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

  • http://lorifagerholm.blogspot.com/ Lori Fagerholm

    Funny and accurate! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.tariqwest.com/ Tariq West

    And thank you Lori for commenting!

  • cameronplommer

    This was hilarious!

    You are a great writer and had me laughing out loud several times.

    I'm now a convert to your blog

    p.s thanks for the thoughtful comments on my blog as well.

  • cameronplommer

    I have a few other posts that are similar to this one, but not in the satirical sense.

    “The Economics of the Online Echo”

    “How to think for yourself”

    “The Evolution of a consumption whore”

  • http://www.tariqwest.com/ Tariq West

    Thanks for the comments Cameron. I'll be sure to check out those posts.

  • http://ryanstephensmarketing.com/blog/ ryanstephens

    Phew. Tariq, this was my first introduction to your blog and I had this scathing comment brewing by the second paragraph, but fortunately by the 3rd I was certain you were using a satirical approach. I think you do an excellent job of highlighting some of the things that are invariably wrong about this space. Thanks for sharing that with us in a creative and fun way. Cheers to you!

  • http://www.tariqwest.com/ Tariq West

    Glad you appreciated this Ryan, and that I didn't earn your scathing comments :) Thanks for commenting!

  • http://isaokato.com/ Isao

    I once read the art of futurism is to sound convincing without making the mistake of talking in too much details. Sometimes writings about social media give me that impression – instead of the future, it is about the present. Thank you, your story is funny and insightful. For the next topic, I expect “How to market your service effectively” :)

  • http://www.tariqwest.com/ Tariq West

    The futurism bit is a great comparison. Thanks for commenting Isao, and for the retweet love!

  • http://lindseydonner.com Lindsey Donner

    This cracked me up, Tariq! Really. I'm wiping away a few tears. I like the part about not defining any concepts too clearly…

  • http://www.tariqwest.com/ Tariq West

    Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for commenting.

  • http://akhilak.com/blog Akhila

    Hi Tariq! I just ran across your blog & love it; I just subscribed. You have a great style of writing and valuable insights :)

    I loved this parody! ( I also love the how to write about Africa parody–that one's a classic!). It's so true that everyone nowadays writes about “Gen Y” or “social media.” It's all we see around the web, and it pains me that there are so few out there being more creative or thinking outside the box.

    We need more blogs that critically examine the world we live in, instead of simply regurgitating truisms about how hard the lives of Gen Y are and how important social media is. We don't need more self improvement or social media or location independent posts, to be quite honest.

    Great post!

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  • New_career_Opportunities

    I agree with the gist of this. Social media requires a bit of “controversy” in your comments or posts to start the ball rolling….too much nuance turns you into a dull wallflower, basically wasting the entire point of communicating with a community

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    This cracked me up, Tariq! Really. I’m wiping away a few tears. I like the part about not defining any concepts too clearly…