If I long for a particular dish or want to take the mail-coach because I am not strong enough to go by foot, money fetches me the dish and the mail-coach: that is, it converts my wishes from something in the realm of imagination, translates them from their meditated, imagined or desired existence into their sensuous, actual existence – from imagination to life, from imagined being into real being. In effecting this mediation, [money] is the truly creative power. Karl Marx, The Power of Money, 1844
Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that. Shit My Dad Says, 2009
When we buy something with money we have earned, there is some of the same sense of satisfaction we would get if we had created it ourselves. Karl Marx is right, and Shit My Dad Says is wrong – the hours I spend slaving over a hot computer for Regus made me the money to buy my phone, and the right to feel as proud of its features as if I played a part in its invention. Our work in our day jobs, as Marx understands, ‘converts our wishes into sensuous… actual existence.’
I made this
When something is free, we get none of that sense of ownership. The infinite free music collection offered us by the Pirate Bay does not give the same sense of personal pride as a few dozen CDs we accumulated in the pre-download days. Other cloud services – even the ones we pay for – have the same problems. Spotify is something you borrow, not something you own.
So when we offer a cloud service, whether it’s free or paid for, we need to give people a sense of participation.
Amanda Palmer has one answer – ask people to give up their money and time, and they will. It’s a fair transaction. A few dollars in exchange for a sense of real ownership:
The route that Amanda Palmer uses won’t work for every industry. It won’t even work for every musician: you can fund ‘Punk Burlesque’ this way, but I don’t see the next Straight Outta Compton or Dancing Queen coming from Kickstarter. But this still looks like the right way to think about getting things funded in the future.
NWA: Comin’ straight outta Kickstarter
All those industries being disrupted by digital and cloud services, whether it’s taxis, publishing, music, offices, journalism or bed and breakfasts need to remember the same thing: people want to spend because by spending, so long as it is acknowledged in the right way, they get to feel ownership.
On Tuesday, Facebook announced their new Graph Search engine. I’m with Brian Reilly: it’s a game changer. This is the first genuine competitor Google have had in search. And that means that your company needs to take Facebook Graph Search Optimisation as seriously as you take your Google SEO.
Here are 5 things you can do to prepare for the full launch.
1) Get all your physical locations onto Facebook If there is just one page for your multinational digital agency, or your chain of Indian restaurants, and you have given it the address of your head office in London, then your other branches are invisible.
Users search for ‘Indian Restaurants in Birmingham Liked by my friends’ and ‘Digital agencies in Rio de Janeiro Liked by Marketing Experts’. Your Facebook presence must match your physical presence – or you won’t show up. (If you work in locations where you don’t have an office, a virtual office might be useful for this).
2) Tell your employees to clean up their profiles If you thought your employees were oversharing on Twitter, you should see the crap they’re putting on the Facebook profiles they think are private. Customers and journalists will search for ‘People who work for <your company>’. Get the bad stuff off there before they see it.
3) Start thinking hard about who is liking your page Graph Search is all about connections: ‘a pub Liked by people who Like Manchester United’ or a ‘Cookbook Liked by my Friends who Like Nigella Lawson’. It’s more important than ever before that the people who like your brand are people who like other relevant stuff.
Log in to Facebook, switch to ‘Use Facebook as <your company page>’, then go and look at your recommended pages. These are the other things that your current lot of fans actually like. Reckon that people looking for your brand will be searching for these terms? Didn’t think so. Sort it out.
4) Don’t spend any more money on Facebook chasing Likes Graph Search will be Facebook’s most profitable advertising channel – it can do what Facebook has never done before and deliver adverts to people when they are at the moment of purchasing decision.
But it stands and falls on the accuracy of its results.
In order to make search more accurate, they’re going to need to distinguish between authentic, heartfelt Likes, and the ones that come about because you have offered someone the chance to win an iPad in exchange for liking your page. Just as Google periodically changes its algorithm to hammer illegitimate SEO, Facebook is going to do the same with insincere Likes (and that includes the ones you paid Facebook to deliver to you).
5) Get Facebook into your staff social media training programmes The people who can really deliver that authentic network of Likes are your employees. They’re in the right place, they know the brand, they have lots of friends. They should all be liking your page, and linking to your products, your blogs and your updates. (If they’re reluctant to spam their friends’ timelines, then show them how to create Facebook lists -that means they can modify their settings so that all this Liking and Commenting shows up in search, but is invisible to their friends).
Anything I’ve missed? Stick it in the comments below
I’m leaving email marketing and the charity sector tomorrow, and going to work in B2B social media for Regus. Here are a few of the things I have learnt about writing copy for charity emails:
The ONLY bits that matter in terms of conversion are
1. subject line
2. first sentence
3. link copy
4. call to action
Write these bits FIRST. The rest of the email should proceed from them. These are also the bits which will have the largest impact in tests.
READ IT OUT LOUD – if it doesn’t sound like a real person speaking, start again.
Cut, cut and cut again. If the meaning remains the same, you’ve almost certainly made it more elegant by cutting.
You are allowed to begin sentences with ‘And’ or ‘But’.
Abbreviate “not” to “ ‘t “ (eg “do not” becomes don’t). Do not abbreviate “have” to “ ‘ve”. Abbreviating “is” to “ ‘s “ is a judgement call. And read out loud to check – abbreviating makes it friendlier and more natural, but can reduce impact.
There should always be some version of the Call-to-Action above the fold.
Avoid sentences with multiple clauses and sub-clauses – it’s what we learned to do at university, but it’s awful copywriting. Full stop. New sentence. Every. Single. Time.
Steer clear of adverbs. They’re uneccessary. It is stronger to say ‘I believe’ than ‘I passionately believe’. ‘Your Country Needs You’ is stronger than ‘Your Country Really Needs You’.
We deal in facts, not opinions. Avoid ‘could’, ‘would’, ‘ought’ and ‘should’. Never begin a sentence ‘we think’, or ‘we believe’. People ARE going hungry because of biofuels. It IS a scandal. It MUST be stopped. Not ‘We believe that the evidence shows that biofuels may be causing hunger. We think this a scandal – it’s one which we think should be stopped.’
The message must be about the recipient, not the sender. Always talk about ‘you’, never ‘we’. ‘You can stop the biofuels scandal’, not ‘We need you to stop the biofuels scandal’.
Email content is a less-than-zero sum game. Talk about three different things, and you won’t get three times as much engagement. You won’t even get the same amount of engagement, split three ways. You’ll get less in total. One message ALWAYS trumps two.
That doesn’t mean you can never communicate more than one thing: put the simplest, most appealing message in the email. The landing page can include more in-depth messaging, secondary actions and links to the really detailed policy stuff. That way the content aimed at the more engaged only gets seen by them, and the content designed to persuade people to click through stands out more strongly. If it’s an action, and there’s stuff that only the most engaged supporters will be interested in (shares, reports, campaign guides), why not save that for the thank-you page?
Most of your readers won’t see the images – so write good alt-text (especially for call-to-action images) and don’t rely on pictures to convey your main point.
You have 3 seconds to convince someone to engage with your email. That’s all. If they read the first sentence, and they don’t know what you’re trying to tell them, they WILL delete.
Never, ever write a boring or cryptic subject line. Questions, or teasing ambiguity, can be very effective. But if you don’t mention the basic subject matter, it will get ignored by your most important audience: the people who actually care about that subject.
About a third of your readers will have their email set up so they only see the first 21 characters of the subject line. Frontload the best bit.
Read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. It’s absolutely gripping, and contains some great copywriting tips. Other good places to look include:
At our New Year’s eve dinner, my wife’s cousin Izzy was taking photo after photo with her new camera. They were awful photos: she had no sense of composition, no consideration of the effects candlelight would have on her subjects, and no mastery of the camera settings that would help overcome them.
Why does this new ability to learn and share affect us as copywriters and web editors?
When I wrote my first marketing copy in 2002, I was writing for an audience who had never written anything themselves – or at any rate never anything for public consumption. I had stats to tell me what was working; I had colleagues to point out how I could improve; I went on courses. I was a professional writer, my audience weren’t even amateurs.
In 2012, Facebook will gain its billionth user. A sixth of the population of the world will be writing stuff for people to consume. And because of that mechanism of Likes and Shares, people get feedback on what they’ve written: they will be learning, something that was previously reserved only for people who wrote for a public audience (copywriters, marketers, novelists, academics and a handful of others).
Of course, not everyone who writes on Facebook becomes a better writer, but a lot of people will:
While it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
That hard work, dedication and timely help is now available to anyone who posts their thoughts on a blog or social network. As a result, the barrier between the professional copywriter and the gifted amateur has shrunk to almost nothing. And where once upon a time, gifted amateurs were rare, because they had to struggle to find time for their thankless hobby, today they are everywhere, blogging, tweeting, commenting and debating.
The power to self-publish is creating a generation of educated readers. And because they are the readers most likely to share your work, they are the audience you have to appeal to.
What’s the difference between content created for amateurs, and content created for experts? Compare and contrast this Dixons advertisement from the days when it ruled the high street:
With the modern, web-only version of the brand:
The first advert is all exclamations: ‘Amazing! Free! Deal of the Year!’ The second is entirely style: it’s designed to appeal to a reader who understands and appreciates good writing. A slogan like ‘The last place you want to go’ would have been anathema to mass-market copywriters not so many years ago: flashy, self-referential advertising that impresses people in the industry, but doesn’t sell anything. Now, however, we know that our readers will get the joke.
It’s a tough time to be a copywriter, but a really exciting one. We can no longer get away with lazily flashing a special offer at people. For our new, educated audience, we need to write real content with real flair.
Screengrab from PayPal’s Facebook page – no matter how fast they took them down, people kept on putting them up
You can read the full story on Regretsy. As so often, it’s a social media storm whipped up because someone was rude to a customer on the phone.
Back in 1999, James Gleick described how the new software giants had innovated in transferring expense and inconvenience to their customers:
In the past, people made reservations by mail. Thousands of letters needed to be processed in a single week…
The telephone lottery shields institutions.It transfers the loss of time to their customers… Personal-computer companies have tightened the telephone chokepoint to an extreme that led customers to file a class action.
Social networks are reversing that trend. It takes less time to Tweet a brand than it does to find its phone number, let alone sit around on hold. Instead of filling in the (deliberately) overcomplicated contact forms a company offers, we can just fill in a single field on our own Twitter account and press send.
And above all, a Tweet is a flexing of muscle, a sign that you can and will take that complaint public. “Ignore me,” it says, “and I might just go viral.”
Your social media team are very, very good at dealing with this kind of complaint. But your call centre, or, worse, the agency you have hired to deal with your calls, are probably still trapped in the past, where their job was to minimise inconvenience and cost for their employers, rather than for the invisible, powerless customer.
You need to get someone who understands the power of social into that customer service team as fast as possible, or you could be the next victim of the Twitter mob.
When a big commercial brand partners with a charity at the fundraising end, the exchange is simple. The big brand burnishes its image, the charity makes some cash.
In a networked world, things get more complicated. Here are a couple of examples:
1) Vodafone and the happiest phone call
Here’s the most effective fundraising thank-you video ever created:
Authenticity is what makes this so remarkable – the audience get a genuine share in their moment of triumph at saving a baby’s life.
I have no idea how the plug for Vodafone happened to feature at the 1min 20 secs mark – it looks completely unplanned – but as a piece of feelgood exposure for a mobile phone company it’s a phenomenal success.
That authenticity, that sense of worth, goes beyond anything a conventional advert could hope to achieve. It is the gold standard in charity partnerships, and even though it may only be seen by a tiny audience, for Vodafone it’s certainly worth the price of a few free phone calls.
2) Pepsi, bringers of light
This is a quite breathtaking fundraising video for an innovative Phillipino charity. It went thoroughly viral a few months ago, notching up 1.5 million views.
The story of this video is a curious one: the charity had a great media hit from Reuters and the BBC in July:
Someone from Pepsi obviously saw this, and got a bit miffed that the bringing of light was being linked – by that incredibly distinctive red bottle-top – to Coca-Cola. So it’s been remade with higher production values, a picturesque main character, and a hero dressed in blue: the Pepsi bottle-top.
As a shot in the Cola wars, it’s an entertaining piece, and it’s great news that this charity will have got so much exposure from teaming up with Pepsi’s marketing gurus.
But what is interesting about both of these is that they take the charity partnership away from the supporters and out into the field. As charity communications narrow the gap between the donor and the mission, it’s no longer enough for a company CEO to stand awkwardly on a stage at a fundraising event, handing out a giant cheque with a company logo on it. Sponsoring of fundraising events is just too distant from those deep emotional connections that digital media is creating between charity supporters and the people and animals they help.
The creation of that Child’s I Foundation fundraising video depended on staff being happy to film every moment of their work. For Vodafone, it depended on their inserting their services, inescapably, into that work, so their brand was visible at these key moments.
Pepsi’s video was a response to the incredible ubiquity of Coca Cola, who were inserted into a charity’s work by the fame of their bottles, and, ironically, by the amount of plastic waste they leave in the slums of the Phillipines.
In a digitally networked world, charity communications are becoming a constant stream of near-live media from the field: videos, podcasts, blogs, Tweets, project reports. Companies need to find ways to insert themselves inextricably into that stream. The charity that can offer innovative ways for big brands to do this will find itself riding out the recession very comfortably indeed.
EDIT: Thanks to @jon_bedford for showing me the Child’s I Foundation video
‘the genius of Facebook is that you never have to see your own profile page’
Six months ago I suggested that part of the reason for Facebook’s broad appeal is that it emphasises friends’ updates instead of your own profile. It gives people who don’t want to show off on a social network a way to enjoy Facebook without worrying how they might appear to others.
Mark Zuckerburg, however, has had enough of these quiet lurkers:
(don’t watch the first 10 minutes of this unless you’re a fan of
excruciating corporate comedy)
The new Facebook timeline restores your profile to the centre of the social network. It’s a much more sophisticated page than MySpace, but it is a very MySpace experience, encouraging you to compete with your friends in curating the coolest profile possible.
Do you want to compete with this? (image from Mashable)
The benefits for Facebook are obvious: to make your timeline really exciting, you have to give more of your photos, videos, friendships and life events to Facebook, and that data is the source of Facebook’s income.
There are many attractions for the user as well. They are extraordinarily elegant pages, and many users will delight in curating them into something that is both beautiful and true – a personal biography that can represent your most attractive, sociable side to the world.
Some of the new lifestreaming options might seem a bit weird:
Do Facebook send some goons round to make sure this happens?
but they add yet more depths of self-expression.
The trouble comes for those who don’t want to express themselves through the medium of Facebook. The old Facebook was a friendly place for the shy and introverted, but this emphasis on profile and lifestreaming changes that. For a lot of the quieter people I know, I suspect this will be the beginning of the end of their love affair with Facebook.
It was as if the punishment was thought to equal, if not to exceed, in savagery the crime itself, to make the executioner resemble a criminal, judges murderers, to reverse roles at the last moment, to make the tortured criminal an object of pity or admiration….
Punishment, then, will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process. The modern rituals of execution attest to… the disappearance of the spectacle and the elimination of pain. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Troy Davis was executed in a white-walled room, with 20 or so official witnesses. He was also executed live, in public, to an audience who might not have been able to see the body of the accused, but were as emotionally engaged as the baying eighteenth crowds who enjoyed the executions of criminals as a public spectacle.
The eighteenth century mob at a public execution
I did not attend any of the vigils that took place all over the world. I did not need to. The intensity of the experience was more than enough on Twitter and Facebook, watching, waiting, and debating with friends, celebrities and millions of others all over the world, as a man went to his death.
For thousands of years, punishment was the most public part of the judicial process. That changed in the nineteenth century. The accused and their fates were hidden away. This was a consequence of a change in the way that legislators understood the legal process:
It was intended to apply the law not so much to a real body capable of feeling pain as to a juridical subject Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Sentences would be passed in public, but the rest of the process would take place behind closed doors, until one morning the newspapers would announce that an execution had taken place the previous day. It was a process that was formalised, codified and unemotional.
What happened on 21 September was quite different. Rumours of a last-minute pardon, a new witness, a changed time for the execution surged through the digital mob. #lettertogeorgia and #noevidence trended all night, ritually repeated on Twitter like the chanting of a sports crowd. Right-wing pundits vied with each other to shock and rile the mob even further.
A million signatures on an Amnesty petition can be dismissed as mere clicktivism. But tens of millions of people communicating with each other make a kind of live audience, and thus change the meaning of an execution. Under the scrutiny of that number of comments, it ceases to be a machine-like legal system acting on a judicial subject, and becomes a group of human beings killing another while the world watches.
The Twitter mob is never an attractive spectacle, least of all when something horrible is occurring in the world. But the new way that the world is watching seems certain to make death penalties a far rarer thing.
It’s our habit when talking about new media to think in terms of what went before. Your Kindle is a just like a book. Or maybe a shelf containing all your books. Or an amazing shop containing every book that’s ever been written. Or it’s a publishing house, taking on the complete task of printing, distributing and marketing books. We make the same kind of comparisons with the App Store, iTunes, Netflix and many others.
Unlike any shop, shelf, publisher or book, the latest update to iTunes has 16,849 words of terms and conditions – over 50 pages of them. Of the hundreds of millions of users who have downloaded it, I would guess that a few dozen, mostly Apple’s lawyers, have actually read them. The Kindle’s are on a similar scale, and, while Facebook’s and Twitter’s are shorter, they change every few weeks.
Somewhere, buried in all that legal language, there may be some explanation of what we are collectively signing up to (if we had any sense, we’d at least run a quick search for important keywords like ‘soul’, ‘firstborn child’, ‘full moon’ and ‘sacrifice’). I love all this free software, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but the sheer scale of these T & Cs does make me think that someone, somewhere is going to get very badly screwed. I hope it’s not me.