Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Post #4: Is it really possible to talk human?

Yesterday, I watched Harry Gottlieb's webinar on talking human (It's called Corporate Blahblahdiblah) and how corporations generally don't do it. His point was well taken. Corporations seem to use words that have been proven to be good sellers, kind of like the word "ambitious" or "dedicated" when it comes to applying for jobs. It has gotten to the point where it's hard to tell what a company actually does or what they are actually trying to say. Fair enough.

However, coming at this issue from the marketing side, I have to say that there are a lot of obstacles in the way of "talking human." For example, there's Search Engine Optimization. Everybody wants to be on the first page of search results on Google or Bing, right? Well, you need the right keywords, among other things, to accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, keywords do not always jive with how people talk. If you are a medical company, you might want to talk human and talk about headaches, but SEO demands that you talk about "pain in the occipital region." Who talks like that? Not many people. But maybe a lot of people search like that.

Facebook, Twitter, and texting have me worried too. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation using 140 CHARACTER statements? I haven't. As you probably are learning from my blog posts, 140 characters for me is like the calm before the storm. However, this kind of limited communication is what corporations are facing on increasingly regular occasions. They are having to update fan pages (or is it "like" pages now?), they are having to update Twitter accounts, or they are sending out text messages. Is this how they would normally entice customers? Probably not. Is that talking human? Probably not. But it's the new reality.

That has me wondering. Are we in danger of having more human contact but being less human about it? A fan page can have hundreds of fans, but if you can't *really* talk to people the way you'd like to and the way Gottlieb recommends, how effective is your marketing going to be in the end?

I guess, being a human, this all just gives me something to ponder.


Harry Gottlieb said...

Hey Real Life Mad (Wo)Man --

Thanks for checking out my webinar. You bring up good points!

You’re right, keywords don’t always jibe with the way people speak. Or put more specifically, if you want to tap into the long tail of keywords, some of these keywords will be terms that typically aren't bandied about over a cup of coffee. "Oh, Sally, I've been so worried about the pain in your occipital region. How ARE you?" Of course you can put terms like that into meta tags. But there's no reason you can't use them on your website as well, and do so in a human way. "Put your hand over the spot where you're experiencing the pain. If you're palming the back of your head just above your neck, that's known as the occipital region." Now, once you've defined a term, do you want to keep using it over and over to up your SEO rankings for it? Maybe. And if you're sure your audience understands the term, there’s nothing wrong with that. Humans do that all the time.

As far as the 140 character limit: there's a saying credited to Mark Twain (miscredited, actually): "I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time." Writers need time to be brief. But it’s worth the time, because when coupled with clarity, brevity has big advantages. My recommendation to those who want to get good at writing tweets: practice the more restricted art of writing in Haiku:

If you speak human
In every situation
You'll always be clear

Harry Gottlieb
Founder and CEO, Jellyvision

Real Life Mad Man said...

Thanks for dropping by, Harry. Much appreciated!

And I see where you're coming from. It's always an evolving art, it seems.

I'm off to practice my haiku :)