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

One Difference between Twitter and Facebook

Somebody recently asked me about Twitter for their library (which lead to my last post and this one). As I was answering her question about social media strategy, I said (a version of) this:

Facebook is a bit more conducive to “branded conversations.” Facebook can be highly visual, and the conversations are a bit more contained and threaded (i.e., comments and likes go underneath the actual post). If you’re not into one conversation, move to the next.

Twitter, on the other hand, is just the raw conversation as it happens. Sure, it can be visual and sorta-kinda threaded now, but it’s still (in my mind, anyway) pretty much real-time text-based conversation.

What’s that mean? For Facebook, you can insert some branded, “market-y” stuff, and not really bother anyone (as long as you have other content too!). It’s expected.

But with Twitter, if an organization starts sounding market-y – if they are mainly using Twitter as a broadcast tool to push out their programs and services – those tweets will stick out like a sore thumb.

That’s a great way to be ignored – fast – on Twitter.

Megaphone pic by Gene Han

 

10 Trends Shaping how Content is Consumed Today – #BEA2013

Wow – the Book Expo America conference was busy and exhausting! I’m finally getting a chance to share some notes from some of the sessions I attended.

The first one comes from the final keynote at the BEA Bloggers conference (I was on the advisory board for this). Randi Zuckerberg talked – yes, Mark the Facebook guy’s sister. She has some interesting things to say about content:

10 trends shaping how content is consumed today:

1. You are more than what you write. People want to know the person behind the writing. Your passions. Show the messy, human side of your life.

2. Brands as media companies. We are all media companies. Example – Red Bull can function like an NBC, because they can post articles, journalist-style interviews, videos, etc.

3. Enhanced media. Starting to see that people will pay for what they love, even premium content online. Ed tech as example. I’ll also add Youtube’s recent threat to charge for premium content.

4. More signal, less noise. When we curate content, that’s a really useful thing for our readers. Those “what did you miss this week” lists from some blogs are a good example.

5. Images speak louder than words. Instagram, Pinterest, etc. let customers post pics. Or find your photo on Facebook, and tag it.

6. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. She’s starting to see things like small startups within large companies. “Evangelist” jobs, etc.

7. The @ reply is the new autograph. Talking to fans makes them feel special – like when an author or “known person” replies to you via Twitter. Facebook chats, too.

8. Gameification of everything. Apply game mechanics to everything. She used the Gym Shamed app as an example – if you don’t go to the gym, it blasts out how lazy you were to all your friends. Or a scale that tweets your weight. There’s apparently a clock that donates your money to charity every time you hit snooze.

9. Video for everything. Newsrooms use Vine to show personality, or behind the scenes glimpses. Live stream from the fashion model out to an audience.

10. Etiquette and digital detox. How do I manage my professional digital reputation? How much screen time is too much for my kid? Not really tech tuff, but more modern living. Step away from the computer type stuff.

Interesting talk!

My #ideadrop presentation During SXSWi

Video streaming by Ustream

While I was at SXSW in Austin, TX last week, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation/interview/livestream at the #ideadrop house. The video is embedded in this post.

What’s the ideadrop house? From the livestream text:

“On 3/8, DLF brings you a live stream of the ER&L + ProQuest #ideadrop house in Austin, TX. The #ideadrop house is a space dedicated to library and information professionals to experience the diversity of SXSW speakers in the context of libraries and library-related technologies and topics.

Influencers, thought leaders, artists, hacktivists, academics and creators join the #ideadrop library house during March 8-12 at SXSW Interactive to discuss many topics including: SOPA/PIPA, free speech, privacy, open access, archives, values, humanity, civic start up efforts, civil liberty, liberty, network freedom, information access, open data, museums, community engagement, ux, social media, digitization and open source technologies.

Live streaming made possible by the Digital Library Federation (DLF)”

So – Lisa Carlucci and I talked about online conversations and community in the library world – fun talk! Make sure to watch and listen … then leave a comment here!

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