140 Characters: a style guide for the short form

If you thought Twitter was a fad or a nuisance, let me disavow you of that notion – it is a pretty useful tool for both business and pleasure and it’s here to stay.

For one, I have had direct business solely from Tweets and found the most perfect iPhone app developer from a single Tweet – I think you will agree, that is a pretty useful use of a few seconds of my time.

By osmosis, I’ve learned how to make Twitter work for me and how not to get addicted to it. You would think there’s not too much to it – it’s only 140 characters after all – how hard can that be?

My old guitar teacher told me, “It’s not the notes but the gaps in between.”

Well my world has just been turned upside down and exploded this week after I downloaded the iPhone app version of 140 Characters: a Style Guide for the Short Form by Dom Sagolla – one of Twitter’s progenitors.

I was glued and read it in one sitting.

Not only is the book one of the best manuals you will ever find for using Twitter properly but Dom is one erudite and intelligent chap. His understanding of human language, semantics and communication is outstanding.

I so wish I will be able to write a book as intelligent as this one day.

The iPhone app version of the book is pretty neat as it is embedded with rich hypertext to take you right to the resource, people and example tweets that Dom refers to. You can even interact with the content which incidentally is updated regularly too.

The book is full of brilliant humour (or is that humor) too of how to and how not to Tweet. There are some real corkers and my Tweet stream might become a whole lot more interesting as a result of reading it.

Dom is one Twitter expert who really does know his stuff – he was there from the ground up and user number #009. Once you read this book you will be able to spot the real gurus from the fakes, also rans and wannabees.

His vocabulary is also amazing and I was reaching for my dictionary app more than once.

If you still don’t want to read the book, here’s a quote from the book to summarise its essence.

“Do fewer things better”

The book is a snip at only $4.99 for the iPhone but well worth the $12 or so if you want the print version.

Get the print version on Amazon here …

Get the iPhone app version here …

As a result of reading it, I for one am now not hanging about on my next book – it’s going to come out this year – in print and as an iPhone app in this form as I am inspired now more than ever to do fewer things even better ….

The anatomy of a click through

When we click on a link, we don’t give it a second thought – especially these days when we are presented with 100’s if not 1000’s of potential hyperlinks each day.

Links nowadays are not limited to those on web sites or in email newsletters. They abound in Twitter tweets and on Facebook Walls.

Knowing how and why people click on one link as opposed to another is of course of interest to the person who posted the link. Indeed understanding how we interact with any text is important for any writer.

Here’s a typical sequence of events:

1. About a second before we are consciously aware of anything, our right brain is continually filtering information before presenting it to our left brain for further processing and analysis. This is known as whole brain filtering.

2. To get past the gatekeeper of the right brain, which works holistically, we have to write content which matches patterns the right brain will light up to. Example might include:

  • Keywords – e.g. Video, ebook, iPad, your favourite football team/author/pop group
  • Rhymes
  • Fun & puns
  • Freebies
  • Double takes
  • e.g. If I had written Triple Take, the right brain would inform the left that there is something new it doesn’t understand that needs analysis

3. Once the left brain is presented the information, it analyses it further with criteria like – is it a con or a spam and is it something to deal with now or park for later? If the former, the motor commands to our arm and hand muscles to click on the link are issued.

4. When we then look at the destination page the whole process is repeated for the opening paragraph – or the image or first few seconds of the audio or video – and then so on for all subsequent content until we meet another link that we follow.

5. So our right brain analyses the whole and our left, the detail.

As for the Google search engine, both have to match otherwise our spam filter kicks in. For example, if we thought we were on a page containing a freebie but it becomes clear the point of the page is to sell you something, you will soon go elsewhere. Long sales pages try and subvert this process by beating the left brain into submission.

“OK,” it says, “I didn’t want to buy anything but it was $5000 and I can get it for only $20 today only.

“The overruled right brain screaming, “They saw you coming.”

6. For best results, the message needs to be completely congruent say from from initial Tweet, to blog title right through the body text to the final call to action.

7. If you have read this far, you will be approaching the call to action – yes, this blog is a soft selling page. Do you feel conned? I hope not as this blog contains some useful free information.

How to drive a VAN

As soon as there was more than one computer, the need to join them together in a network so they could communicate became necessary. The LAN – or Local Area Network – came along. If you think about it though, Local Area Networks, have existed for millennia.

Around the campfire, our ancestors would swap tales of where the best hunting grounds had been or boasted about their brave kill. This of course still happens in pubs up and down the land.

Over the last few thousand years, international travel has grown exponentially. Our human LAN’s became bigger and the Wide Area Network came about fostering international trade and collaboration. It was only natural that computer systems would want to talk across continents too – and the WAN arrived in the 60’s in the form of Arpanet, the progenitor of the Internet. Now we have social networks like Facebook and Twitter, our ability to have “pub conversations” instantly and internationally has well and truly arrived.

In a previous life about 10 years ago, I was Head of eBusiness at a company called Vanco. Vanco was short for the Value Added Network company and it added value by looking after business critical WAN’s, Wide Area Networks, for multinationals.

Today, now our networks have gone social but, if you want drive your network so it delivers what you want from it, adding value is the key.

The Value Added Network has arrived … and to learn drive your VAN both well and efficiently, you only have to learnĀ  just five C’s:

Generate value-added content. This means create new stuff or augment old stuff don’t just churn stuff out for SEO. Put retweets in context. Make sure you tweet less than 100 characters so others can do the same for you.

Make and forge new connections daily. It’s not about the number but the quality. Don’t be sucked in by ego-massaging scoring systems – they are mere baubles. The only measurement here is results.

Be creative in your content. When you connect people nodes on your network, make sure 1+1=3 or more and maintain Guanxi at all times.

Whatever you do, do it consistently. Be the authentic you not a copy or aspirant of someone else.

Push the boundaries. Do something different each day to add value to your connections. Learn a new fact or skill to extend your knowledge and capability.

Please add your thoughts and experiences here – if you can, make sure they start with C …