Category Archives: Content Creation

Creative Myths: There’s no Such Thing as the Solo Artist

John Lennon had Yoko. Fitzgerald had Zelda. Picasso had his women. And while these are all romantic connections, sometimes the artist gets inspiration from a friend, like Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt.

Our culture has a tendency to see creative geniuses as solo artists. It may well be the artists who have the name and the driving talent, but they don’t do it in a vacuum. Creativity is a collaboration, whether it is through supportive works or a collaborative spark.

In the corporate world, it’s nearly always a team effort. Creative Directors depend on their designers and writers—and programmers—to put into motion a vision. There is a collaboration in any creative act because there are supporting actors influencing the original idea. The influencers open up creativity and breathe life into it.

David Burkus, the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas advises the formation of a ‘Creative Anonymous’ support group to help fuel creativity. He points to the Inklings, a group of British writers, which included these two guys you might know: J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. The group would grab a beer at at pub to discuss their influences, read one another’s work, and just be there to support each other. Sidetone: there’s even a story that C.S. Lewis actually persuaded Tolkien that his manuscript was indeed good enough to be published. That manuscript? Yeah. The Lord of the Rings.

It’s easy to get inside your head with an idea and create a solo dialogue. You can flesh out your novel, song, poem, article idea or marketing plan inside the safe walls of your skull, and the sad and hard truth is it’s probably less brilliant than you think it is. If you share the idea with someone you trust or admire, listen to their response. Even if you disagree with what they say, you may learn something—further inspiration may strike.

Creativity is inside us all. My dogs are creative. No lie. You should see where they bury things in our house–and what they bury. And now that I think about it, they, no doubt, inspire each other.

Cooking Up Content

Thanks to all of you who joined me for “Cooking Up Content” at the Chicago Smart Show this weekend. We had a full-house and everyone asked some great questions!

Many of you asked for a copy of my presentation. Here it is. Please feel free to send me any questions you may have!

Blogged Down

You may have noticed that I have been very silent this year. Sure, I write in every now and then about something I love in the marketing/social media world, but in general, I am a blogger these days of few words.

It is not intentional.

I am too bogged down to blog. We are all busy people. Literally; I don’t know a single person who is not busy. I marvel at people who manage their time well. I have friends who have a a day full of meetings, then find time to work out, get their nails done, then have dinner with friends—all in the same day. They look refreshed when you see them and shrug off their busy schedule. “What else would I do with my time?” These people say when you ask one of them how they manage it all.

Me? I am the kind of person who is all work, and spare time is something that happens to other people. Foreigners. I want you to say that word with a very deep southern accent. Foreigners. Nothing against actual foreigners, I just wanted to stress the strangeness of spare time to me these days.

Which brings me to my lack of blogging. A blog on marketing, for a marketer, falls somewhere between something you do in your spare time and actual work. Either way, this blog has been low on my list of priorities.

So there you have it, I’m too bogged down to blog. As I look at my calendar and see the next six to eight weeks stretch out in front of me in a sea of giant red letter Xs marked through each day, followed by long arrows and different cities names etched above it, I realized, I should check in on my blog and say something. I should say, “I’m here. I’m still the same hard-working marketer I always was, I’m just too busy to comment on Charlie Sheen’s derailed brand, or the new uber iPad, or the fact that Facebook did away with FBML and gave us iFrames.”

If you are going to do something, go full throttle with it. Doing something half-ass is for pansies, for people who don’t care. With that belief, I am going to send my blog on a cyber sabbatical. When the dust settles around my travel and work schedule sometimes in May or June, I’m going to brush off the log-in page on WordPress to Audacious Ink and check in. I hope I have something delicious and acerbic to say about the world of marketing. I hope I can give you some brilliant advice. And oh God, please let Charlie Sheen be in the news still. Please let him and Lindsey Lohan hook up so that not only celeb watchers can have fun, but marketing people can have an excuse to talk about crisis management and your brand.

And if, by chance, one night in the upcoming weeks, I find myself sitting in the dark, either in my office or a hotel room, with just the glow of the laptop hitting my face and a blank screen staring me down, I’ll check in. Some where, some brand will surely have screwed up, or done something amazing. Facebook will have made changes, or maybe it will be Twitter. There is always news in the world of marketing, and personally, I’d love the spare time to cover it.

Keeping the Words Fresh in a 24/7 World

Factoring in both personally and professionally, I wrote and posted over 6,000 updates on Facebook and Twitter in 2010. It’s hard to stay creative and interesting on a daily basis, week after week. I often fell short, but fortunately, I have cohorts to act as sounding boards to get me back on track.

I admit to a tiny bit of fear every time I write an update. What if I get crickets after I post a new update? Every time you create a tweet or post an update, it’s like throwing a party. You want people to show up. You’re playing the music, but sometimes, no one wants to dance. Worse, they don’t like your song choice. Like the host at a party, you sometimes struggle to keep the conversation lively and interesting. So what do you do to make sure you’re not a huge yawn to your guests? Throwing a lampshade on your head and doing the mambo is not an option–truly, not in the online world or real one.

After speaking to a few of my colleagues about what they do to keep their postings interesting, and ruminating over my own best practices, here’s a few power tips I’ve come up with from social media marketers, who, on a daily basis, numerous times a day, have to summon the muses.

1. Research is your best friend. One of the many reasons I like Hootsuite is because I get to organize my Twitter lists and see them all with a dashboard view. Let’s take one of my diamond industry clients, I’ve categorized the people they follow on Twitter into the following categories: Bridal, Jewelers, Fashion, Celebrity, Engagements. These are all shorthand terms that mean something to me. For example, take engagements. I have set up Twitter keywords to follow videos people post of proposals, whether they are funny or romantic. If a celeb gets engaged and it hits Twitter, it will show up in the stream for this list. In the celeb list, I have some intended redundancy to not only capture a newly announced engagement, but in case someone has posted a photo of a celeb wearing some jewelry that may be of interest to the members of the client’s Facebook page. Basically, Twitter is my research mine field for not only my tweets for this client, but for their Facebook page, too.
2. Write a weekly content schedule. Once a week, I sit down and create a schedule of what my weekly Facebook Page status updates will be. I do this for each and every client. It’s the best way to go over recent news and think about what to write about. To save time, I also collect ideas and info throughout the week so that I often have half the work already done.
3. Like any other writing, you have to write and rewrite. One of my clients once told me that he’s not satisfied with a press release unless it’s been edited at least nine times. I didn’t blink an eye. I get it. Every writer knows that writing is the fun part, but the editing is where goods words are sculpted into great ones. Right. I’m talking about Tweets, I know. While we’re not aiming for poetry, we do want to capture a conversational tone with a consistent voice, unique to each client. We also want those tweets to be interesting and fun. So tweak those tweets.
4. Mix it up. You are not writing a Dan Brown novel. There is not a tried and true formula for success. What works in your updates and tweets this week may get tiring after three weeks. So watch your sentence patterns, and mix up the topics a bit. Keep it lively and never, ever be satisfied with the status quo. Look for words that you use a lot and take a vacation from them. Make friends with words you don’t normally use—but, of course, be true to the voice of the brand.

Mashable’s Best-of 2010

If you missed this in Mashable, here are 290 Social Media Resources to catch up on. As a little belated Christmas gift, here are my top 4 favorite resources that I embraced in 2010, and why I can’t live without them.

1. Hootsuite. I’ve written about it enough that this is probably no surprise. Simply put, I could not do my job effectively without Hootsuite. I manage all my clients accounts, especially their Twitter accounts, through Hootsuite. I can schedule Facebook updates in advance, which is essential for when I’m traveling. It is also the best game in town for Twitter analytics. If you have not started using Hootsuite yet, do!

2. Tumblr. Yeah, it sounds crazy that someone with a WordPress blog would advocate Tumblr, but I have a personal blog over there, too. For me, experiencing Tumblr is a little like suddenly walking into a brainstorming session with a bunch of creative, out-there, free-thinking renegades. It’s where, among others, the artists seem to be hanging out online. I frequently get different perspectives and inspiration from people who I would never otherwise be exposed to in a place like, say, Linked In. With all due respect to Linked In, which is a great place to go to share more conventional business advice and best practices.

3. Stumble Upon. Stumble Upon can be tedious, but it’s one of those sites where the more you use it, and the more it gets to “know” your preferences, the more interesting articles and sites you are exposed to. It’s another great place for creative inspiration, or to simply learn something new.

4. Delicious. I can’t survive without my online bookmarking site. I can accesss it anywhere, on my computer or phone, or someone else’s computer and instantly get linked to an article I read six months ago that I suddenly have to re-read. I use it as my online library and research center and it goes where I go.

“Pretty Hurts” Christmas Card

Ten years ago, I used to get cards in the mail. Now, I get very clever video and flash holiday cards in my inbox. Rand Rusher sent me this video card and I just had to share. When you click on the photo in the card, it takes you to a video. Rand, who makes the women of Beverly Hills look fresh and youthful, will be starring in a reality show called “Pretty Hurts.” This clever video playfully makes fun of, well, botox, while promoting the show. Congrats to Rand. I guess this means his rates are going to skyrocket now, ladies.

34 Entertaining 404 Error Pages

It’s sometimes easy for me to see the 404 Error Page as a metaphor for my life, especially if I’m having a bad day. It’s not a unique feeling to me, but one that is quite universal in its reach. Think about it in relation to yourself. You are just minding your own business, say, at the mall, shopping, and you have a brief encounter with a stranger who yells at you about something. Maybe you are talking on your cell phone on one of those mall benches next to them, and disturbing their peace. You know the kind of encounter I’m talking about. The random one that ends up with unpleasantries. They are quick bee-stings. In fact, a bee-sting is a great example of this very type of encounter. You’re smelling a flower in a garden and bam! A bee flies out of the bush and stings you on the nose. Your day has now taken an abrupt new course.

The 404 may not be that unpleasant, but it does take you off track, and with a stark, stoic message.
You are navigating your way through the site, searching for something, and you get hit with the ugly, white page and severe font and that bleak, annoying message: “404 Error. Page Not Found.”

When I’m responsible for the management of a site, that message is a stab in the heart. “What did I do? How did I let this happen?” I feel like I’ve let my puppy off leash and now he’s lost. As a person who sees the 404 Error Page as not just a broken link, a lost page, or a website gone haywire, but as one of life’s sudden and unexpected bee stings, I was quite pleased this morning when I read this latest wonder-piece from Mashable, “34 Entertaining 404 Error Pages.” These brands and artists have turned the dreary 404 into something funny and full of color.

Read, view, enjoy. My favorite is #6. That gal could so easily be me and the way I feel when life’s little bees start stinging.

Brilliant Ideas Other People Gave Me

As someone who lives in Los Angeles, you learn to ignore the word “Brilliant.” It’s an overused word that I think just boils down to sheer creative laziness. It’s become a comfort word for many people. They saw a movie that struck them in some profound way, and instead of saying, “That darn movie just struck me in some profound way,” they simply say “It was Brilliant.”

I’m about to refer to some brilliant ideas that were given to me. You may not think they are brilliant, but they had an effect on me.

Brilliant Idea # 1: This one is from the very brilliant CY, who suggested I create a character sketch of the person writing the Facebook pages I manage for clients. “Think of who this person is, who is it that is reaching out to the audience?” She wasn’t suggesting I not be myself; just that I just channel my voice into one the audience could relate to. Brilliant. It’s the same idea that I would employ when I sit down to write a novel or script, so why not do it with a fan page? It helps you fine-tune your voice.

Brilliant Idea #2. A fairly brilliant college professor once said to me, “Sooner or later you have to stop reading. Shut the book and start writing.” He was referring to the fact that as writers, we read for inspiration, but sooner or later, we have to take the plunge and put the words to paper. This ties rather close to the Brilliant Idea #1 above about finding your voice and putting it on paper. Even in social media, we read what the competitors are writing in their social network, or we read outside our field for inspiration. We have to navigate from that web page and just find our own voice, look for our own inner brilliance (play on words, yes, yes) that leads the reader to our page and makes them want to stay.

Brilliant Idea #3. President Clinton did not come up with the term, “If you want to run with the big dogs, then get off the porch,” but he was the first one I heard say it, and it stuck with me. A mentor later described the same basic sentiment with another term, Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals. While this is also not original, it is, well, you know: brilliant. I’m serious: I am so sick of safe. Bruce Springsteen has a line from the truly Brilliant song, “Badlands,” (and I will personally fight anyone who says that song is not brilliant): “I don’t give a damn for just the in-betweens.”

A long time ago, a manager told me, “I know our processes are a bit of date, but we just don’t want to rock the boat.” She’s still in that same job, and I left shortly after, finding a better job where they did rock the boat and made a lot more money doing it. Actually, one of the top execs ended up in jail, but that is another story.

In social media especially, the same-old, same-old only works for about a week. Look at the updates you write. Is it the same writing pattern time after time? Yes, you want to have a consistent voice, but is the voice stale? Does it need a margarita, maybe? Liven it up, change it up, talk about a topic you’ve never discussed before.

You don’t need to be brilliant, but it does help to have a voice thats brilliance shines through.

What is some brilliant advice you’ve been given that you can apply to social media and marketing practices?

Beyond You Tube

I was just watching a very funny video a friend of mine posted on Facebook, and for some reason this question came to my head: I wonder who all the major competitors of You Tube are? So I asked my own personal oracle, Google search, that question, and I found an article with this rather long list. My favorite? I don’t know yet, though I am a long-time fan of Funny or Die, but I just learned about this sick little jewel called Drunkest, which is, you guessed it, videos about drunk people.

What will they think of next? Oh, I know: something for dorks.

6 Effective Tips for Increasing Fan Page Interaction

Yes. I know. In my last blog post I said that this post would be on Social Proof. Well, I lied. I know. I’m awful. Life is full of disappointments, and this is just one of them. Truthfully, I had the best intentions, but I got busy with projects for my beloved clients and they take priority over my blog. (God I hope they are reading this.)

To make it up to you, I am sharing a great article written entirely by someone else. Wildfire, who does awesome apps and promotions for Facebook, has a great eNews letter and I want to share this story with you. They give some great advice on increasing your fan page interactions, and seriously, who doesn’t want that? Too often we get fixed on overall numbers, and while we are waiting to win the war of quantity, we are losing the battle of quality: quality interaction on your site. I love these easy-to-apply common-sense tips. My favorite is the first one: when you post an update, simply ask fans (or Likers, whatever your choice of word) if they “Like” what you just wrote in your status update, be it company news or product related. You are making it easy for them to respond, and you are requesting an action.

They also suggest going for questions that require a Yes or No answer. They are right in assuming that you will probably get more responses, but don’t make all your posts that way–that’s my word of caution. You do want to get some quality conversation going, so pepper your easy-to-answer posts with some questions that provoke thought, a longer conversation, and even a little controversy. It’s all about experimenting with what your fans like and keeping it lively, which often means providing variety in your status updates.

A caveat to the Yes or No answer: seek out other one-word responses. One of my clients posted an image of two diamonds, one round, the other square and asked, “Are you feeling Square or Round today?” It was a whimsical little question and the fans loved it. They got a great response rate with fans writing in their one-word choice. So you can still go for the one-word answer, and it doesn’t have to be a Yes or No one.

That social proof post is coming soon. I swear. I would never lie to you.