Presentations at Computers in Libraries 2015

I just got back from a full week of learning and sharing at Computers in Libraries. Great conference, as usual!

Here are links to the presentations I gave:

Enjoy!

Social Media Skills for Librarians

Last week, I gave a presentation at McGill’s Web2PointU Symposium – a cool conference run by students of the School of Information Studies at McGill University.

During that presentation (you can find my slides here), I mentioned new skills that information professionals need to successfully run social media for their organization. That list included these things:

  • The normal mad librarian skills (fill in the blank here). Searching, reader’s advisory, research, etc. These “traditional” skills can easily be used in a modern online setting.
  • Web and social media skills. As in, being an expert end user. It’s hard to be an expert in Google searching if you don’t really know all the bells and whistles of Google searching, for example (and yes, I’ve known librarians who really couldn’t use basic online search engines well, let alone a web browser). The same thing goes for social media tools – you won’t be very successful at running the library’s Twitter account if you don’t really “get” Twitter.
  • Writing skills. Most of us learned how to write in school. Unfortunately, we learned how to write business letters and academic papers. Guess what? That’s not how we should write on the web. If you want to start a conversation, you need to use a conversational writing style. If you want readers to quickly grasp your content, use some of those writing tips I mentioned in my article Writing for the Mobile Web.
  • Photo and video skills. Social media is very visual. Take a peek at Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Slideshare, Vine, Flickr, Youtube, Vimeo, etc. All include photos and videos. That means YOU need to be able to create photos and videos that quickly communicate to your organization’s social media crowd.
  • Networking. Social media IS networking. Today’s librarian needs to be good at talking to a crowd – online and in-person.
  • Marketing & promotion. Part of your social media duties include sharing the cool stuff your library is doing.

What would you add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Writing for the Mobile Web

Writing for the mobile web is a LOT like all those “writing for the web” articles you’ve probably seen before, but with more emphasis on scannability and engagement. Why?

Because writing for the mobile web has an audience mostly using smartphones. Three things apply here:

  1. You are writing for the small screen. So the ability to quickly scan content is HUGE.
  2. People are used to interacting with their smartphones. They “touch” Facebook and Twitter. They can comment, like, or share easily.
  3. People are easily distracted on smartphones. If your content doesn’t load fast, they’re gone. If it’s not engaging, they’re gone. If they don’t “get it” fast, they’re gone.

We have our jobs cut out for us, don’t we!

Here are some tips for writing for the mobile web (these also apply to writing for the general web):

Think short:

  • write short, to-the-point articles
  • edit, edit, edit – make every word count
  • Stick to one idea, topic, or goal per post

Create strong titles:

  • Make titles short. The BBC uses 5-6 words per title!
  • Front-load the title with appropriate words to make the point of the article clear and understandable out of context (i.e., for search engines)

Create actionable content:

  • Focus on the benefits of using the product or service, not the features. What’s in it for the reader?
  • Have a next step or call to action in each article. (i.e., check out this book, attend this program, etc.)
  • Always link to things you talk about (i.e., link to the catalog when mentioning books, etc.)
  • Frontload your content. The first paragraph of text should be stuffed with the most important content (think inverted pyramid).

Make content scannable:

  • No huge blocks of text – break up long paragraphs.
  • Break the rules and use fewer than 3 sentences per paragraph if needed. One sentence paragraphs are ok, if it looks correct on a mobile device!
  • Use headings, subheadings, lists and bullet points. These help make the content scannable.

Be conversational:

  • put your readers first. Speak to them, not at them. Use we and you.
  • Use informal, conversational writing. Blog posts are a conversation!
  • Ask questions, ask for a response.
  • Type like you talk. Read your content back to yourself. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d actually say, re-write it so it does.

Other articles:

What should be added here? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

photo by Robert Patton

Be Business Casual

In a previous post, I said I’d talk more about being “business casual.” What exactly does being business casual mean?

First off, I have a whole chapter devoted to this idea in my new book, Face2Face (and I’d love it if you bought a copy!). If you want more detail, it’s in the book.

Here are some thoughts on how to be business casual in your interactions. These ideas work for blog posts, status updates, and even in videos:

Write Like You Talk. Most of us were taught that writing was a very formal, proper thing. We were taught to write business letters and academic papers. Guess what? Don’t write like that (Karol, guest blogger over at ProBlogger, agrees). Forget some of those rules, right now. It’s a more formal writing style, and it makes you sound more formal and less approachable.

Instead of a formal writing style, just write like you talk. This is very hard for some people to do! They’ve been trained to write a certain way, and suddenly writing in a different way doesn’t come naturally. If writing like you talk doesn’t come naturally, you can …

Say it out loud. If writing like you talk is hard for you, here’s a simple trick: Simply say it out loud. Read, out loud, what you just typed. Does it sound like you? If not, then rewrite your text so it sounds like something you’d actually say.

Write to your friend. Another trick – pretend you’re writing to your best friend, or a sibling. When you’re writing an email or a Facebook message to a friend, you probably write a bit more casually, as if you were standing there, talking to your friend. You’re familiar with that person, so you are using casual, friendly language with them.

That’s the voice you need to use (minus the inside jokes and potentially off-color language) when writing to customers.

My new book - Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer ConnectionsWear fun clothes – not a suit and tie. If you’re a visual person, here’s another way to think about this concept (and this is why I say to write “business casual”). Picture yourself wearing casual clothes when you write, rather than a tuxedo. It’s another trick to help remove formal language from your writing. Write like it’s “casual Friday” rather than “meeting Monday.”

Use language your customers use. In a library setting, we have to really work at this one – and most businesses are in the same predicament because of industry jargon. Remove all instances of technical language and jargon on your site. An easy way to do this is to simply ask your customers what they’d call something. For example, we removed one bit of jargon at my library by asking our customers what they would call “the room where we put a book they reserved to be checked out.” We actually stationed one of our Marketing interns by our check out line for a day, and had her poll the people waiting in line. We received some great feedback – the room is now called the “Holds Pickup Room” and it works great. Our customers know what to look for, because we named it using our customers’ language. You can do a similar thing with your organization’s products and services. Pick something your customers do, and simply ask them what they’d call it.

Do some behind-the-scenes videos. Show what goes on in the office or behind-the-scenes. This type of video captures workers in their element (at the office, doing their work), rather than artificially standing in front of a backdrop, with lights shining on them, talking to a camera. You can even interview them. Blip.tv does a great job of this with their Blip on Blip video series. They walk around their workplace, taking videos of staff and and sharing those videos with the Blip.tv community. This type of video shows real people at work, having fun. Getting to know someone by watching them in a video helps customers. When a customer has to call in for support, for example, they might just “know” who they’re talking to – because they just watched that customer service rep in a video.

Represent Your Organization, not Yourself. Finally, remember this: when you share that slightly casual, personal voice, and you’re doing it for your organization … you are essentially representing that organization. You become the voice for your organization or business. Your website, your content, and your employees have unique personalities. This uniqueness will come out. Your brochures were written by people who have a voice, and some personality comes from those, too. All that adds up to an organizational personality. Even your physical building (if you have one) has a feel or personality. The challenge is to make these match so you can present a uniform image. Sit down, do some planning, and map out each aspect of your organization – the building, the marketing, the website, the staff. Plan the voice of your organization.

These are some ideas of how to be business casual online – do you have others? I’d love to hear them!

Business casual image by Bigstock

Improve your Copywriting!

Smashing magazine logoWant to improve the writing on your library’s website? Check out Five Copywriting Errors That Can Ruin A Company’s Website by Smashing Magazine.

here are their five copywriting errors:

  1. Writing inwardly
  2. Burying the lead
  3. Mediocre meta material
  4. Saying too much
  5. Weak or no Calls to Action

Good stuff – go read it, then work on improving those copywriting skills!