Monthly Archives: March 2010

How to blog about social media, gen-y and other buzzwords – a satire

There are certain essential elements which anyone who writes about social media, web 2.0, gen-y, personal branding, careers or closely related subjects should be aware of. They form a canon, a sort of tao, if you will.

Let's begin at the beginning. Well, before the beginning really. Mark Twain once wrote,"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." Start by putting on your clothes. Before you write you must establish your ethos.

This means settling on a good head-shot, coming up with a compelling story around why you're unemployed (referencing "The 4-hour Workweek", of course), deciding what niche you'll be a self-proclaimed expert in and creating a profile on every social media site. With your ethos firmly established, now you may begin to write.

Titles are what really draw people in, so use one or all of the following conventions around title writing. The best is generally "X ways to do Y" (e.g. "5 ways to be inane on twitter while gaining followers"), but sometimes the urgent  call to action like "X things you/your business needs to know in order to do/avoid Y", is a better option (e.g. "5 social media tools every business should use to avoid bringing about the twit-pocalypse").

gen-yAlso, if you are afraid your title is a little too vanilla, throw in a buzz word or two -"social media" or "web 2.0" will usually do just fine. If there is a new mobile media device coming out soon, like an iphone, ipad or netbook, you can use that too, even if it doesn't have much to do with the content of the post (e.g. "5 ways the ipad will revolutionize your love life"). Also, consider adding "2.0" to any noun or verb to make it somehow new, exciting and hip (e.g. "Detroit 2.0" or "Gutter Cleaning 2.0"). 

Then there is the somewhat more trivial matter of content. Try these out as rules of thumb. It's rarely a good idea to write anything longer than 300 words – it makes people's heads hurt, especially if you use big words, like "rigorous". Begin, or end, your post with a common quote or truism like "we all know how important it is to be yourself" or "we can do anything we want if we stick to it long enough" – anything you've seen re-tweeted or on a refrigerator magnet will do. Also, consider a selection from any number of self-help books.

Next, create a list – numbers are better, but bold sub-headings will do. This breaks the post up into chunks telling your readers, "this is a blog and narrative flow has no place here". If you don't have anything to say, that's fine – interview a pseudo celebrity or self-proclaimed expert.

Alternately, share a story or experience about how motivated and smart you are – remember to add in some buzz words (I suggest "personal brand" or "Millennials") to make it topical. Also, add an inspirational take-way or call to action, like "What would you do if you were as beautiful and talented as me?" at the end so as not to seem self-centered.

If you are writing about careers, talk about "passion" and "loving what you do". Be careful not to define concepts too clearly. Also talk about the importance of developing a unique brand and putting yourself out there with social media tools – it's been said before, but you must be brazen enough to say it again.

For posts on the value and potentials of social media, either be exuberant or damning. Do not be nuanced – it might be confused for a lack of an opinionated stance. Alternatively, be completely ambiguous.

The same is true about writing about Gen-y; make broad generalizations about either how unrealistic, un-disciplined or illiterate we are or pine about how digitally enlightened and natively skilled we are. Also, consider writing about how to manage or market to Millennials – they do not speak English but rather English 2.0.

Never forget to note the "fundamental differences" between Gen-Y's approach to anything, and every one else's. If Baby Boomers shaved with straight razors, Gen-y will buck that and do it using the power of the social web.

Your audience is the most important element, so keep in mind that, for the most part, you are preaching to the choir – most of your readers are other bloggers who write about the same things you do. Do not critically analyze anything – by doing so you risk being critically analyzed yourself.

To appeal to your audience, raise your credibility and as a killer starting (or ending) point for a post on just about any topic, quote Penelope Trunk, Dan Schawbel, Chris Brogan or Seth Godin. Finally, fluff is the stuff that fills your stuffed animals and your pillows – it is comforting and it is good! 

What do you think are the essential elements for blogging about social media, careers, gen-y and personal branding?

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Over the past several months I've read dozens of blogs and hundreds of posts, many of them around topics like personal branding, careers, social media and gen-y/millennials. In this piece I share some observations I've taken away about how to write on these topics. I make this entry into the public record in the tradition of "How to write about Africa" and "How to write about poor people", hoping it is received in the playful (if somewhat satirical) spirit in which it was conceived. I am guilty of most of the things I satirize.

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 The Daily Get Up, Brazen Careerist

Walt Whitman, Jeans and the Ethos of Gen-Y

Every once in a while someone conceives of a commercial campaign that hits with the realness, poignancy and vision reminiscent of the Great American Novel (adapted of course for a commercially saturated generation with a 30 second attention span); a commercial which captures the frustrations and aspirations of its time and holds them to the light of the nation’s most cherished ideals.

In its summer campaign titled “Go Forth”, Levi’s achieved this in a poetically compelling and commercially brilliant way. The two commercials produced by Wieden+Kennedy (of Old Spice fame) are set to grainy 1890s recordings of Walt Whitman reciting two of his masterful odes to the intrepid American spirit, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” and “America”.

The first commercial opens with a young man standing in the wilderness at dusk, flaming torch in hand. As thunder rolls in the background, Whitman’s words, “Pioneers! O Pioneers! Come, my tan-faced children, Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,” sound like the rallying call of a generation and in every corner of the nation young people look up as if suddenly alert to the possibility and adventure in the world. Whitman’s recitation continues over images of young people gathering, suiting up in jeans, and preparing to emerge from concrete cities into nature, danger and the unknown.

The second commercial opens to a night scene, dimly lit by a flickering neon sign that reads “America”. The sign is crooked and half-submerged in water and the debris in the background suggest a city in decay. As flares explode over the sign, alluding to a certain poignant verse in the national anthem, Whitman begins, “America. Center of equal daughters, equal sons. All, all alike endear’d”. The images that follow – derelict apartment buildings, violent protest – tell of troubled times while others – young, vibrant, muscled people flexing, climbing, jumping, kissing – allude to an enduring strength and beauty in the American character.

The commercials tap deep into the consciousness of today’s youth – teens and twenty-somethings increasingly disillusioned with the world they are inheriting; they tell a story about corruption and decay, crisis and stagnation but also about great American ideals, how they endure and how they can be recaptured. “What happened to that pioneering American spirit?” the commercials seem to beg of the viewer. “What happened to that brazenness that looked west across America at danger and the unknown and saw opportunity?”

As much as I hate to see great American literature coopted to sell clothes, I have to hand it to Levi’s and W+K for feeling the pulse of a generation. What’s more, I really hope Gen Y can recapture some of these ideals, and more than just aesthetically. For the web piece of the Levi’s campaign, W+K invented the fictional character Grayson Ozias. At the risk of elevating a commercial gimmick to art, maybe there is something valuable we can take from him:

“I left my home and all I knew because I feared the complacency that was growing in me. I feared that I would be content to never experience anything of America beyond the city in which I was born. But after hearing Whitman, this complacency became unthinkable, and my comfort became my greatest burden.”

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This post is featured on:
The Daily Get Up, Brazen Careerist