Friday, August 7, 2009

Click on Links Twice; Insert Links Once

Often, I am so excited to share information with my colleagues, friends, and family that I hit the send, paste, publish buttons far too soon. Being an English/Poli-Sci major by secondary education, I am pretty particular about spelling and grammar, but my vision for the message that I want to convey and the perception of the material that I am sending to you does not always mesh with the way that you will perceive or even review the same material. I have been schooling myself in techniques for reviewing my blog posts, emails, HTML creations, etc. from a variety of angles and humbling myself to ask for second opinions, thoughts and feedback. The rapidity and ease with which I can publish my thoughts in abbreviated 140 character Tweets and in a flash, copy and paste a web link into an email message or share it on my Facebook profiles only exacerbates the risk. The social media and networking applications that are so prevalent today often do NOT offer a "preview" option. Once it's out there, it's out there. Let me provide an illustration:

Our company's CEO recently presented to a group of entrepreneurs at a local networking function. His presentation was phenomenally well received and post-event, published on the host's online site. Their ezine focuses on a wide variety of innovations and futuristic ideas and is quite an interesting read and platform for the genius entrepreneurs of today. We certainly wanted to promote our CEO's slide deck, presentation and thoughts as much as possible (read, "We're proud of you, Bossman!") and so immediately jumped to inserting a link to their ezine on our corporate Facebook profile…without enough review….without testing the link in a different environment…without really realizing that the message that was being sent inadvertently focused on the ezine and NOT on the presentation. Why? Because we used the homepage link for the ezine rather than the full page link. Maybe this wouldn't have been a big deal (or blog post fodder) if I hadn't happened to be posting something to our corporate Facebook profile later and happened to click on the link…and went to the home page of the ezine….which updates throughout the day with new articles about new innovations and ideas….which at that moment happened to be something called "Machine Condoms" which are rubber sleeves that one can place over the handles of public gym equipment to avoid common viruses, bacteria, and the dreaded workout flesh-eating infections. To find the presentation, I had to use the search option on the site and type in our CEO's name, which had I been a casual visitor to our Facebook site, I may not have known. (Later the ezine home page featured an article about EATING CAMEL) As I have administrative authority over the Facebook site, I immediately removed the link and later replaced the update and link with one that takes the visitor directly to the intended page and review of the presentation.

In this particular situation, a remedy was quickly applied and we are assuming, with digital fingers crossed, that no adverse consequences will be forthcoming. Imagine the possible scenarios with a different type of organization wanting to showcase their CEO's presentation and a perhaps even odder online environment: The American Medical Association Neurological Symposium speaker and a misdirected or mistyped link that takes visitors to a study on cannibalism and mad cow disease misdiagnoses; a profile bio of one of your key executives, featured in an online magazine and the current volume ALSO features an article about CEO's at the many bail-out companies; your conservative pastor's sermon included in a directory of press coverage of lawsuits against the Catholic church. The room for error is Grand Canyon-esque, given the complexity and nuance of the WEB 2.0 world and our inability to control the environments in which we are found, even when we digitally place ourselves in them.

I offer some pre-publishing pointers:

  1. As always, think about the message that you are sending, especially in the social media and networking environment. Just because we are configuring our messages differently, doesn't mean that they shouldn't carry the same tone and branding as our standard marketing collateral. They may be shorter; friendlier; even funny, but they should still be on target and not muddied by the content surrounding them.

  2. Click on links twice, three, four times, before you include and publish them in profiles, Tweets, email messages etc. Not only do we want to double-check our work and that the links are not broken, but often they will display differently in different environments. And the site to which we are linking may change its content often so the look and feel that was appropriate, interesting, etc. at one point during the day may NOT be later.

    -Click on the links using different browsers, if you're NOT sure that your audience is all IE

    -Test the links and the email messages with different versions of desktop/laptop software

    -Create your messages, .pdf's, audio and video clips, and email templates in the MOST common (notice I didn't write LEAST) version of the software

  3. Sign up for your own RSS feed; test email campaigns, Facebook Fan Clubs, etc. Review the materials, links, and posts as they will appear to your audience; not just in preview or beta mode.

  4. Have someone else review your messaging, if possible, prior to hitting send and publish.

  5. Look at the context to which you are connecting. Think about whether the reader's attention is focused on the context OR your content.

  6. Spell and grammar check. (J Had to slip that one in, again.)

  7. Conduct a Social Media Audit and Risk Assessment before venturing into the land of Twitter and Facebook, et al.

  8. Designate more than one administrative authority that can pull the plug if necessary.

For us, the error was more or less quickly rectified and has become a source of good-natured ribbing and light-hearted Friday email banter. It could have been worse….a lot worse.

I hope you find this edifying and amusing and as always, my best until next one….


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