I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Give ideas time to develop


Ideas & plants take time to grow

Last night I read a blog post on guest blogging (or SEO outreach) as it is something I am interested in and enjoy doing. There were some great tips in this blog post, but there were also a couple of points that I reacted to.

Post ideas can take time

Researching blogs to offer posts to is obviously an important step in guest blogging, but I disagree with the following statement:

If you don’t have any ideas for articles the first couple of minutes of scanning the website, better spend the next minutes looking for another website to scope out.

Many people will never find a host blog if they used that criteria!

A couple of minutes may show the blog is not suitable for you (eg the wrong topic or demographic) but it often isn’t enough to get ideas. Sometimes I get ideas from the first sentence I read in another blog, but other times I have to read a few posts to get a feel for that blog and allow inspiration to strike.

Creativity is in all of us, and I believe it can be developed, but even so that’s a lot of pressure to state you need to find ideas so quickly while also assessing the blog overall.

Fast fix or quality results?

There’s a business concept about giving clients a choice of two elements – well done, fast or cheap. They can’t have all three options in the same project.

I think that’s true for guest blogging, too. You can do it well – quality writing on well researched blogs to build relationships with bloggers and their audiences – or you can work at getting a lot of posts online in a short time frame.

It’s that old quality vs quantity argument, I guess.

And to be frank, if you give me the impression of trying for maximum posts rather than quality the chances are I won’t accept your guest post. So I would never tell people to only spend a few minutes researching  a potential host blog – it looks fast rather than in-depth to me.

Developing ideas

How do you develop ideas, whether for a blog post or anything else?

Do you give up if no idea hits within a couple of minutes?

* Images courtesy of 123RF

Building your social media profile the nice way

build nice connections in social mediaIn my latest newsletter, on Facebook and Twitter, I have mentioned some great advice I heard from Gihan Perera in a webinar a couple of weeks ago. Namely,

do something nice for someone on social media every day.

Such a simple concept with the potential benefit of making people feel good and remembering your positively, and giving you inspiration to maintain your social media presence (without being a sales pitch). It also makes you feel good, expands your creativity and shows your generosity.

Not sure of how to do this?

Nice social media activities

Here is a list of things I have thought of, but I’m sure you could add more to this list…

  1. retweet interesting tweets
  2. leave comments on blog posts you read (hint hint!)
  3. answer questions on LinkedIn, even if its just your opinion rather than your expertise
  4. give someone an online testimonial (LinkedIn is great for that, but why not try Facebook, twitter, Tumblr or their own website? Or maybe compliment them in many places!
  5. answer questions in a forum
  6. share the link to a great blog post or article
  7. write a blog post and link back to someone else’s blog or social media profile
  8. if you see an opportunity to promote someone, do it (for example, if a relevant site accepts recommendations or links, suggest someone else)
  9. give support to someone in a forum
  10. ‘pin’ someone’s image or infographic
  11. introduce people in your networks (via email or through platforms like Facebook and Twitter)
  12. add a comment or favourite a YouTube video or a Slide Share presentation
  13. share  a random link with your social media audience – show support for a charity, a good resource or someone who needs a boost
  14. forward an enewsletter to someone who would appreciate it

I’ve created a pdf of these ideas but I will update it next week when I have more ideas added to the list – share your ideas as a comment and I’ll include your name with your ideas.

Tash & Word Constructions on Twitter          Word Constructions on LinkedIn             Tash & Word Constructions on Facebook

Christmas leads in your content

Chrustmas trees, stockings and giftsUsing topical links and keywords is good for marketing, but perhaps you can’t see how your business can be related to Christmas or other major events.

I wrote about building trust like Santa earlier in the week as a Christmas-related article. Another example of tying in Christmas is to make a list like Santa to prepare for next year’s tax return (note this example has some good ideas but a lot of the detail are US specific and Christmas is closer to their end of financial year, too).

Here are some more ideas for businesses not obviously connected to Christmas to be able to make use of the season in marketing (other than just putting a picture of Santa or a Christmas tree on a webpage anyway):

  1. Santa checking his naughty and nice list make a naughty or nice list relevant to your field. For instance, a list of reasons to proof read or safety equipment for horse riding are nice lists whilst explaining how to damage your hair or get sun burnt are like Santa’s naughty list
  2. get into the giving spirit of Christmas – give an amount from each sale to a specified charity throughout December or match client’s donations to a charity
  3. Santa, his reindeer and boomers all work hard on Christmas Eve so fitness and nutrition people can easily write about how to prepare and maintain their energy
  4. the reindeer and boomers tie in nicely with animal health and care stories
  5. anybody selling plants or related services can give alternatives to pine trees for decorating or give tips on caring for a pine tree
  6. any service provider can of course promote their services as a means of reducing clients’ work load in the busy November/December period
  7. accountants and bookkeepers can write about the costs of Christmas – tips on avoiding debt, setting budgets, comparing savings systems for next year and so on
  8. psychologists, counsellors and others can talk about relationships, coping with grief or loneliness at Christmas, dealing with stress, setting appropriate expectations and how to fit everyone’s needs into one day
  9. anyone dealing with lights (electricians, bike retailers, lighting shops) could probably come up with a message about Rudolph lighting the way for safety
  10. do some work or sponsoring of a local community group (a neighbourhood house, meals on wheel, elderly club, RSL, etc) to get known locally. You may also be able to use it in a media release, your blog and social media, and possibly in your marketing (e.g. ‘as used by Santa at xyz Christmas party’ or ‘proud sponsor of xyz at Christmas’)
  11. like some houses have an incredible array of lights and paraphernalia, make your business stand out with a Christmas look – maybe cover your company car with tinsel and reindeer ears and use fake snow on the windows, or make your shop window stand out at night with a beautiful display of lights. Either way will catch direct attention and word of mouth, but again you can add it to a blog, media release, newsletter and a picture on your contact page is a nice touch!
  12. arrange for Santa to visit and be in your shop or waiting room for set times

That’s just a few I thought of quickly – what other ideas can you suggest or have done?

Coming up, I will write about general topical connections – it’s too much to do Christmas and general topics on one post!

* Images courtesy of Love Santa

Comparing books and eBooks

We’ve all grown up with traditional paper books, and if you’re like me you’ve loved them, too. Now we can get eBooks on all sorts of topics, fiction and non-fiction.

So what’s the difference between the two in terms of value? eBooks are cheaper than their paper equivalents, but does that reflect their value?

A traditional book – costs of the book in part has to cover the paper and printing process, plus transportation and storage so it is reasonable to pay more for a paper version of a book than an eBook. There is also the pleasure of curling up with a book in hand that an eBook reader just can’t replicate. I know that it is harder and slower for our eyes to read a computer screen so I assume the same apples for eBook readers of various sorts.

Both types of book involve the author’s time, the editing process (including professional editors in many cases) and marketing efforts.

An eBook can be received and the first page read within minutes of finding it, and that convenience suits many. It has the added convenience of being portable – as a friend of mine said, she could carry eight eBook travel guides with her on an overseas trip but the cost and weight of their paper equivalents would prevent carrying them.

So there is a jutification in paying for the books you choose.

However, the true value of any book is in the ideas shared by the author, along with the potential inspiration and impact on your life that comes with any good book. What you learn or imagine from the book is what you are really paying for, and that’s much harder to put a price on than the paper and printing.

PS In terms of a book that can truly change lives, have a look at End Malaria – it aims to inspire and teach while raising $20 per copy to save people form malaria. Unfortunately it appears available only though one retailer – if you find it elsewhere, please let me know!

Getting blog content ideas

Beyond my usual tips of how to find content in your blog, I thought I’d share some ideas on how to find content that may attract more readers from external sources.

  1. use a keyword tool to find the popular terms people use for your product/service – how can you use those specific words in a blog post? Maybe you could explain the subtle differences between the terms (eg haircut and hair style or shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding) or list the varied parts of that term (eg lawyer could be broken into criminal lawyer, family law lawyer and estate planning lawyer)
  2. join a bookmark site (eg delicious, stumble upon, digg, reddit) and look for popular bookmarks for relevant terms. Once you have set up a search, you can add it as a RSS feed for easy future reference as well.
  3. still on a bookmark site, look at the most popular articles people have saved in your topic area – you are bound to get inspiration from reading a few related articles. Note I mean find ideas, not copy the articles or even write the same idea in your own words, as you want original content in your blog. Sometimes one small comment in an article is enough to give you a great idea to write about.
  4. keep an eye on trending topics in Twitter. I use Tweetdeck which automatically gives me a list of each days’ trending topics – many are not relevant to me but sometimes one of them can indirectly give me a blog post idea. Given I’m there checking tweets anyway, it takes practically no time to look at this list.

The value of guest blog posts

A few days ago, I raised the question of reading guest blogger posts in a favourite blog.

I think there are a number of reasons to value a guest post in a blog, although I do agree that too many guest posts could detract from the person I visit that blog to hear from.

If the guest blogger is filling in for my favourite blogger so that I continue getting content, that consistency and committment is of value to me. Of course, this is of less importance if the blog is erractic in providing content anyway, but we’ll ignore that for the moment!

Assuming that the blog has carefully selected any guest bloggers and the topics they post on, then the guest posts could provide me with an alternative point of view which can be really useful. It could also provide me with a new blog to read and gain information from.

A different person writing may also inspire different people to comment on my favourite blog which again can lead to new conversations, ideas and leads.

And on a more superficial level, if I comment on a guest blogger’s post, that guest blogger may then know of me and my blog…

While there are obvious advantages for the host and guest bloggers, I think guest blogging also holds advantages for the readers. What do you think?

Using quirky blog content ideas

Sometimes it is interesting to use a totally different idea to create your blog post. Instead of using case studies, hot news items or client work, for example, you can write a post based on a movie or TV show, something you ate, an overheard conversation or even a product name.

Why use something quirky?

  • it’s more fun for you to think outside the box occasionally
  • it gives you a broader topic range to work with
  • you may just show a little more personality than usual, or a different aspect of your personality, that will help people feel they know the person behind the blog and business
  • using real life situations and examples is a great teaching tool

You may use a quirky source but write a straight blog post, of course, or you can introduce your post with “Hey I saw a movie last night and was reminded…” or “My friend was telling me about … and I had to share…” or “I know I usually only write about the latest news but today I’m going to share a story…”

What quirky ideas have you blogged about? How did it work? Share the links to your posts in the comments – you may just inspire someone else’s quirky ideas, too!

Getting creative

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Do you take any steps to inspire or nurture your creativity?

I must admit I haven’t thought about creativity for a while, but was recently inspired to think about it by Michelle Grice’s post about musical inspiration.

I believe creativity is important to help us solve issues and stay interested, and it doesn’t have to be creative in any specific way. Many people say “I can’t draw/paint/sew/sculpt so I’m not creative” but I disagree with that as a narrow view of creativity.

The people who thought of liquid paper, sticky notepads and tea bags were all creative – and for all we know they couldn’t draw, sew or sing either!

Developing creativity is fun, and it can help you see things in a different way, find solutions to challenges and grab new opportunities. I think doing anything out of the ordinary and basically avoiding being in a rut will develop creativity, but here are some more specific ideas to get you (and me!) started:

  • move to some energetic music – don’t call it dancing if that will limit you, just move!
  • grab a pencil and draw your favourite holiday – interpret that in any way you like!
  • do some mind teasers – pictures hidden in a see of dots, conundrums, riddles, and so on
  • think of a different ending for the last movie you saw or book you read
  • spend  5 minutes looking at some artwork online – look at the colours, think about your responses, follow your instincts
  • think of how to make your Christmas break up suit a theme – maybe Knights & Damsels, The Jungle, Fairies & Elves or Hollywood inspires you with decorations, costumes, menus and more. It never has to be done, just imagine it
  • let your mind follow some music without focussing on any lyrics
  • imagine you just won $5million – what would you spend it on? where would you go? how would you resign/leave your clients?

What other ideas do you have for getting creative?

And for today’s brain teaser… if four men take two hours to dig a hole, how long will it take eight men to dig half a hole?

Building your blog

Presumably, if you have a blog you want to build it with content and readers. It isn’t always easy to do, especially over time, so it takes dedication to truly build a blog into something you can be proud of.

Finding ideas to write about, maximising your topics, building trust, attention grabbing titles, dealing with negative or poorly written comments, and ending your blog posts are all important parts of a successful blog.

Recently, Raivyn gave some advice for anyone wanting to make money from a blog (or blogs) – some of that advice applies to all blogs whether their aim is to make money, share ideas, promote a business or anything else.

The points I most liked (rewritten into my own words and comments) were:

  • keep writing – even if uninspired, you need to write to build the habit and experience
  • find your own blog rules – some blogs have very short posts, some have long posts and some find a combination or middle ground works best. Instead of writing to a formula number of words, find what works for you and your readers. And apply the same logic to frequency, style, running carnivals, inviting guest bloggers, and so on.
  • keep your credibility – recommend products/services/etc that you truly think are worthwhile, not just those paying a commission or giving you a reciprocal link.
  • write for your readers – this may not be so important for a personal blog, but to make money (directly or indirectly) you need to write what potential customers want to read about in a way they find interesting and useful. Knowing your audience is a key part of any good writing

Good luck with building your successful blog!

Boundaries between home & work

In a traditional job setting, the difference between work and home is fairly clear and easy to see – until you start bringing work home anyway! But when you run a business or have a remote job, it can be harder to spot the difference – and harder to manage things.

Of course, the big question is HOW to manage time! I think the simplistic answer is to set boundaries to maintain control.

From talking to various people, I see two main groups of at home workers – those who get distracted from work by the need to tidy the kitchen, hang out the washing, vacuum the floors and so on, and those who work a lot and find it hard to manage much of the house stuff at all. Which group do you fit into? I have no trouble (well, generally speaking!) getting on with work but end up working too hard and letting the housework slide…

Here are some of my ideas on creating boundaries between business and home, but I’d love to hear your suggestions, too…

  • physically separate your working space from your living space as much as possible – if you are sitting in your work space, don’t do home things and vice versa. My article, separating your home office, may give you some new ideas
  • separate phone lines if you can – then only answer the business phone during business hours, and the home phone during personal hours. Before you assume this is too expensive, consider a VOIP phone as this is much cheaper than renting a second landline
  •  tell clients your expectations/limitations – for example, “We work 10 to 4” or “we don’t answer phone calls in busy periods”. Kylie of Tilda Virtual went further and actually sacked a client to gain back control of her business and family boundaries!
  • set clear business hours and stick to them most of the time – if clients see you work outside those hours, they will start expecting you to do so. If you do work out of your usual hours, make it clear it is unusual or mask the fact – sometimes I work late at night but program the email to go to my client the next morning so I am not advertising the fact of when I did the work.
  • if possible, use a different email address for friends and family than for business. Set up filters for incoming emails and just concentrate on business emails during business hours.
  • learn to say no to clients or extra work – or at least say it won’t be done straight away. Know how much work you can deal with in a day/week and refuse to overload yourself
  • if you have people visiting you during the day, try putting a sign on the door that says “Business in operation – please call back later for a personal visit” so people can see you are serious about your business hours. If you want, you could leave a pencil and notepad by the door so they can leave you a message

Sometimes it seems impossible to make those boundaries, but the reduced stress and lost time is well worth the effort. Good luck with it!

Use your words and time wisely!