Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute

“For years, search-engine optimization, or S.E.O., has turned web pages into Googlebait. These days, optimizers of squeeze pages, drawing lessons as much from the labcoats at Optimizely as from the big daddies at Google, recommend creating a three-to-10 minute video that’s introduced by a ‘magnetic headline’ (‘Find the Perfect Lampshade for Any Lamp’) and quickly chase it with an ‘information gap’ like ‘You’re Not Going to Believe the Trick I Use While Lampshade Shopping.’ (Article of faith among optimizers: humans find information gaps intolerable and will move heaven and earth to close them.) Next you get specific: ‘Click the play button to see me do my lampshade trick!’—after which the video unspools, only to stall at the midpoint with a virtual tollbooth. You can’t go on unless you hand over an email address. Presto.”

Virginia Heffernan

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Amazon’s Customer Service Keeps Getting Better and Better

March 17, 2015 at 12:54 PM

Do you carry this product (Apple’s leather case for the iPhone 6 Plus) in white? Thank you.

March 17, 2015 at 4:00 PM[1]

I do understand your concern that you’re interested in this item.[2]

Unfortunately, we don’t have any more stock of the case in white color right now,[3] and we’re not sure when we’ll be able to get more.[4]

In this case, we’re waiting to receive more inventory of this item from the manufacturers directly instead from our reliance suppliers.[5]

I’ve passed your message to the appropriate department in our company for consideration so that they can make arrangements to avail this item.[5]

I’d suggest checking our website from time to time to see if this item is available. If anyone is selling it, you’ll see a “More Buying Choices” box on the product detail page.[6]

You might also want to check our international sites ( to see if the item is available. Orders placed at these sites cannot be combined with orders and will also be shipped from outside the U.S., so international shipping costs will apply.[7]

Thanks for your patience and understanding. We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,
Nijan R[8]

1. Wow that was quick!

2. Restates my problem.

3. Bottom-line up front.

4. Preemptively answers my first follow-up question.

5. Explanation.

6. Alternative solution.

7. Another alternative solution.

8. Name


Thank you for contacting Amazon seller support.

From your email, I do understand your concern regarding ASIN B002GHBUTK.[1] I deeply regret any inconvenience caused to you with this regard.[2]

Upon reviewing this ASIN, I found that these are restricted by our Business team. These products have been restricted based on reports that some customers have received products that are inconsistent with the product detail pages.[3] Due to the nature of this restriction, Seller Support cannot provide further information or approve requests to list.[4]

To ensure buyer satisfaction we occasionally restrict the sales of certain products to pre-approved sellers. Although certain sellers may be listing these items, Amazon is not accepting new offers at this time.

While we do not have a specific date when we expect these restrictions to be lifted, these restrictions are intended to be temporary in nature.[5]

Unfortunately at this time we do not have a way to appeal this decision, nor is there a way to apply for approval to list this item. I am very sorry for any inconvenience this causes you.[6]

These decisions are taken by our Business team at a higher level where Seller Support does not have any insight into, hence I am unable to provide further information related to the restriction.[7]

While I truly want to help you in this situation,[8] please know that we at seller support do not have authority to influence or make immediate changes to the currently existing policy and service terms as these are implemented by Business team.[9]

I understand that this might be frustrating and may cause inconvenience to you. I deeply empathize with your situation and request your understanding and co-operation for this.[10]

Again I sincerely apologize for the little information I was able to provide you regarding this issue. If there was more I could provide I would, but we at Seller Support do not have that information due to factors out of our control.[11]

Please note that we will also try to get in touch with you to discuss the issue.

Thank you for selling with Amazon,

Vinod Nukapur[12] Seller Support

1. Identifies the product about which I’m inquiring.

2. Apology.

3. Explanation.

4. Our hands are tied.

5. Silver lining.

6. Our hands are tied.

7. Our hands are tied.

8. Empathy.

9. Our hands are tied.

10. Apology and empathy.

11. Apology and empathy.

12. Name

Friday, March 6, 2015

Joe Kennedy Was Right

“The futility of [Hillary]’s email prophylaxis could have been explained to her by any intern. Emails, once written, are almost impossible to erase or protect. On some email systems, you don’t even have to hit send for them to be detected! Remember how Gen. David Petraeus and his mistress-biographer thought they were keeping their correspondence confidential; by writing ‘drafts’—unsent emails in shared Gmail account that both could read? But the FBI wasn’t fooled by their trick and found the messages. Email systems are routinely hacked and correspondence is frequently leaked. If you must use email (and I must) never write anything you’ll be embarrassed by when a hacker leaks it or a subpoena makes it public. Just ask Sony’s Amy Pascal, former Rep. Mark Foley, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a whole Wall Street wrecking crew, Sarah Palin, Selma Hayek, former IRS Commissioner Lois Lerner, Jonathan Gruber, and many more.”

Jack Shafer

Monday, February 23, 2015

“Honey, Do These Pants Make Me Look Fat?”

Asked for your opinion of something you think is subpar, how should you reply? Should you offer gentle reassurance—pointing out the good, then suggesting alternatives—or should you come straight to the point (“It’s bad”)?

Here are two arguments for the latter:

1. “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.” —Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) in Whiplash.

2. Steve Jobs’s taste for merciless criticism was notorious. Jony Ive recalled that after seeing colleagues crushed, Ive protested. Jobs replied, “Why would you be vague?,” arguing that ambiguity was a form of selfishness: “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.”

Ive was furious, but came to agree. “It’s really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback,” he said. He lamented that there were “so many anecdotes” about Jobs’s acerbity: “His intention, and motivation, wasn’t to be hurtful.”

Addendum (3/9/2015): An argument for the former:

“The real power of workplace recognition is not in motivating the most elite levels of talent in the organization. It’s in mobilizing the majority—recognizing the vast middle tier that helps move the organization forward every day. Though recognition for a job well done may be demotivating to a rare few superstars, it’s exactly the thing that pushes the rest of the staff forward.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Don’t Call It an Email “Blast”

“Blast invokes images of something you send out without much thought or consideration. It doesn’t take much time or effort either, because you’re literally just ‘blasting’ out information.

“Effective email marketing, on the other hand … takes time, thought, and consideration because you’re focused on building relationships and not just ‘blasting’ your audience with updates. You need to craft a message that’s relevant to your readers and offer something of value.

“This type of email marketing enables you to build relationships, stay top of mind, drive valuable repeat business, and encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

“Achieving these types of goals starts with dropping the ‘blast’ mentality.

Constant Contact

“When ‘blast’ is used in reference to emails, it conjures up images of unwanted bulk emails invasively clogging thousands of inboxes at a time. And if you’re trying to create and grow meaningful relationships with your customers, it’s easy to see that clogging their inboxes is not the way to go.

“So instead of ‘email blast,’ let’s think of it as a simple note

“Thinking of your email as writing a ‘note’ rather than a ‘blast’ gets you in the right frame of mind. Your emails should be like a pleasant conversation among friends. First, you get their permission to enter into a dialogue, then you offer interesting and informative content, and last, you listen to their responses and feedback.

“When you take this approach with your email marketing, you’ll find much better results. After all, you’re trying to build relationships. Friendly conversations that offer helpful, relevant information will go much further than ‘blasts’ that talk at your customers rather than with them.

Constant Contact

Friday, February 20, 2015

How to Close the Customer Every Time

Typical: after a meeting or call, a prospect asks you to send him additional info.

Atypical: you reply as follows:

1. “Absolutely, Sean—what kind of information would you need to help you (and your team, if applicable) come to a decision?”

2. “Sean, let’s say that I send you all that, you review it and love itwhat happens next?”

Close Every Customer by Asking This Powerful Question

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

3 Tips Every Job Applicant Should Know

1. Copy and paste the job description into a word-cloud generator, like Wordle. This way, the most important words will immediately become apparent.

2. Remember: who you follow on social media and who’s following you is public. Just ask Google’s former CEO.

3. Follow the result-by-action structure for the bullet points on your resume. For example:

  • Generated approximately $452,000 in annual savings by employing a new procedure which streamlined the business's vendor relationships

Friday, February 6, 2015

The #1 Mistake Everybody Makes on Twitter

In Your News Releases, Use Different Subheads for Different Reporters

Imagine this is the headline of a news release you’re pitching:

“Acme Releases Groundbreaking Shovel”

No doubt, you’re sending this to various media. Shouldn’t you therefore vary the subheadline—if not the headline itself?

As my friend Mike Long explains, here are a few subheads you might use for a business reporter:

  • Release expected to boost 4th quarter profits
  • First Acme tool built at new all-robot plant
  • Last project of outgoing CEO

And here are a couple for a lifestyle reporter:

  • First Acme tool built at new all-robot plant
  • High-tech features aimed at first-time gardeners

It’s one of the oldest—and too often overlooked—tricks in the press playbook: different audiences deserve different messages.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is Facebook Dying?

“Here’s the hard truth. According to the latest from Pew Research, Facebook’s growth has become relatively stagnant. The site is also losing enthusiasm from today’s adolescents.

“But, I, as well as others, will argue that’s completely irrelevant. Facebook is still the world’s largest social network. The latest data shows that Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion monthly active users. That means 20% of the world is on Facebook.

“Reports released just days ago show that Facebook topped Wall Street’s revenue target in the fourth quarter, growing by 49% and reaching $3.85 billion.

“So yeah. Facebook’s not going anywhere.

Kiera Stein

Friday, January 30, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. Everything You Know About Writing Is Wrong: 10 Myths, 10 Rules
  2. 10 Myths and 10 Rules of Good Business Writing
  3. Everything You Need to Know About Writing
  4. You Need Not Be Shakespeare to Write Well. Just Learn These 20 Myths and Rules
  5. Most Business Writing Is Lousy. Here's Why—And How to Fix It
  6. To Write Well, Forget Everything Your High-School English Teacher Taught You
  7. Writing Isn’t Easy, but It Can Be a Lot Easier With These 15 Easy Rules
  8. If Steve Jobs Wrote As Well As He Delivered Presentations, This Would Be His Playbook

Addendum: And the winner is...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Your Uberized Future

“Just as Uber is doing for taxis, new technologies have the potential to chop up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction. Uber and its ride-sharing competitors, including Lyft and Sidecar, are the boldest examples of this breed, which many in the tech industry see as a new kind of start-up—one whose primary mission is to efficiently allocate human beings and their possessions, rather than information.”

Farhad Manjoo

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This Is Why Hacks Hate Flacks

“For 20 years, as a reporter and editor in London and New York, most of my time has been spent doing the things nonjournalists assume journalists do all day: developing sources, chasing leads, delving into secret files and polishing paragraphs. But I have also devoted countless hours to dealing with PR people. This has involved furious phone calls to protest at my underplaying a client’s view of the world, surreptitious forwarding of material helpful to the case being pitched, and friendly invitations to bend my ear over lunch or drinks ... Then there are the emailed pitches, trying to persuade me to spend time and reporting resources on stories of questionable value to the FT’s readers.

“My inbox is clogged with the ‘barking news’ about New York’s first doggie-treat truck, the invitation to meet the inventor of the multimedia coat hanger, the press release on the “trail-blazing” motorway service station and the survey on ‘slowcial networking’ (otherwise known as sending greetings cards). There is the gobbledegook about ‘new paradigms,’ ‘providers of proactive solution management systems’ and “taking consumers down the marketing funnel,’ and there is endless ‘circling back’ from over-friendly strangers (‘Hey buddy!’ began one recent email) wondering whether their pitch ‘could be a nice fit for Financial Times, New York Bureau’—a target picked blindly from the directory.

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

After Reading Your Next News Article, Ask Yourself This Indispensable Question

“We want to be writing for smart, nonexperts. And we want to be doing it in a way, that if we have succeeded, they can turn around and explain that topic to someone else. To me, that is the test. To be blunt, for a long time, too much journalism has failed in that. Written in really long sentences, in a somewhat stilted way—often, trying to pack every idea of any significance into the first 250 words. I think that isn’t conversational, and I think it makes comprehension and content harder to understand.”

David Leonhardt

Friday, January 16, 2015

Raise Your Hand if This Describes How Your Company Approaches Social Media

“There was a social team that ran Twitter for the newsroom, but Facebook and YouTube were handled by marketing. SEO was handled by the product team, while analytics fell under the consumer insights team.”

Inside the New York Timess Audience Development Strategy

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Entertainment Is a Necessary and Noble Component to Every Form of Communication

“If you … ignore the imperative to engage people and make them interested in what you’re doing, then the whole thing becomes self-indulgent and boring, and therefore inconsequential.

“One shouldn’t … be entertaining for its own sake … But it’s necessary to get people into the door … so that your serious journalism isn’t just good but—as important—‘heard’ …

“You have to do things to make people want to spend their finite time reading what you’ve written instead of all the other shit they can be doing on the Internet …

Glenn Greenwald

“The trick has always been—whether it’s covering tech news, economic news, or anything else—to cover it in a way that’s smart enough so that people in the industry will appreciate it, but also enthusiastically enough so that people outside will find it compelling … Billions of dollars are made and lost every single day in the market, so there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t be a thrilling thing to follow, just as if you were following sports.”

Joe Weisenthal

Addendum (2/5/2015):

“We’ve all heard it—content is king. And that will always be true. But the king doesn’t, and can’t, work alone.

“Let me put it this way. You remember the tree falling analogy, right? If you publish great content, but no one reads it, is it still great content? Yes, but who cares? No one’s reading it, so it will not help you. That makes it irrelevant (sorry).

“Great content is the backbone of any solid social media and digital marketing strategy. But it needs a distribution strategy to get the exposure your content—and your business—deserves. That means an active social media network, outreach, advertising, SEO, etc.

Kiera Stein

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. Social Media for Dummies
  2. Everything You Need to Know About Social Media
  3. 7 Ways to Become a Social Media Pro
  4. 7 Things You Need to Know About Social Media
  5. 7 Secrets to Social Media Success
  6. 7 Ways to Socialize Your Media
  7. 7 Ways to Achieve Social Media Success
  8. 7 Ways to Kill It on Social Media
  9. 7 Things You Must Know to Master Social Media
  10. The 7-Part Process to Become a Social Media Pro
  11. 7 Simple Ways to Dominate Social Media
  12. 7 Easy Ways to Perfect Your Social Media
  13. Everything You Wanted to Know About Social Media but Are Too Embarrassed to Ask
  14. The 7 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Social Media
  15. 7 Things You Never Knew About Social Media
  16. 7 Pro Tips for Social Media Marketers
  17. 7 Things You Must Learn to Improve Your Social Media
  18. What Every Businessman Needs to Know About Social Media
  19. 7 Tricks to Turbocharge Your Social Media
  20. The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media
  21. 7 Powerful Social Media Hacks

Addendum (1/10/2015): The results, via Outbrain: