Connecting People

I was trying to come up with an appealing title for this post when I realized that I’ve been badly brainwashed by the overwhelming number of blogs that bombard us with their top-notch marketable headlines. I’m not saying that headlines like Become a Blogging Wizard – 6 Lessons from Harry Potter or Top 5 Tips For Success in a Crowded Niche don’t work, on the contrary – they get readers flocking to those articles like bees to flowers. But have you noticed that some of those headlines are several times longer than Hemingway’s shortest ever story that was comprised of only six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

The biggest argument behind the need in writing such “killer” headlines is to get noticed, to stand out in a crowd. Perhaps that was true a year or two ago, but now, thanks to Brian Clark, Digg and other high-profiled bloggers and social media sites, everyone is molding their post titles in the same fashion. As a result many readers are getting so prone to those headlines that bloggers have started experimenting with some outrageous mumbo jumbo twists in grabbing people’s attention. In the end we get nothing but catchy though easily forgettable headlines, scannable articles that were written in 20 minutes and can be read in 20 seconds. The same is true for the magazine headlines that the very same Brian Clark advises us to learn from.

Fortunately there are still bloggers out there that don’t follow the herd and direct their work towards a production of highly valuable and mostly original content rather than stating obvious things in an i-bet-you-didn’t-know-that-did-you manner.

I’m afraid to think about how some bloggers who are on a quest for reaching the Digg’s front page with every article they manage to publish would’ve titled Andy Rutledge’s brilliant piece titled Design Psychology or Daniel Mall’s reassuring article Design by Comfort, or John Boardley’s concise straight to the point blueprint A Guide to Web Typography. Probably something like “The Eight Critical Principles In Achieving Perfection In Design”, and “How To Appear To Be An Artist When You Can’t Even Draw”, and “Are You Forgetting About The Four Crucial Doctrines In Web Typography?” respectively, or something along those lines.

So rather than going with “The Most Important Essence of Social Media” or “Connecting People Is What Matters The Most”, I decided to call this post simply “Connecting People”. After all if it worked for Nokia, one of the most recognized leaders in telecommunication in the world, why should it fail for me? Ever since Ove Strandberg has coined this advertising slogan for Nokia, the company has made its name precisely for its ability to Connect People.

Initially I was planning on writing about the social media, blogging including, and talk about one of the fundamental principles of Web 2.0 – connecting people, point out to you that the platinum sponsor of the last year’s Web 2.0 Summit was non other than Nokia with its slogan Connecting People. But then I got sidetracked with this how-to-title-this-post business.

On the other hand, I haven’t really changed the original direction for this article. I wanted to remind everyone, myself including, why we’re all here, what made O’Reilly and MediaLive International to announce the arrival of Web 2.0 in 2004. Of course, there are more characteristics of Web 2.0 than just user interactivity, services and rich user experiences. You can read all about What Is Web 2.0 from Tim O’Reilly himself. But I’ve been noticing a dangerous trend in Web 2.0 or whatever the current version of Web this is. The trend of selling. Everything from selling the brand to selling the article with its headline to selling every possible pixel of the remaining whitespace on the site.

It seems to me that in a hasty chase for the increased traffic numbers, comments and subscribers on our blogs we’re forgetting about the most vital block of the Web structure – about connecting with people, not with the numbers that represent people, but with each other as individuals.

So next time we start writing an article or devising a headline for our blog post, let’s not think about how to attract a crowd, but rather how to express your thoughts in a way that other people can relate to and connect with, let’s reflect on how our contribution can make the blogiverse a better and more inviting place to be for everyone, not just for the chosen few.

This is my small contribution to Ad-Lib group writing project hosted by Randa and Char, where they invited readers to write a post that’s inspired by one of the famous advertising slogans. However if you didn’t like how I was influenced and inspired by Nokia’s marketing slogan blame it on Nokia, not on those two wonderful ladies, and certainly, not me. I was just following Finnish subliminal messages ;-)

REMINDER: there are less than 10 days left for participating in the Social Media Mega Project. Please, do not miss your chance in sharing with the rest of us how do you use Social Media sites to connect with people, and which social networking site does the best job in connecting people?

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11 Insightful Bits in response to “Connecting People”

  1. Some sound advice, Vivien. I think those verbose titles exist to lure the search engines; or rather to ‘artificially’ up one’s ranking for certain keywords/phrases. We could all learn a lot from some of the headlines found in good newspapers and magazines. Moreover, our choice of title reveals something of our attitude toward our readers; are we writing headlines for out readers or for ourselves? Which is more important: self-promotion or education? Well, you’ve answered that in your concluding paragraph.
    Thanks, Vivien. As usual, lots to ponder.

  2. What an excellent read – well said Vivien. I think we’ve all fallen in to the trap of stuffing our article titles with keywords and asking questions that don’t really need to be answered.

    Johno’s right that we could all elarn a bit from picking up the daily’s and seeing how they write their headlines.

  3. I didn’t know Hemingway’s shortest story. It’s incredible how a few words put together in a certain order can trigger a whole drama in the reader’s mind.

    Regarding those “web 2.0 titles”, I don’t think they are really useful for their writers – they have to be supported by a story in order to attract the crowds. But those thousands of people who use them every day don’t seem to realise that’s not enough to make it to the front page of digg or whatever else networking site.

  4. Hey Vivien,

    Great post. Some times I feel alone in this big world and some times, after posts like this, I feel a little better. Thanks.

  5. Thanks to everyone. Glad to see that no rocks have been thrown at me yet ;-)

    Johno, I think that we credit Titles’s contribution to SEO more than they actually deserve. After all, there is more to a search engine, especially the one called Google, than ranking and fetching an article based on its title, or the keywords found in it. Sometimes my Google search results return the sites whose titles didn’t include any of my searched keywords, and those sites appear at the top of the list. And how many of us will be using these particular keywords in our search – “Surefire Headline Formulas”, rather than simply asking – How to write a great headline?

    “We could all learn a lot from some of the headlines found in good newspapers and magazines.” – I absolutely agree with you here. Though “good” is the important key here.

    Aaron, we could definitely learn from the headlines in daily’s, but we could also learn a lot from great writers and the way they’ve titled their stories and novels. Wouldn’t you agree? Of course, those two areas of writing are very contrasting with each other, but it would do us good to learn and do something different for a change.

    Simonne, you’re right – one can write a novel based on those six words by Hemingway, and I bet everyone would come up with a different plot.

    As for the people, the day would come when they will realize and stop going after Digg and others. It’s just for some that day would come sooner than to others.

    Rhett, you’re definitely not alone. As you can see three people above you belong to the same club as well, and the absence of negative comments here hints that there are hundreds of others that hangout at the same club as us ;-)

    Pleased to know that you felt better after this post.

  6. Congratulations on winning the contest.

  7. Thanks a lot, Damiende. It’s really nice of you for dropping by and personally congratulating me. That’s what I call “connecting people”… :-)

  8. You are welcome Vivien. It was a well written piece and I am looking forward to dive deeper into your blog.

  9. oh, I’m so glad that you’ll be exploring more of Inspiration Bit. I look forward to more comments from you ;-) Thank you.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on