Tag Archives: Twitter

State of the Union screen capture, with a sharing icon overlay

The State of the Union is social

There’s a point I’ve been hammering for years now (and I do mean years): the rise of social networks and easily-shared media should mean a profound change in the way speakers and speechwriters approach our craft: at once both broader in scope and more conversational in approach.

But there’s still surprisingly little uptake. Maybe speakers put their Twitter handle on an opening slide, or post their deck to Slideshare, but that’s often about it.

Maybe that’s you. And maybe the thought of getting more social with your speaking (or speechwriting) has intrigued you before, but you weren’t really sure where to begin.

If so, then have a look at how the Obama White House handled the State of the Union speech last week.

Big audience, broad approach

Granted, they had an audience far larger than anything you or I are likely to tackle (this week, anyway!). But the techniques they used to engage the audience — including, crucially, the audience that wasn’t tuned in to the speech itself — can apply to the more day-to-day speeches we’re accustomed to handling.

Writing on Medium, Obama’s Chief Digital Officer, Jason Goldman, pointed to a wide range of ways the White House planned to extend the SOTU beyond the walls of Congress and the reach of TV. The goal: “meeting people where they are.”

But “where they are” varies a lot, he added. “Even people following on two screens don’t just flip back and forth between a TV and a smartphone. We jump from different social media platforms.”

All the platforms. (Maybe not Peach.)

The White House drew on their already-formidable array of online presences with “video excerpts released in real-time on Facebook and Twitter” and media ranging “from live GIFs on Tumblr to 6-second videos on Vine and photos on Instagram.” The speech even got its own trailer video, starring the President.

True wonks could dive into Obama’s past SOTU speeches, supplemented through the Genius web annotation service; visitors could add their own annotations, with the prospect of perhaps having theirs highlighted by the White House. And a partnership with Amazon Video made those speeches available for viewing through the company’s app, if the White House YouTube channel didn’t suit.

Once the speech was underway, the official SOTU web page became a hub, hosting shareable video clips and graphics elaborating on each of the four major themes of the speech. Especially worth noting: each section has a e-mail list subscription form — neatly pre-identifying a relevant interest area of the folks signing up.

Screen capture from White House SOTU page

After the speech, the White House kept the ball rolling. They quickly rolled out an enhanced version of the speech on YouTube, with crisp, nicely-designed graphics illustrating and underlining the President’s points. A day later came a day-long Twitter chat with administration officials and the First Lady, anchored on the hashtag #BigBlockOfCheeseDay. (That comes from a fictional White House consultation event on The West Wing — an indication that Obama’s web team knows at least part of its audience very, very well.)

And with a cancer research initiative as the speech’s most prominent announcement, the page links to a “share your story” feature with a form where visitors can tell their story to Vice President Joe Biden.

Did all that work pay off? Obama’s team were probably doing far deeper measurement than likes and shares — but at least by those superficial metrics, there was plenty of engagement: 32,000 likes for one Instagram photo, 1,300 likes and ten times that many views for the YouTube trailer. 921,000 views, 27,000 likes and 15,000 shares of the full SOTU video on Facebook. You’d want to go a lot deeper than that to measure success, of course, but given that they’ve done a similar full-court social media press during past SOTU addresses, we can probably assume they have… and were happy with what they saw.

Toward a more social speech

For speechwriters, speakers and communications shops who feel jazzed about this and want to try something similar, I hope you do. Here are some ways to put the same kind of approach to work:

  • First, a note of caution for us civilians: what the White House does can’t serve as a template. You’ll kill yourself — and your communications shop — trying to reproduce the swarm of tactics the White House deployed. (Handy hint for smaller organizations: any comms shop that can ask“Would this work better if we did it on the deck of an aircraft carrier?” just may have more resources than you do.) Think of this instead as an inspiration board: a collage of ideas to choose from to engage a broader audience with your next speech. And focus your efforts where you’re most likely to meet your audience.
  • The White House made it visual, from charts and graphs to the big block of cheese on Labour Secretary Tom Perez’ head. And that one Instagram of Obama apparently reaching to shake your hand on the floor of Congress… for a political junkie, that’s the good stuff, even if it was from the 2010 SOTU. Look for opportunities to express your ideas in compelling images, and to use visuals to make a human connection with your audience.
  • Connecting to the White House’s social channels made you feel like an insider, giving you a peek behind the scenes and a look at how they created past speeches. You can use social channels the same way: to give your audience not just more information, but a look behind the curtain.
  • They never forgot their core message; their narrative thread runs unbroken through all their tweets, Instagrams and Vines. Similarly, don’t go chasing cat memes if it pulls you away from the central story of your speech.
  • They built their networks over time. Granted, that can go a lot more quickly when you’re the President; but a lot of work goes into building and broadening their following on every platform they use. If you’ve been building that platform as well, great; if not, well, remember what they say about the best time to plant a tree.

One thing you can do that’s a lot harder for the White House is real conversation (which, apart from #BigBlockOfCheeseDay and post-SOTU interviews with three prominent YouTubers, they didn’t really attempt).

Whether that’s soliciting anecdotes from your LinkedIn network, previewing speech themes in a blog post and elaborating in comments, inviting and using image submissions via Facebook or Twitter for your slides, addressing the venerable Twitter backchannel during a presentation, or taking part in ongoing group discussions on your network of choice, there are plenty of opportunities to turn your speech from a one-way monologue into a richer, broader and more enduring exchange.

(Oh—and of course, Slideshare.)

Oh! The Things That You’ll Tweet!

To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday today, HootSuite has posted a really clever Dr.-Seuss-inflected guide to Twitter, and invited their friends and followers to share their own rhymes, hashtagged #HootSeuss.

Naturally, I found myself helpless to resist. (P.S.—I have nothing against live TV tweeting. It just scanned and rhymed so. well.) And so…

Oh! The things that you’ll tweet!

Oh, the things that you’ll tweet! Oh, the news you will share!
The wisdom you’ll show! The truth you’ll lay bare!
And then Twitter rewards you for all you have tried
when you wake up to find your account’s verified.
It’s all been worthwhile, tweeting all of that dreck,
now that your name appears next to that check.

You’ll tweet about breakfast!
You’ll tweet about memes!
You’ll tweet about farting—
well, that’s how it seems.

You’ll tweet about TV.
You’ll tweet sappy notes.
(On your very worst days?
Inspirational quotes.)

You’ll gain plenty of followers each time you tweet.
They’ll shower you with mentions and favourites so sweet.
You’ll soon know you’ve figured this Twitter thing out
as evidenced by your ever-increasing Klout.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

It’s hard to believe but
you need to know that
sometimes your very best
tweets will fall flat.

Your hashtags may wither,
your snark gone unheard.
Your follower numbers
may drop by a third.

You will come to a place where you soon realize
that sometimes your content unhappily dies.
Especially if you’re trying to force something viral.
That’s when you enter a bad downward spiral
and feeling defeated, and feeling goodbye-ral.

Could your Twitter fame have been sadly so fleeting?
What content will save you? Live TV show tweeting?
A desperate grab for some new trending trope?
Or maybe, just maybe, there may be some hope.
Some force in the darkness may throw you a rope.

Somehow you’ll escape
tweeting drivel and pap.
You’ll drag yourself out
of that trivial crap.

You’ll look deep inside you,
and you’ll make the choice:
to speak loud and clear
with your very own voice.

whether you’re heard by a million and two,
or even if nobody’s following you,
you have something to say!
Come down off that shelf.
You don’t need to be GaGa.
Just come be yourself.

Update: Oh, for god’s sake—they tweeted about it today, but I just noticed that the actual blog post was from last year. It’s still terrific.

Follower-bombing as a political prank

This morning brought the news that municipal party Vision Vancouver‘s Twitter following (along with Mayor Gregor Robertson‘s) had ballooned overnight, and that most of those followers were fake. What should have been a non-story wasn’t, because politics and municipal election in November.

I weighed in, and I hope helped to clear this up a little. Here are my comments, collected in one handy bundle.

It wasn’t that long ago that news media and political opponents alike would run breathless stories about how some pol’s website was just four clicks away from pornography! Fortunately, something like that wouldn’t make headlines these days, because we’re a lot smarter about how the Internet works.

Which means there may be one bright side to this. Today the #vanpoli world got a crash course in the exciting world of fake followers. Maybe it’ll leave us all a lot less prone to using follower counts as any metric of social media influence or success.

Tweet your darlingsHaving reviewed my posts over the last several years, I’ve realized that they’re almost entirely made up of darlings. In fact, if you check the source code, you’ll see I make liberal use of the little-known <darling> tag.

(By the way, a lot of folks attribute this quotation to William Faulkner. But the evidence indicates it actually originated with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. And while we’re at it, Gandhi probably never said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” )


Life Cycle of a Dumb Tweet


For whatever reason – not enough food with the wine at dinner, a coup d’état in the brain where the amygdala seizes control, or just a moment of weakness – someone in a position of prominence and authority posts a Dumb Tweet.
man chuckling as he types Continue reading

Five ways sharing links can build relationships instead of breaking faith

Suppose you read a tweet or a Facebook update: an urgent message about something truly vile that a public figure has said. Outraged, you click through… and discover that, actually, what they said is far milder.

Or you click the “About us” link on an organization’s web site… and you’re taken to a rambling, vague philosophical essay. Or you search online on three keywords, click a promising result, and discover the page has nothing, nothing to do with your search terms. Or you tap a link to “Read more” on a mobile web page, and a 30-megabyte PDF begins to download slow-w-w-ly onto your smartphone, sucking the life out of your data plan.

Been there? Me, too — all in the past week — and it left me fuming.

What happened in every case wasn’t just a little wasted time, or a frustrated search, or a dent in my data plan. What happened was a little tiny betrayal.

Because a link isn’t just an URL or a little HTML code. A link is a promise.

On a web page, it’s a promise that if you click or tap here, you’ll go to the page, document or resource that the text inside the anchor tag describes. In a Twitter feed or on a Facebook page, it’s a promise that this link will be worth your while – that it was worth sharing because it’s worth reading.

Breaking that promise means breaking faith with readers and visitors. And the ways people do just that are depressingly numerous:

  • Letdowns: Site navigation that leads to “Coming soon!” pages.
  • Surprise downloads: Links that lead without warning to Word documents, PowerPoint files and anything else that doesn’t load seamlessly in a user’s browser.
  • Hype: Claims that the content at the other end of the link is far more controversial, significant, useful, factual or hi-LAR-ious than it really is.
  • Lockouts: Links to walled gardens that many users won’t be able to enter: paywall-protected news stories, for instance, or any service that requires you to create an account to see the content.
  • Lies: Outright deception about what’s at the other end. (No matter what the motivation is – whether it’s rickrolling, black-hat SEO tactics or something else – you’re making a withdrawal from your trustworthiness account.)

The result? Some pretty upset people:

  • Working links: The web is a living thing, which means bits of it die sometimes – bits you may have linked to. From time to time, give your site a check for broken links. (Looking through your analytics for common 404 errors is a start.)
  • Unvarnished truth: Sharing your honest excitement along with the link? Great. Puffing up mediocre content as life-shatteringly awesome? Less so.
  • Due diligence: Twitter and Facebook make it awfully easy to repost someone’s link if they’ve made it sound appealing. But have a look first – so you know what you’re sharing when you pass a link along.
  • Sharing links can do a lot of good for you and your audiences. Just remember that when you share content, it reflects on your reputation – for better or worse.

    You, in the back. Stop looking at me and start tweeting.

    Jeff Hurt reports on a study that suggests tweeting during a class isn’t distracting – it actually increases engagement:

    Education Professor Christine Greenhow, Michigan State University, conducted a study on Twitter as a new form of literacy. Her results showed that adults who tweet during a class and as part of the instruction:

    • are more engaged with the course content
    • are more engaged with the instructor
    • are more engaged with other students
    • and have higher grades than the other students.

    via Now Proven! Using Twitter At Conferences Increases Attendee Engagement.

    So the next time you look up from your speaking notes into a sea of heads bent over laptops, tablets and mobile devices, don’t despair – as long as they’re tweeting and not, say, checking their email, your audience may be more engaged with you than ever.

    Filed under: Social Speech, Speaking Tagged: backchannel, twitter

    How right-sized graphics can lend a whole new dimension to your online appearance

    Most organizations would never send their leaders to a news conference in pizza-stained sweatpants and a moth-eaten Planet Hollywood t-shirt. But a startling number of them do the digital equivalent.

    They stretch low-resolution logos and graphics to serve as cover images. They shovel photos online without noticing that the call to action is getting cropped out. Use intricate, complex images as pinkie-nail-sized profile photos.

    The result is a blotchy, pixelated, distorted, unreadable mess.

    If you’re swallowing hard as you read this, and recognizing your own organization in these words, take heart. Because even if you aren’t a graphic designer, there’s a simple way to take a huge step toward a better first impression.

    And that’s to learn the pixel dimensions that your social platform uses… and then stick to them when you create your graphics.

    Do that, and your profile photo will suddenly look crisper and cleaner; your logo will be recognizable; your infographics will still contain all their info.

    These tips and resources can help:

    • When you’re creating graphics for the web, set your app’s measurement unit to pixels instead of inches, picas or centimetres (which don’t mean a lot when you’re dealing with screen measurements).
    • Always preview your graphics at their actual size (also known as 100%) before uploading them.
    • Don’t keep hunting down the same specs over and over again. There are some lovely folks who’ve done that work for you and shared it online:
    • Store that information where you can get it when you need it. Scroll past Dan’s infographic, and you’ll find a table with all the values listed as text. I’ve copied that table into Evernote, and now it’s at my fingertips when I need it. (That feels especially clever when I have Photoshop open on my laptop and Dan’s table open on my tablet.)
    • Can’t find the specs for a particular image? You can measure it yourself.
      • Install a browser extension that gives you an on-screen ruler (such as MeasureIt for Firefox for and Tape for Chrome).
      • Or if you have a little HTML and CSS knowledge, right-click on the image and choose Inspect Element (or your browser’s equivalent).
    • The good folks who build platforms like Facebook and Twitter often change their interfaces, and that means changing image dimensions, too. So when an update comes out (like those banner images everyone’s been introducing over the last year or so), check to see if you need to rebuild your images – or create a whole new one.

    Let’s be clear: how you look on a social platform like Facebook and Twitter isn’t nearly as important as what you do.

    But as with the rest of life, a little attention to your appearance often makes a big difference. First impressions matter: looking crisp and professional can get you through the front door of people’s attention, and allow the conversations to happen that lead to deeper engagement.