In Search of an Online Platform?

Social media on the internet is rapidly devolving from Speakers Corner to the Tower of Babel to individuals howling in the digital wilderness.

Why is nobody listening?

With X (Twitter) rotting from the top down, most people fond of communicating via pithy snippets have migrated to Meta’s Threads, Bluesky Social, and the aggregation of Mastodon servers. Or maybe CounterSocial. (Remember the hacktivist app CounterSocial? I don’t, but apparently I have an account there. Sigh.)

Is Microsoft-owned LinkedIn filling the online-conversation need for you?

Those of us who write at mid-length now have a choice of drowning in Facebook’s recent onslaught of repetitive ads (mine are for sweaters and Japanese snacks) while reading about our high school friends’ family vacations or reviving our moribund accounts on Tumblr, Medium, and Substack. We can take payments, or ask for tips via Ko-fi.

And, of course, there’s always Patreon where we can harness ourselves to a schedule of content production for a small-but-loyal paying audiencee—and end up spending half of our posts apologizing for not meeting that schedule. Talk about a self-induced guilt trip.

FROM THE Audience Viewpoint

If none of this sounds appealing to you as a content creator, I’ll point out that this fragmented array of platforms is even less appealing to readers. It used to be that if someone stopped following social media, they missed out on a shared experience, be it Twitter or Facebook. And the community missed them. Now…no one notices.

I’m sure that one or two of these platforms or communities make it easy to browse, find, read, and pay for interesting content. But platforms fall in and out of favor pretty quickly (often because they’ve changed their rules—see: Twitter). This does not motivate me, as a writer, to invest time and energy in one. And I certainly don’t have the time to check in on each of them every day to read what’s been posted by friends. I’m a follower, but usually a ghostly one.

It would be wonderful to have some kind of aggregator for all these sites, the way we used to have blogging aggregators (remember RSS feeds?). But if you look at the current aggregator software, it’s commercial stuff aimed at business clients who want to use it aggregate (often to rip off) other commercially produced content and offer it under their own banners. I haven’t found software that lets you aggregate content posted by individual creators who publishing via Automattic’s WordPress and Tumblr, Square’s Weebly, Google’s venerable, SquareSpace, Medium, and Substack. I doubt very much if such a thing would be commercially viable. (And if I type the word “commercial” one more time here, I’m going to gag.)

Bottom line: Reading social media content is not much fun these days. Particularly the bizarre posts generated by AIs, which seem to have a serious problem with gender-pronoun consistency.

Back to the Blog

As for writing, at this point I’m joining the personal blogging revival, going back to my own WordPress blogging here. You’ll notice that most of the affiliate-marketing bloggers have jumped over to visual platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and (to my surprise) Pinterest. That leaves blogging to the writers. So I guess we should get to it.

If any of the platforms mentioned above are providing a rich and comprehensive social media experience (for writers to connect with readers and readers to connect with writers), please leave a comment. What platform is meeting your needs, and why? And if you have a lot of neglected social media accounts out there, ‘fess up—and tell us why that happened. I’m here, and I’m listening.

How (and why) to write while furious

How can I write about marketing communications topics when I’m shaking with anger and shame about the political situation in this country? Joe Hage helps me figure things out.

I haven’t been blogging much. How can I write about marketing communications topics when I’m shaking with anger and shame about the political situation in this country?

But marketing communications guru Joe Hage has kept going. He’s been using a weekly email to communicate to his readership (medical device marketers). On Wednesday morning, Joe lowered the boom.

His blunt and courageous email begins:

“I’m angry. I hate him so much. You know who I’m talking about.”

Joe goes on to talk about the flood of information we face every day from highly curated news and marketing streams. We feel as though we’re in a deluge of information that’s deep and fast-running — but it turns out that it’s also deceptively narrow.

As Joe points out, many of us (unless we listen extensively to National Public Radio), have never read or heard about the civil war raging in Nicaragua. Joe didn’t know much about that war, either, until his video editor, who lives in a Nicaraguan city, witnessed a march of soldiers in the street outside her house. They left the dead body of a child in the street as a warning to anyone who might consider opposing them or aiding the opposition.

What does war in Nicaragua mean for someone like me — or you — whose business is all about trying to communicate to readers, donors, or customers? Joe tells his medical device industry colleagues:

“If a civil war in Central America doesn’t even hit our radar, can you imagine how many messages the average citizen is getting per day?”

“Your messaging is not competing with other medical device videos, images, and words. You are competing with every possible stimulus out there.”

In a communications environment like this, Joe asks, “what hope do any of us have in breaking through?”

His answer is that by writing as a real person, he is breaking through. He is engaging. His thousands of readers did read him yesterday morning (even if some of them were hitting “unsubscribe” and grabbing for their blood pressure medication).

My take-away from Joe’s out-of-the-box email? There are a lot of ways to engage people and get them to pay attention.

One of them is to threaten them (dropping dead bodies in the street, for example). Another is to inundate them with the same message, over and over again, drowning out fact and complexity with emotion and oversimplification (our news and marketing feeds). And, yes, a third way is for communicators to be real in their communications. Genuine, heartfelt communication stands out because so few of us do it, or hear it, in our professional roles.

It’s sad that being real, and honest, and thoughtful is “just not done” in the field of business communication. We have tens of thousands of well-dressed, well-educated people marching each day into beautifully decorated, air-conditioned workplaces, attending meetings about product marketing, advertising, and communications strategy, sitting down at their expensive keyboards to devise “messaging” — while inside most of them are all thinking about what’s real: That we live in a country that snatches immigrants out of their homes, separates children from immigrant parents, and puts immigrant families in prisons. Indefinitely.

Now let’s take a look at that PowerPoint, shall we?

(For more information on who Immigration and Customs Enforcement is arresting, why, and how, see this document from the Immigrant Defense Project.)


Dancing with your audience — thoughts on social media

Social media in 2015 has moved beyond story telling to become an interactive public performance with a variety of audiences.

Last night I spoke about social media to the folks in the PR Certificate Program at the University of Washington. This is the 7th year I’ve done a presentation for them, and it never fails to astonish me how much the field of social media changes from year to year.

(This year’s presentation: Dancing with your Audience – UW – 2015)

The options for social media have become so complex, the tools for managing a social media program so sophisticated, and the demands on communicators so great, that it’s difficult to cover it all.

picture of dancers

From talking with the students, many of whom are already working the field, I came away with the impression that organizations are overwhelmed. While companies realize that it’s now essential to have a social media plan and a social media program, they are vastly underestimating the resources required to execute even a basic social media program. (They are also overestimating what social media programs can accomplish, often regarding them as a magic solution to problems rooted in inadequate branding or poor customer service — but that’s another story.)

Organizations that are doing a good basic job of communication (branding, publications, website, etc.) are well positioned to undertake social media work. But if they don’t allocate the resources required to listen as well as talk, they’re headed for big trouble. Companies that fail to monitor and follow up not just on comments but on mentions are both losing opportunities and risking possible disaster. It used to be enough to moderate and answer comments on blogs. Today follow up involves tracking your company, your products, your field, your partners, and your competitors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, Ello, Google+ and on and on and on.

It’s hard to imagine an effective social media program being administered by fewer than two full-time employees; large organizations that work directly with the public need correspondingly large teams.

I urged the students, some of whom are tasked with designing and managing social media programs, to ruthlessly focus their efforts on key audiences, suitable platforms, easy-to-use tools (including video), and significant messages.

And to think: seven years ago it was all about blogging and keywords.

For social media, Facebook has the numbers

Pew Internet reports that Facebook is far and away the most popular social media site for adults.

Publicize blog to social media graphicIt’s cold and lonely on the cutting edge. But some people like to be there. Like my hip friend who sniffed that “nobody cool uses Facebook any more.” (Shades of Yogi Berra’s “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”)

Cool be damned.

The latest report from Pew Internet shows that as of September 2013, 71 percent of online adults use Facebook. Compare that to adult use of other social networking platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram), which Pew says hovers between 17 and 22 percent.

So we would like to focus our social media marketing efforts…where?

Actually, you can easily cover all the bases — Facebook and many more— by blogging your message. Then use your blogging software’s Publicize feature to send a linked excerpt of the blog post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. Metrics software such as StatCounter, Google Analytics, or a built-in statistics program like the one in WordPress will tell you which social media platform brings the most click-throughs to your original content.

Just curious — did you come to this post from one of those platforms?

Theft by headline — and the $6 mouse that roared

Illustrations have become increasingly important as people find blog content through image-friendly links on Facebook or online periodicals like Seattle Women Daily.

It’s ironic that today’s issue of Kathy Gill’s Seattle Women Daily leads off with a story about importance of great headline writing. That story (a blog post by Nick O’Neill) explains how a New York Times’ article with a run-of-the-mill headline was ignored while the Forbes summary of the same story garnered 680,000 page views. The difference, notes O’Neill, was that the Forbes headline writer “cut out the crap and got to the real shocker of the story.” (You’ll have to read O’Neill’s post to see how that was done.)

The irony was that the same issue of Seattle Women Daily also has a story I wrote, reporting on another site’s reporting of a subscribers-only Nature article about a breakthrough discovery of the mechanism by which exercise may increase longevity. What distinguished my summary from the pack, and won it a place leading the Health section, was not the headline I wrote, but the photo I used —  of a lab mouse who appears to be doing yoga.

The $6 iStock yoga mouse

I’m a firm believer in the value of photos for enhancing the readability and linkability of a blog post. Illustrations have become increasingly important as people find blog content less through search engines or news readers and more through image-friendly links on Facebook or online periodicals like Seattle Women Daily.

This low-res mouse photo, from iStock, was more expensive than the usual photos I buy to illustrate my blog posts — $6 instead of $2. But, oh, so totally worth it!

What’s next for tech blogging?

Look for YouTube channels to replace blogs, and for successful bloggers to offer how-tos and paid content (my contribution to the predictions for tech blogging started by Jeremiah Owyang).

In End of an Era: The Golden Age of Tech Blogging is Over, Jeremiah Owyang pinpoints the four trends that signal a shift in blogs that cover electronics technology and the tech industry:

  • Indie tech blogs acquired by corporate media
  • Key tech bloggers exiting from major tech blogging sites
  • Audiences wooed away by channels with shorter, faster, messages: Twitter, Facebook, Google+
  • Fewer tech bloggers making a living via blogging alone

My own predictions for 2012:

  • Corporate-owned tech blogs will increasingly adopt the tools of business blogging (better keywording and other SEO elements).
  • It will be increasingly difficult for new tech blogs, even those by well-known individuals, to gain traction — especially if they focus on offering opinions rather than tools or information.
  • Some new influencers will rise to the top using YouTube channels (in conjunction with Facebook and Twitter) rather than blogs. (Check out what Chris Pirillo has been up to recently.)
  • Successful blogs will feature online education (how-tos), including video; they may offer click-throughs to inexpensive ($1 – 5) paid content modules — from online quizzes to ebooks — that expand on the blog posts.

May 18: Ignite Seattle inspires

There are only three excuses for not keeping up with your blog. They are:

  1. You’re dead
  2. You’re working
  3. You’re working yourself to death

Let’s just say I’m not dead. Movin’ right along…

May 18 is the next Ignite Seattle at the King Cat Theater downtown (7 p.m. start time). The list of 5-minute Ignite-format talks is shorter than usual, but there’s a promise that something wonderful and “science fiction related” will follow the talks at the end of the evening. And these folks keep their promises.

I can’t say enough about Ignite Seattle. The talks not only enlighten and amuse, but inspire members of the audience to put together presentations and share their own insights at the next Ignite.

What could be better?

See you there.

A few notes on social media

Karen Anderson’s presentation on social media for the Public Relations Writing class at the University of Washington.

This evening I had a wonderful time giving a presentation on social media for the Public Relations Writing class at the University of Washington.

This is the Keynote slide presentation and here are some additional notes:

What the rise of “social media” means for PR

New PR tools (includes list of suggested online reading and sites to follow)

How to “power up” a PR blog

A few words about WordPress

I know quite a few bloggers who are thinking of switching over to WordPress. My advice is: Do it.

After listening to Andru Edwards of GearLive Media making gentle fun of people whose blogs are hosted on their blogging software sites (“”) I took the plunge and got a WordPress blog. (This one.)

I like it.

But I soon discovered that a lot of the cool things you can do with WordPress, such as running ads, are for blogs that are self hosted. My blog is hosted on, and they don’t allow ads (except for on special VIP accounts for blogs “on par with the Wall Street Journal.”)

If you have a web hosting service you trust (and I do) getting your blog moved over or set up on that outside host is easy. But once you’ve moved it, you are now responsible for updating your version of WordPress yourself. (If you’re hosted at, they do it automatically.) And, if you want to install a new WordPress theme, or simply change a template image, you’ll be on your own. That means dealing with FTP uploads or using some host’s arcane, proprietary file manager software to rummage around in a server hierarchy. ( provides an easy interface for these.)

Maintaining your own software is not a big deal? Don’t be so sure. Just about every small company I’ve assisted with blogging has a message on their WordPress admin panel saying that their WordPress software needs to be updated. And they never seem to know how to get it updated. (In one instance, the software was so woefully out of date that I attempted to figure out how to get it updated for them. And ended up utterly baffled.)

ataI’ve just assisted a client in setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog, and in this case was asked to select and install a theme. (“Just make it happen!”)

Writer Way uses a particularly user-friendly theme (PressRow, by Chris Pearson) and I’d found it a breeze to customize. Turns out that not all WordPress themes are so simple to handle. The theme I selected for my client was Atahualpa (by Bytes for All). It’s named after the last Incan emperor of Peru. My experience was, shall we say, an exotic adventure.

Atahualpa turns out to be supremely configurable, with so many complex options that my head began to swim. The code might as well have been written in Quecha, for all I could understand it.

The client was in a hurry, and I was in over my head. But, somehow, I got a customized header image installed (thank you, iStock) and disabled the default floral images (so not my client’s style!).

The final product? Gorgeous.

I know quite a few bloggers who are thinking of switching over to WordPress. My advice is: Do it.

But host the site on a server where you can get a fair amount of hand-holding in terms of setup and updates — this is definitely the time to go with a small, local web hosting service instead of And spend some time evaluating WordPress templates before you select one: you’ll be getting to know it very, very well.

Gotta go. I think they just released a new version of Atahualpa.

New FTC blogger-disclosure requirements

The vast majority of bloggers have no involvement in payola schemes, but often find themselves in situations where they could be accused of it.

The Internet Patrol has a detailed explanation of the new Federal Trade Commission rules affecting bloggers who write product reviews or endorsements. The bottom line:

“If you talk about a product or service, and if you put it out on or via the Internet, and if you stand to gain on it, you’d better disclose that relationship.”

I’m not a fan of the rules, but I certainly don’t intend to run afoul of them. They are designed to clamp down on bloggers whose positive comments about a company’s product or service result from undisclosed payments from that company.

But I continue to be puzzled by why the government, which has allowed mortgage con artists to rip off consumers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, is so excited about protecting web users from inflated reviews of electronic gadgets and resort hotels. My objections:

1. It’s fairly easy to go online and find product reviews from reputable online sources or from sites like Amazon or TripAdvisor that allow unbiased customer comments. Having the FTC jump in to protect people who ignore those resources and instead make their purchasing decisions by reading Joe-the-Blogger is pure nannying.

2. Bloggers who give bad products or services good ratings will rapidly lose credibility, thereby scuttling their own reputations, popularity, and search rankings.

3. The vast majority of bloggers have no involvement in payola schemes, but often find themselves in situations where they could be accused of it. Try this scenario: I write a positive review of my hair stylist. A few months later, he sends a friend to me to have her website content written. That develops into a lucrative contract. If I don’t remember to go back to my blog post and update it with an explanation that he has sent business to me, I could be accused of getting a kick-back for my positive review of him. (FTC fine: up to $11,000.)

I think the online system polices itself. If the government wants to get into the consumer protection business, I’d suggest they do something about the company that sent me an official-looking letter yesterday telling me that my mortgage terms had changed and I needed to call them immediately.

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