Five Pieces of Blogging Advice I Wish You’d Stop Giving

I don’t know why I bother sometimes.

(“I don’t know why you bother ever.”)

Whenever someone writes a “five blogging secrets” post, I keep thinking, “maybe this is it. Maybe this is the one. Maybe this blog post will have at least one useful blogging tip that I can use.”

But it didn’t. It doesn’t. It never did. It was written, just like every other post on blogging, for the absolute beginner, who, given the constant bombardment of amateur advice, no longer exists in this world. We’ve polluted the Internet so much with useless, remedial blogging advice that it’s gotten into the water, and our children are born knowing the five most important steps to successful blogging.

I’ll admit, I’ve given this advice. Hell, I still give it in talks, depending on my audience and who I’m writing for. But everyone is giving it. I’m seeing it all over the goddamn place, and if I see much more of it, I’m going to scream at someone.

So, please, if not for me, then for the good of the country: stop it. Just stop it. Stop giving the same damn advice over and over and over again. Stop copying and pasting each other’s “five blogging secrets” posts.

These are the five pieces of blogging advice I want you to stop giving.

  1. Write good content: Blah, blah, blah! People say this like it’s The Most Important Advice Ever. It’s stupid, vile, and utterly useless, because everyone a) knows it, and b) thinks they do it. “I think I’ll write completely utter crap,” said no one ever. The problem is, everyone already thinks they write well, and that their work is just as good as everyone else’s. Even the conspiracy theorists who write 10,000 word treatises in a single day think what they’re producing is gold, and they’re surprised the world isn’t beating a path to their door. Telling people to write good content is like telling people to breathe or chew their food when they eat. It may be important to hear for anyone who’s brand new to blogging, but the people who know enough about the Internet to find the blog post where you shared this little piece of dreariness have already seen this more than once.
  2. Grow your social network: Really? I thought having my brother and a couple friends from work following me on a Twitter account I rarely use was a guaranteed step toward social media rock stardom. So you’re saying that the more people who read my stuff, the more success I’ll have? BRILLIANT! Give that man a Pulitzer prize for extreme cleverness! Next week, check out my new wealth creating blog post, “buy low, sell high.”
  3. Find your niche/passion: Okay, this one might not be such a Duh! piece of advice, but I’m tired of it. Anyone who has a barely detectable pulse has heard this one before, so it’s nothing new. Combine this with item #1 — write passionately about your content — and Tony Robbins will personally punch you in the nose.
  4. Erik's Tumblr Feed

    Alright, alright, fine! I have a Tumblr feed. But I have it ironically.

  5. Create value: Value is in the eyes of the beholder. And if you’re giving advice like this, there’s a whooole lot of beholders who are more than a little annoyed with you right now. Everyone perceives value in their own way. While I might think your literary comparison between Dr. Who and Mr. Ferrars from Sense and Sensibility is completely useless, there are plenty of Dr. Who/Jane Austen fans who would disagree with me loudly. No matter what you create, there will always be someone who finds some value in it, somewhere. So as a piece of advice, this is value-less.
  6. Blogging is Dead: Muh-huh. And what are you reading right now? That’s right, a blog. And what’s that place where you share all your photos and pithy little comments about your friends and their quirky hats and ironic bow ties? That’s right, your blog. What’s that? You have a Tumblog, and that’s not a blog? The hell it’s not. That’s exactly what Tumblr is, a blog for people who can’t read more than three sentences without their lips getting tired. One day, when you grow up and move out of your mom’s basement, you’ll start writing longer pieces of content, like a job application at a coffee shop. Until then, stop telling people blogging is dead. If your world view can be summed up in 140 characters and a retro photo filter, that tells me it’s not a world view worth listening to. Stick to bumper stickers on your fixed gear bike.

Just once, I would love to see someone share some useful blogging advice that did not include any variations of these five completely useless tips. While I know many people are still new to blogging, I don’t think anyone would ever knowingly violate these little “gems.” You can stop sharing them, and move on to the next lesson.

Five Social Media Jokes That Make Me Want to Poke You In The Eye

Please stop making these social media jokes

Some days, I believe anyone can make up their own clever jokes and make the world laugh.

Other days, I weep for humanity.

Humor is a dangerous thing in the hands of people who don’t know what they’re doing. And apparently, that’s a lot of people, especially when it comes to making jokes about current events.

They deliver the line — which, believe me, I’ve heard hundreds of times before — with an expectant grin like they’ve said something hysterical, and they’re waiting for me to laugh.

(Pro tip: If you tell a joke, never use the “TA DA!” face, like you’re pleased with yourself, or are in a recorded-in-front-of-a-live-studio-audience sitcom. Act like what you said was not a joke, so that when it bombs, you can continue on like nothing awkward just happened.)

So if you’re making these social media jokes, stop it. Just stop it.

  • Twitterererer: Said with a confused look on the person’s face, like they don’t quite get it or aren’t really sure what to call people who use Twitter. They act like they’re so unfamiliar with the word — even after three solid years of it being a pop culture mainstay even the Amish are aware of — they’re not sure how many “er” syllables there actually are. They’ll go on for five minutes if you let them. Because nothing is funnier than feigned confusion and stupidity.
  • Calling Twitter Users “Twits”: “But people who use social media aren’t actually called. . . oooh, I get it. Ha ha ha, that’s so FUNNY! ‘Twit’ is a name for a stupid person, and you’re saying people who use Twitter are stupid.” Whatever. People who say this think “working hard or hardly working?” is also funny.
  • Saying “Hashtag-__________” in regular conversation: As in hashtag-that’s-funny or hashtag-hilarious. Seriously, hashtag-shut-the-hell-up. I hate it when people use text speak in real life (although I really do like The Instagram Song, below), and I say “O! M! G!” only when I want to make fun of someone for doing it.
  • “Smart phone? No, I just have a regular old dumb phone.”: When people say this, I want to say something I learned in my years of woodworking: “There are no bad tools, only bad carpenters.”
  • “I don’t want to know when people are going to the bathroom:” I don’t know what kind of people you hang out with, but no one I know ever discusses their bathroom habits in polite conversation, let alone broadcasts it to the entire Internet. Maybe you need to hang out with a better class of people. Also, I don’t think anyone anywhere has ever said this ever. But if you think they have, by all means, show me. Dive into the social media deep end, find a tweet where someone said they just went poo, print it out, and show it to me.

 

Twitter Screws Up IFTTT.com For The Rest Of Us

I love Twitter, except when I’m pissed at them.

Today I’m pissed at them.

Twitter, for whatever reason they’re spouting — I can’t really understand what the hell they’re talking about — is no longer going to allow IFTTT.com to use tweets in their recipes.

ifttt Twitter recipe

I’m going to lose this little gem, thanks to Twitter.

IFTTT.com is a great site that’s built on the logical construction of If This, Then That. If this condition is met, then that action will take place.

You can use it to create recipes like “email me whenever someone uses ‘No Bullshit Social Media’ in a tweet. (Or to put it in their vernacular, if “No Bullshit Social Media” is used in a tweet, then email me.)

Except now you can’t.

That’s because Twitter continues to drop brick after brick into their garden wall so no one else can use their tweets except them. It’s stupid things like this that make me glad I backed App.net when I did. (I’m user #264 or something.)

Here’s the email IFTTT sent out to all their users, from CEO Linden Tibbetts.

In recent weeks, Twitter announced policy changes* that will affect how applications and users like yourself can interact with Twitter’s data. As a result of these changes, on September 27th we will be removing all Twitter Triggers, disabling your ability to push tweets to places like email, Evernote and Facebook. All Personal and Shared Recipes using a Twitter Trigger will also be removed. Recipes using Twitter Actions and your ability to post new tweets via IFTTT will continue to work just fine.

At IFTTT, first and foremost, we want to empower anyone to create connections between literally anything. We’ve still got a long way to go, and to get there we need to make sure that the types of connections that IFTTT enables are aligned with how the original creators want their tools and services to be used.

We at IFTTT are big Twitter fans and, like yourself, we’ve gotten a lot of value out of the Recipes that use Twitter Triggers. We’re sad to see them go, but remain excited to build features that work within Twitter’s new policy. Thank you for your support and for understanding these upcoming changes. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at support@ifttt.com.

Linden Tibbets
IFTTT CEO

* These Twitter policy changes specifically disallow uploading Twitter Content to a “cloud based service” (Section 4A and include stricter enforcement of the Developer Display Requirements (https://dev.twitter.com/terms/display-requirements).

Sadly, IFTTT’s comments are the same hopefully-optimistic-trying-to-be-calm happy face that every other third-party developer has had to put on after getting royally screwed by the messaging giant. That, “we really think they’re bastards, but we’re too mature to actually say so” tone that people adopt after finding out their spouse tells them they want a divorce and you have to leave the house.

Times like this, I fire up the App.net page and start using it even more. I worry that Twitter is going to turn into another Facebook, where they can’t see beyond their own success, and think they’re immortal.

I really do want Twitter to succeed, but it’s days like this that I wonder if they’re going to be around in a few years. Networks like App.net are constantly baying at their heels, like a pack of hounds trying to bring down the stag. The stag may be a badass, but one day it’s going to trip, and the hounds will overtake it.

App.net Could Be a Twitter Killer

It could be the Twitter killer.

App.net, the open-source Twitter competitor, could be the thing that defeats and replaces Twitter, at least for those people who are starting to look at Twitter the same way a married couple begins to realize that the honeymoon ended 10 years ago.

We all assumed — at least those of us who have been on Twitter for a few years — that Twitter had the same do-no-evil attitude that Google did. That they were going to be cool.

But over the last 12 months, the sheen has come off and what were once cute little quirks have become full-blown annoyances.App.net screenshot

  • Twitter bought Posterous for an talent acquisition, not a technology one. Expect your Posterous blog to go away one day.
  • They bought TweetDeck, and we all feared they were going to kill it, but instead, they made it suck.
  • Twitter has been shutting out third-party app and api developers, presumably to bring things in better alignment with their brand.
  • Twitter had a great relationship with Google where you could search for real-time tweets. That relationship was not renewed when it ended. Sort of like an actor whose contract isn’t renewed for the upcoming season.
  • They blocked off Instagram access, meaning you can’t find your Twitter friends on the photo sharing too.
  • Most recently, Twitter shut down the account of a British journalist who was critical of NBC’s crappy Olympic coverage. It was only after a huge outcry that they turned it back on.

Twitter keeps turning more and more into Facebook every day. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell, a rock star prodigy among the A-list tech entrepreneurs, told ReadWriteWeb that these are the “classic symptoms of an online media company failing to fly. ‘Media companies are starving,’ Caldwell says, ‘and that’s why they do crazy things.'”

So I was very excited to hear about App.net (app dot net) as a possible new Twitter alternative.

The best part? It costs 50 bucks a year to use.

50 bucks?! But Twitter is free!

Yes, Twitter is free. Yes, Twitter has more than 500 million accounts on it, and is the most widely accepted microblog on the planet.

But here’s what App.net has that Twitter does not.

  • It’s decentralized. That means no one person can control it or make unilateral decisions that piss everyone off. It’s like WordPress or Firefox.
  • It’s open-source, which means developers can make their own apps work with it any way they want.
  • It’s ad free. So no sponsored tweets. (I don’t find it to be such a big deal on Twitter, but I’m also willing to pay for ad-free.)
  • 50 bucks will keep the spammers away.
  • There will only be serious users of the tool. Imagine, no spam, no porn, no MLMers showing you how to make money in your spare time.

The problem is, these guys need $500,000 in order to launch. You pledge your $50 (or $100 for developers or $1,000, if you’re so inclined), and Caldwell will launch the app. But there are 4 days left — you have until next Monday — and App.net is at $295,500 as of this moment.

If you’re tired of Twitter and wish there was an alternative, check out App.net. If you like what you see, pledge your $50, send Dalton (@DaltonC) a tweet (yes, I’m aware of the irony of that), and once you’re in, start communicating. I’ll be at the Blog Indiana conference for the next two days, sharing what I learn on Twitter, but also on App.net.

Hope to see you there.

Background reading on App.net

Three Social Media Marketing Secrets to Promoting Food

Being a B2C brand on Twitter can be hard, because the B2B world seems better suited for it.

A potential client in your niche has a question, you answer it. You identified that client because she used particular keywords, which you searched for. Or you identified her through her Twitter bio or LinkedIn profile, and found that she was in your industry. Since there are only thousands of people in that niche — and not millions, like in the B2C world — they’re easier to find, connect with, and keep up with.

But what if you’re managing the social media account for a major food brand?

The traditional reaction is to view this as another advertising channel. Maybe you think it’s an even better advertising channel, because it’s free.

However, advertising on Twitter is just like a commercial-only TV station — no one will want to watch, since no one is producing anything useful or interesting. So, telling people over and over that they can get your product “for 20% off this Friday only!” doesn’t do a thing for them. That’s not effective social media marketing. It’s shouting. No one likes being shouted at. People are either going to unfollow you, or worse, spam block you. (Get enough of those, and Twitter will suspend your account.)

Roast Duck from Great British Chefs on Flickr

Roast Duck

So what can you do? You could try posting recipe suggestions and links to recipes on your blog, but after a while that gets a little repetitive, and people will start to tune you out. You can also do a search for your food item, and retweet the people who are mentioning your product or item, but that’s not really a conversation. (Remember, social media marketing is about interacting with customers and building relationships, not about broadcasting.)

Here are three other social media marketing tactics to try:

1. Create Buyer Profiles, and Find People Who Fit Them

Maple Leaf Farms in Milford, Indiana is the largest duck producer in North America (and a former consulting client from a long time ago). And as a food producer, their market is, well, everyone. Everyone eats food, therefore, they should market to everyone, right?

Wrong.

Not everyone buys food, and not everyone eats meat. So right there we already have groups of people we can eliminate — vegans, children, and teenagers.

If I were running Maple Leaf’s account, I would start focusing on the following types of people, because they are the people most likely to buy duck:

  • Professional Chefs — This has always been a target market for Maple Leaf Farms.
  • Amateur Chefs and Foodies – They lo-o-o-o-o-ove unusual food. And as big as the world’s duck consumption is, it’s still considered a gourmet item by a lot of people in this country, so foodies will love this.
  • Moms, but especially stay-at-home moms — Duck is nutritious and healthy (most of the fat is in the skin, not the meat). And since women make most of the food buying decisions in this country, they’re the natural target to reach. I also specified stay-at-home moms, because many of them self-identify as such on Twitter, often with the #SAHM hashtag in the bio. While you’re at it, look for single dads. They’re a smaller market, but they also make all their buying decisions at home.
  • Organic Food Enthusiasts — There are no hormones in duck or poultry of any kind, so organic foodies may be a little more interested in duck for that reason.

In most cases, most of these people will have something about these interest, vocations/avocations in their Twitter bio. Go to Twellow.com and do a search for each of these groups via the keyword search tool, then follow those folks.

2. Create Lists of Profiles, Interact Directly with Those People

Twitter lets you create lists of people and you can drop people in any of those lists. Maple Leaf can create those lists, and then monitor them on TweetDeck or HootSuite. I still recommend TweetDeck, because those columns automatically update on my desktop, rather than having to refresh my screen whenever new tweets pop up.

Then, start talking to these people about the issues that they care about, especially — but not solely — if they relate to food. If you’re a parent, and they’re talking about parenting, talk with them. If they’re talking about marathon running, and you’re a marathoner, talk with them. If they have a question about where to go for dinner when they’re visiting a new city, and you’ve been there, make the recommendation. Build relationships with these people and get to know them. As they get to know you, they’ll be more willing to try the products you sell (without you ever pimping the products to them).

3. Reach out to influential bloggers

There are outstanding foodie bloggers, chef bloggers, mommy bloggers, dad bloggers, organic food bloggers who all have hundreds of thousands of readers among them. Give them a proper email pitch, not a mass email sent to hundreds of bloggers at once.

Ask the most influential of them to review your product, whether it’s through a free sample plus an extra coupon to give away to readers, or a free dinner at a local restaurant that serves duck, or whatever seems to be the most cost effective. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is that you treat the bloggers as individuals, and don’t mass email them. That will backfire, and get them talking about you, but not in the way you want them to.

These are the first steps I would take if I were in charge of the social media marketing program at a food manufacturer. Don’t try to be something to everyone; identify a few niches and appeal to them first. As you gain success, expand your reach to more people within the niches, as well as any other likely target markets.

 

My book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing (affiliate link), which I wrote with Jason Falls, is available at Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. It’s also available for Nook, Kindle, and other e-readers.

Photo credit: Great British Chefs (Flickr)

Calling Out Bad Behavior via Social Media

We tend to be pretty passive-aggressive as a society. And social media seems to have made it worse, in some ways. Social media has made it possible for us to point out bad behavior, and we’ll often do it to a complete stranger, but we won’t do it to our friends.

I did a short (unscientific) survey last month to find out whether people would call out bad behavior on the part of strangers versus friends. I wasn’t surprised by some of the results, partly because most of the people I know are pretty nice people and not prone to being online jerks. But mostly because many respondents are from the Midwest, and we’re annoyingly nice about a lot of things.

Summary

Basically what I found is, we are more likely to forgive friends, but we will stick it to a complete stranger.

  • If we are wronged by a friend, we’ll point it out privately rather than call it out.
  • 40% of us will hang a stranger out to dry publicly; nearly all of us will tell someone else about it.
  • Only a very few people will say or do nothing, either about a friend or a stranger’s bad behavior.

The Survey

This was a four question survey, with a series of answers that asks about responses that range from very direct (and rather jerky) to very passive (being a doormat).

For example, question #1 asked: When a friend — who uses social media — wrongs me in some way, I am more likely to:

  1. Call them out BY NAME on a social network. “I can’t believe @edeckers stood me up for our meeting this morning.”
  2. Point out my annoyance, but don’t mention their name. “Got stood up for a 7:30 am meeting.”
  3. Send them a private message pointing out the problem. “Did you forget we had a meeting this morning?”
  4. Absolutely nothing.

The Results

So would you @reply someone or set your Facebook status to call them out by name? Or would you passive-aggressively point out to the whole world that some unnamed jerkface missed your morning meeting?

I wasn’t that surprised by the results. Most people are nice enough to keep our gripes private, and to not air our grievances in public, and the numbers bore this out. Out of 107 responses to Question 1:

  • 80 people (74.7%) said they would email their friend privately to point out their problems.
  • 12 people (11.2%) would call out the incident, but not name the person.
  • 11 people (10.2%) would do absolutely nothing at all.
  • 4 people (3%) would call that person out by name.

I was intrigued that the number of people who would do absolutely nothing to tell the other person what they had done was nearly the same as the number of people who would point out the bad behavior but not name any names.

When I’m in public, and someone does something annoying, I am more likely to:

Friends vs. Strangers

Question #2 was about whether people would point out something annoying that someone else did, but not to them: When I’m in public, and someone does something annoying, I am more likely to:

  1. Point out their bad behavior on a social network, including pictures or video. “Check out this jerkwad being an ass to his wife.”
  2. Point out their bad behavior, but give them their anonymity. “Some guy next to me is being an ass to his wife.”
  3. Email a friend privately and relay the story to them.
  4. Absolutely nothing.

The results were a little more dramatic this time compared to what people would say to their friends. Out of 106 responses (someone missed this one):

  • 57 people (53.8%) said they would email a friend privately to tell them about the stranger’s behavior.
  • 32 people (30.2%) said they would call out this stranger’s behavior, and include pictures or videos
  • 11 people (10.3%) would call out the behavior, but not include any identifying information.
  • 6 people (5.7%) would do absolutely nothing.

When a stranger does something annoying in public, I am more likely to:

Observations

This is the stuff that intrigues me, and really makes me wish I had paid better attention in stats class in grad school. Because there are some interesting correlations between what we consider acceptable behavior toward friends versus complete strangers.

  • Most people (nearly 75%) will tell friends privately about their own bad behavior, but 40.5% of these people will publicly call out bad behavior from a stranger.
  • Compare that to 3% of people who would call out a friend by name on Twitter or Facebook. This tells me that most people are nice, and a few can be rather cut-throat and nasty.
  • Surprisingly, more people — 30.2% vs. 10.3% — will point an accusing finger at a stranger by including evidence of their bad behavior than will give them anonymity.
  • 94.3% of people will tell someone about a stranger’s bad behavior, whether it’s publicly or via email.
  • The number of people who would point out bad behavior but protect the person’s identity in either situation is nearly the same: 10.3% will talk about a stranger versus 11.2% who will call out, but not identify, friends (11 people vs. 12 people).
  • The percentage of people who will do nothing when a friend wrongs them versus a stranger nearly doubled — 10.2% versus 5.7% respectively, or 11 versus 6 people.

Conclusion

So what does all of this mean? Are we people with a strong sense of moral outrage who will point out the failings of other people, but only when they’re not anyone we know? And do we hold back out of fear of retribution or respect for our friends’ feelings? Or do we have an overwhelming sense of schadenfreude, but refrain from doing it at inappropriate moments?

What about you? What do you think? What conclusions can you draw from this study? What do you think this tells us about ourselves, as it relates to social media?

The rest of the questions:

Question #3: When I am having an argument with a friend or family member, I will start/continue the discussion on a social network.

  • Yes (2 people)
  • No (105 people)

Question #4: Which social network do you use the most?

  • Twitter (51 people)
  • Facebook (50)
  • LinkedIn (5)
  • Google+ (1)

People Who Don’t Use Social Media Shouldn’t Dismiss Social Media

“I don’t use social media because I don’t want to tell people what I had for breakfast,” declare social media haters.

“I don’t use Facebook because I don’t care enough about the minutiae of other people’s lives to bother reading it,” they say with the dismissive snottiness of people who refuse to own a TV.

I’m always annoyed by people who just outright dismiss social media as a place where people talk about breakfast, bathroom habits, and life’s inanities, despite the fact that they have never used it.

I read a recent article — Academics and Colleges Split Their Personalities for Social Media — where several commenters proudly crowed about their dislike for social media, and declared it inane and useless. (Hat tip to my friend Anthony Juliano for a great response.)

One of the comments by “transparentopaque” caught Anthony’s and my attention:

I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account. So, I have nothing to worry about. I have yet to figure out what anybody could possibly have to say via Twitter that I absolutely need to read. Is anyone’s life really that interesting? Yes, but only those people who do not waste their time posting on social media networks. Life is happening, and many people today are wasting it away talking about it. Instead of living in the moment, people are analyzing every aspect of their life to determine its suitability as a Facebook status update.

I’ve determined that it isn’t really the “sharing” that drives people to social media, it is the sense that they have a captive audience. But that is only an illusion. Few people participate in order to read what others have to say; they participate in order to have a forum in which they can hear themselves speak. Narcissism has finally found its place in this world.

The problem with “transparentopaque’s” attitude and practice is that as someone who does not use social media, he/she has no way of knowing how other people are using it.

We see this with business owners all the time. “Our customers don’t use social media.” But they have no way of knowing this for certain, since they never use it.

It’s like saying “no one visits that restaurant because I’ve never been there.”

And yes, I was struck by the irony of someone asking whether anyone’s life is interesting, and then declaring social media to be “a forum in which they can hear themselves speak,” in the comments section of a website — another form of social networking.

I always get agitated by people who say they’ll never do something, eat something, watch something, or participate in something without ever having tried it. (Although to be fair, I won’t eat mussels after reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. And yes, I have eaten them before. But if the guy who has an entire TV show about eating nearly anything on the planet won’t eat them, it’s probably a good idea to avoid them.)

If you don’t try something, how do you know you won’t like it. If you don’t use Twitter or Facebook, how do you know what people are using it for?

Of course, there are always those people who say “I don’t need to try heroin to know it’s bad for me.”

True, but Facebook isn’t heroin. One is an addictive experience that will open up new worlds to you while at the same time isolating you from friends and family, and the other is an illegal narcotic.

But unless you’ve tried Facebook or Twitter for a while (at least a month, for 20 minutes a day), you don’t know enough about it to dismiss it without looking like a myopic, close-minded curmudgeon who still thinks TV is a passing fad.