I have a confession to make: I think Twitter is utterly fantastic. Sure, it can be a bit distracting at times, but that’s nothing self-discipline (and leaving the iPhone at home) won’t solve.
It seems not everyone agrees with me. Rather like Marmite or Manchester United, Twitter’s one of those things people love or hate. They get it or they don’t.
Well, in an effort to introduce you to the world of Twitter (and convert any sceptics out there), here are six reasons I think it’s great. It’s not just people saying what they had for lunch, you know.
- It’s a great source of information. People on Twitter are a friendly bunch all-round really. There’s always someone who’ll answer your questions, whether you want help buying a laptop, or advice on the best place to go for lunch.
- There’s interesting stuff to read. Where I used to turn first to Google Reader for my fix of interesting articles, I can now be pretty sure of finding handpicked gems in the stream of tweets from people I follow.
- It gives me an outlet when I’m working by myself. Working from home gets a bit lonely sometimes, but at least I can partake in some online banter with fellow tweeters if things get too boring. Think of it as an online watercooler.
- It’s good for networking. For me, LinkedIn seems too formal and Facebook is too much about people I already know. But with Twitter it’s easy to find people working in my profession, so I can share ideas, offer (and receive) advice – and maybe even pick up the odd client.
- You hear about news first on Twitter. All the major news outlets use Twitter now (here’s The Guardian and BBC News), but you’re more likely to pick up on breaking news as it spreads like wildfire through the system. The Hudson River plane crash is a great example.
- Occasionally you get free stuff. If it’s material gains you want, plenty of companies run promotions and giveaways on Twitter. I’ve blagged a free case of beer and a CD so far. It’s not quite the conveyor belt from The Generation Game, but there are opportunities out there.
I could go on, but if you’ve not been convinced by those points, there’s no hope for you anyway. Don’t use Twitter? Go on, sign up and give it a go. You can follow me for a start.
No matter whether you’re a professional web copywriter (like me) or a professional something-else (maybe that’s you), we all have to edit our own work from time-to-time.
We do it when we read through an email before sending it, when we put the finishing touches to a new business proposal or when we dash off a press release. (You probably don’t do it when writing the weekly shopping list, but that’s ok.)
Editing isn’t easy
It’s not easy to edit your own text. Because you wrote it, you’re less likely to spot mistakes. Trust me – I once wrote a blog post promoting an event which got a the date of the event totally wrong. I wrote “14 November” instead of “14 January”. And I didn’t realise until a reader pointed it out.
That happened because I was in a rush. I wanted to get the information out there as soon as possible. Want to avoid this sort of embarrassing mistake? I’ve put together a few tips for you:
Apple are masters of the glitzy product launch. By witholding all details of whatever new piece of kit they’re announcing, the company whips the media and its loyal fans into a frenzy of excitement and speculation.
This hype machine generates levels of publicity that other companies can only dream of. The recent iPad launch is a prime example.
Now, that sort of PR comes to Apple, in part at least, because the company’s products are pretty impressive. With each launch, they work to improve everything – not just the headline features that persuade people to part with their money.
Every now and then, search giant Google surprises me. It’s happened again today – and I’m not referring to the privacy concerns surrounding the company’s foray into social networks.
Let me explain. I got hooked watching the mens’ snowboard cross event in the Winter Olympics last night. It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered a sport that’s so instantly watchable and packed with drama.
If you’ve not had the pleasure, watch the BBC’s short highlights of the action to see what I’m on about.
I heard on the radio that the ladies’ event is tonight and wanted to find out when it starts. Turning to Google was the obvious option, so I entered winter olympics snowboard cross times into the search engine.
What happened? I got exactly the information I wanted, displayed bang at the top of the search results, in UK time, with links through to the Winter Games site for more information.
Stuff like this must drive Google’s competitors mad.
You might have spotted from my previous posts that I like to work out and about. Cafes, pubs, bars … they’re all fair game for me and my little laptop.
I enjoy working on the move, but this very modern way of getting stuff done isn’t without its pitfalls.
Here are six situations to watch out for when it’s just you and your laptop:
- The lunchtime rush. At 10.30am, the cafe you’re in is nice and quiet. But at 11.30, something happens. The door doesn’t stop opening. People pile in, ordering take out or grabbing the last spare chairs. Nursing a small coffee while the world passes through, you feel conspicuous and in the way. Especially when some noisy office workers elbow their way to the table next to yours. Productive? You might as well give up now.
- The noisy children. These normally appear mid to late afternoon, though you can encounter babies and toddlers at any time of day. I’m undecided which is worse: the hyperactive ones who run about and push bits of furniture around, or the well-behaved, over-inquisitive ones who sit near you with their mum or dad and just won’t stop asking questions. Often about what the strange man with the computer is doing.
- The power crisis. Less than one cup of coffee into a stop at a café and my old laptop was gasping for juice. I constantly had my eye on the location of power sockets in the room, ready to shift tables when a prime spot became free. No matter what precautions I took, the machine would inevitably die during a highly productive spell. And have you ever had that awkward conversation when a member of café staff spots your unofficial power hook-up?
- The ergonomic nightmare. Starbucks chairs weren’t designed with the prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome in mind. In fact, they were probably designed to be uncomfortable to sit in for long periods, thus encouraging a fast customer turnover. (Ok, so maybe that’s just me being particularly cynical. But pay attention to what your body’s telling you. Wrists aching? Back sore? Time to find a proper desk.)
- The beer-on-tap temptation. One of my favourite spots to work is a bar/cafe just round the corner from my flat. The thing is, they have beer on tap. Good beer. A pint is ever-so-appealing, especially if I’m struggling with a tricky bit of work. I can usually resist the temptation, or postpone it by promising myself a glass when the job’s done, but every now and then (usually on a Friday afternoon) the pull is too strong.
- The toilet dilemma. Some cafés make you feel bad if you’re not constantly sipping while you work. With that much fluid intake, the inevitable tends to happen sooner rather than later. And that can lead to a difficult choice: do you pack everything up to guard against theft (in which case you might as well move venues), or trust the slightly shifty bloke on the next table to watch the laptop and papers you’ve spread out?
What obstacles have you faced when working out and about? Leave a comment and let me know.
I had a bit of an accident with my last netbook. After flogging it on eBay then doing heaps of research, I settled on the Toshiba NB200-10Z as a replacement.
I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now. Here’s what I think.
Styling and design
Several reviews of the NB200 slate how it looks. But actually, with its silver keyboard and brown lid, I quite like it. Maybe that says more about my tastes than anything else.
It’s certainly well put together – if a little plasticky – and I like that it’s uniformly thick, rather than wedge-shaped. The screen pushes back a good way too, giving you a bit more flexibility in where you work.
On the downside, the high capacity battery sticks out and looks like an afterthought. It’s not particularly neat, but hardly the end of the world.
Here are a few interesting links I’ve spotted (and, er, created myself) lately in the worlds of writing, online marketing and creative type stuff:
- Over at True Business, Nick Saalfeld has taken a close look at the red hot competition between price comparison sites. He’s written a good breakdown of the branding efforts of the companies in this market, but do be wary of playing the Go Compare advert he’s put up. The tune will stick in your head for hours.
- I’ve mentioned the myth of the fold before, but thanks to @paulahillier for tweeting this visual explanation of how important the fold is (or, more accurately, isn’t) in web design. Bookmark it for the next time someone insists everything must be squished into the very top of their site.
- Finally, excuse the self promotion, but here’s a quick heads up on a couple of things I’ve done lately. First off, I’m really pleased with my plain-English copywriting contract. Grab a copy and use it however you like – maybe you can adapt it for your business. Secondly, I’ve written a similarly simple answer to the question: what is cloud computing?
Spotted anything you think I might be interested in? Let me know in the comments.
Budgets. Now there’s a tricky subject for conversation. Yet if there’s one thing you need to do before you spend too much time in discussions with a potential new client, it’s to establish whether they’re ready to pay what you’re expecting to charge.
A recent conversation with a promising-sounding client served as a timely reminder about this. On the verge of agreeing to a meeting which would have taken at least half a day of my time, it was only the off-hand question “oh, and what do you charge?” which revealed our expectations were seriously out of kilter.
In this case, it was just one of those things. You can’t win them all, and rather than being disappointed at missing out on an interesting-sounding job I was at least able to focus on the fact that I’d narrowly averted a pointless meeting.
Money. It’s not easy to talk about. But even if you don’t mention it explicitly, you have to get a feel for whether your clients will pay what you charge before you spend excessive time preparing for the job.
Directory enquiries service 118118.com has traditionally relied on hairy athletes, a reworking of the theme tune from Rocky and promotional stunts involving handing out “118″ jogging vests for advertising.
However, this market is a crowded one, so maybe it’s no surprise that as well as broadening its services to include restaurant reservations and cinema listings, 118118.com has started to try a new tack with its advertising.
I spotted the advert pictured above on the tube the other day. It made me chuckle when I saw it, and I think it works well for three reasons:
- It fits the location. I saw this particular advert on the Bakerloo Line and it features a reimagined tube map. That’s clearly not a coincidence.
- It’s bang on for an audience of Londoners. Seeing the renamed station Piccalilli Circus will surely raise a smile, even on the humourless tube.
- It keeps the elements of whimsy and fun that are so crucial to the brand. Ever since those joggers, 118118 has tried to have fun.
As an effort to wrestle market share away from the other 118-alikes, I think this is a good attempt. Have any adverts caught your eye lately?
If you run your own business and have been looking for advice online lately, you might have stumbled upon one of the Donut websites. There are three of them at the moment, providing marketing advice, help starting a business and legal assistance.
All the content on these sites is written and reviewed by experts so you can be sure you’re getting tip-top advice to run your company. Having said that, I’d better declare a vested interest: there’s another Donut in the pipeline and I’m hard at work on it at the moment.
While you’re waiting for that to emerge, how about dipping in to the existing sites now? Appropriate places to start might be these tips on working with a copywriter and how to write web copy that gets the job done.