A New Blog and Approach for 2016

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You’ll probably notice a new simple blog design on the site. The revised geofflivingston.com reflects a greater focus on photography, and less on books and writing as a whole.

This reflects an anticipated larger strategic shift with my own activities online in 2016. Next year will bring a professional change. With it will come a reduced focus on marketing personal consulting services. I will reveal more when I can.

As a result, at some point during the next year I anticipate letting myself off the hook for a weekly post, and will simply blog when I have something to say. I know people like to interpret these things and go off and write posts about bloggers quitting and riding off into the sunset. This is not that. It is not a resignation, nor the end. Instead, it represents a maturation and an evolution.

There are two drivers behind this change.

Purpose

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The aforementioned personal change will likely push any personal blogging to other venues, a corporate site, my Huffington Post blog, and/or my LinkedIn blog. If I am not marketing, building personal influence, or trying to prove my worth as an individual blogger for some other reason, then weekly blogging is a habit.

There are a variety of reasons for that habit, from maintaining a consistent presence to making sure my writing skills don’t get rusty. The truth is I will be writing, again probably elsewhere. So the only reasons to continue are to build personal influence, which frankly doesn’t interest me very much.

Keep in mind, this is not a new game for me. I don’t see much value from getting free Doritos, conference passes, and movie tickets because I am an “influencer.”

When blogging here does become something I do on my own time, it becomes a time eater, a hobby. My top two concerns will be my child and my professional activities. And I have another hobby which actually produces a dollar now and then, one that I find is less time consuming and more enjoyable, at least right now: Photography.

After regular periodic blogging for so long (see below), it is time for geofflivingston.com to become a true personal blog. That means only publishing when I care enough to write something. Writing when I have something to say effectively right sizes personal blogging to where it belongs.

I’ve Been Around Too Long

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In April, I will celebrate/mourn 10 years of blogging. I have used blogs to weigh in on industry issues, market my services, help causes, and in the latter few years, add my voice to societal matters.

Blogging was unique when I began. Now it is a crazy evolving mess. That probably reflects content shock, and the corresponding impact information glut is having on the interwebs.

In the end, writers write. While I may be a marketer and a photographer, my core skill remains writing.

My experiences blogging and marketing over the past ten years have taught me one thing: A blog is just a means of publishing, nothing more, nothing less. It is an online Gutenberg press that allows people to comment on and share posted media. It’s always been that way. How marketers use or abuse the form is up to them.

My words will still have a venue if I need it. And if I am still active on social channels — and I will be — then my friends and community will still welcome those words, infrequent or not.

So blog I will. When I want to. I guess that’s what happens when you become a cranky old blogger ;)

So You Are a Marketer

Imagine this conversation.

“So, you are a marketer,” said the prospect. “In your mind, what makes your company stand out?”

“That’s right,” says Marketer X. “I have one of the most followed blogs in the business, I’ve written x book on marketing, and I have an extremely well followed Twitter account. That’s why brands like xx, xx, and xx trust my company with their digital marketing.”

“But your website doesn’t offer a responsive design,” said the prospect. She swipes her iPhone and shows Marketer X a painfully small rendition of Marketer X’s company blog/website. “Why not?”

Unfortunately for most marketers (and PR pros), they won’t have a chance to defend themselves because the prospect won’t give them a meeting.

This is the curse of digital. When you become wed to the medium, you must evolve with it. And though many have built businesses around digital, they are struggling to adapt to the mobile revolution.

You, see I wrote a blog post for Gravy analyzing top marketing and PR bloggers for their responsive design and social network presence. What I thought would be a quick research exercise turned into a three-hour odyssey. Many, many of the top voices in the business don’t offer a responsive, adaptive or a mobile specific website design.

This is in spite of smartphones outselling computers. Heck, mobile is driving 31% of all web traffic today, and that number will only grow.

The marketing digirati disconnect occurs in spite of blogs regularly citing how important mobile is becoming. Or that marketing consultants use mobile media throughout the day to maintain social networks. Or that they regularly sell digital media strategies.

It was shocking moving from site to site. Whether the website failed to offer any mobile design at all or a cheap WP Touch plugin bandaid — which was great in 2011, but not OK for 2014 — I left surprised.

Perhaps many of the voices offering marketing savoir faire are really just strong in social media with a grounding in a more traditional discipline. But like big data and the analytical skills it requires, mobile presents a new domain that’s often simply batched in as part of the overarching marketing mix. That’s a mistake.

The Necessity of Offers a Mobile Friendly Site

Mobile is not a new wrinkle. People interact with media differently using smartphones, which in turn requires new communication approaches.

The contextual marketing revolution that everyone is talking about pivots off of mobile location. It requires relevancy and a strict approach towards permission-based marketing. Further, to succeed you need to understand geofencing and how distance triggers different behaviors.

Many methods that work on a computer or even a tablet, don’t translate on a mobile phone. Here are a few examples: Long text pieces, a lack of rich media, comment centric media, and generally small calls to action (e.g. links and small buttons) that aren’t easily pressed on with a finger.

Instagram, Snapchat and Vine are rocking it in large part because of their simple nature and rich media formats. These types of short rich media posts work well on mobile platforms. Further, Twitter’s renaissance has as much to do with the rise of smartphones as it does with Jack Dorsey’s return to the helm.

Moving forward, 2014 is the year of separation. Clients will start qualifying vendors by their ability to deliver a mobile experience. And while most social media marketers don’t feature a responsive design for their consultancy, enough do. Part of qualifying marketers will include an analysis of their own mobile offerings, including responsive or adaptive website design.

In the post social media revolution era, talking responsiveness is cheap. Sites speak louder.

What do you think? Is a responsive, adaptive or mobile-specific site a must?

Image by Seron.

Writing with Negative Space

In graphic design and visual arts, artists use negative space to emphasize their subject. The same could be said of words, in particular stories where you leave enough to the reader’s imagination so they can enjoy the novel, essay, short story, or whatever it might be.

I received this nugget of knowledge at WorldCon last August. Stina Leicht mentioned applying the negative space principle to words during a panel on how to write yourself out of a corner.

Some writers will be quick to say negative space represents the show, don’t tell meme that is driven into every writer’s head who ever attends any sort of workshop. I’m not so sure I agree, though.

While no one wants to read a ton of drivel and boring details from the writer’s perspective, I’ve seen enough authors tell and get away with it. Great writers, in fact, like Philip Roth, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Some go as far as to say the show, don’t tell rule is the great lie of writing workshops.

In reality, “show, don’t tell” seeks to eliminate weak writing. Telling often fails to captivate, and leaves nothing to the imagination. “She was pretty,” for example.

Instead, we show. “Johnna’s brown eyes held my gaze gently. Her full lips curled into a small smile as auburn locks moved slowly backward toward her ears. I tried, but could not stop looking at her.”

However, note the absence of detail there. I did not show you what color or style her clothes were, what her body looked like, what her hands were doing, etc., etc. No, that is the reader’s purview. You assume she is pretty because of the narrator’s reaction, but she may not be.

Over-showing, in my opinion, does as much damage as flat-out telling. Like the straight forward tell, it robs the reader of negative space to imagine.

In considering tellers, the celebrated ones unveiled their stories in straight forward terms. I am stuck by their uncanny ability to do so in an interesting manner. For example, Kim Stanley Robinson gives us whole chapters dictating the scientific laws of the 2312 world through how-to manuals. It’s insane, but delicious, tickling your mind! When you finally understand who is narrating those chapters, your mouth drops open.

Robinson succeeds because he fuels the imagination with negative space instead of robbing the reader of an imaginary journey. It’s the art of grabbing enough to draw, while hiding details so the reader can fill them in with their own opinions, hopes, views and beliefs. A story that grabs the reader engages them in a form of mental interaction, even if they are observing through straight-forward telling.

That is the power of negative space in conjunction with a well-delivered written image.

Personally, I can develop my own expository style further, continuing to move away from tell to show. However, I don’t think a complete yield is the full answer, rather a commitment to tickle the reader’s imagination.

What do you think?

9 Videos on the Digital Future

Happy April Fool’s Day! We now resume our regular programming…

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Five weeks ago at xPotomac, nine speakers and one emcee delivered speeches and conversation starters that sparked 25-30 minutes of questions and answers each. The following nine videos are listed in the order of presentation.

Special thanks to my client Vocus for providing videography services. Vocus is hosting the Demand Success 2013 conference in Washington, DC this June 20-21. The event focuses on marketing best practices for converging media, and includes speakers like Arianna Huffington, Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi, digital journalism expert Jay Rosen, and many more. Check it out.

Please feel free to leave comments and feedback about the conference here. We’re listening!

xPotomac Introduced: BlogPotomac Legacy and Future Vision

DC’s very own Shana Glickfield (Beekeeper Group) provides the introduction to very first xPotomac. xPotomac is where the digital media future meets businesses. This groundbreaking conference features seven media technologies most likely to impact businesses and marketers in the immediate future.

This smaller intimate conference features limited attendance to ensure maximum learning and networking. Speakers will present in a tight setting with the stage centered in the round or in a horseshoe formation. Each session features a gladiator like format with 15 minutes dedicated to speaking and 30 minutes of question and answer from the audience.

Opening Keynote: Voice Search Changes the Game

The opening keynote at xPotomac was provided by Vanessa Fox. Given how much of the current web — social and content marketing included — revolves around search, voice search represents a game changer, especially given mobile use with Siri and Google Voice Search.
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