Avoiding Social Media Indecision

SMUGgle Maddie Grant, the formerly reluctant blogger, makes a good point when she (after her obligatory allusion to my awesomeness) says I made her want to tear her hair out with the Social Media 110 course.

She’s absolutely right: you don’t need seven ways to shrink your URLs. It only takes one. Pick one that works for you and use it. Social Media 110 probably should have been a 200-level course; as you’re starting with social media, it’s not essential that you understand all the different ways you can shrink your URLs.

This reminds me of a story, which I believe was in Made to Stick, about a study of college students and their choices. When given a choice between studying and going to a movie, something like 30 percent chose studying. But if the choice was between studying, the movie and another event (some kind of interesting lecture or presentation), the number of people who chose to study actually increased. More choices made it harder for the students to decide which of the fun things to do, so they were more likely to default to studying.

I hope giving you seven ways to shrink URLs doesn’t likewise create indecision for you, or overwhelm you with options. You surely don’t need to try them all. I like SnipURL because it has a browser bookmarklet that makes posting items to Twitter really easy. So if you’re looking for a recommendation, that would probably be mine.

But any of these services are fine. The main point is to just start using one of them.

That’s also another reason why I do all my posts about blogging with reference to the WordPress platform. Blogger and Typepad are fine, and if you like them, use them. I had visiting professors review them as part of the blogging curriculum.

But my main goal with SMUG is to help people get engaged in social media, using state-of-the-art tools, so I just picked the one blogging platfrom I think is best and most powerful. And I want to be able to go deeper with one platform, instead of saying “This is how you do it on WordPress, but you can do the same thing on Blogger by… and on TypePad by….” I just don’t have the time or inclination to do the same thing three different ways. And I surely won’t be shrinking my URLs seven different ways.

Choosing your blogging platform is a lot more consequential than deciding which URL shrinker to employ, because you could change the latter every day (not that you should) without really affecting anything, but it’s harder to make a switch once you’ve decided on a platform for your blog.

Meanwhile, Maddie’s post gives me further impetus to provide some recommendations on a few steps everyone should be taking — sort of an updated, “new-and-improved for 2009” version of Social Media 101. Instead of 12 steps I will probably have five or six that I would call “must-dos.”

In doing so, I hope to help you avoid the indecision that leads to procrastination, and give you concrete steps that will be fruitful for you personally and professionally.

It’s a balancing act in which the inclination toward research as befits a global university (and one that is nearing the one-year anniversary of its formal establishment!) is in tension with the desire to make things straightforward and simple for beginning SMUGgles. Thanks to Maddie, I’ll try to be more clear when I’m exploring a range of options as a research project, and that I’m not recommending that everyone go forth and do likewise.

Book Review: Made to Stick

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, is the best book I haven’t read.

It would be the best book on communication I have read; if I had read it. I listened to the Audible audiobook version instead.

From the urban legends about the business traveler being drugged and one of his kidneys harvested and razor blades in Halloween apples, to JFK’s moon mission challenge, to successful campaigns against teen smoking, movie theater popcorn and Texas litterbugs, Made to Stick is rich with examples that illustrate, as their subtitle say, “why some ideas survive and others die.”

The author brothers identify the main problem people have in communication as “The Curse of Knowledge.” Typically when we are making a presentation, for example, we are speaking about something we have studied extensively and consequently know well. The Curse of Knowledge is that we can’t remember what it was like to not understand. We forget the listener or reader.

Made to Stick: The Essence of SUCCESS

The antidote to The Curse of Knowledge involves shaping your ideas and your presentation of them according to a checklist that (almost) spells SUCCESS. Sticky ideas, the Heaths say, tend to have many of these traits:

Simplicity – Be relentless in boiling down to the core of the idea. As the authors quote a defense lawyer, “If you make 10 points in your closing arguments, the jury won’t remember any of them.” Make one main point. Extra material isn’t just superfluous; it’s harmful. Maybe Conrad Black’s legal team should have taken this advice.

Unexpectedness – Surprises, like Jared Fogle losing more than 200 pounds by eating at Subway, or one serving of theater popcorn having more saturated fats than a full day of unhealthy diet, get attention and get people talking.
Concreteness – don’t use vague phrases like “maximizing shareholder value” because these aren’t guides to action. The more concrete you are, the sure you can be everyone is understanding. And concrete details, especially in storytelling, contribute to credibility.

Credibility – sometimes this comes from authority, and sometimes from anti-authority, like a lifelong smoker telling her story of getting emphysema in her 20s. Some of the most powerful credibility comes from the audience, as they experience and interact with the idea.

Emotion – Involving people at an emotional rather than an intellectual or rational level increases memorability. That’s why international relief charities ask you to adopt a particular child instead of giving to a big pool.

Storytelling – Instead of reams of statistics, boil the essence of the idea into a story. Or better yet, be on the lookout for a story that makes the point. That’s what happened when a Subway manager noticed Jared’s weight loss.
I hope this review encourages you to check out Made to Stick for yourself. As the authors’ web site says:

Made to Stick is a book that will transform the way you communicate ideas. It’s a fast-paced tour of idea success stories (and failures)—the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who drank a glass of bacteria to prove a point about stomach ulcers; the charities who make use of the Mother Teresa Effect; the elementary-school teacher’s simulation that actually prevented prejudice . Provocative, eye-opening, and funny, Made to Stick shows us the principles of successful ideas at work—and how we can apply these rules to making our own messages “stick.”

Check out the Made to Stick blog, too. It has an interesting post relating to medical school teaching that demonstrates how presentations can be tailored to be more sticky.