Without a doubt, Ernest Hemingway is one of the most intriguing and important writers of the past 100 years.
He died in 1961, well before Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and LinkedIn and Pinterest and…you get the point…were ever conceived. (Also, likely before the people who conceived of those platforms were conceived.)
But his lessons carry on, and are actually quite applicable to the social media era.
Here are some of his greatest quotes and lessons…and how they can be translated online.
Note: All quotes are pulled from GoodReads.com.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Authenticity is everything. Put a piece of you into your digital communications and it resonate with your audience.
“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
This kind of sums it all up, no?
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
“But it’s just a Facebook post,” is not an excuse. If you don’t put effort into your content, it will be junk. Social media lets you control your messaging. Would an ad agency say, “It’s just a billboard?” Hell, no. So show your work the respect that it deserves and edit it. And then ask someone else to edit it. And then edit it again. And maybe it will be decent. Revisions are success, not failure.
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Nothing can replace transparency for a brand. Be upfront and honest at all times and you will earn the respect of your followers — even if they may not like what you have to say.
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
It is so easy to measure “progress” in social media in terms of audience size — especially when you compare numbers to those of your competitors. But what does that matter? Do you win a prize for having more Twitter followers than someone else?
Focus on aligning your social media goals with your real-world business goals and measure against progress there. Sure, track what your competitors are doing and learn from their successes and failures. But keep your focus on improving your content, engagement, and conversions and you will be more successful.
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
Writing for digital is all about writing for quick comprehension. The military has an acronym, BLUF, Bottom Line Up Front. In this system, you write a headline for a paper – the main point you are trying to convey, and then place the exposition and details in the body of the document. Your social media posts should be BLUF – and can link to the details.
“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
Sometimes, you just need to unplug. Sometimes it feels like we experience our life through a never-ending series of Tweets, posts, Instragrams, Snapchats, Tumblrs, Pins, blogs, Vines…etc… We should take some time to live in the moment — even if it means sacrificing documenting it as it happens.
“The hard part about writing a novel is finishing it.”
It’s EASY to launch a social media profile. Literally trained monkeys can do it. Developing an ongoing meaningful presence with interesting and effective content, however, is ridiculously hard. When considering adding a new profile to the web, think through how sustainable it will be.
“You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”
Social media tends to bring out the snark in everyone. (See, Reddit)
Perhaps we should all resist that temptation and focus on adding a little positivity into the web.
“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”
Groupon, meet eHarmony!