Why birthdays matter for business

small__6967029762Particularly with the advent of social media, people’s personal and business lives are coming closer and closer together. Birthday greetings are no longer restricted to friends and family; friendship and camaraderie go way beyond that now. It’s lovely, but it needs to be managed with courtesy and consideration.

I write this the day after my, er, 39th birthday (again) yesterday. I have been overwhelmed by literally hundreds of birthday messages on the social media, via email, text, plus dozens of hard-copy cards and more. I am truly humbled and feel I don’t deserve all this, but I sure as hell appreciate it.

Even on Google I was astounded to see, when I clicked on the search page, that it was wishing me Happy Birthday with some cute graphics. Really helped to make my day although of course I know it’s all about software, algorithms and number crunching with not a human being in sight.

So, I can hear you ask, what do these “happy birthday” messages mean when all people have to do is look on their Facebook home page to see whose birthdays it is on any particular day? Or their Google Plus page? And then type in a standard “happy birthday” message and move on to the next one?

People care: whether they’re business contacts or not

I know how I approach the daily Facebook list of birthdays. If it’s people I know well, I send them a “happy birthday” message with a word or two to personalize it. If it’s someone I only know via the social media and not face-to-face, it will just be a “happy birthday.”

Other social media platforms are taking up the birthday trend, like Google Plus for example – who cleverly provides you with a convenient list of people who have wished you Happy Birthday from your circles, communities, pages, etc.

Even to the most cynical among us, birthdays matter. Come on: they happen once in 365 days. If they didn’t matter there wouldn’t be a huge industry involved with selling birthday cards, gifts, cakes, party favors, balloons, etc. It’s annual celebration that’s all about YOU.

So how does celebrating birthdays matter to business?

No matter how much you may divide your personal life away from that of your business, if you have provided your date of birth to any online database – especially within the social media sphere – your birthday will get flagged up somewhere, somehow.

Some people who insist on remaining tightly private will avoid giving away this information. But let’s be honest here. If you’re looking someone up on, say, LinkedIn or Facebook and you find that they reveal absolutely nothing about their personal selves, even to their “friends,” what does that make you think? I don’t know about you, but I wonder why they give so little away about themselves. Are they trustworthy? Why are they refraining from giving away a bit of social information – after all, that’s the idea behind social media?

We’re not talking the Spanish Inquisition here. The social media don’t force you to give your age away unless you want to. All you have to reveal is the day and date. And this provides you and your SocMed contacts with a warm, friendly way of connecting and indirectly reinforcing your business relationship.

small_3274252858What should you say?

Well, certainly on Facebook and other platforms where you’re likely to get a number of birthday wishes, you need to thank every single person for their kind thoughts. I spent a lot time on the day thanking each and every one of these people individually – over 200 of them.

Others in my shoes might just have posted a universal message saying something like “hey, guys, thank you all for your lovely messages – much appreciated.” But think about it. If someone takes the trouble to wish you a Happy Birthday, surely you can find 10 seconds or so to thank them personally?

Let’s not be too commercial here, but…

Everyone says that building relationships whether online or offline is key to developing your business and social stability in our current times. They’re not wrong.

Quite apart from the main reason – good manners – why you should thank people for their kind wishes, if there is a business connection it’s important, too, that they realize you’re a polite and appreciative human being.

With business today being increasingly about building trust, respect and good relationships (and with those relationships becoming increasingly social), birthdays and the goodwill they generate matter more than ever.

Do you agree? Or not? Please share your views!

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family – from just $2.50

 

photo credit: DonkeyHotey via photopin cc
photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via photopin cc

How to add value (and traffic) to retweets and shares

Write longer comments and tweets to get better trafficIf you use social media a lot you’ll often find yourself sharing and retweeting not only your own posts, tweets and articles, but also other people’s. Sharing helps to spread the word – but there’s so much more mileage you can get with just a few extra words.

I have found this out by accident, really, by watching my visits / reads stats here on HTWB. Posts of my own that I share get significantly higher traffic if I write a short (in the case of Twitter, very short) piece to accompany the title and URL, than they do if I just share title and URL alone.

Again in the case of Twitter where realistically the limit is 120 characters max, often it’s better not to use the title, but instead write a “teaser” line that’s more personal and less direct than a title can be.

For example … my recent article Restaurant jargon: gastronomic terms demystified got a respectable number of visits from Twitter when I tweeted the title with the link. But when I tweeted You’ll never be able to read a menu and keep a straight face again the visits shot up by about 40 percent.

Sometimes there’s only room on Twitter  for you to insert a couple of words. But even that can spark extra interest in the tweet, among your followers. For example (my comments in caps)…

BBC News – Sweden: Wedding ring ‘found on carrot’ after 16 years // 24 CARROT GOLD?

Brains of rats connected allowing them to share information via internet // AH, SO WE HAVE THE RATNET NOW

Edinburgh Zoo Pandas Listen To Marvin Gaye’s Mood Music Before Hanky Panky // MARVIN GAYE? MEH

BBC News – ‘Oldest marathon man’ Fauja Singh runs last 10km race // WONDERFUL MAN!

How to make a money vision board! // GREAT IDEA TO INSPIRE YOUR BUSINESS

As you know, Pinterest is mainly about sharing images rather than getting people to link through and read something. I get much more traffic from Pinterest now that I write a short descriptive piece of the article concerned and make it clear what I want readers to do next, rather than just look at the picture. For example…

This is the pin I wrote for the restaurant jargon article …

Restaurant jargon: gastronomic terms demystified, part 1 … I love eating out – don’t you? But so often we can be disappointed by the realities emerging from the yummy-sounding jargon on the menus. Here is part one of my, er, interpretations of those terms. Please add your thoughts to these ….!

The cover of my new book How To Smile Through Cancer, with these words to describe it and make it clear that it’s a new book, not a picture:

How To Smile Through Cancer … Despite many cancers now becoming much more survivable, in itself it is not funny. What can be funny, though, are the often hilarious things that can happen when dealing with doctors, nurses, hospitals, chemo-baldness, prostheses, ultra-sound tests, examinations and loads more ancillary issues which invariably you trip over while going through your cancer journey. That’s what this new book is all about…

And another article which got a lot of traffic from Pinterest, OK, hands up! Who stole SOCIAL?

OK. Hands up! Who stole SOCIAL? …If you’re fond of writing, there’s nothing more irritating than a bunch of knobhead technofreaks coming along and snatching a perfectly respectable word to use for their own nefarious purposes … read on for some laughs with humorist and business writer Suzan St Maur from HowToWriteBetter.net

Do the same for your shares of other people’s articles, posts, tweets, etc. and help increase their traffic too

About an article in the Harvard Business Review, based on Don’t anesthetize your colleagues with bad writing

This is an interesting follow-up of an article (not one of mine, sadly!) called “Don’t anesthetize your colleagues with bad writing” that appeared in the Harvard Business Review a while ago – there’s a link to the original article further down on this page FYI…

About an article written by a colleague whose opinions I respect very much, How to fix three common online marketing mistakes …

Good article by my friend and client Ann Handley from the US site MarketingProfs.com. Do you agree with what she says about social media?

About another article, Writing with personality for a business blog

Really excellent blog post by a friend of my son’s, who has graduated from Uni and got a job in Social Media, God help him… 😉

About a case study of employees with disabilities, Best practice case studies, the National Trust

The National Trust run a course called Passport to Your Future, the aim of which is to encourage people from a diverse range of backgrounds to think about working in the Heritage sector. This is the story of one young man who benefited hugely from the scheme

blogging,writing,blog writing,business,newsletter,HowToWriteBetter.net,How To Write Better,Suzan St MaurAnd so-on. It’s not rocket science; it merely takes a little longer to add a sentence or two to explain why you like the post or article, and why others should like it. It’s almost a courtesy; and it shows that the share has been done by a live human, not a software robot. It really does increase traffic, too.

What are your experiences with shares and how much to write about them?

More ways to generate value (and traffic): (instant downloads)

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English
The MAMBA Way to make your words sell“…how to think  your way to superbly successful sales writing

photo credit: kdonovan_gaddy via photopin cc

You’ve only made it when you lose your capital letter

Hmmmm…doesn’t really have a credible ring to it, does it?

Do you think “suzanstmaur” could become a generic term for better writing? No, I didn’t think so either. Ah, well.

However when you hit fame, or infamy, as the case may be… (“Infamy, infamy, why do people have it Infamy?”) …moving from name to generic term is simply a matter of dropping the initial capital letter to a lower case one. You go from being a proper noun to a common one, which is something of an irony considering that to achieve this you need to have acquired an audience of gazillions and been around for a long time.

No capital initial and being a common noun means you’ve made it to immortality, so it seems.

What does it take to move from “Facebook” to “facebook?”

…probably a few hard facts like having become an institution with around 900 million users or so … this does help. Although the word “facebook” is a trumped-up jollification it has, with that many folks using it, earned its place in the generic words hall of fame.

And as for Twitter? Well, the name itself hasn’t quite earned a lower-case “t” status yet, but “tweets,” “tweeting,” “tweeted” and other derivatives certainly have. Shame on you if you dare to stick a capital “T” on any of those.

How about Google? Oh, these kiddies really have earned their lower case status. Wherever you look both online and offline, you’re told to “google” this or that for further information. When I write about “googling” these days I feel embarrassed if I accidentally capitalize the first letter.

“G”oogle is just so passé, and so rude; it suggests that the writer/perpetrator hasn’t quite understood the hold that G/google has used to er, grasp the world by the Spherical Objects and become its sole, serious source of proper information. None of us would make that mistake a second time, huh.

Other useful generic terms

Having gotten really interested in this topic I consulted G (oh sorry) google and wound up looking through Wikipedia’s list (and Wikipedia is still stigmatized by a capital “W”) of generics and genericized trademarks. I was gob-smacked – an expressive British term – to find out the following (excerpts only) terms which also have joined the verbal Hall of Fame as terms we now use in everyday speech.

Aspirin … still a Bayer trademark name for acetylsalicylic acid in about 80 countries, including Canada and many countries in Europe, but declared generic in the USA.

EscalatorOriginally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company.

LanolinTrademarked as the term for a preparation of water and the wax from sheep’s wool.

LinoleumFloor covering, originally coined by Frederick Walton in 1864, and ruled as generic following a lawsuit for trademark infringement in 1878; probably the first product name to become a generic term.

Nurofen … brand name in the UK for Ibuprofen, being the name used by the Boots Company plc who first developed the drug.

PetrolCarless, Capel and Leonard invented the trade name “Petrol” for refined petroleum spirit, called “gasoline” in North America.

ThermosOriginally a Thermos GmbH trademark name for a vacuum flask; declared generic in the U.S. in 1963.

ZipperOriginally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich.

And so it goes on, but here is the real humdinger:

Heroin: originally a trademark of Bayer AG…..

Is your name or brand about to lose its capital letter and become a generic sensation? Let me know, and share your thoughts!

Give your writing some star quality:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

What to write when someone has died

died,deceased,passed away,write,condolence,sympathies

Update October 2015: please note that although this article is still helping many people like you, I have written an updated article on this topic which includes more information about what to write in our increasingly important online environment. Click here to see that article.

Ah, this is a difficult one – when someone has died and you want to write a letter of sympathy with his or her relatives and friends.

For a list of all 12 articles in this series on how to write well to people dealing with death, bereavement and other life sadness, click here. 

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