Had trouble finding followers?

That’s the trouble… why do we even think of this as trouble. Are we Pied Pipers driving the art of writing to its death?

Those who truly think independently, don’t quite care about a fan following. The real independent thinkers and philosophers wrote their ideas or expressed them. Because they made sense we read about such people, read their books, or follow their ideas, believe in their philosophies, or ponder over their thoughts.

Writing can be triggered by something you saw, read, or experienced… anything could serve as a stimulus. The idea about having platforms like wordpress, or twitter or blogspot or even facebook… if each of us did our own thing, write our own ‘think’, create content that we actually believe in, it would be so much more fun than just circulating ‘forwards’ from hotmail to gmail, or worse, re-posting it as your own content (aka plagiarizing).

How much of all that we read, or is written is truly meaningful? What I write today on my blog (web log i.e. my diary) here, will the words sound dated five years from today, or five months away, or say in five days? Recall, blogs first started out as digital diaries that you could revisit someday. These diaries were personal, not items and writings that others could pry into. If someone laid even a little finger on it, leave alone leaf through its pages, the diarist would be hopping mad. But a page in a diary gives a glimpse of the person who wrote the words. It may give a hint into a person’s character. What interests me are human relations, how the mind thinks… why it thinks the way it does, what transpired in the person’s life to bring about such thoughts? You can weave an entire story… stories are telling. We will forget products but if there was a story around it, we tend to remember it more.

Today, though, many of us tend to clamor for a large fan following. Just the other day, I recall either tweeting (or blogging) about why anyone should care how many followers I have on Twitter, or how many tweets I posted… or for that matter should it matter to anyone but myself how many folks I follow? What does matter is whether or not my content, words, tweets, chirps hold meaning, have some interesting take or twist on a subject that I read, or found interesting. e.g. on Twitter, I’d be more eager to see a tab that displays counts of re-tweets, or favorite-d strings of 140 characters. But all we do is post link after link without giving our take on it, without expressing our views or what it was that piqued our interest, or held your attention if even for just a moment. We’re in such a grand rush to move to the next subject… all in a hurry, rushing to nowhere in particular.

So here’s what I believe… you can create your own content, or you can curate content that others have created. Yeah, someone will likely turn around and say this is jargon, old hat, content curation is a term used for years now. But my point is, even if it’s been used for years, have we all learned how to do it? Whether as companies, or as individuals, how succinctly can we summarize what we read and present it in a coherent, or more interesting manner, or more pertinently, can we add our two cents to it?

Every platform that is built – either as an app or web tool – is sort of latched on to by marketing departments to promote their brands, products etc. What started off as a space for ‘you, me  and us types of individuals’ now turns into an overcrowded platform used by professional corporate bloggers, content providers, content curators. There’s just so much information out there about everything and nothing. If there’s any particular topic or subject of interest, sift through it to find what interests you, present your views, and create a fabric that appears interesting when you look at it as a whole. If it is linear it won’t be quite interesting, but add dimension, give it depth, add color, bring in elements to enhance the entire picture. But as in any picture or photograph, if there’s a singular focus it will appeal to many. Some may like the picture for the color, others may enjoy it for its texture, but most will enjoy it as a whole, unable to quite pinpoint what it was they liked about it, nevertheless they do like it. Well, in a nutshell, that’s what I think is the purpose of content creation, and content curation.

SEO tools, or cheese tactics? Back Links, Cross links, Outbound Links…

As a blog reader, have you noticed that often you’re reading a particular post, and all of a sudden you find you’re somewhere else – either on another post written by the same blogger, or on an entirely different blog! Sometimes, you land on a totally different site. This happens not just in the blogosphere, but also on other social media sites. While this may be useful at times, more often than not it’s irksome… because whatever it is you were reading is now either ‘lost’, or you have to hit the ‘back’ button ever so often to return to the page you were originally reading. This occurs when you click on a hyperlink – either knowingly, or inadvertently – that immediately transposes you to another domain, or another webpage. That link which pulled you away from the current page is the outbound link. As an example, I’m taking you to this webpage outside of wordpress. If you clicked on it, notice that it opens up in another window. This is intentional, because I’d like you to continue reading this page (although the other page offers something delicious!). ヅ This link is an example of an ‘outbound‘ link. Does it add value to my site i.e. this page? Well, that is a function of how the algorithms of Google, Bing, or Yahoo will mark this page – add points, or give negative points – so as to bury my page among the billions of pages so it is almost never found by someone searching for the topic on Links in the context of search engine optimization.

However, in contrast, if say you have a page on this subject, and decide to link to this page or any other with related content from my posts on this blog, that would be an example of a ‘back‘ link for my blog. Now, depending on whether your content and my content have relevant content and there’s an obvious reason why the link exists, once again, the algorithms of the search engines (smart as they are) may figure out the likeness of content along with the context and give us both a positive mark. However, if the search engine finds that some spam-filled page stuffed with keywords is linking to me, neither will that page earn any point, nor will mine. This would be an example of ‘cheese tactics‘ by the spam website. Of course, note that I borrowed this phrase from the gaming industry. But as the phrase connotes, it’s a cheap tactic used to garner clicks, that no respectable SEO expert would dare to use.

But what about ‘cross-links‘ within your own website? Often, when you’re on a company’s website, you may be reading say the About Us page. You may find a link on that very page which will transpose you to another page e.g. their Press Center, or their Contact Us page or even to an email id e.g. info@xyz.com. Then when you click on that Press Center, in turn it will have a page with yet another link which takes you to some other page but within the same company’s website, say e.g. on their product page… or think of an e-commerce site like Amazon. When you visit this shopping portal, it is hard to really exit from the site, because of the numerous links which will keep drawing you back to look and search and browse more and more and more of their various products. Not only are the links relevant, they are not filled with spam; also, you clicked on these, because something on the page draws you to them, compelling you to click and click again. Eventually you end up shopping, and your click has now brought about a conversion! Isn’t that the objective of for-profit businesses? In the shortest possible time, with the fewest number of clicks, how can the website or webpage entice you to make a click that will bring about a sale of their product. This in very simple terms is the whole point of search engine optimization, landing page optimization, the value (or lack thereof) of links and cross-links. Not as a company, but as a blogger, I’ll link to one of my own pages here, on words-n-motion. Who knows, may be you will follow me, or subscribe to my blog… that is an example of ‘conversion‘ for a not-for-profit site. 😉

Monday morning blues… it’s that darned typo!

However, this may draw a smile… reproduced from The Shawinigan Standard – December 24, 1947.

He wanted to be a “Quant”…

In the late 90s, my close buddy quit his well-paid job of ‘research scientist’ with a leading oil company. He wanted to be a “quant“. Lured, not by the money; that would follow (and plenty of it, although not quite as much as the obscene figures that Wall Street traders take home), but by the sheer mathematical elegance (I recall him using those very words way back then), which this new career would allow him to dabble with.  He spoke of the subject with a passion that sounded more like a woman’s dreams of luxury, silken sheets and Manolo’s!

His previously earned doctorate in hydrodynamics from M.I.T. was a mere starting point. He immersed himself in studying tomes of finance books – disciplined and motivated enough to “self-educate” himself on the subject. When he spoke of ‘vanilla’ or ‘exotic’ it had little to do with flavors of ice cream, or the fjords of Scandinavia. He pondered long over what he considered hot’ topics at the time – derivatives, futures, swaps and options – and seemed lost in a world of numbers!

To be honest, it was with immense difficulty that I had grasped the math entailed in regression analysis, linear programming and autocorrelation, towards earning credits for o-r and econometrics… in fact, I’m still fuzzy whether my present state is a result of “statistical error” or whether it may be deemed as a fitting error“. 😉 Random, or residual – why care! Instead, speaking again of my friend… when he first mentioned ‘modeling’, my brain – then skewed towards advertising, was farthest from ‘mathematical modeling‘. When he spoke of inverse problems my thoughts drifted towards micro-economics, juggling personal finances to fit month-end needs. Not in my wildest imagination could I have considered derivative pricing, or financial engineering.

Well, now as we approach 2010,  I can hardly pretend to have turned into some finance whiz, comprehending the jargon of Wall Street. Call it fate, or destiny, the events in the early years of this decade somehow did not allow my buddy with an opportunity to work as a ‘quant’ on Wall Street… something he had so deeply desired, and for which he toiled and sacrificed much, but which somehow eluded him.

Talking of predictions, futures, recent market volatility, financial debacles and gargantuan tumbles in the world’s financial capital, I am secretly thankful – at a personal level – that a perceived “failure” in finding a suitable position turned out to be a boon in disguise. For the past several years my pal has again immersed himself in science, and research towards what I consider a noble cause, and which, in my opinion, deserves far more genuine respect than what he would have earned through his computational genius on Wall Street.

Good luck to all those who have done well in their selected field, playing a clean, positive role, even in what is today deemed a maligned world, but which will undoubtedly rise again. When money begins to flow freely someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, memories of present times will fade, of that there’s no doubt, I’m afraid.

Ad Agency layoffs

In Spring 2008, when I referred to layoffs at marketing companies and ad agencies, some smart alecks scoffed at my words, merrily mocking me and my writing. Numerous people holding jobs then dropped pearls of wisdom… “Network, get yet another degree (since my MBA does not seem to cut it), or better still, change your profession“. Some even went as far as suggesting I change my personal [‘Look’ and ‘Feel’]… like I was some website that was long overdue for a total makeover!

Of course, last March, Bear Stearns, believed to have been firmly parked at 383 Mad Ave in NYC, was only just beginning to teeter…  we all are now privy to its change of address… they’ve moved permanently to the annals of financial history. At the time of their big move, the formal announcement of a recession that had already been three months in the making since December 2007 was at least three seasons away! It is highly unlikely then that A&M agencies could have been insulated, impending announcements notwithstanding! However, only those who were laid off, and those who never got  hired — despite job postings that continued to appear (to ostensibly lure fresh, “experienced” talent) — would have gotten a whiff of the hard times to follow; obviously, the rest of the world was happily oblivious to the latent harsh effects it was already beginning to experience!

Long before birds herald the onset of spring, you may have heard (and read) twitters about ad agency layoffs. Think back, the frequency may have been rising since mid-December 2008. Now why is that? It’s because that’s when the US government formally announced that the recession had already set in since December 2007! Looking back now, for 12 months this recession had stealthily taken its toll on jobs, home sales, the fate of companies and on families that depended on these organizations – directly, or indirectly; or even on retirees who lived off their fixed incomes! Wow, so now that it was official, it was okay to openly talk or twitter about how much even the ad agencies were hurting.

You just have to read the compilation of all the twitters (14 pages as I blog just now) to truly gauge the severity of this situation. If that’s too much work, especially considering you may be looking for work, take a look at BNET’s mind-boggling layoff numbers… including ad agency, media and marketing layoffs, ever since the recession started. These will show you why you’re meeting with little success in finding a new job. Or that if you do still have your job while your colleagues have been shown the door, why it’s no time to be smug… the pink slip may likely be well on it’s way to you! Perhaps it’s time to consider another field, go to school and acquire a new skill… and while you’re working on that resume, remember also to go for a makeover on yourself… I’m just sharing those pearls of wisdom I’d received from the mavens on Mad Ave!

The layoff counter keeps ticking.
The layoff counter keeps ticking.
No stopping to this counter's ticking!
No stopping to this counter's ticking!
The Twitter since December is getting louder in Spring '09.
The Twitter since December is getting louder in Spring '09.
When will the Twitters end?
When will these Twitters end?

“People sure stay busy trying to cheat us, don’t they?”

Time and again you may have heard people say, “An idle mind is a devil’s work-shop!” Well, here’s a little story to illustrate that. Someone cooked up a chain email which has been in circulation since 2004. When you read it today, especially due to the current economic downturn, it sounds plausible [and by that I mean ‘credible’ (not ‘creditworthy’)]. Even more so because 2008 has been rife with scams, frauds, identity thefts, and events that lead to economic gloom, if not entirely spelling doom.

A well-meaning friend is busy cautioning other friends and family on Christmas Eve about credit card frauds through this 4-year old email that begins with, “Be Aware………. Very Important”. The email body describes three different scenes, each one portraying a situation wherein a credit card fraud has occurred – you witness it at the restaurant where you just dined; or find your gym locker open on returning after a workout; or, even while picking up your order at a pizza take-out!

Folks, it is a given… precaution is necessary at all times for all users of credit cards… isn’t that basic?

Chain mail_Credit Card Frauds

Break the Chain has offered some sound advice regarding this particular chain email and is worth at least a speed read. Today, many of us who use email are inundated by spam and numerous “forwards”, most quite inane. If we are discerning, we could save our respective nations valuable time and money. At the very least, it would save each of us a lot of grief, but more importantly time otherwise spent unproductively in deleting “forwards”, emptying the InBox, clearing out spam folders; and forwarding these “friendly” emails to hundreds of other unsuspecting souls. People, please be judicious while circulating such emails.

I would refrain from cheating myself of valuable time that could otherwise be put to better use. Here’s an idea… why “forward”, when one could improve on one’s writing skills! Who knows, some budding “author” may even request us to write a “foreword” for their first book! 2009, here I come… Dream on, chitralekhan!  😉

Shifting Careers… they never write, they never call.

Now, they even think my comments are inappropriate (or who knows, may be irrelevant?) and do not publish them… boy, am I amused!

Yesterday, I was reading Michael Melcher’s rather common sense advice on how to handle the silence, which job-seekers are faced with during their job search endeavors. There were about 11 comments from readers, some with web-links to their blogs, or business pages. After reading this piece, I sent the following comment to the blog moderator at The New York Times:

“Eight months back I blogged about this very subject by putting my thoughts in somewhat blank verse (and based on my mood then, a tad tongue-in-cheek). Here’s the link to how I expressed myself https://chitralekhan.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/automated-voice-message-systems/
Michael, thanks for your online advice regarding offline job-pursuits.”

Is it abusive, off-topic, trite? Or holds a grain of truth? 😉

If you’re looking for career advice on job hunting, chances are you’ve already read Melcher’s post. No matter what, don’t lose heart. Hold this torch, continue with your search.

Lost your domain name?

Ever been mad at yourself for “mea culpa”… for having lost your domain name; your very first website, simply because you missed out on renewing the domain name with the hosting company, for a variety of legitimate reasons (or otherwise)? Well, that’s how I feel at this moment.

Eight years back I came up with words-n-motion.com. At the time as freelance researcher and copywriter, I needed web presence; in the pipeline were a couple of job interviews, so… Voila, within minutes I’d registered the domain name, and was rather pleased that ‘dot com’ was available.  In my enthusiasm (and due to some urgency), overnight, I’d written the text (you may call it content); concurrently, a friend worked on the design, structure and HTML. We may have considered a WYSIWYG HTML Editor, but now can’t say with certainty that that is what we used. I even put up my portfolio on it (scanning whatever was possible with my limited resources). Time went by, and as luck would have it, at website renewal time (a few years later), I somehow missed the date, the opportunity, and before I knew it, someone else had grabbed my domain name… what a shame!

Today, with the WayBack Machine for Internet Archives, I still get to see my pages. words_n_motion__waybackmachinearchives

I’m rather pleased to see pages from the past (although due to numerous M&As the links on my ‘past associations’ page are now broken); it evokes numerous memories. On the other hand, I’m irked at myself.

Does such a thing happen with other people, I wonder. My lesson… don’t let go of your domain name, if you care about it. It’s like your identity. Just imagine how it would feel if someone assumed your identity!

Class in Copy: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet aresd building

Who needs a freelance advertising copywriter, especially if s/he has:

  • over 10 years of ad agency experience
  • learned the ropes at full-service agencies
  • climbed up the ladder… surely, successfully
  • demonstrated, proven skills in managing client-agency relations

  • number-crunched for Econometrics (learned to value ‘residual’ term ‘e’)
  • studied Linear Programming (OR) for an accredited Executive MBA
  • an ability to recognize fast-changing consumer needs
  • a keen understanding and interest in consumer behavior
  • curiosity to probe deep to understand your product benefits
  • command over simple language that appeals to your customer

  • an interest in just about everything that you wish to push, pull, or promote 😉
  • a focus on marketing, especially on advertising & PR… not merely on sales
  • astuteness to highlight your not-so-obvious product features
  • combined skills of strategist, brand builder, & copywriter

  • a Bachelors degree in Science that lends to the analytical skills
  • a portfolio which includes clients across four continents
  • provided marketing and consultancy services to a tech start-up
  • people skills to work amicably with your graphics designer

  • advised a leader in consumer electronics, about P.O.S. displays; b-t-l advertising
  • the ability to pile up lists of keywords for S.E.M. – no stuffing, no black hats
  • lived in 3 different nations, traveled extensively across 3 continents
  • clients ranging from: technology to tourism, banking to business, retail to hotel

  • interests in blogging, net-surfing, photography; in creating Animotos
  • contributed to Wikipedia; used Clusty for relevant results, rather than sift through Google
  • grains of wit just enough to spike the copy
  • a rich thought-process, a not-so-fat copy book

  • copy-edited newsletters, contributed to product brochures, annual reports
  • put up posters, created leader-boards and teaser ads, advised on link-building
  • connected with curbed.com, or discussed CPM with The Gothamist
  • translated technical literature from one language to another
  • the thinking of the eccentric; an eye on delivery, and a professional eye for detail

  • an ability to switch: from online to traditional advertising — on a needs basis
  • worked & interfaced with marketing professionals who first think in:
    • Bengali, Chinese, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Hungarian,
    • Konkani, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Russian,
    • Serbian, Sindhi, Spanish, Tamil, Telugu, Tulu, Urdu…
    • … and sometimes, even in English!

Who cares… to work with me? 😉