Tag Archive for: blogging

Blogging Q&A with Carolyn McClanahan

Carolyn McClanahan’s fearless sharing of her opinions across social media, including on her blog, spurred me to ask her to participate in my Q&A series with financial advisors who blog. She’s a great example of an advisor who communicates her passion about her topics, which include the intersection of medical and financial planning issues. Carolyn, who began her career as a doctor, is with Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Fla.

 

Q. When did you start The Quest for Simplicity, your blog for Forbes?

A. November 2011.

Q. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.

A. Unlike most financial planners, whom I assume blog for business development, I’m blogging for my colleagues in the industry and opinion makers. The purpose of the blog is to educate other financial planners and the public about an area in which our firm, Life Planning Partners, excels—incorporating health conversations into all aspects of financial planning. The firm’s goal is to be an innovative financial life planning practice that is nationally recognized as doing great things for our clients and the profession, demonstrates a model other financial planners want to emulate, and serves as a base for us to make great change in the world.

Has my blog brought us new business? Probably not directly. Do our clients love my blog? Yes, they are very proud of the work we are doing to improve the financial planning profession. They participate in all our “experiments,” love when I share their stories (with permission of course), and refer clients to us readily. I think the referrals are not due to the blog alone – it is a combination of our great service and our ideals. Our business is so good that we had to close to new business for now. Our waiting list had grown to eight months long. I think we are doing something right. New business comes from a confluence of factors.

Q. How else does the blog affect your relationships with clients and prospects?

A. We actually share our business plan with our clients. By doing this, we’ve created a “tribe” of people who get what we do and are very supportive of the change we are trying to make in the financial planning profession. The blog is part of how we implement this change.

Most of the new clients who come to us have read the blog. My unbridled openness about some very controversial topics actually attracts clients to us. And the really good news—people who are uncomfortable with us do not come to us. Therefore, we have only ideal clients and our client retention is off the charts. We have authentic, deep, and difficult conversations with ease.

Q. How will you know if you’ve succeeded as a model for other advisors?

A. Our metrics are:

1. The number of people who read my blog.

2. The number of speaking engagements and type of topics I’m asked to provide.

3. The number of planners who ask about our business model so they can incorporate it in their practice. I will watch with interest how many firms move to retainers and hourly work over time.

Q. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business?

A. I think our authenticity and unbridled approach in discussing real problems goes a long way. Storytelling is the most effective way to get a point across.

Q. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts? Provide the titles, URLs and a comment about why you included them.

A. My most popular post is “Five Quick And Important Facts On Health Insurance Through Obamacare.” I think this was popular because it was practical.

Cliffs Notes Version of the Affordable Care Act — Again, a practical explanation of the law.

Gun Owner Rights and Obamacare – Yes It Is In The Law — Although I received a lot of flak about this article from the gun lobby, clients were overall very proud of this article. It was written right after the Aurora massacre, and was the first article pointing out the National Rifle Association’s hand in Obamacare. A reporter from Politico told me this article was the start of President Obama’s executive order protecting health care worker’s rights to ask about firearms in patient care settings. It shows how powerful words and calling out the truth can be.

Q. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog?

A. Writing a weekly blog is a lot of work, especially when you are running a small business. Over the past couple of months, I’ve run into a number of challenges. We are still reeling from the huge growth of our business, we are trying to hire additional help, and I spent some time taking care of loved ones.

A tip I read somewhere that I wish I would have followed? Have pre-written posts in place in case you run into a tight spot and have nothing to post.

Otherwise, only write about topics that you care about – your passion will come through.

If you enjoyed this post, check out this blog’s Q&As with Michael Kitces and Jim Blankenship. If you have a great blogging success story worthy of being featured in a future Q&A, please contact me. I’d like to hear from you.

Q&A with Michael Kitces of Nerd’s Eye View

Blogging can help advisors attract and retain clients. I’ve decided to collect stories from advisors that illustrate this.

I’m starting a Q&A series with a contribution by Michael Kitces author of the Nerd’s Eye View blog and Pinnacle Advisory Group. Blogging has brought him more visibility, which has “helped to bring clients and cement relationships with centers of influence,” as he explains below.

 

1. When did you start your blog, Nerd’s Eye View?

The Nerd’s Eye View blog first launched in March of 2008, at the same time that I launched my advanced educational newsletter for financial planners. My vision at the time was that the newsletter would be where I provided content eligible for CFP CE credit – which has a certain length requirement – while the blog was where I would publish “shorter” discussions of technical topics (that didn’t merit a full newsletter issue) and cover practice management ideas (ineligible for CFP CE credit) that I wanted to share.

However, the reality at the time was that the blog had no visibility and generated no traffic, and I generally found it very unrewarding! As a result, I actually stopped writing for the blog altogether after just a few months, and it lay dormant on the site for about two full years.

In the fall of 2010, I “revived” the blog again. The light bulb that had gone off in my head at the time was the rise of social media; in point of fact, Facebook and LinkedIn had been out several years already, and Twitter was almost two years old, so social media wasn’t exactly “new” even at that time. But I realized that, while the challenge of writing a blog is that it’s hard to build an audience, social media provides an opportunity to get the word out about the content. So at the suggestion of advisor tech guru Bill Winterberg, I started up on Twitter (and invigorated a LinkedIn profile which up to that point had been little more than an online resume), and the synergy of the blog and social media has just grown exponentially from there!

 

2. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.

The combination of the blog and social media presence has been absolutely incredible for business, though I will confess that one-to-one situations – “this tweet got me this client” – are almost impossible to track.

It’s important to bear in mind that the blog (and social media) started as something that was attached to my newsletter and then-nascent (in 2008) and growing (in 2010) speaking business, so I measure my business results first and foremost in that context.

My net newsletter subscriber count (plus growth, minus some natural attrition) has grown steadily at a pace of about 15%-20% per year for the past five years, and the only means I have for making the newsletter known is my website (which people visit via the blog and social media).

The speaking business has grown even more dramatically, and there I can often track new business/conferences directly to engagement via social media. I have been invited to speak at conferences through relationships I formed online, and have even been hired to keynote a conference through a series of a half-dozen Twitter direct messages (DMs)! Overall, I have more-than-doubled my speaking fees since I re-launched the blog and started on social media, and despite those price increases my speaking engagements are up 60% from 3 years ago.

Notwithstanding what was originally a focus on the newsletter and speaking engagements, my blog and social media presence has started to significantly “spill over” into marketing for Pinnacle Advisory Group, the financial planning firm where I am a partner. The blogging and social media activity has generated an incredible flurry of media activity; I’m typically fielding three to five media inquiries per week from industry and major consumer publications (and a handful of smaller publications), and my visibility on social media has helped cement several highly visible consumer media opportunities, including becoming a Marketwatch RetireMentor, one of the WSJ Wealth Management Experts, and a member of the CNBC Digital Advisory Council. In the end, we could have hired a media/PR firm for tens of thousands of dollars every year and still not gotten the firm the visibility that I’ve been able to generate “for free” through blogging and social media.

And ultimately all that PR visibility has helped to bring clients and cement relationships with centers of influence. It also bolsters referrals from existing clients; it’s one thing when a client says “work with my advisor, he’s great,” but it’s another when the client says “work with my advisor; did you see the article about his research in the New York Times yesterday?”

 

3. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business —either at Kitces.com or Pinnacle Advisory Group?

This varies a bit by which business I’m using to measure results. In terms of my core writing and speaking business, my technical articles on advanced planning techniques have been most effective at demonstrating and cementing my brand as a financial planning expert. This has helped generate newsletter subscriptions and speaking engagements.

Notably, though, my technical articles have also helped me to build a following of reporters who want to keep up on the latest material I’m studying, researching, and writing about. As a result, the technical articles also lead to a great deal of consumer media exposure.

The content I write on practice management and industry trends has been most effective for reaching our industry press, which indirectly helps to support my brand as a speaker. It has actually been so successful in building my credibility on these issues, though, that it now helps to support several related businesses, including our recruiting firms New Planner Recruiting and Experienced Advisors Recruiting, our investment outsourcing business for other advisors (Pinnacle Advisor Solutions), and what is now a growing series of technology firms I work with on a consulting basis about how to understand and reach advisors.

Overall, I’ve found that the key to success with blogging and social media is sheer consistency. Good articles come and go; I try to make every one a winner, but the data are very clear that… some are better received than others. Balancing content that I create with content that I share has also been key. On social media channels, less than 20% of the content that I share is my own, and I’ve grown a significant following with my “Weekend Reading For Financial Planners” series, where I highlight the best dozen articles I read for the week, with summaries of each and links to click on to view the full article.

Ultimately, the key is to be a resource. Yes, I hope that my content is a resource, but it can’t be the only resource. So I share as much as I can to be helpful to everyone in every way possible; and I hope it’s appreciated that some of it is content I created myself!

 

4. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts? Provide the titles, URLs and a comment about why you included them.

Whew, this is a tough question; I’d like to think that everyone I try to create is effective, and I hate to pick favorites!

In terms of overall results and impact, I’d say my top three are:

1) Financial Planning Implications Of HR8 – The Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. This article was a summary of the fiscal cliff legislation that passed at the very end of 2012. The Senate passed the final version of the legislation a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, the House took it up on New Year’s Day, and the president signed it into law on January 2nd. Anticipating that the House was to pass the legislation and not push us off the fiscal cliff, I actually spent New Year’s morning reading up on the legislation and posting my own “first look” commentary. Despite the fact that article didn’t even post until the early afternoon, and it was a holiday, the post was so widely shared that January 1st of 2013 was the biggest traffic day the site has ever had; and the second biggest day ever was the follow-on traffic on January 2nd! It’s pretty amazing what happens when you publish timely content on an important issue!

2) Should Equity Exposure Decrease In Retirement, Or Is A Rising Equity Glidepath Actually Better? – This article was actually a write-up of some recent new retirement research I did with Wade Pfau. The article received such a strong reception that the blog post alone, and the buzz it created, resulted in coverage in several national publications, including the New York Times, Kiplinger, and AARP. Not only was this great general publicity for the firm, but I’ve been able to track several new business opportunities directly to the publication of this single blog post!

3) Weekend Reading For Financial Planners. About a year after the blog had launched and my social media activity was increasing, I started getting questions from other advisors, basically along the lines of “what do you read to keep up on information the way you do?” I got the question so much, I decided that perhaps I should just start making a list of the best articles I’d read each week. Modeled after the “linkfests” popular in the finance/econ/investment world – but recognizing that there just isn’t nearly as much “news” in financial planning every week – I launched my weekend reading column. Over two years and 100 weekly-reading-summaries later, this continues to be my most popular ongoing content on the blog.

 

5. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog? Personally, I would love to know the secret of how you manage to spark so many conversations.

I’ve got to give two tips here, as the answer to your question has two key components.

The first tip is that if you want to succeed with blogging and social media it requires consistency, and the only way consistency happens is if you make it habit, and the only way you can create a habit is to make a commitment to a schedule of how often you’re write, with deadlines, and hold yourself accountable to meeting it. I’ve varied my publishing schedule a few times over the years; for a while I was posting once a week, then twice a week, then three times a week, eventually five times a week, but then backed off to three times a week and have stayed there. I now have a pretty consistent routine to manage that consistent publishing schedule; I capture topics I want to write about in a never-ending Evernote list so I will always have lots of ideas when I sit down to write, and I’ve got a process for carving out the time to do it. Granted, I don’t think most advisors “need” to blog as often as I do, but the principle is the same whether you’re trying to write three times a week or just once or twice a month. Have a schedule, set deadlines for yourself, commit to keeping them, and make it a habit.

My second tip is that to be able to create a steady stream of compelling content, focus, focus, focus on your target audience. Think about what their issues are. Read the publications they’re reading. Talk to them constantly (they’re your clients, so hopefully you are, but make sure you’re taking the time to listen to what’s on their minds). Virtually all of the content I write is inspired by a conversation I have at a conference, a question someone emails me, or a question/issue that a client raises. The trap I see most advisors fall into in this area is either that they don’t keep a focus at all – they’re sharing everything from things that matter to their clients, to things that matter to them (which is not always the same thing!), to things that are just plain irrelevant – or they don’t have a clear focus on who their reader is supposed to be and how they can differentiate. Ultimately, this is why having a niche is so important; as financial advisors, few will be capable of differentiating themselves and creating unique content by publishing the same generalized financial information that can be found via Kiplinger, MarketWatch, CNBC, Money, etc. There are lots of generalized consumer financial sites out there, not to mention an already crowded personal finance blogosphere. But with a niche, you can truly specialize; you might be the only one blogging about the latest issues for executives at a particular technology or pharmaceutical company making options decisions, or about a new strategy to manage malpractice insurance costs for OB/GYNs, or about the latest tip for young upwardly mobile female entrepreneurs. Having a focus – having a niche – is a way to stand out from the rest; your audience might be smaller than “everyone” but you can be highly differentiated and clearly stand out as an expert for all the people in that niche. And given that most financial advisors “top out” somewhere around 100-150 active and engaged clients (if not fewer), the reality is that virtually any niche is capable of working when those are all the clients you need for a wildly successful practice!

If you have a great blogging success story worthy of being featured in a future Q&A, please contact me. I’d like to hear from you. If you’d like to write better blog posts, you’ll find step-by-step instructions in my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Content marketing: Why the heck am I doing this?

I don’t need a blog or social media to earn my living as a financial writer. Heck, I don’t even need a website. I have friends who earn nice incomes through one-on-one networking and other traditional marketing. I see how I could have achieved something similar. Yet, here I am, spending hours on unpaid content marketing that won’t lead directly to work. This includes a blog, social media outposts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ profile and Google+ page), mini e-books, and my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Sometimes I wonder why I subject myself to the endless “to do” list that this marketing imposes. There are several reasons.

1. Self-expression that influences people

Writing helps me to process information. I can figure out what I think through the process of writing. This is particularly true of pieces like “Q&A format for articles: Good or bad?” which I wrote to figure out why I dislike Q&As.

However, I wouldn’t write as much as I do if I lacked an audience. I’m pleased that my readers enjoy my writing and say that I help them to improve their writing and marketing. True confession: this boosts my ego. However, I also like to think that I’m contributing to raising the quality of financial communications. I was especially pleased when one person said, “I hope this goes viral,” after reading my guest post, “Seven Ways to Talk Your Financial Execs Out of Jargon and Bad Writing,” which appeared on the MarketingProfs blog.

2. “Water cooler”

As a solopreneur, I don’t have many conversations during a typical business day. Comments on my blog posts and other social media exchanges fill a gap. As an introverted writer, I’m more comfortable mulling over my responses and typing them out instead of talking.

It’s surprising how much of a connection I can feel as a result of online exchanges. There are folks whom I think of as friends whom I have never met in person.

3. Business development

Blogging and social media haven’t delivered tons of business to me. I’ve picked up a few clients here and there.

However, the role of social media is increasing. One new client found me after I retweeted his company’s Twitter feed. He then started following my blog. Although I met another new client at a conference, I discovered that he already knew me through my newsletter and social media activity. Both individuals quickly became clients after we started discussing specific projects. I believe they were pre-sold on me, thanks to my content that they’d discovered online.

Even if clients find me through traditional networking, my blog and social media activity help me. I believe that most prospects will do an online Google search on Susan Weinersearch for my name before hiring me. They’ll find plenty of content as a result of that search.

In addition, I believe that my blog and social media play a greater role in selling Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients, when compared with their role in reeling in corporate clients for white papers and articles.

What does this mean for you?

I see two lessons for you:

  • You don’t need to pick up clients directly from blogging or social media for those activities to be worthwhile.
  • You shouldn’t discount the role of social media in sealing a sale, even if prospects find you using other means.

What do you think? Do you agree with my conclusions? I’m interested in your thoughts.

Don’t be a squirrel when you blog

I’m a big fan of squirrels in my back yard. But when you blog, please don’t act like a squirrel. You’ll lose readers.

I read about the squirrel syndrome in iPhone MillionaireIt’s the “natural human instinct to save the good stuff for later,” says author Michael Rosenblum. The squirrel syndrome expresses itself in blog posts that start slow and dull. Their opening paragraphs don’t offer any incentive for readers to continue, even if there’s life-changing advice down below.

“If you don’t reach out and grab someone from the very beginning, there will be no later,” as Rosenblum says.

Here’s my recommendation. Give your good stuff away in the your first paragraph. Identify the problem you’ll solve or the happiness you’ll deliver for your readers or catch their eye with a strong image or story. At a minimum, you’ll benefit from readers going beyond your headline and perhaps even grasping the gist of your message.

 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of iPhone Millionaire from McGraw Hill in return for agreeing to mention it in my blog.

Alternate short and long blog posts?

Some bloggers have made their reputations by writing long, thoughtful posts. Their only problem? They’d like to post more frequently, but long posts take too much time.

“Is it okay to alternate short and long posts?” That’s the question one of them asked.

There’s no law against it. Blog posts can run any length. However, if you’re known for in-depth posts, I like the idea of managing readers’ expectations by telling them that you’re alternating short and long posts. The folks who enjoy the long ones will know when to visit your blog. You may pick up new readers with short attention spans with your alternate posts.

If the contrast between your short and long posts isn’t great, you don’t need to say anything. The length of my posts varies greatly, but I haven’t remarked on that until today.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t write like a spiny cedar!

The triangular spikes that studded the tree’s bark caught my eye along the Costa Rican trail. They’re the spiny cedar’s protection against sloths who would scale it. When you write, please don’t put spikes on your text. They’ll turn away the time-pressed readers who are your sloths.

What are the spikes in your writing?

In many cases, the spikes in advisors’ writing are ten-dollar words: fancy-schmancy jargon or Latinate words that could easily be replaced by plain English.

For example, I’ve long disliked the word “mitigate,” as I wrote in “Can you make a case for mitigate?” “Financial writers clinic: Getting rid of ‘mitigate,'” and “BNY Mellon: I liked your ‘truth ad’ until you used that word.”

By the way, if you’d like to see a genuine spiny cedar, my husband and I took this photo on the Teak and Canal trail of Hacienda Baru on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.

Simple tip for boosting your guest posts’ effectiveness

Guest blog posts are a great way to expand your network. This tip will help you get more mileage out of your appearances on other people’s blogs.

Photo: BrittneyBush

When you guest-blog, ask your host to insert your headshot photo, byline, and brief bio into the post. Without this information, your readers may not notice that the host is not the author of your post.

I know this because a friend of mine was a guest blogger. However, at first I attributed his opinions to his host. I finally caught on after the friend tweeted his authorship. Don’t let this happen to you!

I follow my own guidelines when I host guests on my blog. I also introduce them briefly. You can see examples by clicking on the many links in “Guest bloggers: 2011 in review.”

I’m mulling over another insertion: the guest blogger’s Twitter handle. I like how Mridu Khullar Relph included @SandraBeckwith in the byline for “Platform Building for Non-Fiction Writers.”

Unsure about how to find guest-blogging opportunities?

You can learn how to find guest-blogging opportunities from my blog posts on “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments, Part I: Your approach” and “Part II: Blogs that accept guest posts from financial advisors.”

P.S. Why I’m no longer labeling guest posts as “guest posts”

I used to put “guest post” in titles of the posts other people wrote for me. However, I’ve stopped doing that after reading “Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013” on the ProBlogger blog. The gist of that post seems to be that blogs that abuse guest posts as part of the authors’ attempts to raise their rank in searches will be penalized by Google in 2013.

I think I’m in good shape because none of my guest bloggers are inserting keywords or links solely to boost their Google rankings. However, the first tip of the ProBlogger post was “1. Stop telling people it’s a guest post.” I figured that was a small step worth taking.

Q&A format for articles: Good or bad?

The Q&A format has its uses. An FAQ section covering frequently asked questions belongs on many websites. However, this format should be used sparingly for articles.

FAQs work, so why not Q&A articles?

Unlike articles, FAQs are meant to be searched or skimmed for one question, not read word-for-word. Their readers seek answers to specific questions or solutions for problems, such as “How can I fix it when I get Error Message XYZ?” An FAQ may include many questions, but the reader is interested in one—or only a few—Q&A pairs.

Q&As make it hard to grasp an overall message

The Q&A format makes it harder for readers to grasp your overall message than with an article. A traditional article can offer an introduction, headings, and a skilled writer’s transition between topics.

Q&A interviewees may hold you hostage

The Q&A format works best when your interviewees know how to hit your readers’ hot buttons, and they’re articulate. You can’t count on finding that in every interviewee.

When you choose a Q&A format, you deny yourself the use of paraphrasing. As a reporter, I learned that only lazy reporters always use direct quotes. Paraphrases, which restate what your source said, can be more economical and effective. Plus, a colorful quote stands out better against a background of plain vanilla text.

Q&A format is okay when…

A Q&A format works well when you

  1. Write FAQs
  2. Keep it short—My gut tells me three questions is a good length. A Q&A may work well as a blog post. I often discuss reader questions on my blog.
  3. Interview a famous person whose fans care about every word he or she utters—Think Justin Bieber and young girls or Jack Bogle and index fund devotees.
  4. Edit the interview transcript—Word-for-word transcripts don’t make anyone look good. At a minimum, cut out the ums, uhs, incomplete sentences that don’t work, and irrelevant material. If you’re interviewing a corporate employee for your company’s newsletter, you can take more liberties, as long as you check with the employee to make sure you haven’t misrepresented him or her.

What do YOU think?

I’m curious to learn what you think about the pros and cons of the Q&A format. If you’ve used it effectively, feel free to share a link.

Blogging lessons from the New York Times’ public editor

When she started her job, Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, set herself three goals that can also apply to advisors who blog for their firms:

  1. Put readers first.
  2. Encourage conversation.
  3. Promote transparency and understanding.

The goals need some tweaking for advisors because, as Sullivan explains in “My Turn in Between the Readers and the Writers,” “…the public editor’s job is to serve as an in-house critic as well as the readers’ advocate in matters of journalistic integrity.” To make her goals relevant to advisors, I put my own spin on each of her three rules below.

1. Put readers first.

A blog that focuses only on boosting your firm and its ranking in Google and other search engines won’t do you much good. Readers who aren’t engaged by your content won’t stick around. They’re not likely to become clients either.

Your blog should focus on providing useful information on topics that your clients and prospects care about. Write in plain English so they can understand you.

2. Encourage conversation.

Sullivan starts her section on conversation by saying, “Journalism, these days, is no longer a one-way proposition, with celebrated news organizations handing down the news like Moses with his stone tablets.” Advisors aren’t Moses either. Plus, they can gain from listening to their readers.

Encouraging conversation is a tough one for many advisors. Concerns about compliance spur many advisors to turn off the comment feature on their blogs. But even without allowing comments, you can pose questions that invite people to contact you.

If your blog allows comments, that’s even better. Try to get a conversation going. It’s not just a matter of posing questions. When readers comment, you should show your respect for them by responding. At a minimum, say “Thank you.” It’s even better if you react to some aspect of what each person says.

3. Promote transparency and understanding.

Advisors are used to the idea of transparency of fees and the like. Transparency in a blog might mean taking a more personal approach to some topics. Perhaps you can reveal something about your life that makes your blog post topics important to you.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Guest post: Do longer articles really get shared more often?

Which blog posts get shared the most? Everyone wants to know. So when I read that “longer articles tend to be shared far more often,” according to an article cited by “Content Marketing: Dance Like Nobody’s Looking,” I shared that quote on Facebook. I was delighted when Angelique Geehan responded with the thoughtful reply you’ll find below.

By the way, I think of this post as an example of the serendipity of Facebook. I would never have met Angelique without Facebook, where she followed her boss in becoming a fan of the Investment Writing Facebook page. We’ve had some great online exchanges since then.

Do longer articles really get shared more often?

by Angelique Geehan

I saw “longer articles tend to be shared far more often” and my immediate inner “Huh?!?” made it clear I had better stop and reconsider what I’ve been harping on my coworkers about.

I’ve been telling them to write shorter articles and posts. I’ve told them people don’t have time for long pieces regularly (which may still be true). I’ve forwarded them links to articles about getting mileage out of topics that require longer explanations by using the blog equivalent of chapters.

So the question you posed, Susan, about whether that takeaway agreed with my experience, was a reality check.

It didn’t take long for me to reflect and realize that I do tend to both “like” and share more longer articles than shorter ones. I do so when they are particularly meaningful on a personal level — when I perceive they might add to the discourse on their topic, either in ways I have not encountered before or in ways I think are so fundamental that (1) I would like my friends to read it so they can understand me better, or (2) we can continue the discussions in person when we do meet.

That said, it can take me a very long time to get to these longer articles. Some of them I open in a tab or send to myself in an email to read when I can spare the time. In contrast, I read and possibly “like” shorter pieces right away. And I know I read more short pieces than long ones, mostly through my RSS feed, Facebook shares, and email subscriptions. Often, the short pieces are what I’ll email to friends who are not active on social media or post links to directly into Facebook groups where the topic comes up. I’m also more likely to comment on a shorter post, because I might have a few thoughts or contributions in response, instead of a zillion to mull over and take with me for a week and into conversations. And I will have had time to comment before other tasks call.

For me, it isn’t as much about pure length as it is about how complete a piece is. Posts that are topic-based “101s” or introductions to something must usually be longer than newsy or single-point posts, but they can be the most useful to me for sharing. If I do manage to read a longer, atmospheric piece, one that has snared me from the beginning and kept me hooked … well … it has obviously made an impact and earned some of my loyalty. From there, the “share” is a natural consequence: something meaningful has an impact on me, and I want my friends to experience it, too.

Besides, using that button’s faster than taking scissors to newspaper, addressing and stamping an envelope, and waiting for delivery. And it goes to a few hundred folks without my ever having to go near a copy machine.

_________

Angelique Geehan is a Managing Director for Index Strategy Advisors, Inc. (ISA), a Houston-based Registered Investment Advisor that specializes in optimizing a range of investors’ portfolios using exchange-traded funds. She hopes one day to slay an elusive but persistent writer’s block that has been her poor excuse for not posting for ISA’s blog for a few (erm, ahem) weeks.