Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best Social Media Week Ever

Last week, Black Sheep was on quite a roll with social media events.

On Tuesday Aimee began her Twitter training classes for restaurateurs, and it was a big success! She met face-to-face with several Twitter newbies at Dessert Gallery (thanks, Sarah!) and discussed the ins and outs of social media’s hottest platform. From how to start an account, to different ideas for content and how to promote without being salesy, all the basics were covered. We hope the class was effective for all those in attendance, but we learned a few things ourselves in the process. Our “students” asked some good questions!

For instance:

What are the best Twitter apps for Blackberry? Admittedly, we’ve focused on using an iPhone, so this was something we definitely needed to explore. We’ve discovered that TweetGenius and UberTwitter are a couple Blackberry TweetDeck alternatives, so check them out and let us know what you think. Also, the blog CrackBerry is an awesome resource for up-to-date coverage of apps and secrets for your phone.

How do I elect to follow someone from my phone? Another good one. There are few short-cut text commands to know – just send them to 40404. Example: to follow @shearcreativity from your phone, text follow shearcreativity. You can also text get shearcreativity to view the most recent update and or simply on to turn phone updates on.

How do I add the Twitter widget or button to my blog? On your home page, scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the word Goodies. Click on that and it will automatically give you the necessary code to insert a button or widget into your blog or website’s html code. Copy and paste, and you’ll be good to go!

In addition to our class, we also had a resounding success with our Social Media Shin-Dig at Yelapa. Thank you to everyone who came out partied WAY too long and to the AMAZING folks at Yelapa for helping coordinate a fantastic event. These get-togethers are definitely going to become a recurring feature on our calendar. What’s even better, though, is that it totally proved the power of Twitter. We met so many people we felt like we knew since childhood but had never spoken to IN REAL LIFE, and it made our network that much tighter. Twitter doesn’t have to be an anonymous marketing tool – it has the potential to create meaningful relationships and unite people that we would have otherwise never met. We live in the 4th largest city in the country – we can use all the help we can get!

But you know what would make this week even better? If all of you would vote for Aimee for the Shorty Awards
she definitely deserves it for paving the way with her social media savvy, so PLEASE give her the props she deserves. Now.

If you missed out on our events this week, don’t worry! This is only the beginning! To get regular updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing the wrong way is sometimes right.

In blogging, copywriting and just about any other medium of writing besides research papers, the most magnetic prose are not always the most correct. Captivating, readable writing depends on a conversational tone, a penchant for irony and a relaxed attitude – not necessarily avoiding sentences that end in prepositions. In school we learned so many rules to follow, and we shouldn’t ignore them. But to be better writers, we have to know how to appropriately break them. So get ready for detention because we’re going to share our secrets for bold writing… The Elements of [Rebellious] Style.

Punctuation. When you have something to say, punctuation can be one of the best ways to show inflection. We’ve often been told to avoid overusing exclamation marks, and in most cases that’s true. However, using them IRONICALLY can be funny. Think of it as being excessively dramatic for comic effect or using a funny voice when you’re speaking out loud. Punctuation can also help you pause (using an ellipses…) so your readers will hear the words as though they were intended. When you write, establish a voice and let the punctuation follow suit. EXCEPTION: Under no circumstances should you EVER end a sentence with more than one exclamation, especially if it is on a billboard or another printed piece. Blogs are a little more relaxed, but again this should only be practiced ironically.

Spelling. You should never misspell a word in a stupid way. Ever. It only makes YOU look stupid. But, sometimes manipulating words can give them more emphasis. For instance, if you were trying to convey a different accent, a drawn-out WHHAAAT? or an unusual pronunciation. TIP: Capitalizing the entire word can help with this practice too. Just please, use spellcheck on everything else. Please.
Paragraphs. You remember the rule – a paragraph should have 3-5 sentences… a main idea sentence followed by supporting sentences. That’s great for standardized tests in fourth grade, but it’s not the way you should be writing.

Break things up.

Again, this allows you to emphasize points and it keeps your readers engaged. Visually writing says to your audience, “This guy planned what he was going to say in a clever way.” And it makes your copy look less daunting. So don’t be afraid to have a lone sentence or even a lone word out there. If it’s intentional, then it’s driving home a message.

And that brings us to our last rule you should be breaking.

Write in complete sentences. You don’t speak in them, so why have to write in them? You don’t. Short one or two-word sentences can be very powerful when used correctly. Just because you’re lacking a complete subject or predicate doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to a thought or idea in a way that gets attention.

So go ahead. Break rules but be smart about it. Your writing will improve and your readership with flourish. And, if you’re interested in books that expound upon how to be a sassy writer, we recommend Spunk & Bite by Arthur Plotnik and Here’s the Kicker by Mike Saks. They’re funny too!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Once upon a time in India

[In this series of posts, Leader of the Flock Aimee Woodall recounts her two-week trip to India and the lessons she learned along the way.]

We drove for hours and saw nothing but sad little villages and scrawny dogs against a dreary, provincial landscape. It was worse than a Sarah McGloughlin commercial.

And then, out of nowhere, it appeared. The Taj Mahal. It’s so astounding to see the only word I can think to describe it is… Taj Mahalian. I guess it’s one of the eight wonders of the world for a reason, right? 
We didn’t use many guides on the trip because I’m not the touristy type, but I’m glad we decided to this time. The structure is one of the most beautiful, captivating and giant things I’ve ever seen.

But the story behind it is even better.

The Taj is actually a mausoleum built by several architects, but commissioned by a guy named Shah Jahan who was also an emperor during the 1600s. So Shah Jahan was married to his third wife and she gave birth to their fourteenth son, but things didn’t go well. Before dying she asked the emperor to make four promises: 1. Build the Taj, 2. Marry again, 3. Be kind to their children, and 4. Visit her tomb on the anniversary of her death annually. Our guide pointed out that he only did the first two.

So he builds the Taj, and it’s quite a strenuous affair… lots of death and corruption and all of that. But that’s beside the point because he was truly passionate about creating a site that matched his eternal, undying love for his wife. Throughout the tour our guide frequently noted special motifs and designs that symbolized this infatuation. Even the white marble, which changes colors in different lighting, is meant to represent the fluctuating moods of women throughout the day. Whatever that means.

Then, once that was built, the emperor wanted to build a matching one for himself (in BLACK! woot woot!) on the other side of the river so that they could always be facing each other, which is pretty sweet. What’s not sweet is that his son killed him before he could do it. Bummer.

If you take away the madness and murder, you get a lovely, romantic story that’s pretty inspiring.

But if you take away the story, it’s kind of just another building. It’s pretty, but it’s a building.
And that got me thinking. Something so great is just so much greater if it’s got a story behind it… something passionate and entertaining that gives it a real personality. And I think the same could be said for a great campaign.

For your next campaign, consider creating something that represents your company or service. A character or maybe several and the world they live in… a world that revolves around whatever it is you’re selling. It makes it memorable, fun and more than just another ad in a magazine.

Black Sheep has used this strategy for numerous clients… PFS Group has rapper Dr. Paid (and several fabricated magazine articles and albums), Gugliani’s has the Gugliani family, and The Drinkery has a group of “regulars” that we think might have set the wheels in motion for Jersey Shore. And some of the best national campaigns do it too – Jack in the Box, Geico and if you want to go vintage, RCA’s famous dog campaign. It’s all about connecting emotionally with your audience and creating memories.

And if that guide was making that story up, I don’t want to know, because to me the Taj Mahal is sort of a real life fairy tale. Minus the creepy ending.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the stories about my trip – and learned something too! Share your travels and adventures with Black Sheep… we’re always looking for a new place to explore.

Over and out,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Go Boldly Where No Sheep Has Gone Before: Adventures in India Part 2

[In this series of blog posts, Leader of the Flock Aimee Woodall recounts her two-week trip to India and the lessons she learned along the way.]

Before I left for my trip, I was frequently asked, “Why are you going to INDIA?” My usual response was something along the lines of “Because I’ve always wanted to,” which never seemed to satisfy the skeptics. But that’s the truth. I’ve been many places in this world and stretched my comfort zone, and I wanted to do a little bit more.

And when I got there I took it another step forward.

When clerks in the market put their feet down and insisted it was their final offer, I gave them MY final offer. And I came home with four amazing Indian tops for less than 8 dollars.

When I was repeatedly told, “Don’t hug that camel,” I did it anyway. And it didn’t bite me. (Perhaps, little man, the camel just doesn’t like YOU.)

When they firmly stated, “Don’t touch the monkey,” OF COURSE, I was going to touch it. And hold its hand. And dance with it in the street.

In case you haven’t noticed, I dance to my own tune on a regular basis… monkey or no monkey… and my life is better for it.

But even for someone like me who consistently pushes the envelope, India was inspiring. The people, the buildings, the culture… heck even the incessant honking in traffic encourages bold attitudes and vibrant mindsets.  It’s pretty safe to say that in a place that houses the Taj Mahal, it pays to “go big or go home.”
Bedazzled, brightly colored clothing. Spicy foods. Loud voices. Flying kites. Elephants. These things resonated with me and confirmed my belief that we should all strive to get noticed by amplifying our assets and taking risks. Clients, I’m talking to you.

Doing things beyond what we know and trust can be scary, but it’s TOTALLY worth it. I came out of what could have been an uncomfortable situation, spending two weeks half a world away in a country whose language I don’t speak, with more confidence than before. And you can do the same with your business.

Today, it’s almost the New Year. So try something you haven’t before. If you find yourself saying “We’ve done it this way for 15 years…” I urge you to reconsider. If you think your image is should be “corporate” and follow the formula of those before you, think again. If you’re more comfortable doing something because it’s conservative, don’t do it. In marketing, the goal is to make your business memorable, and to do that, it’s going to take some pizzazz, some sparkle… and maybe an elephant. The results could be HUGE.

Happy New Year, everyone!