As king of the one-sentence paragraph, not surprisingly I agree with Ann Wylie. Shorter is better (usually) when it comes time to engage and inform stakeholders. As she noted recently:
“Size does matter. All things else being equal, your readers would rather read a short piece than a long piece.
In writing — as in eating, imbibing, reality TV viewing and so much else in life — it’s good to set limits. In other words, establish an appropriate length limit for each piece you write. Here are some ideas for inspiration:
- The recommended length of the average press release has dropped from 400 words B.I. (before Internet) to 250 words A.I. (after Internet), according toB.L. Ochman. What have you done to respond to the obstacles of screen reading in your PR and other communications?
- What’s the best length for a tweet? While Twitter cuts you off at 140 characters, the better limit is actually 129 characters, according usability expert Jakob Nielsen. That allows for the average 11-character attribution that gets added whenever anyone retweets your status update.
- Sandra Oliver, a researcher at Thames Valley University in London, found that employees would read about 400 words of their CEO’s message. How long is your CEO’s message? If it’s longer than 400 words, did you put the words you don’t want employees to read after the first 400?
The right length for each piece, of course, depends — on the topic, audience, medium, vehicle, budget and other matters of judgment. But using these ideas and observations, you can establish general copy length limits.”
And if you aren’t convinced, see this post from Ann:
“How long is too long?
When it comes to paragraphs, the shorter the paragraph, the better, according to The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack III study.
“The bottom line is that stories with shorter paragraphs got more than twice as many overall eye fixations than those with longer paragraphs,” the Poynter researchers wrote. “These data suggest that the longer-paragraph format discourages reading and that short-paragraph format overwhelmingly encourages reading.”
That’s not really surprising to anyone who’s studied the effects of paragraph length in print or online: People tend to skip long paragraphs in either medium. What is surprising is what constitutes a “short” paragraph on the Web.
The Eyetrack researchers measured this way:
- Short paragraphs: one or two sentences long
- Medium paragraphs: up to six sentences long
- Long paragraphs: up to 18 sentences long
Bottom line: Online, hit return every paragraph or two.”
Everybody I know who is in a corporate or government agency position responsible for coalition or network building has had the same horrible experience.
You’re trying to do something simple (like communicate with employees, allies or others in a social media space they occupy) and – Bam! – you discover you can’t do it with out IT/HR/Matlock tracking you down and beating you with the Intertubes.
In those situations, it often helps to counter-argue using the policies and practices of your clients, audiences or peer organizations. I don’t know about you, but to make inroads in my own company, I’m ridden the IBM social media policy pony until it is sway-backed.
So it was heartening to find this bundle of social media examples with which to fight the good fight for me, my group and my clients’ projects. Hope it helps you, too.
Social Media Policies from 80+ Organizations: “
One of the key challenges for modern organizations is to define a social media policy. What’s acceptable? What isn’t? And how should you go about creating such a document for your workplace?
We’ve tried to aid with this process at Mashable through articles such as Should Your Company Have a Social Media Policy? and 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy. We’ve also published guides like Social Media for Business: The Dos & Don’ts of Sharing.
What’s more, we’ve looked at what happens when these guidelines go to far, like the controversy over the Associated Press social media policy, and a similar situation at the NFL.
If you’re looking to define your own social media guidelines, however, one worthwhile task is to read the policies of other organizations. Chris Boudreaux, author of the upcoming book ‘Social Media Governance’, has assembled 82 such policies on the book’s website. From companies to charities to military organizations, it’s a treasure trove for those struggling with social media guidelines.
We think it’s super-handy: we hope you’ll agree.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Richphotographics, Palto, rtiom
Tags: social media
Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book Now Available for Download:
We recently launched The Twitter Guide Book, a one-stop shop for getting up to speed with everything Twitter, from managing your Twitter stream to promoting a business. Now, we’ve packaged up all of our best Twitter resources in a downloadable presentation so you can flip through all of the content in one place, and print and share it with your friends and colleagues.
Presented by Adobe Acrobat 9, sponsor of this year’s SlideShare ‘World’s Best Presentation Contest’, the Twitter Guide Book includes a special audio introduction from Mashable Founder and CEO Pete Cashmore, as well as five chapters:
1. Twitter 101: The Basics
2. Building Your Twitter Community
3. Managing Your Twitter Stream
4. Sharing on Twitter
5. Twitter for Business
Please note that Acrobat 9 or Adobe Reader 9 is required for viewing. You can download Adobe Reader for free here. We’ve included some screenshots of the Guide Book below. You can view and download Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book here.
Supported by Adobe Acrobat 9, sponsor of this year’s SlideShare ‘World’s Best Presentation Contest’
From August 3 to September 14, SlideShare is hosting its second annual ‘World’s Best Presentation Contest
‘. Until early September, users of the world’s largest presentation sharing site will be able to use in-browser embedded sharing and view PDF portfolios with Adobe’s sponsorship. By providing SlideShare users with the opportunity to use cutting edge creation and sharing tools, these creative and business professionals can combine and distribute multimedia presentations in a way that’s never been done before.
Tags: download, downloadable, mashable, twitter, twitter guide book
As you think about whether Twitter makes sense for your next communication campaign, here are the latest Twitter usage and demographic stats:
“As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others,” according to a Pew Internet & American Life Report.
- Twitter and similar services have been most avidly embraced by young adults. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18 and 24 have ever used Twitter and its ilk, as have 20% of online adults 25 to 34.
- Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter. The decline is even more stark among older internet users; 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.
- The use of Twitter is highly intertwined with the use of other social media; both blogging and social network use increase the likelihood than an individual also uses Twitter.
- Twitter users and status updaters are also a mobile bunch; as a group they are much more likely to be using wireless technologies — laptops, handhelds and cell phones — for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging.
Overall, Twitter users engage with news and own technology at the same rates as other internet users, but the ways in which they use the technology — to communicate, gather and share information — reveals their affinity for mobile, untethered and social opportunities for interaction.
View PDF of Report
If you feel that you and your coalition or network members are talking past one another, you might try mediating the conversation through Wordle.net. (Another take on this concept with richer features can be found at http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/.)
Wordle describes itself as a tool “for generating ‘word clouds’ from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes” to emphasize differences in frequency of use.
Wordle’s real beauty is that it gives you an easily understood quantitative visual analysis of whether you and your audiences are using the same language to talk about common issues and concerns.
It’s not just text responses that you can run through Wordle. Some use it to analyze how people are tagging content (see http://www.wordle.net/gallery/wrdl/505252/WRI_Delicious_Tags:_4_Feb_2009) to see if the language they use is the same as that of their audiences. (This visual example of a Wordle chart may take some time to load.)
All in all, it’s a good, fast way to mid-course reality check whether you and those you’re trying to motivate are talking about the same things in the same way.
I stumbled across a recent account from the communications staff at Missouri University of Science and Technology about using a del.icio.us account to keep track of their online news stories and blog posts.
Their insight: while using del.icio.us makes it easier to track media coverage, it also provides a potent tool for measuring and analyzing the impact of their media relations activities since del.icio.us shows you which stories are being saved by others (one indication of popularity).
Add in the use of tags and tag clouds, and you can start getting a pretty good tool for identifying the issues and interests of your current and potential allies and coalition partners.