How many have ever wondered who writes the copy on a web page? Or were curious who wrote the windingly short, terse sentences in a certification course they had to take to get that certification and keep their job? Few, I imagine.

I started out writing mainly for myself in my 20s while finding my muse in college. I wrote poetry and short stories mainly. I even edited an eccentric little literary arts magazine called Royal Vagrant. It was at once traditional and forward-looking, striving for a kind of belated avant-garde ethic combined with a more adventurous genre-breaking obscurantism. It also published work that many already ubiquitously-published were not getting published elsewhere.

I edited poetry books for many of the poets who frequented these circles, having been turned off on the kind of poetry writing they offered at my university with their over-dramatic stories written in vacuously self-important sentences that glossed all that was wrong with the world or with people. Many of these poets gave me a great deal of pleasure. I loved giving my input on what was powerful or lacking. I had already read more powerful and well-crafted poetry than most of the literature majors I brushed shoulders with every day on campus. Writing, I discovered, put life experiences into a proper perspective in a way that nothing else ever could.

In my later 20’s and 30s, now out of college with a highly sought-after Bachelor’s Degree in the Humanities (I declined to write the thesis for the accompanying Philosophy major due to a developed distaste for philosophy academics), I was writing for all kinds of companies, colleges, universities, and even foundations. As it turned out, being a bookworm and a budding literary writer makes for a pretty good commercial writer, with just a few minor accommodations and a sense of humor. I looked to Andy Warhol and other artists for justification that while every artist needs to make art, they also need to make a living. I created my own agency, 123interface.com. It didn’t hit at first, but began to make a decent income within just a few years. Still, I was paranoid about running out of clients and projects.

With age, I realized that lack of confidence was the worst mistake to make as a copywriter. More and more, I wrote copy with abandon, with gusto, with bravado. I became one, to some extent, with Don Draper from Mad Men. I was Don, both as a writer of great commercial lines, but also as a marketing strategist of some technical finesse.

I now had many marketing and business certifications, from Google Analytics to HubSpot email marketing to inbound marketing to a Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPAM) credential. I was now over-qualified for most jobs and frightening to most marketing directors. I began to understand that I had, as an overcompensation for a non-technical degree, qualified myself out of any chance for working for most paranoid bosses with minimal technical or creative expertise in the process.

Over time, my technical writing took on IT and cybersecurity topics, in addition to the marketing expertise I already had. Financial got added to the list, and furniture, property taxes, roofing, you name it, I was writing on topics once boring to me with a new penetrating interest, accuracy, and discrimination. I had begun to struggle with some of the minor pragmatics of English grammar, like how the Oxford comma had eliminated a lot of the conundrums that the Americanized comma introduced, and how ridiculous many of those dilemmas could become.

The English are annoying and full of hot air. I don't deny it. Yes, almost all of them. That's right. 

Yet they really ha ddone a lot of work on the language before passing it off to us colonists. I began to appreciate, if not the English themselves, at least the love they put into that one seemingly ultimate side project. How they worked so hard to perfect what is in effect the merchant language, the language of Empire as best they could. And all this while writing up all of those pesky little Dutch East India Trading Company contracts, dotting the i's and crossing every t. Well...but back to me...

I wasn’t always making as much as I knew I wanted to be, for the simple reason that I was traveling a bit too much, often relocating to another state or another country for personal reasons. I began to tell my wife that she could go on vacations without me.  That I didn’t need to see China or San Francisco or New York again. What was I going to do? This was the recurring thought every Monday as I looked ahead at where I was and where I needed to be to expand my income.

And then one fine day in my 40s, it began to dawn on me:

I was already living my dream, at least part of the time. I was traveling and seeing places most people I grew up with had not and would never see. I always had money. I always had a roof over my head and a car to drive, clothes on my back. Even though owning a business was isolating, oh how I loved the seclusion.

And I still managed to have friends. I was able to drink nice wines and do whatever I wanted. I was able to read whatever and whenever I wanted, learn new languages. I maintained my creativity, my secret interests in the guitar, philosophy, art history,  political history, and film. There was usually an engrossing love interest in my life. What had I been so tense about every Monday all those years?

Nowadays, a second wife and a full beard later, I realize that every copywriter is a secret reader of Proust in search of lost time, of Bukowski looking for that lost beer bottle in the back of the fridge, of the Buddha looking for inner peace, and in the most whimsical moments, of rare hidden away gems like Huysmans, looking for that elusive form of aesthetic or religious decadence that wasn’t in itself an underappreciated art form, only to be gratefully disappointed to find there were none that could not be deeply rewarding and contribute to a fully lived life.

Now and then, I realize that my storehouse is pretty full. In fact, in terms of a dizzying array of cultural interests and my own personally-developed sense of aesthetics, as well as in terms of my more solid second marriage, my storehouse is ample and filled to overflowing. And I realize that this is exactly what makes me a better writer, and yes, a more daring and emboldened copywriter. So I need to make a living being an expert at something commercial, technical, and practical in the bargain. So what? This is precisely what made me an SEO expert along the way, and a marketing and content strategy expert, and got me so certified that I don’t have a choice but to work for myself. I always dove in deep and long and hard and never stopped until I understood the thing by probing the hell out of it, whatever it was.

These days, I have clients coming at me every which way. Ironically, I usually say no., because most clients aren’t very good. That’s the…um…polite version. It’s part of what they do as business owners or middle management types. I get it. But I shield myself, all the same.

FOr instance, I don’t take on a client unless I think there is room for my creativity, my exacting technical research and marketing standards, and my imperative on quality above cost and time constraints. People who want crappy writing probably shouldn’t contact me.

Are you a prospective client?

Be warned; I won’t take on under-funded projects that don’t allow something interesting to be produced in the span of the parameters assigned. If, however, you want blog post or article copywriting, technical copy, or learning materials that go beyond what you can fully imagine yet, and you have a decent-sized budget (say over $500), feel free to book some of my consulting time. My rate is $50 per hour for all first projects, and $75 per hour thereafter. Flat rates of $55 per 500 words can be obtained for most simple nontechnical, purely creative and branding-oriented copywriting.

Are you an agency?

Or if you’re an agency owner who would like to develop your business, I’ve not only made a profit on my own agency, but I’ve helped numerous others to do the same. Book some time if you’d like to do the same. But be warned: agency biz dev is not all that simple when major decisions have as yet to be decided. My rate for agency consulting is  $75 per hour.

Are you a copywriter?

If you just want to find out what a more experienced fellow writer thinks about the copywriting game, or about your own writing, we could talk about that, too. Chances are, I’ve made most of the mistakes you would like to avoid.

Book my time as a writing or web content coach. My rate is merciful for budding copywriters, but also on a sliding scale $50 for the first 5 hours, and $65 per hour thereafter. For established copywriters already making good money (read: you work for an agency or company on salary), it’ll still just cost you $75 per hour, so buck up!

The SEO Instinct book

The SEO Instinct

I wrote a new book recently, entitled, The SEO Instinct. It’s for anyone who creates or is responsible for online content and making sure it is best practices compliant with regard to search engine optimization. This book is my attempt to take the steam out of the SEO industry as a whole. To be honest, it sickens me, because nobody, including SEOs, have ever liked the effects of after-thought SEO, yet that has been the persistent mode despite the ubiquitousness Yoast SEO plugin and numerous mountains of posts proclaiming that either, SEO was dead, or SEO was so complicated that it could never be understood by a layman. It’s my statement, and I will continue to issue revisions as they come to me. It’s my personal testament to a new mode of writer-friendly SEO that puts content back into the hands of human beings and organizations, themselves. It doesn’t eliminate the technical SEO industry, but perhaps just helps to ground it back on Earth where it belongs and empower the individual.

Despite a crazy person from an unsuccessful, unheard-of crap agency (with no real current understanding of micro-blogging and a 90’s-circa website to boot) who hastily got jealous, posted a llittle “tm” up on her also-hastily, previously non-existent company (I made snapshots via a recently cached copy) “SEO company motto”, not the name of an SEO company, mind you (trust me, it gets better…) threatening me with a “lawsuit” if I didn’t change my ORIGINAL original book title, it’s still here and so am I. I’m glad I changed the title last minute, actually, when I realized what a generic and commonplace name I had originally chosen. The SEO Instinct is just that, an instinct, and yet one that needs to be re-developed or rediscovered and put back into our everyday vocabulary. 😉

Link  —  Posted: June 8, 2014 in social media
Tags: , , ,

In case you haven’t heard, I have a new article site going, called Marcana.com. Well, it’s not exactly new, but the barrage of daily articles and most of the fantastic new authors in this new incarnation certainly are. I’m talking about people like Will Reichard, JC Hewitt, Justin McCullough and others yet to have made their debut.

You’re going to like Marcana.com for social media articles, marketing articles, strategy guides, startup advice and a heck of a lot more, besides. You should really subscribe now, so you can say you were hip when hip wasn’t cool, or whatever people say at such times. Follow @MarcanaGuides for the latest updates sent right to your hot little hands. Hurry on over. I posted a special how-to article there on Google Analytics today, and you know you’ll want it while it’s good and fresh!

Thanks to everyone who has supported this blog. I will continue to post my more personal reflections on social media, marketing and what have you here, but please plugin to Marcana.com for the bulk of my marketing how-to’s, strategy pieces and reviews, not to mention a whole bonanza of other great articles by an entourage of superb topic experts I’ve thankfully bumped into along the way. This blog is not going fallow, it just got too cramped to house this (very recent) flurry of ideas and ambitions, so now it has the help that it deserves.

As they say in the Chengdu dialect…gumbei!

The Tech Divide

Posted: June 10, 2010 in social media, tribes, Twitter
Tags: , ,

Translation: "I have interests?"

When I was in my early 20’s, I wrote a Sci Fi novel (never published, of course!) about a post-apocalyptic Earth where those who had sided blindly with what I thought of as the dark side. Technology (the “technocrats”) had parted ways with a more Earth-loving and spiritual “green” caste of society, led idealistically enough by native American tribes (who else?!) who teach moderns to live off the grid and store food, and who had presumably kept themselves “pure” from a world that only cares about convenience at any cost. The Nazis (you didn’t think they were far behind did you?) had secretly taken over the galaxy after losing interest in WWII, and now they were back in enormous black metal motherships with tilted swastikas and those stylish fascist brown and black uniforms, complete with those shiny snappy heel-clicking patent leather boots. As I write this today, I wonder how off I really was–about the technology divide, I mean. The Nazis in motherships? Okay that bit was probably a little off for sure.

Today we can all see people in one form of media (TV, even radio) dissing another form (social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) without any insight whatever into the actual socially bonding uses of social media. These people actually think, because they only see the clips of the bizarre stuff making the rounds in viral videos and the like, that this is all we silly people are doing on the intertubes. People actually come on young shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and tell him he shouldn’t waste time on Twitter. Poor Jimmy is always in the defensive position, when in reality he is probably more talented than most of his guests (the guy not only does amazing impressions and has a near genius comedic insight with some of the best written sketches in the 21st or the 20th century, but actually sings quite well, to boot).

While I don’t think it’s a necessity for everybody to be on Twitter (ranchers, hermits, fulltime moms, Presidents and surfboard sages, I salute you), and while many of us are constantly threatening to leave Facebook like it were a promiscuous spouse, we’re ultimately all here to connect with others. You know, other people like ourselves, people who care about whatever we care about. Let’s face it, even if your thing is making money and dying young partying, you have others to talk to about it, and that gives your life a semblance of meaning, at least in terms of social relations. If you’re a decent comedian or musician, you have lots of research to do on YouTube. When the designated generational “fogey” like Lewis Black says “I don’t care if you bought a new pair of shoes” most Twitter-users immediately get what Lewis Black simply doesn’t: not everyone on Twitter is a 14-yr-old girl with a mouth full of bubblegum. Most of the users I personally see and talk to tend to be male (not crucially important, but telling in terms of male/female ratios), and networking for mostly business purposes. The majority of adults are, and I can state this with some boldness, in fact, either on Twitter for business or for causes that affect people on a massive scale. And in all cases, they’re here to find people who share the interests that their own families and high-school or college friends just simply don’t. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our spouses, our families, our long time friends, but our Twitter posse…the people who know what we’re talking about, they’re out there, ya know?

Truth is, there are lots of aging seniors with stories of fascinating lives to be found hanging out in the spare moments on Twitter. Tree-hugging green people (I’m kind of one of them to a limited extent), conservative Tea Party revolutionaries (okay, I’m definitely not one, at least not yet)–whatever you tweet about and network for, it’s meaningful to you or you wouldn’t be doing it. Studies (I’ll post what I find below) have begun to show that people stop if they find they’re not doing what they love, they just stop, eventually, and start over. So Lewis Black, not only have I never found you funny (sorry, but is caffeine and nicotine withdrawal ever really funny?), but you and Adam Sandler (another pointlessly unfunny “comic”–see his cinematic “twatter” reference) both don’t get what about half of the world already does. Namely that:

A) there are lots of individual non-famous people funnier than the both of you put together–on YouTube…seriously, and

B) social media isn’t about fitting into a preconceived mold like you claim not to be doing, it’s about being ourselves, our full selves, the selves we don’t find opportunity to be with those that fate has thrown us together with in many, if not most cases (at least until we marry and create/train/assemble children into people we think we appreciate and “get” us).

Sure there are limits to the defining of your network, even online. If you want to show another, less mainstream side of yourself to your posse, you might even have to change to another profile. When you go to the bar or to church, how much of that self can you be then? There are more strict limits in geographically limited situtations. This is why meetups (SXSW, the Japanese language group, the myriad of multiplying cultural cons) have become a thing. People want to actually meet and hang out with these people they share so much interest with. Nowadays, I think technology is about one of the few things that enables people who care about the arts, a decent intellectual discussion, socially engaged causes–or speed-crochet for that matter–to actually take action towards fulfilling our full potentials and create meaning in ways that our immediate social geography may just not provide on such a wide open scale.

So, please understand if we don’t listen to you too closely, oh purveyors of social media ridicule with mics and cameras on, but it’s just that we know that you don’t know quite yet what you’re even talking about. And besides, we’re often too busy concocting factually relevant critiques of social media, and not because it annoys us what other people do with their time, but a lot of us seem to care about whatever we’re into. Maybe we’re just funny like that?

This concludes my grumpy midlife crisis moment…for now. You know yours is coming soon, so please don’t front. I’d like my pillow and remote now. I’m old.


"You need this?"

[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

Perhaps one of the biggest irritants to any entrepreneur is the legal and technical red tape which larger companies can fly through, but which small business can easily trip over. It can slow your pace just seeing it up ahead. It can bring you to stop entirely and rethink everything you’d planned. It can even back you down if you succumb to the fear of what is entailed.

I learned recently how red tape can slow us down just enough to show us what we need to work on. It made me think how I sped through certain parts of a great plan and didn’t pay enough attention to crucial strategy areas. I got to the point of disillusionment, and then the next morning…I was sitting at my desk feeling grateful for the opportunity to save my idea. And I owed it all to the barriers that I had come up against by rethinking what I was trying to accomplish and how it would play out.

Red tape is scary for an entrepreneur who doesn’t have loads of capital on hand to throw at it. But red tape can actually cause us to rethink what we’re doing to the point of re-examining all the holes in our plans. It can actually show us how we’ve rushed over certain parts in our giddy excitement and neglected crucial legal, strategic and even ethical issues (which directly influence our brand down the line–and us, ourselves). In short, red tape is in reality like that person at the 8-K marker of the 10K race holding the water, asking you with a gesture “You need this?” Maybe you do need it for the last 2 K ahead before the finish line. An experienced runner might be tempted to think “It will only weaken my resolve, upset my body’s stride” but that stride may be in a very different condition 1 K down the line without a refresher in critical fluids to muscles that are nearly cashed.

We all need to refresh our outlook on what we’re doing from time to time. Red tape is, in the end, just a last ditch opportunity to do just that, before we go in too deep to back out. Red tape is…good?

Consistent rewards programs pay off in consistent customer loyalty.

[tweetmeme source=”MarkBrimm”]

I’ve previously commented that FourSquare hasn’t managed to become enough of a player in the rewards programs of major chains, leaving the ground-breaking application a little on the flat side of a robust loyalty-program enhancement. Well, finally, a major consumer-frequented chain has instituted something substantial in the way of FourSquare promotions…. Starbucks reportedly is now officially turning their FourSquare loyalty program into a bonafied, dividend-paying rewards system (albeit on “trial” basis) to provide actual guaranteed loyalty program rewards to those who frequent the coffee-house chain frequently enough to become “Mayor”.

While the program expuires on June 21st, both FourSquare and Starbucks reportedly think it could easily be extended thereafter. Is this the future of FourSquare? I think that this is the kind of use FourSquare needs to institute (read quickly institute) on it’s own to become a salable offering, or an IPO able to generate substantial sales of shares in the near future. Certainly it’s a step in the right direction for all involved, including the customers of Starbucks and the users of FourSquare. Kudos to Starbucks for taking the lead here. (Hint to FourSquare: shouldn’t you really have created a universal and fully customizable retailer loyalty program by now that retailers could opt into? And isn’t that a regrettable missed opportunity for FourSquare?).

Call me shy I guess. Well, I’m not shy, but I am somewhat private. The day I went up to a room full of 70+ Chinese college students and began to give my first class on business English, it became harder and harder for me not to speak up whenever I have something to say. But in all honestly, I’m still a shy guy. Introverted as all heck! It’s a wonder I can muster the courage to blog. But when I take up something I believe in, that’s when it changes. I don’t call it passion, I call it doing what I believe in. To me, it’s quite an important difference.

Lots of people demonstrate their social behavior with FollowFriday (#FF) each Friday. I frequently am on the receiving end either for my personal or my business Twitter profile. Yet I never do #FF or even thank people as a rule for a simple RT. Was I raised in a barn? Does that rhetorical question even work here?….No seriously, am I just dense-headed? Maybe, but here’s how I do thank people for RTs:

1) Return the favor of being Retweeted by retweeting something important to that person, usually when it matters most to them

Whether it’s a promotion of a product or an event, or just supporting someone when they’re having a rough day or a sweet victory, I like to support people by retweeting them if they’ve done so for me. Sometimes I walk up to people and just start talking to them, or I retweet them without knowing anything else about them, because I think the tweet or the link speaks for itself, and I generally try to give credit where credit is due.

2) Talk up people I like and think are great in public tweets

Whether or not I even know you! Most shy people don’t do that!

3) Follow almost anyone who follows me if they are not a spammy profile

Now, not only do I not hold it against anyone for doing the friendly #FF thing, and I am enormously grateful that people are thinking of me, regardless of whether or not it actually helps anyone’s following. That’s not to say that I have noticed a discernible difference yet, personally, but maybe that’ll change. I do know that I never have followed anyone just because I see a #FF hash tag next to a list of names, even if the person is someone I like and even somewhat respect. Are other people the same as me? Probably not. That’s just me.

That said, I DO think that it’s very important to be social back to people who are social and friendly to you, in whatever way you are most comfortable with. It may not come up today, or tomorrow, but sooner or later you run into everyone twice, even more, especially when you think “oh I’ll never see them again!”. That’s when you are applying for a job or some membership and that person is your pivotal contact. That’s just how life is. And though it’s kind of the wrong reason to be good to people, it’s at least a pragmatic reason for those who feel that being good is “Pollyanna” or whatever. And if it’s not how other people do it, don’t let that stop you rom expressing yourself. Just try not to embarrass anyone. At the end of the day, there is nothing less sociable than humiliating someone (or even just trying to). YOu may not think so, but people remember this behavior, and when it’s your time, they really remember it.

The most important thing on Twitter is just to be authentically you! So if you like #FF or some other trend, don’t do as I do, do as you like! The one thing I can’t stand is the Twitter Nazis who like to say that everyone’s style must be the same. It really shouldn’t be. Just don’t (please) get mad at me if I don’t thank you for a RT or do the Follow Friday bit. It’s not my style, but I do remember a good turn, believe me. I’ve definitely got your number.