Rekindle your friendship with Facebook

facebook_logo_detailSince it appeared on the scene back in 2004 Facebook has been constantly evolving. Initially these changes were beneficial to its rapidly increasing pool of users, and while there were grumbles from those averse to change, few could argue that the adjustments didn’t enhance their overall experience and benefits reaped from the social networking site. Any changes were also implemented with transparency and accompanied by detailed explanations about what was happening, and why.

10 years on, there are still changes taking place, but these days they largely happen behind the scenes and have Facebook’s own best interests at heart rather than that of it’s users. Individuals and businesses alike are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Facebook and its opaque filtering system, which leaves pages’ posts only reaching a fraction of the followers that it used to.

With the majority of Facebook users accumulating an ever-increasing number of friends and liked pages it’s understandable that each one’s activity in their news feed should become diluted. However, it’s the unequal weighting of posts that has given cause for annoyance.

It all started when Facebook started to give pages the option to pay to “boost” their posts. This change was perhaps inevitable in today’s revenue-driven internet, but it heralded the demise of Facebook as an affordable and effective marketing tool for the majority of small businesses and organisations. These days if you want to use Facebook as a reliable way of reaching your customers/followers you need to line Mr Zuckerberg’s pockets.

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 13.16.54Even those who just use Facebook socially are finding it frustrating to suddenly only see posts from a select few of their friends, without any clarity over why this is, and who makes the cut.

When pushed on the matter, Facebook asserts that it has had to implement a filtering system in order to insure that its users don’t become inundated with an overload of posts by their ever-increasing number of friends and liked pages. However, this nannying approach has angered many who feel that they are more than capable of managing their own accounts in order to receive posts from the friends and pages that they choose to, and can unfriend/hide/unlike accordingly if they feel they are becoming overwhelmed.

Unfortunately the companies that can actually afford to pay to advertise or have their content boosted on Facebook rarely have anything of interest to share, which means that our newsfeeds have become dominated by banal adverts for companies we already know plenty about, or items that we’ve recently searched for online.

However, while it’s not as easy as it used to be, there are ways to maximise the likelihood of your Facebook posts being seen by your friends and followers without throwing money at it. While Facebook doesn’t shout about how it filters posts, it uses the following algorithm, unofficially known as EdgeRank.

facebook-news-feed-edgerank-algorithm

You can read more on how Facebook’s filters news feeds in this interesting article by Tech Crunch. 

Just as quality, regularly updated web content is more likely to be picked up by search engines, links to quality, interesting web content are far more likely to make it into your followers’ news feed, and subsequently clicked on, than shallow marketing messages. And if those links come directly from your own website then so much the better.

facebook-logo-thumbs-upLike it or not, Facebook is still an effective marketing tool and it’s important for your business to have a presence on there. So, rather than writing it off completely or ploughing money into empty Facebook ads, why not invest in producing some quality content for your website that will not only boost your rankings on Facebook and other social media platforms, but with search engines too.

Don’t have time or specialist skills to produce quality content for your site on a regular basis? Contact Switch Copywriting now to see how we can help. 

switchcopywriting@gmail.com   +44(0) 7841 436263

 

Advertisements

Working for crumbs

When looking for new work projects, I’m constantly amazed, actually, shocked, at how little people are prepared to pay freelance copywriters for their work, if they’re even prepared to pay them at all.

All too often I have replied to adverts looking for “experienced writers”, only for it to eventually transpire that the work is unpaid. “You’ll get great exposure”, they say, or “it’ll be great for your portfolio”. But what they fail to understand is that as an experienced writer, you already have a portfolio, of work you’ve actually been paid for. And having your work “exposed” on a site which is notorious for not paying its writers, is almost worse than having no exposure at all.

plate of custard creamsThe final straw, which prompted me to write this post, was an advert I saw recently for a “Blogging, Copywriting and Social Media Intern Position”. The ad started by saying: “I’m afraid I must begin by saying this isn’t paid, but there are still great opportunities to be had”. It then went on to list these, which included “working on some pretty exciting projects” and having a “large portion of creative freedom”. Certainly nothing that would be enough to compensate for the fact that YOU HAVE NO MONEY! Until, that is, its closing gambit of, wait for it… “Sometimes there are biscuits also”. Oh, ok then, you’ve got me.

Biscuits? Seriously?! Is that what helping to boost your business by attracting more traffic to your site is worth? Biscuits? Sometimes!

Obviously it depends on the type of biscuits on offer. If it’s Tesco Value Custard Creams you’re on about, forget it. If it’s Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies, on the other hand, then we’re talking.

In all seriousness though, it’s well documented that companies spend a fortune on building websites, advertising, and it seems, biscuits, but are reluctant to pay for the content that will actually bring people to their site and sell their product.

The problem is that there are people out there who will write for free, and that is how this culture of not paying, or underpaying writers has been allowed to develop. Sadly this not only devalues the individual writers, but the profession itself, and ultimately means that no one ends up being paid what their work is worth.

biscuit crumbsFor those just starting out, writing for free can seem like the only way to break into what is a competitive industry. However, truth be told, the chances of a company which asks you to work for free ever remunerating you satisfactorily, are slim. Once you’ve tired of being taken advantage of, they’ll just employ another poor sucker who also believes that it might lead somewhere. And the reality is that all your hard work probably will be for nothing anyway, as a company that scrimps in such crucial areas is not likely to go far, so it probably won’t even look all that great in your portfolio.

What makes the situation even sadder is the irony that by working for free, these interns are only perpetuating the culture of paying writers a pittance, and this will ultimately make it even more difficult for them to make a living from writing in the long term.

It is true that the notion of payment in this business can be a grey area and there are times when it’s ok to work without financial compensation. Having an article published on a respected website or publication, for example, can be payment enough as it actually may help to advance your career and will look good in your portfolio. Not to mention the sense of satisfaction of seeing your work alongside that of those you revere. Reciprocal arrangements can also work well in this business. Working in the hope that you might, might, get a biscuit with your coffee, however, does not.

I understand that small start up companies don’t have much budget to play with – we’ve all been there – but to reward someone for their work with little more than biscuits, if they’re lucky, strikes me as the ultimate piss take. You wouldn’t expect someone to build a website for you for free, I hope. So why would you expect the person who fills it with the content that will ultimately drive business forward, and without which it is useless, to do it for free? The answer is that you shouldn’t.

Unfortunately, as long as there are writers out there who are prepared to work for crumbs, there will always be clients who’ll take advantage of that. The only way to change the culture is to refuse to work for less that your going rate. No matter how much you like biscuits!

Over to you…

Do you think it’s ever acceptable to expect someone to work for free? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your views.

Pretty in print

As a writer, nothing beats having your work published, and knowing that people have read and appreciated it. And while it’s deeply satisfying for this to happen online, for me, the ultimate is seeing my words printed within the pages of a publication that I hold in high regard.

Shredding the deadwoodI recently had an article published in Coven Magazine, a great new magazine aimed at women who love action, art and adventure. As this sums me up to a tee, I was delighted that they were keen to print a slightly, shall we say, creative, article on snowboarding that I’d written. Particularly as this was exactly the kind of audience who I felt might appreciate my piece.

Having an article published, whether it be online or in print, evokes a strange mix of emotions. As I click open the web page or pick up the publication and flick through its pages in search of my article, I am overcome with a sense of excitement, tinged with dread. What if my words have been changed? What if there’s a typo that I haven’t spotted? What if it’s not as good as I thought it was when I submitted it?

Even when I’m completely satisfied with a piece of writing, I still feel slightly anxious about how it will be received, particularly when it’s a touch on the creative side. As with all creative pursuits, putting your work out there to be analysed and opined on, brings with it a certain sense of vulnerability.

Screen Shot 2012-11-11 at 18.18.20However, any trepidation is quickly overshadowed by pride when I see the oh-so-familiar words of my article staring back at me, looking infinitely better than they did when I was agonising over them in a Word document.

For me, these conflicting feelings seem to be intensified when an article is published in print. Maybe it’s because I love printed publications, and still much prefer to read articles in print myself? Or maybe it’s because I have more articles published online and take those for granted these days? Mainly though, I think it’s due to the fact that anyone can publish content online and there is so much on the internet that your work can get drowned in a sea of mediocrity. However, when your article appears in print, it is one of a carefully selected series of pieces compiled for a specific audience.

People also consume articles very differently through the two different mediums, with online audiences tending to have a much shorter attention span. So, while an article may reach a greater audience online, and have more permanence, a printed article will hopefully make a greater impact on a select audience of interested readers.

The Blue Glasses FishNot that I’m dissing online media in the slightest, as the majority of my work is published online, and I may never have got into this business if it hadn’t been for the exposure that I received online. But, from the very first article I had published in the school magazine, aged five, nothing has given me a greater sense of satisfaction than seeing my work in print. I still feel a wave of pride accompanied by a twinge of embarrassment at my five-year-old spelling of ‘nice’, when I read my debut, ‘The Blue Glasses Fish’!

There’s also something brilliantly straightforward about something published in print. I have no idea how many people have read my article in Coven Magazine, or what they made of it. There are no stats to analyse and no comments section. And perhaps therein lies its ultimate appeal? It’s obviously nice to receive feedback and know that people are actually appreciating, or at least reading, the fruits of your labour. But sometimes it’s nice to release an article and just let it be…

If you’ve read this far, you’ve already disproved my theory on short attention spans online, in which case you may like to follow this link to the aforementioned article, ‘Shredding the deadwood’, which is on page 90 of the online version of Coven Magazine, Issue 3.

Or, if like me, you’d prefer to read it in print, you can pick up a copy of Coven Magazine from any of these stockists, or subscribe via the Coven website.

Do you have any thoughts on print vs online media? Or, can you relate, or not, to the mixed feelings of releasing a piece of work for public consumption? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

The pitfalls of perfectionism

Social media guru Alicia Cowan recently posted this meme on her Facebook page; “Done is better than perfect”. Now, I’m a perfectionist: always have been, always will be, and my immediate reaction was to recoil in horror and re-work the caption into a version which sat much better with my fastidious sensibilities: “done perfectly is best”.

Alicia’s view was that constantly striving for perfection can hold us back, and that it’s much better to produce something (as long as it’s not shoddy) than hide it away until you are 100% happy with it, which, let’s face it, could be never. Normally I’d disagree with the sentiment. After all, I was taught that “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly”, but her argument got me thinking…

I’m definitely guilty of spending an inordinate amount of time on projects (far more than is factored into my rates), scrutinising my work until I’m happy with every last detail. In fact, if it weren’t for deadlines, I’d probably be living on the breadline! Even that moment of clicking ‘send’ or ‘publish’ on completion of a project, which should be accompanied by a sigh of relief and a wave of elation, is often marred by that nagging feeling that I’d have been able to make a better job of it, if only I’d had an extra hour.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, my projects that don’t have client-sensitive deadlines tend to simmer on the back burner, being stirred occasionally until I deem them fit for consumption. This website is a prime example. I’ve been working freelance for a while now, always conscious of the need for a website dedicated to my business (as opposed to a page on my blog), but never quite finding the time to create something that I’d be happy to use as a representation of my work. After all, if it’s my business to write effective copy for other people’s websites, this really has to be reflected in my own.

I’ve been fortunate that since I started freelancing I’ve had a steady flow of good projects, so haven’t had to market my services too much. However, the need to consolidate my reputation with some form of online portfolio has been gnawing away at me. Alicia’s post gave me the nudge that I needed to finally create this website.

I’m no web developer, but I know my way around WordPress pretty well, so had no excuse, I realised, not to get something up.

So, here it is… It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s done. Thanks Alicia!

What do you think? Can you relate? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!