Thursday, September 05, 2013

Is Facebook the New Long-Form Platform for Writers?

Elizabeth Gilbert attracts her Facebook community with a variety of  comic, poignant, and reflective posts that provide transparency and authenticity to her brand.

Among several interesting social media trends I noticed this summer was the apparent evolution of long-form posts on Facebook, particularly by writers and authors. While many "regular folks" and small businesses seem to have taken on this style of posting, two of my favorite authors stand out. Joyce Maynard and Elizabeth Gilbert are innovative in making Facebook more relevant and interesting to audiences, with longish posts (at leat 10-12 paragraphs) that succeed in reeling in the reader--at least this reader, along with many others given the response I'm seeing. Maynard posted with frequency and rich detail, about everything from her new novel, (the recently published "After Her,") to her new film based on her book, "Labor Day," to her wedding, to the way in which she feels connected to people, places, and things, hitting a nerve, I think, with many readers who long for such connections.
Elizabeth Gilbert also does an amazing juggling act in her Facebook posts, combining book promotion (her newest novel, "The Signature of All Things" comes out this fall), contrasting fun observations of the people next to her on planes, to often poignant vignettes and personal accounts of those "in between moments" in life. Today's post, themed "never waste your suffering," in which she remembers a friend, Jim Maclaren, twice hit by a car, who struggled with drugs and many life challenges, saw over 600 Likes and 250 comments.

Author Joyce Maynard is a master of storytelling, sharing dramatic aspects of her literary and personal life with her Facebook community, and not afraid to take quite a few paragraphs to do so.

Granted, successful authors know how to write, but this doesn't necessarily guarantee an audience, not to mention Likes, Comments, and Shares. These writers remind us that true social media is about getting that delicate balance right between self-promotion, "edutainment," and sharing. I'm also impressed with the way both these authors use photos to embellish their posts, sharing links from fans, screenshots of cover art, and unusual event photos that aren't your typical run of the mill head shots and handshakes. Gilbert in particular appears to enjoy crowdsourcing her book covers and providing a somewhat flashy "international" flair, proudly showing us "the British cover" here and "the Australian cover" there in her videos.

I haven't checked yet and don't know if these authors have their own blogs as well, but if they do, they are keeping them distinct and separate from Facebook. I do know if a writer captures my interest on Facebook, there's a good chance I'll buy the book--or in this case--see their films as well.

How about you? Who are your favorite Facebook long-form bloggers and writers? How do they capture your attention?

Monday, August 12, 2013

In President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein Are Entrepreneur Heroes

So, Friday marked the 49th anniversary of President Nixon's resignation. To commemorate this event, we watched the Academy Award nominated film, "All The President's Men," which I hadn't seen in at least 20 years. Since I've been on something of a Robert Redford kick lately, and since I had written a poem about Watergate when I was in grade school (OK, we'll save that for later), it was entirely appropriate and just plain thrilling to sit through this two hours of fast moving, on the edge of your seat, "pre Aaron Sorkinesque" ingenious historical drama. Despite the charming anachronisms of typewriters (and relentless typing), feathered hair, dial-up telephones, and boat-like 1970's Dodge Chargers, there's a serious marketing takeaway from the movie: Woodward and Bernstein (W & B) totally hold up as modern day entrepreneurs who had the chops in real life, and in their depictions in film, to make their mark not only in their careers, but in changing the course of history.
Here are all the ways they had "the right stuff," and rank #1 as modern day entrepreneur heroes -- who also happened to be journalists.

1. Don't Give Up and Keep Moving
Impressive in this film is how Woodward and Bernstein never give up. They run (and drive) around like maniacs, and keep going, even when they appear to be hitting a dead end.

2. Be Aware of Your Competition and Aim Higher
At one point about halfway through the film, Berstein sees a New York Times article that reveals information he was looking for regarding money laundering. Instead of getting discouraged, he uses the article to jump start his own research and investigation.

3. Trust Your Instincts
W and B trust their instincts enough to push through the story and continue to investigate, despite putting their careers on the line and having doors shut in their faces at decidedly key moments.

4. Write A Lot Down
One of my favorite aspects of the film is how the reporters capture the essence of those they are interrogating by writing down their reactions on yellow legal pads, emphasizing and heightening the drama. They quickly jot down names and quotes, draw arrows, cross out words and lines, giving all the action a real time effect. Kind of like social media, if it had been invented yet. "If you could get Mitchell, that would be beautiful," Jane Alexander's character states.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Start Over
The investigation comes to a standstill when W and B question a woman they think was a member of CREEP, only to find she is a clerk in a department store. Instead if dropping the story, they use this as a turning point to question all the committee members again, including Jane Alexander, who plays a terrified Republican bookkeeper who divulges key information.

6. Find A Great Partner
Redford and Hoffman playing Woodward and Bernstein, are perfect foils for each other. There's a real synergy and passion as they compare notes, type alongside each other, and even type notes to each other in the famous scene when they are aware they're under surveillance.

7. Ask A Lot of Questions

Redford and Hoffman relentlessly ask questions during the entire length of the film, not satisfied until that get answers. A great entrepreneurial lesson that you have to know what you don't know, to succeed.

8. Have a great meme.
These quotes from the script would have been tweeted and retweeted thousands of times if Twitter had been around in 1976. Check it out:
"Follow the money."

"I don't mind what you did. I mind the way you did it."

"Nothing's riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country."

"The list is longer than anyone can imagine."

So...over to you. Do you think Redford and Hoffman can be described as entrepreneurs? What do you think this movie does for journalism, and does it hold up by today's standards? What's your favorite scene in the movie? Share in the comments.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

5 Myths About Twitter You Need to Know Now

Everyone seems to have advice about Twitter these days, and with good reason. With each new tip on best practices, there comes another that might contradict or dispel it. Let's face it, we all want to be effective on Twitter, but with the evolution of social media also comes the changing face of social profiles, more competition to stand out, and the ongoing contradiction of promoting one's own brand while actively recognizing and supporting others.

Here are 5 "myths" I have found to be prevalent on Twitter, particularly over the past year:

1. Follow back all who follow you -- maybe not.

At the risk of possibly not enchanting all new followers, I continue to be selective in who I follow back, for a number of reasons. First, if I review their profile and it has no relevance to my niche, namely writing, editing, social media and communications, they will probably not find my content relevant anyway. More interesting to me is how they found me, as that is always a good study in market research. Twitter accounts with the infamous egg profile logo, or the dreaded "what I had for breakfast" tweet front and center, won't work for me. A quick review of the users @ reply tweets, as well as the variety and quality of content they're sharing, is a good benchmark in who to follow back. A strong following us a plus, although not necessarily a dealbreaker, particularly if they're just starting out.

2. The law of reciprocity is contextual.

For a while there, I was heavily into retweeting. I retreated a variety of folks large and small, including influencers such as Chris Brogan and Mitch Joel and Seth Godin, mostly because I liked their content and secondarily because a little recognition from them would have been nice. But I have found that influencers in general are too busy to pay that kind of attention to their community to circle back, even in responding to blog comments. So if you're looking for Retweets back from influencers, don't be surprised if it doesn't happen.

3. Linking to The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Tech Crunch is too obvious.

Recently I've heard a lot of discussion on the questionable value of tweeting articles from big ticket publishers such as The New York Times, on the theory that everyone does it. A bland RT with no comment is dull, but here's my take on this is: so what if it's obvious, if you add your own spin to it? Ask a question, add a joke, brings some other tweeps into the picture, be creative. Including the link in the middle if the tweet rather then the very start or end, is also a good tip. The benefit of a possible retweet and increase in relevant followers far outweighs the popularity myth, and it's a brand enhancer to show that you read well respected publications, particularly if you're in journalism or publishing. I'm not embarrassed to show my followers that I read Mashable and Tech Crunch everyday. Are you?

4. If you're an author, you must market your new book on Twitter.

An interesting post from Poytner, "Are Long and Short Form Writing Mutually Exclusive" states that "audiences want both short and long writing from the same writers," and that many authors simply bow out when it comes time to market their book on Twitter or other social networks. Tweets can lead to book deals, but managing a growing Twitter account can take writers away from their own writing. Unless you are actually publishing your tweets, as some authors have successfully done, it's likely that you'll need to decide what takes priority: the tweets or the next book. And then there's always Facebook and YouTube...

5. The @reply and hashtag reign supreme.

Just because you understand hashtags and the value of the @reply, doesn't mean you should overdo it. Balance is key, as in anything. When I see tweets laden with all that ink, I get a headache. I view hashtags as most useful and relevant in conjunction with events, trends, and people, and as a creative exercise in inventing them on the fly to see what happens, as I did with #twitteration.

What do you think? Are there common Twitter myths you've encountered lately, and how do you strategize around them?

By Carrie Jaffe-Pickett


(I tweet over at if you'd like to join me!)


Monday, July 08, 2013

Jay Bauer Youtility Giveaway and Easypromos

First, the Book...

You can enter my book giveaway here...

I first heard Jay Baer when he was a Keynoter at Marketo's Marketing Summit in San Francisco. He truly gave one of the best presentations I've ever seen, based on concepts from his latest book, Youtility. His premise is that the company that provides the most valuable and relevant information to its potential client is the company that will stand out, and ultimately reap the rewards. In many ways, we've been marketing all wrong, and this book sets us straight. The customer must be the focus.

A reviewer in Amazon, Mack Collier, writes: "One of the core messages of Youtility that resonated with me was Jay's explanation of how marketing has shifted from being controlled by the brand to being controlled by the customer. Jay calls this 'Friend of Mine,' the idea being that many of us get information that leads to our purchase decisions from fellow customers, friends, and family. So if we as marketers want to continue to win business, one of the key shifts we need to make is to adjust our marketing to be in line with the information that customers are getting FROM OTHER CUSTOMERS. I think this is one of the key takeaways from Youtility, and Jay includes dozens of case studies of companies that are providing useful and valuable content, that in turn leads to trust and sales."

I contacted Jay, and he agreed to send me an extra copy of his book for a giveaway, so here you go. The giveaway runs from July 8-31. Best of luck!

Second, Quick Review of Easypromos

I discovered Easypromos while looking for a better app then Woobox, which I had tried recently and found the interface a bit awkward.


First promotion free, so you get a chance to try it out without giving your credit card info and having to cancel later.

Offer setup fairly straightforward, with all necessary features included, such as contest duration, name, image upload option, and text formatting for contest description, with auto editor.

Easy preview mode, so you review how your offer looks and tweak it before going live.

Attractive templates that give your promotion a finished look.


The editor mode froze at one point after I had entered my text, and wouldn't let me add more edits. It may have been due to the use of a symbol character, but I have contacted customer support, and we'll see how quickly they get back to me.

The Tab editor that allows you to customize the type and image is a bit confusing to navigate, as the screen does not direct users where to go first. I had to play with it a while to get my custom Tab published.

Compliance with Facebook guidelines could have been more user-friendly. The website states the app is compliant, but does not provide any sample guidelines text, which isn't particularly reassuring. If you don't add additional guidelines text, is your campaign compliant just by using the Easypromos platform?

Additional features such as a dedicated Dashboard for users launching multiple promos, and the option for random winner selection, were tough to find, as I had to scroll through their Facebook newsfeed and website Q and A's to find them.

All in all, I would try Easypromos again (maybe for my August book giveaway), but at $15 a go for the lowest tier, I'm also tempted to try out competitors such as Tabsite, Shortstack, and maybe Woobox again now that they recently launched Instagram contest apps.

PS I'm doing all this through my iPad only, as an experiment for mobile.

Has anyone read Youtility yet? Or have you discovered a great app for book and other giveaways? Share in the comments.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Vine vs. Instagram Video: 5 Minute Taste Test

I had never used Vine or Instagram video until 10 minutes ago. After reading the many rather exhaustive reviews over the weekend on each, I decided to cut to the chase and focus on user experience and raw first impressions. I also decided that I wouldn't write this post unless I could provide some useful observations and achieve functionality, in five minutes. Good news: everything worked, more or less. Here goes.

Instagram Video


*Setup was automatic, in that I didn't have to tweak any settings or make any adjustments, as I already had an Instagram profile, and had recently posted photos.

*Filming was easy. To get started, I merely pressed the video icon next to the camera icon on the screen, and held the button down as prompted. I did a quick 15-second panorama of our garden, and let go of the record button.

*Creating filters was also a snap. I just scrolled through the choices offered on the bottom of the screen, in exactly the same way as you'd choose an Instagram photo effect. I have to admit it was fun checking out the new options, and I can see the "Moon" black and white effect being a great choice for a vintage retro look.

New image filters like "Moon" give Instagram videos the edge over Vine
*Sharing rocked. Sharing options included email, Facebook, and Twitter, or just saving within the program. I liked how my video autosaved onto my iPad camera roll, so it was handy to repost or repurpose.
*Bonus feature: Loved being able to choose the title frame to create a more inviting Cover for my video, although YouTube has enabled this feature for a while.
*Editing feature a bit hidden. So after I had happily created and shared my video, I remembered that during the demo I watched on Thursday on Bloomberg West, there was an editing feature described , but I had missed it. I had also missed the fact the one could film in one 15-second take, or break up the filming into segments. If you don't like the last segment, just click on the red X and the delete icon, and you can redo the segment, or the entire video for that matter. OK, I got it the second time around, but needed to Google this feature to find it.
*Social? Not so sure. No Likes or Favorites, but maybe that was too much to expect from my little garden video. Will cover this next on Vine review. Was surprised to see no sharing option with YouTube.
*Set up was also automatic, and I didn't even need the mini tutorial to get started.
*Filming was fast, obviously due to the 6-second constraint. Vine prompts the user to video in segments, giving the final product a more varied and frenzied effect, which you can decide if you prefer.
*Sharing was easy.
*Connecting socially seemed much more natural on Vine. Within a minute of my posting, I received 4 Likes. On Instagram, nothing.
*I didn't like the lack of editing options available to the user, particularly when I saw what Instagram was offering.
*6 seconds too limiting. I prefer the 15-second video timeline, it just feels more relaxed while still being interesting. I found my own video a bit annoying because my voice kept repeating, however the looping effect could be valuable in a marketing campaign, to drive a point home, or to increase viral effect.
*No sharing on YouTube option.
Not that we have to pick winners or losers, as each application has its purpose, I would say that the image effects provided on Instagram make it a frontrunner in my book, providing for the more interesting visuals that made the photo app such a huge hit to begin with. That, on top of the easier to take 15-second video length, also make the Instagram video a winner.
What say you? Have you tried both Vine, and which do you prefer? Share in the comments.

-Carrie Jaffe-Pickett on Instagram

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Social Media Key Player in Summer Films, An Ambiguous Friend

It's interesting to see the latest evolution of social media in film, and particularly how our love/not love relationship with it is manifested in a multitude of ways. Take two of this summer's big relationship films, "Before Midnight," and "Frances Ha."

In one of the opening scenes in the recently released "Before Midnight," third in the latest sequel featuring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke love story, Facebook is specifically mentioned early on. Celine informs Jesses that his son has had a crush on a girl all summer, and that they will most likely stay connected "on Facebook." (smirk smirk.)

At one point, Celine takes out an interesting cassette machine shaped camera, and films Jesse stealing a leftover apple from his daughter. They both narrate their circumstance for the camera for their future video-watching kids:
Celine: "If you become anorexic or bulemic later in life because your father took your food, don't blame me..."
Jesse: "I'm just teaching you the value of paying attention..."

In fact, the theme of social media is referenced throughout--the film keeping up with the times, and reminding us how much social has changed our lives since "Before Sunrise" in 1995, whether we like it or not. In a long lunch scene at the Greek vacation home where Jesse and Celine are vacationing, the topic of social media and how automated our lives are, takes center stage. One of the characters even jokes how one day even physical intimacy will be controlled and automated -- this against the backdrop if Celine and Jesse's long affair, whose physicality has been a focal point in all 3 films.

The phone also becomes a plot device as well, creating a divide between Celine and Jesse. During the film, Jesse's son by his first marriage, Hank, is flying back home to Chicago to live with his mother. Oddly, he calls Celine twice on her cellphone, and she never passes the phone on to Jesse, nor does Hank ask to speak to him.
"Why do you keep doing that?" Jesse says. "That's twice now you haven't handed me the phone."

Later on, we see Jesse get a phone call that he doesn't share even to Celine, until hours later -- news that his grandmother has died. This beomes a launching point for another in the many rounds of conversation between the two about love, mortality, life, death, and in this case, the name of their children's pediatrician, and the suggestion that both of them have been unfaithful to each other in the recent enough past.

In another what I would call "more fun" film that examines love and relationships in our twenties, "Frances Ha," art imitates life, as social media and smart phones prove to be not so great friends. Halfway through the film, Frances, played by Greta Gerwig, (who some are calling the new "it girl" in film), travels to Paris for a weekend. She repeatedly calls the friend she wanted to see, but they only connect after Frances is on her way home back in New York. Communication Fail.

One of the key plot points is that Frances' best friend Sophie (Micey Sumner), abandons Frances to move in with, and eventually move away to Tokyo, with her boyfriend Patch. While Sophie posts glamorous photos of her new life abroad online, the real truth as she admits later, is that she's unhappy and wants to move back to New York.

The central theme of the film is the friendship between Sophie and Frances, and the extent to which relationships in our twenties can work and not work, for all the right and wrong reasons. In almost every scene between the two women, smart phones abound, and serve as something of a protective shield around them, as they ruminate over who will and won't be allowed to enter their lives and their inner circle.

To consider:
-Is it possible that in 20 years, Frances will become Celine?
-How will upcoming films treat social both a character and a plot device, for example?
-Will our relationships, both in art and life, grow increasingly automated and fleeting, defined in and by status updates, tweets, texts, and the dreaded eternally decreasing attention span?

-Carrie Jaffe-Pickett
writer, editor