Change Is Constant: Tweaking Your Online Presence

“Wait five minutes, and things will change.”

We’ve all heard that old saw when it comes to the weather. (When I lived in Central New York, it usually meant snow.) When creating and distributing content, this is good news.

Dog's fur blowing in the windLet’s face it. We work really hard to create content. We put it out there and feel proud of what we have accomplished.

Then reality strikes. Things aren’t working out quite the way we expected them to. Now what?

Change, we need to change things.

Adaptability is not only important in the modern electronic age, it is imperative. Luckily, it’s also a lot easier than it has ever been before.

Think about it. Fifty years ago, if you came up with a marketing campaign, it involved a lot of printing. It might even mean radio and television advertising. This took a long time. Once things got started, it was tough – and very expensive – to change.

Today, we can change our message in a snap. Even photos and videos can go from idea to published product in a matter of minutes.

But we have to be careful. We shouldn’t just change things for change’s sake. As with everything, we need to have a reason and some sort of plan.

  • Start with a goal in mind. What is it you are trying to accomplish?
  • Decide what criteria mean success.
  • Have patience. Some things take longer and need some time to get established.
  • Analyze why the current method isn’t working.
  • Develop alternative methods that might work better.
  • Implement the best alternatives.
  • Evaluate whether the change is working.
  • Start the process over.

Even if we’re satisfied with the way things are going, we still need a periodic assessment. A quarterly review of your online presence is always a good idea.

Don’t be afraid to revise what you have online. Most of the time it’s not a major overhaul; often it’s just some judicious maintenance.

Next Week: The series ends with Ways to Nurture Your Online Presence.


The Waves of Change in English

A couple of years ago, I traveled to Italy. When we were in Rome, the woman who was acting as our tour guide (a native of Rome) warned us to make sure we crossed the street in the marked crosswalks.

“We have traffic laws,” she half-joked, “but they’re more like guidelines.”

The same can be said for English grammar “rules.” We get ourselves into trouble when we remain inflexible about punctuation, usage, or even word meaning. It is because the language is forever in flux.

I like to think of English as a “mutt” language; its DNA is made up of lots of other languages, and it continues to change. All those invasions of the British Isles over the centuries as well as modern communication connections cause constant transformation of the language.

Like the tide on a beach, the way we use English ebbs and flows. This is what makes English so wonderful – and so very frustrating.

I was talking with someone this weekend on just this subject. We agreed that, in order to break grammar rules, we need to know and understand them first. All great artists break the conventions, but they need to know the rules first and have a purpose when they play with them.

In writing, it all comes back to clarity. Blindly following the rules, such as not ending a sentence with a preposition, can actually make things too dense.

Who are you talking to? versus To whom are you talking?

The second example is correct, but feels stilted and clumsy. On the other hand, if an unnecessary preposition shows up at the end of the sentence, it needs to be purged:

Where are you at? (One of my many pet peeves!)

Years ago, a former boss, now a dear friend, gave me the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage, printed in 1975. In only 40 years, we can see how English usage has changed in how and where we use words. Meanings especially are fluid. What was once considered slang has become an acceptable use.

For example, the panel of language experts the authors turned to pretty much agreed that “premiere” (a noun meaning the first performance of a motion picture, play, or television show) should not be used as a verb. Today, however, it is common to use it that way: The movie premiered to great acclaim.

This fluidity of language can drive us crazy if we let it. The main idea is to factor in purpose, audience, use, formality, and, above all, clarity when approaching writing. We never want to make the reader work overly hard to understand what we mean. We leave that sort of thing to lawyers.

So remember, if you are going to wander outside the English guidelines, do it with a purpose and always make sure the content is clear to the reader.