I really enjoy writing. I particularly like the challenge of writing for digital, where being succinct is critical.

Having written on here for seven years along with a number of freelance articles, here are three things I do before writing a post. These aren’t tips on how to create and source better content but instead how to ensure your writing is succinct as possible.

1. One single thought
Each post should focus on a single idea or thought. If you start getting into a second territory, you are rambling. If it’s a good territory, keep it for a different post. Follow up the original a week later and keep the conversation flowing. It also means you’ll have more to publish and share (great for SEO and social).

2. Remove all unnecessary words
Every word should bring something to the post. If a sentence reads as you intended without a word, remove it. I often run my pieces through the Hemmingway App before publishing to see what can be removed (or reworked).

3. “That” is rarely correct
Review any use of the word “that”. 60% of the time it can be removed completely (see second point) and 20% of the time it would be more proper to use “which”. Try it yourself on an old piece of your writing.

They’re not going to change the world, but they might make make your writing a little punchier. (Short and sweet – see first point.)

At the time of writing, I’ve been blogging here for nearly seven years. Although the volume has slowed significantly in recent years, that’s 401 posts and more than 270,000 pageviews.

The problem with blogs though, is that once a post falls off the front page it’s pretty must lost forever. And among those 400-odd posts, I believe some of them are pretty good (I’m happy to admit the rest are complete nonsense).

So here are the best blog posts I’ve ever written on Pigs Don’t Fly:

Enjoy, and thank you for reading.

Even I’m getting over my anti-Facebook tirade at the moment, having recently called them out on manipulating people’s emotions and their great bait and switch on marketers. But they continue to grind my gears, and this time it’s as a page owner.

For those of you who run small pages, you’ll be familiar with these notifications that pop up regularly suggesting a post is “performing better than X% of other posts”.

These are just a few I’ve received through my hockey club’s Facebook page recently.

They are incredibly annoying, there’s no way to turn them off and one of the above I received a notification for seven times. But what I’m most interested in, is where this data comes from. What metrics is it based off, and over what time period? Facebook doesn’t provide any information that I could find, so I thought I’d see how accurate the figures were.

Without a date range or set of metrics, I have to make some assumptions. Facebook only allows me to review post data from April 2014 onwards (I’m not sure why), so that becomes my data set. And the three metrics I review are commonly reported on; unique reach, unique users engaged and engagement rate.

The first notification says that specific post performed better than 95% of other posts on the page. Of the 55 posts published at the time, that means it has to be in the top two. But upon analysis, it doesn’t come close, ranking 18th instead for reach, users engaged and engagement rate.

The second post would have to rank 15th or higher out of the 62 posts published at the time. Again not close at 48th for reach, 47th for engaged users and 37th for engagement rate.

The third post is a little better, also requiring a rank of 15th or higher out of 75 posts. It achieves this for reach (11th) and engaged users (12th), but not engagement rate (20th).

Happy to be corrected, but even this simplistic analysis tells us that Facebook is lying to page owners.

I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that each notification encourages you to spend money on promoting the post.

Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg & Lex Luthor

I’ve previously blogged about how they’ve burned marketers with their great bait and switch. And just this week they’ve upset plenty of users (myself included), announcing that messaging will be completely removed from the Facebook app.Facebook seem to be doing a bang up job of pissing people off at the moment.

But the biggest concern is how Facebook manipulated the News Feeds of 700,000 users to determine if negative stories would impact a user’s emotional state. Not surprisingly, they do.

With all that in mind, I can’t help but feel the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman v Superman film to be highly appropriate.

The evil geniuses and super villains of today wouldn’t be old men looking to take over the world. Instead, they’d be young kids who made their fortunes in tech start ups. And despite pissing people off along the whole journey, they’ll still hold the power to manipulate the emotional state of over one billion people.

So it does seems fitting to cast the guy who played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. He’ll just need to shave his head.

It’s no secret that Facebook’s organic reach has long been in decline. I recall sitting in a room with a client five years ago selling the channel as a cost-efficient means of talking to your consumers regularly. This was long before EdgeRank when your News Feed was sorted chronologically.

Of course, a great deal has changed since then. What was presumably once 100% organic reach of active users is now down to single digits and continues to fall. The impact of which you can see in this example highlighted by Rhys Hillman.

This is the same piece of content, posted at the same time by Snickers on two different channels.

The Facebook post, distributed to a potential 11 million fans generated only 6,000 engagements. Yet when the same content was published on Twitter to a 99.5% smaller audience, it generated 1050% more interaction.
But, to be fair, the Snickers post on Twitter is an outlier of success. In fact it performed so well, that the number of engagements was actually higher than the brand’s total number of followers.

So let’s take a look at this more reasonable, less ‘viral’ post from Bud Light.

Although not as drastic, Twitter once again hugely out performs Facebook. Anecdotally, this is consistent across a number of brands I reviewed, both big and small, as well as international and local.

As this organic reach falls to nearly 0%, we become apparent of Facebook great dirty bait and switch. Facebook have encouraged brands for years to build their community (and invest significantly in media buys for acquisition) under the pretense of being able to engage with them often and for free. But that is no longer the case. And their ‘solution’ is to invest even further in promoting posts.

At the end of the day, the above examples make it increasingly difficult to justify the significant resource it takes to manage a Facebook community effectively and I wouldn’t be surprised if clients start shifting their budgets elsewhere.

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.

We often talk about bought, owned and earned media planning. But there is another category; borrowed.

Borrowing the audience of third parties to drive reach. More and more I’m finding myself thinking about how we can bring in more vested interests who have audiences we can speak to.

Celebrities. Venues. Other brands. Bands. Publishers. Suppliers. Manufacturers. Bloggers.

Increasingly these parties are both building their own communities, and are looking for relevant content.

If you bring them on board, it becomes win/win/win.

At least that’s what I’m thinking.

A few weeks ago I gave a talk to some Monash students about how to stand out from the crowd. It was my usual spiel about how I met Russel Howcroft who gave me my first job and from which I learnt the easiest way into the industry is to make something.

Afterward a number of the students asked about the best way to network. But the thing is, I’m not so good at networking in the traditional sense of the word.

As a student I attended similar events to the one I spoke at, and had no idea how to meet industry people and make an impression. The smartest thing I ever did was ask Russel for a photo to put on my blog.

But a few years later, I do have some thoughts. And the best piece of advice I have has nothing to do with ‘networking events’, but rather a very simple two words:

Give something.

If my advice for getting into the industry is to ‘make something’, then it seems only fitting my advice for networking is to ‘give something’.

Here’s an example of something you could give, even as a student (but you don’t have to be).

I’m a craft beer fan. I had an idea for an article about Little Creatures changing the recipe of their Bright Ale, and I wanted to write about it. But I didn’t have any where to publish it, figuring it probably wasn’t of interest to the existing readers of this blog.

So I emailed the editor of Brews News, an Australian website about all things beer. He asked me to write it up and a few days later, he published the article.

This doesn’t mean I now have a relationship I could exploit, but it’s certainly a contact I’ve now made which I think falls neatly into the definition of “networking” (plus I have somewhere to occasionally publish my beer ramblings).

Here’s another example of giving things away. I recently noticed a number of websites I read didn’t have an icon for when their site was bookmarked on iOS. Instead they used the generic versions you can see on right. It’s a pretty easy fix, so I sent the website owners an email with instructions on how to do it.

Thus far, the response has been extremely positive.

By giving these two things away, I’ve introduced myself to interesting people, given them something of value and started a conversation I’m sure I could pick back up if I ever needed to.

Much more interesting, and dare I say effective, than attending a networking event and handing out business cards.

Two years ago, almost exactly to the day, I wrote a post about making things for your customers.

“Build it and they will come.”

“I can’t help but think it’s a completely underrated and underused digital strategy. This idea of building something rad that’s relevant to your target audience and then using them to spread your idea.”

It turns that approach now has a name; content marketing. And while it’s quickly become 2014’s buzzword of choice, I think it’s still underrated and underused by clients.

These days I’d approach it pretty differently. More pragmatically. Segment the audience and understand their problems and needs. Then build things to solve those problems. Plan for distribution across bought, owned and earned media. And wrap it up by measuring and learning.

Where I think things become really interesting is when you move beyond ‘content’ in the traditional sense of the word. Then you start talking about interactivity through things like apps or games. You start thinking about utilities, education tools and even time-killers.

And if it works, then you role it out as a program, not a campaign. Regularly building and distributing highly targeted, highly relevant things that consumers will use.

Or in other words, making cool shit that people play with and share. Much more exciting than a banner ad.

I have this weird aversion to technology where if I’m late to the party, I’m very hesitant to attend at all.

For example I really missed the boat on Instagram. For a long time I considered signing up, but the fact that I had committed to not doing so meant I held out on not doing so for even longer.

The barrier, for some strange reason, was that signing up to Instagram meant I’d be starting fresh. Despite having hundreds of photos already on my phone I’d want to share from the past few years, there was no way to ‘back date’ the awesome graffiti I saw in Mexico or the first tomato that grew in our garden.

I have a similar problem with Untappd, an app that allows you to record and discover craft beer. Over the years I’ve had beers that were limited edition never to be made again, and a few that were so bad I wouldn’t be again. Perhaps I’m thinking about this too much, but it’s a barrier for me when there’s no way for me to go back in time and record those beers.

I’m wondering if I’m not alone. And how technologist should think about those customers who arrive well after the tipping point. For those who missed the boat, how can you make it not only easy for them to board, but to appear as though they’ve been on board the whole time?

Interestingly I eventually jumped onto Instagram (about two years too late) and am loving it. I’ve discovered a new means of sharing photos more frequently than what you’d post on Facebook and really enjoying seeing those of my friends.

So I should probably set up that Untappd account too.

There’s a list on my phone called ‘Crazy Ideas’. Some of the items are starting to collect dust so it’s time I cleaned them out before next year.

But before deleting them, I thought I’d share. Maybe you can do something with them that I couldn’t.

So the following is a collection of ideas I had this year that didn’t or aren’t going to happen. I either didn’t know how to start them, discovered they’d already been done or, after further consideration, decided they were shit.

  • An app for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service to easily make and change bookings. It would also remind you when you’re due to donate again.
  • A website to connect casual investors with wannabe inventors. Think Dragon’s Den meets Kickstarter.
  • An ‘In Case of Emergency’ app that sits on your phone if you’re in an accident. Ambulance Officers would have a unique password to access information about who to contact and what you’re allergic to.
  • Beerend that works on glass shelf fridges.
  • An app for sharing a single shopping list across multiple users. There’s a few already out there but they are expensive and naff.
  • A WordPress plugin to easily create wedding registries where each item is tagged with an affiliate marketing link. This revenue would help pay for the couple’s honeymoon.
  • A companion app to allow for asynchronous media consumption discussion.
  • An eBook for university students about how to get a job in digital marketing.
  • An app to make and track casual bets among friends. Most likely called Bets With Friends.
  • Single charge iPhone power packs for festivals and emergency situations.
  • An app to easily block out or censor information on a photo/image before sharing it online. Possibly called Blackout.
There’s a few others on the list that I might share another time (hopefully not this time next year) but if you think you can do anything with any of the above, let me know how you go.