communication

Twitter How-To

As Mashable explains in "How Twitter's New Media Blog Aims To Teach By Example," Twitter is taking a pro-active role in teaching users how to make the most out of their service.

For all the folks out there — haters and otherwise — who continue to question the validity of Twitter as a communication medium, y'all need to pay attention.

media.twitter.com isn't just a blog. It's an important step forward in the evolution of technology-based communication.

MySpace started us off on the wrong foot by building a massive audience and not knowing quite what to do with it themselves. Let's assume they did their best to learn on the fly how to turn their website into a marketing platform, and as it goes with trial and error, success was very hit or miss (with lots of emphasis on "miss"). Most importantly, in typical old-media fashion, the assistance they provided was for serious advertisers only and it involved swarms of sales support teams and conference calls to help you figure out what to do to reach their crowd.

Then Facebook came along, with its brashness and anti-corporate attitude. Kind of like, "we don't care, you figure it out." It's taken years for them to come around, and even now most of their assistance is human-based. And it's mostly around advertising programs, rather than community building.

So now here's Twitter, putting it all out there on a blog for anyone to see. Their open style is the way of the future. They're giving us tips and case studies. It's almost like they want us to be successful using their service. What a crazy concept!

I'm not arrogant enough to predict where social media is heading, and I'm not here to say it's going to be all about Twitter. But I am certain that as things continue to get more complicated, the companies who take an active role in creating win-win relationships between marketers and their audiences will have a huge advantage.

Email Marketing // Random Thoughts

emailAt a client session this spring I spoke about email marketing. Not the kind where you buy a list and use Constant Contact or some other service to send out your own version of spam to a qualified list, I'm talking about the ways to use email as an interpersonal communication tool to build your business. You know, as in you send an email, someone reads it, maybe sends you one back. Sounds simple enough, but many people still get it wrong. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so. The big brains at Harvard Business School agree with me, hence their recent management tip: 4 Tips for Writing Emails That People Will Read. My two favorites:

- Use specifics. "I need this tomorrow at noon," instead of "I need this ASAP." The more specific you are, the easier it is for people to focus on what you need them to do. If you don't give them an exact idea, you run the risk of being put in the "To Do Later" folder and we all know what happens to those.

- Stay on topic. Make it easy for the recipient to understand the point of your email, to respond to it and to file it for future reference. If you're all over the place, I guarantee you'll be put in a pile to deal with later, which usually has the same sad ending as the "To Do Later" folder.

Yes, these seem simple, but we all need reminders.

HBS has an expanded article on the same topic, also worth reading, which stresses the importance of revising your email copy until you get it right. Check it out at David Silverman's Harvard Business blog, Words at Work.

Rebels Are Like Pilots // Reading for Rebels

outliersWe've all read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers by now, right? (Or it's sitting in that big pile of books you're meaning to read.) After I read it, it got me thinking about how one of the lessons relates to our business and I wanted to share it. It’s in the details... Most plane crashes are not the result of massive mechanical failures, nor gross incompetence or inexperience on the part of the pilot and crew. They generally happen because of a number of small mistakes in communication that add up to cause catastrophe.

Same could be said for our projects. They succeed, or fail — in general not based on how much experience you have or whether some huge part went right or wrong, but instead based on how well you communicate with the rest of the team and how quickly and appropriately you respond to small details that may not go according to plan.

It’s about the team... Nobody flies a commercial jet alone. Why? Not because one experienced pilot can’t handle an airliner. Those things just about fly themselves. But if something goes wrong and there’s nobody there to catch it, the consequences are deadly. So they break the job into several parts, and each team member gets a part of it. They work together, and support each other, just in case the pilot, or anyone else on the crew, happens to be human.

Likewise, your ability to succeed as a Rebel will often depend more on your ability to work as part of a team — which includes selecting the right people for the job, and keeping them engaged, motivated, and directed — than on your proficiency in the particulars of whatever the job happens to be.

That word again: Communication Gladwell points out that different cultures have different attitudes towards language and communication. Not that one is better than the other, but one is definitely better than the other for flying planes... and for being Rebels.

You cannot let things like politeness, politics, or hierarchy stand in your way of communicating effectively. That is, if you want to be successful. (On a separate note, you are expected to treat everyone with respect, but part of being a Rebel is being firm, direct, and respectful all at once.) If you see your boss or client making a mistake, it’s your responsibility to communicate that, and be proactive about offering solutions.

  • Pay attention to your speech: Are you “mitigating”? How might that affect the way someone interprets your meaning?
  • Whose responsibility is it to ensure clear communication — the speaker or the receiver? Hint: it’s both.

What’s your backup for your backup? Nobody ever flies a plane without a plan for landing it safely. That would be suicide. But in the air, as in life, things don’t always go according to plan. Weather, traffic, mechanical issues, and passengers often cause the conditions for landing to be different than originally expected. So every commercial flight has a contingency defined for what the crew will do in case of environmental changes to bring the plane in safely.

We have to do the same thing. Always. Our ability to tolerate ambiguity and stick to the end goal while adjusting the plan to compensate for things outside our control is essential to our own success.

Micro-blogging // Hate It or Love It

I've been wondering how long it would take to see various iterations of Twitter's micro-blogging revolution, other than on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, who have basically just added the same functionality to their own. For example, Musebin describes itself as "1-line music reviews." The site — currently in semi-private beta — has been called Twitter x Reddit, but specific to music. What do you think? Is the abbreviated-interaction format appealing? Do you expect to see other variations on the micro-blog theme? Or will people's desire to run their mouths win out?