How Semantic Nudges Can Humanize Your Website


This is what happens when you let an engineer write your website copy:

“Sorry, this page isn't available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.”

Gee, thanks, Facebook. Couldn’t you at least have displayed a list of similar pages? Maybe linked to some frequently asked questions? At the least, you could have conveyed a witty apology or summoned a brand-appropriate quote. And, if all else fails, bring forth a kitten pic!

Sadly, Google is no better than its neighbor to the north. Here’s what the minds of Mountain View deign to tell the poor soul who gets lost on google.com:

“404. That’s an error. The requested URL was not found on this server. That’s all we know.”

Really—that’s all? That’s the best message a company known for its NSA-like amount of data, along with its whimsical and beloved doodles, can conjure up?

Surely, you jest.

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Show Me the Stories: How to Measure and Market Social Media


It’s the $64,000 question. Your boss—and her boss—are always asking you for ROI reports. Strangers buttonhole you at parties. Your mom has no idea how to explain what you do for a living. What’s worse, sometimes you feel as if you’re faking it.

The question: how do you measure social media? After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t market it.

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How the Red Cross Used Twitter to Raise $3 Million in 48 Hours


The more talks I deliver, the more I come to love PowerPoint. In fact, as a colleague recently told me, when thinking about how to explain something, I’ll often articulate how it might look in a slide deck.

Accordingly, after coming across a study making the case for SMS donations, I thought, “This would be perfect for PowerPoint!” Hence, the above SlideShare.







How to Make Google Laugh: SEO Your Headlines


A version of this blog post appeared on Mashable on May 8, 2012.

Why do search engines always rank certain websites so highly? Obviously, their content is kingly, but so is their search engine optimization (SEO). Indeed, for many sites, the search-engine spiders that crawl the Web deliver a third or more of their traffic. Perhaps the most famous example comes from the Huffington Post, which in February reeled in readers with the ingenious bait: “What Time Is the Super Bowl?

In protest, writers for publications such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Atlantic each have taken turns slugging the SEO punching bag. The headlines describe their complaint: “Gene Weingarten Column Mentions Lady Gaga.” “This Boring Headline Is Written for Google.” “Google Doesn’t Laugh: Saving Witty Headlines in the Age of SEO.”

In other words, algorithms don’t appreciate wit, irony, humor, or style. As reporter Steve Lohr put it, they’re “numbingly literal-minded.” Alas, Oscar Wilde!

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How to Think of Social Media


To convert a prospect into a client is a special skill. Sometimes you get lucky and the company has already been contemplating the services you offer. Typically, however, a prospect hasn’t envisioned the various ways you can support his brand.

This is why, when we first sit down with someone, we begin by contextualizing what it is that we do for a living. Instead of tossing around lingo such as “hashtags,” “Klout,” or “search engine optimization,” we present five simple slides on “how to think of social media” (see above).

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How to Win Friends and Influence Bloggers


Earlier this month, the Daily Beast broke the news that Facebook had hired a powerhouse PR agency to plant negative stories about Google in the press. The agency, Burson-Marstellar, deployed two of its big guns for the campaign: Former CNBC tech reporter Jim Goldman and former Hotline executive editor John Mercurio.

In one e-mail, Mercurio offered to help write and place an op-ed if the recipient, blogger Chris Soghoian, would lend his name to it. The savvy Soghoian asked who was bankrolling the campaign, and when Mercurio declined to say, Soghoian made the e-mails public.

What makes this incident interesting is that on one hand, Mercurio did many things right. He used a descriptive subject line: “Op-Ed Opportunity: Google Quietly Launches Sweeping Violation of User Privacy.” His first sentence succinctly and directly summarized the ask. He provided a list of talking points, each supported by a link to an independent sources. And his offer was tantalizing: Who in DC wouldn’t want a byline in the Washington Post?

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