not so attractive when someone wants to urge action to save lives). But Hans Rosling shows the data in such a witty, engaging way with a serious undertone. So this is nothing to do with social media, marketing or copywriting, but one of those snippets that should be compulsory viewing no matter where you’re from.

Flanged bananas. Or: how to write a press release that works online too.

Do you write press releases? Do they work online? As in, can people find them? How do you know? Here are some ways to make your releases work as hard for you online as they do offline.

Takeaways:

  • Use keywords
  • Make the title and first sentence look good online
  • Write the release first, then the first sentence, then the title
  • Make it trackable
  • Make it Twitter-friendly

I’ve written more press releases than you’ve had… whatever you’ve had a lot of.

A press release is like great big vat. At the top is a load of stuff that needs squeezing down, down, down – until a little drop comes out at the bottom. So you need to make sure that concentrated, pure essence is as effective as possible.

Often, this just means writing a good release. What’s the real news here? What’s the story? Who is it for and how can you make it as likely as possible that they’ll publish?

But now, the ‘who it’s for’ part also includes an online audience. This could be because you publish your client releases on your own blog (it’s a nice trick, try it sometime). Maybe you’re writing it specifically for one of those fancypants online release companies. Or it could just be that somehow, it just winds up online and you see it floating around months later.

So today, a good release also means something that ‘works’ online. This doesn’t need especially arcane or difficult skills. Here are some tips.

  • Use keywords. SEO may have been coughing up blood last night, but it’s not quite dead. Find a website that talks about exactly the same thing you want to talk about, copy its address, hop on over to the free Google Adwords tool for keywords and paste that address in. The Adwords tool will tell you what it thinks are the most likely keywords for that page and, by inference, what words you should be using. It’s a bit like a reverse search: instead of typing keywords and getting the page, you’re specifying a page and finding what the keywords might have been. Now, use them roughly 3-5 times every 100 words, especially in the title and first sentence because that’s where Google likes them. You just made your release more attractive to search engines because you’re using the words other people use online, not the ones you think you should use.
  • Make the title and first sentence look good online. Again, this goes back to how people might read your release. If they’re using RSS, then for example in Google Reader the title is cut off at 70 characters and the first sentence at 120 (this applies to Google search results too). So if you have nice, well-formed titles and first sentences that get the message across within those limits, people might be more likely to read you. It’s not exactly SEO – that is, search engines don’t prefer titles and first sentences within those limits – but humans do. Maybe we need to call this HSEO?
  • Do it backwards. Write the release first, then the first sentence, then the title. That’s how I write blog posts and as a result, it’s how I write offline too. Usually I have it all in my head after writing it, and find it easier to compress than expand.
  • Make it trackable. Use an unusual phrase in the title that you can then track, via searches, Google Alerts, RSS monitoring, dashboards, whatever. I added ‘Flanged bananas’ to this, which is of course ridiculous (I’m a ridiculous person after all), but it’s a safe bet that when I search for that phrase from now on, I know it’s this blog post (actually, it seems I just inadvertently created my very own Google Whack). If you do it, you’ll know it’s your press release. Especially if you’re writing about flanged bananas.
  • Make it Twitter-friendly. Add a 140-character-or-less pre-made sentence at the end that people can copy and paste, complete with a bit.ly URL that you can track. Something like “Flanged bananas: How to write a press release that works online too. Brendan Cooper gives some tips. http://bit.ly/oIybwe” You just made it much easier for people to spread the word – and you controlled the message and can track it too. Nice.

Note that the second, third and fourth points above could equally apply to any title and first sentence no matter whether they’re offline or online because they just promote the essence of good copywriting. Get the message across with as much impact and brevity as possible, and make it lodge in people’s minds. Don’t give me any ‘revolutionary’ or ‘world-first’, begone with your ‘cutting edge’ and ‘delighted to announce’. It just doesn’t cut it any more. Think flanged bananas.

I usually avoid the cheesy “So what hints and tips do you have” motif at the end of blog posts but, seeing as nobody reads my blog any more, I’m willing to try anything. So, what hints and tips do you have?

Takeaways:

  • Use keywords
  • Make the title and first sentence look good online
  • Write the release first, then the first sentence, then the title
  • Make it trackable
  • Make it Twitter-friendly

If you liked that, tweet this: Flanged bananas: How to write a press release that works online too. Brendan Cooper gives some tips. http://bit.ly/oIybwe