The paradox of smartphones and sparking conversations

Ever noticed how we have phones to talk, but sometimes they are the very thing that keep us from sparking conversations in real life?

Early this year, I kicked off with publicly sharing my simple 2016 resolution: Less social media. More socializing. I’m writing now to hold myself accountable and share a fun project to help you turn small talk into bigger conversations!

But first, a smartphone story …

A couple weeks ago I glanced down at my phone to see purple ooze beneath the screen. The LED went out, and I was phoneless for nearly a week. (Oh the horror!) While I was fairly calm about it, the inconvenience was eye-opening and a bit embarrassing, showing me how terribly dependent I am on that piece of plastic and glass. In some ways I felt liberated, but also felt I’d lost a piece of my hand … indeed, I did lose my “digits!”

You mean, I actually to use my brain or print paper to figure out directions on the road? I missed a meeting because I didn’t have my calendar pop-up, couldn’t take pictures of my kids with Santa at the family Christmas party, and had no way of telling the time since I don’t wear a watch. (Talk about #firstworldproblems!) For better or worse, I sidestepped 57 text messages that were waiting when my phone was fixed.

The point? As this Fortune article says, “heavy reliance on our gadgets seems to make us vulnerable” and I realized how addicted I was, withdrawal pangs included. In this fabulous interview with Simon Sinek, he says smartphone updates can become a dopamine-producing addiction. Other addictive habits (smoking, gambling, etc.) have age-restrictions, but an addiction to social media is still socially acceptable, possibly even encouraged. The unsavory results? A generation that struggles to focus longer than a goldfish, hold meaningful conversations, and navigate the ups and downs of real relationships.

Does any of that strike you? It does me!

Ok, so back to my resolution: Did I spend less time on social media and more time socializing in 2016 than I did the year before? Yes! I have room to improve, but I met new clients and expanded my professional connections. I hiked with new friends, biked with a triathlon group, ran mountains with go-getter mamas, cruised in Alaska with my mom, sister, and husband, and went on not one … but TWO trips with my best girl friend. Most important, I enjoyed many in-the-present moments with my little family.

conversation sparksI also “played” with friends, working together on a communication project that lives at the intersection of smartphones and socializing. Two talented friends (Hey, Adam … hi, Julie!) from my communication graduate program and I have created several videos with tips, tricks, and funny insights about talking in real life, which we’re calling “Conversation Sparks.” They’re now live on our shiny new Youtube channel. We’re exploring ways you (and we) can turn small talk into bigger conversations:

See anything that helps you spark conversations in that first video?

Please let me know … and a very happy new year to you! Let’s make 2017 our best yet.

My takeaways from Twitter’s Lisa Wang

twitter image
“Brands don’t have target markets, but target moments,” said Lisa Wang, of Twitter’s Sales Operations in Singapore. It seems to fly in the face of traditional marketing and PR, but it makes total sense. Communication, at lightning-fast social speed, has changed drastically in a handful of years. Make that the past few months.

Lisa spoke as a keynote speaker the final day of the CCI Conference on Corporate Communication last month. As I listened to her talk, “The Power of #Moments: Redefining Marketing in the Age of Real-Time,” I couldn’t take notes fast enough.

Sense of Universal Connectivity

We live in a big world, but all ultimately want the same three things in life. What are they? Find out in this captivating video Lisa shared – see if you can watch without getting the chills. It gets me every time:

See what I mean? On our universal wish list, we all want to 1) feel connected 2) feel relevant, and 3) be an active participant. Social media grants us the ability to do all three, and isn’t it amazing how the whole globe feels within reach as we scroll through to see what others are up to? Each social network has it’s own twist on how to engage users, but Twitter’s ability to hold live, public conversations makes it a unique place for clever companies. Those who think quick and make the most of those “target moments” when they know users are watching will be rewarded.

“Digital Campfires,” #Gather Roundarbys

Within the Twitter organization, they refer to hashtags as “digital campfires” because they gather folks with similar interests around a certain topic. As you know, there are hashtags for almost anything. (Surprised to see the non-word redline under “hashtag” as I type this. Guess it’s not in the dictionary yet?) Lisa shared a number of clever company examples, like Arby’s calling for Pharrell Williams to give back their hat during the Grammy’s, and Kit Kat posting a tic-tac-toe game for Oreo to compete for the heart of #chocolate fan. With a little creativity, companies can hone in on the right times (target moments) to tell their story.

I’ll be sharing more on social media in the coming posts. In the meantime, give Lisa Wang a follow on Twitter at @ldubs.

Image is a screen shot from the video “The Most Astonishing Fact.”

Does “thank you” still matter in the workplace? Win a $50 gift card

thank you typeWhen’s the last time your boss said “thank you” to you?

For my graduate thesis, I’m looking at the intersection of two passions: corporate communication and gratitude. I’m conducting research to explore the use, effectiveness, and dark sides of gratitude communications in the workplace. I’ve conducted three focus groups so far, and was pleasantly surprised at the passion about this topic. For sake of space, I had to turn away at least a dozen people for the focus groups.

I’ll admit: months ago I’d been timid about the topic, thinking it might be too “Pollyanna-ish.” Not anymore. With a supportive thesis committee, and collection of people’s experiences from focus groups, I see a need to be filled in the literature – and in managerial approach. In my literature reviews, I’ve not found anything else covering the topic quite like this. I’ll be sharing the findings here in spring of 2014.

What about you? I’m conducting a survey and need your input. To participate you need to be currently working full-time in an organization and have no employees reporting to you.

Complete the survey by 11:59 p.m. MST, Friday, Dec. 20 and you can enter to win one of two $50 gift cards. Study findings will be available to interested participants, and no names will be used in the research. Winners will be notified on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Take survey here: Gratitude in the Workplace

In all sincerity, thank you for your time.

Marketing yourself? Get ink and get out.

get ink get outSerious about landing writing opportunities and freelance gigs? Looking to make your emails more eye-catching? Memorize the following mantra: Get ink and get out!

Why? Let me explain.

I spend much of my full-time job writing, editing, and analyzing marketing emails. Often these emails are crafted for Fortune 500 companies, spreading awareness about their tech products (you might even be reading these very words on one.) After getting up-close-and-personal with hundreds of these emails covering countless topics and audiences, I’ve noticed a crucial commonality that always makes them better: cutting to the chase.

With so much yadda yadda yadda filling up our inboxes, it’s crucial to narrow messaging to key points that stand out. There’s enough bland content in the world. When you really need to capture attention, it’s often best to get ink, and get out of there.

I use this philosophy when pitching ideas to editors or applying for freelance opportunities. This very week I reached out to a respected national brand calling for humorous women-friendly content. Although I don’t recommend such a playful approach every time, I showed I knew their audience. I sent the following email:

Greetings,

My name is Crystalee Beck and I’m responding to your call for freelance writers.

If I could, I’d put on a party dress, bring the kazoos and balloons to your office, all while holding my handmade sign: PICK ME, PICK ME!

Then again, I guess that’s what cover letters and resumes are for. (See attached.)

Let’s party, yeah?

I’ll bring the confetti,


Crystalee Beck
Freelance Writer & Managing Editor
delightedtowrite.com

And guess what? Apparently they like kazoos too. Although they had hundreds of interested candidates, their reply appeared in my inbox two days later, with a contract for me to sign.

Your turn: How do you make your message stand out in the inbox?

 

6 must-know writing tips for entrepreneurs

6 must-know writing tips for entrepreneurs

 

Shout out to small business owners and writers – this one’s for you.

In an ultra-competitive landscape, freelance writers must think of themselves as a small business. Even if you’re not a writer, if you own a small business, wrangling the right words helps your business to stand out. I wrote the following list of tips for Alex Lawrence’s StartUp Flavor blog – check out his site for clever startup ideas.

6 tips to make your business writing worthy of eyeball time:

1. Know your audience. Marketing homework complete, you’re keenly aware of your target market. Think from their perspective. What is relevant and meaningful to them? Personalize your message to meet their innate business needs and goals, and articulate in a way that will be both relevant and valuable for them.

2. Resolve a tone. What tone or voice should you use? Your writing voice can range from formal and technical to witty and playful. Do you use “we” and “you” or keep things third person? Each piece (website, ads, email marketing, etc.) resonates differently, depending on the chosen voice. Your credibility rides on your ability to keep voice and tone consistent.

3. Understand messaging. Long before sending ads to print or buying AdRoll space online, spend thoughtful time with messaging. Dive into key takeaways and clearly define them. Make sure your overarching communication plan offers valuable information for prospective customers, and not merely sales jargon. Always remember to keep the “so what?” factor top of mind.

4. Write tight. Skip the fluff. Every word counts, so weigh the importance of each phrase. This doesn’t mean sacrificing eye-catching words, which paint a picture or slam-dunk an idea. Effectively communicate with a dose of creativity, but realize audiences prefer bite-sized, palatable sections to verbose ramblings. As a rule, vary sentences both in terms of length and word choice.

5. Incite action. Purposeful marketing writing provides readers with a recognizable call to action. Often the success of your writing is measured by click-through rates or sales stats. When you’re looking for quantified results, you must persuade readers and invite them to act. This could be as simple as, “Call now for a free trial” or “Sign up for our next webinar by clicking here.”

6. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Dodge this one, and you’ll regret it. A large mall recently sent me (and countless others) an email advertising an event. I might have opened it, had it not born a grammar-offending subject line: “Your Invited.” Really? With a quick edit, the correct “You’re” could have saved their invite from my trash box. As a rule of thumb, if you’re planning to share with potential customers, get a trusted colleague/friend to give your words a second look before you press send or approve the printing press.

 

Anything else I missed that’s been helpful for your small business? Feel free to chime in with a comment.

 

USA Today offers $1M free ads for 'smart' copy

USA Today offers $1M free ads for ‘smart’ copy

October 8, 2012 |  by  |  Marketing observations  |  , , ,  |  4 Comments

Writer friends and fellow marketers, we're direly needed. Today marks USA Today's  launch of a print ad competition. They're offering $1 million of free ad space to a winner who can capture interest with zesty, clever copy. Michael Wolff, the USA Today writer who convinced executives to launch the contest, explains the call for savvy copy: "While technological disruption is most often blamed for the existential predicament of the media business, the more precise problem is that advertising doesn't work as well as it used to work. This presents a crisis not only for newspapers, magazines and television -- but also, according to the stock market, for Facebook. We just don't look at advertising, respond to it, or believe it, as much as we once did, wherever it appears.

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Is happiness for sale?

Is happiness for sale?

 

We’re surrounded in words: food packaging, billboard ads, tweets, newspaper articles, targeted Facebook ads, and text messages. Ads target us with increasingly sophisticated technologies. Admittedly, I contribute to the phonetic flurry of marketing messages, while doing my best to create relevant content that’s worthy of eyeball time. In observing and critiquing other marketing material, I notice patterns of catch phrases, like:

Happiness

Advertisers seem to lure consumers on an Easter-egg-like treasure hunt for happiness, persuasive pathos at its best. After all, is there anything we want more than to be happy? While a brilliant marketing tactic, I’ve spent considerable time thinking about whether I agree with deploying such a power-packed word in the name of sales.

Above you see a sign from a local women’s gym. Every time I pass by, my eyes shoot straight to that top phrase: “Happiness is a gorgeous figure.” Really? Is that all it boils down to?

We’ve all seen Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” tagline, which has been selling sugar water since 2009. On Coke’s  happiness site, they declare: “The quest for true happiness is not really a quest at all, but a decision and a choice. So don’t wait another moment. Open an ice cold Coca-Cola and choose happiness!” Interesting.

I’m quite a Disney fan, and I’m sure you’re aware they’ve declared their land “The Happiest Place on Earth.While it’s a joy for my family, I know others who do all in their power to avoid it.

The most far-fetched happiness ad I saw on my way to work. It’s from CLEAR, and apparently they’ve solved the happiness equation too: “Happiness can be found with a mobile internet provider.” 

And let’s not forget Happy Meals, which can change a child’s life for $2.99. At least they’ll be cheery while chomping those chicken nuggets and playing with the soon-to-be-broken toy, right? Just wait until the next day, when they throw a fit for more “happiness.”

Does happiness really boil down to the Mad Men advertisers’ definition on this Youtube clip: “What is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.”

Advertisers know the “pursuit of happiness” is near and dear to Americans, branded into the U.S. Declaration of Independence as one of the “inalienable rights” with which all human beings are endowed by their Creator.  But do they really expect us to believe happiness is found in a gorgeous figure or downing a bottle of Coke? (And don’t those two contradict?!) Do you agree?

While I don’t have all the answers to the marketing mix, I don’t believe true, enduring happiness can be bought.  Nor does it have a price tag. True happiness, for me, is found in meaningful, loving relationships. It’s a product of being true to myself and my values. It’s found in enjoying nature, progressing and learning, and engaging the creative process.

I’d love your thoughts on the topic: Can happiness really be found in a Coke, as the ad says? What’s your philosophy on happiness in our world of consumerism? Do you have other examples of “happiness placement” in ads? Let’s hear it.