How to avoid blank page syndrome

I spent a great time last week with an associate making three short videos about creating quality content for posts on Facebook Pages.

Trudy Ritsema’s online course Get the most out of Facebook for your Business runs throughout June and in the videos I discuss the different approaches to creating engaging information. I featured some aspects in the post 5 ways to keep your blog posts and social media updates engaging and inspiring, providing useful tools to help generate ideas. Ideas are one thing but how do you create quality posts on a consistent basis?

Enter Heidi Cohen, from the Actionable Marketing Guide, who’s presentation at this year’s Social Media Marketing Expo focused on generating quality ideas to fuel consistent content creation. What can you do to avoid staring at a blank page particularly if you’re up against a deadline?

Like many things in life Heidi believes in the power of practice, training your muscles to do something every day so the work becomes easier and you become better at it. So, just like practicing scales to become a more proficient piano player or practicing penalty shoot outs so you can progress to the final stages of the World Cup (how about it England?), writing is just the same. When it comes to writing, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, it’s about showing up to your computer or notebook day in, day out and getting down to it. Perseverance is the name of the game.

person playing piano

Getting into a new habit takes practice, just like learning scales on the piano

Heidi has a number of ideas to help on idea generation, using the anachronism BRAVO:

Brainstorm ideas on your own, best undertaken first thing in the morning, according to Heidi, aiming to build this into a daily habit. I’d suggest setting a timer for about 20 minutes, that provides enough thinking time but doesn’t eat too much into a busy work schedule. ‘If you can generate 10 new ideas every day, by the end of the week you can have 50 potential topics to write about,’ she says. Capture the ideas on a spreadsheet where you will be able to add ideas and notes to them later on.

Rest the ideas for about a week, meanwhile still generating new ideas every day.

Assess and select your best ideas. Of the 50 or so topics you’ve thought of most won’t be viable and some may be better to look at, at a later date or need further thought. I’d put these onto another spreadsheet so you are clear on the ideas you will work on first.

man looking at board of ideas

Take time every day to brainstorm ideas on your own

 Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Vet and qualify your ideas and link them to the different keywords you use. How do these ideas fit in with the rest of the content you are creating and the messages you are promoting? Test the ideas with colleagues or customers if you are in a position to do so. That way you know you will be addressing an issue that concerns them and providing a solution to one of their problems. You can also test the idea through social media channels through groups or identifying recurring topics of interest.

Outline the content. Once you have decided on the topic write some bullet points focusing on what to include in the article. Think about the potential headline to hook reader’s interest, the introductory paragraph, 3-10 points you’ll make within the post around the single subject matter, conclusion and the call to action. I’d check out some images or graphics too so when you sit down to write the article it should all come together with relative ease.

Creating a daily writing habit that incorporates the generation of ideas, testing them and outlining content should help towards never having to face that dreaded blank page. It also helps when developing your editorial content calendar and when you come to look at the next three-month’s worth of articles it won’t be an overwhelming job.

If it’s something you struggle with why not give it a go? I’m going to spend the next month generating ideas every day – why not join me on the journey?

 

I had a virtual ticket to this year’s Social Media Marketing Expo that takes place in San Diego each year. Over future weeks I’ll be providing information across a broad section of topics, looking at different social media channels as well as blogging, podcasting and content marketing.

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5 ways to keep your blog posts and social media updates engaging and inspiring

Putting together an editorial content calendar can seem a daunting task. This is when you combine your blog posts and social media updates on a monthly, ongoing basis, to ensure you interact with your customers on a regular basis. By following this simple framework you can keep in control and create content that engages and inspires.

While I suggest planning and thinking about your posts in three-month chunks, it’s best to complete these editorial calendars each month. Start filling in the following month’s after you’ve reviewed and assessed how well the current month has worked. By regularly measuring your output you can decide which articles attract more attention and understand where others may need tweaking.

Remember when writing blog articles or social media updates it’s not about continually promoting your products or services. It’s about demonstrating your knowledge and expertise in your field, building trust within your community that will lead to interaction and engagement. The following headings are all interchangeable between blog posts and social media updates, depending which ones you use. If you do use more than one social media channel, as many of us do, I suggest writing different words to get the same message across to appeal to all your readers.

5 ways to keep posts engaging and inspiring

1. Industry news

Despite the move into digital media every business sector continues to have some sort of publication or website to serve its community. Most offer a regular electronic newsletter of some variety, sharing the latest news and information which usually takes you back to their website. This provides an ideal opportunity to write brief details of the news (always crediting where the news story came from) and adding some analysis on the impact of the information or your viewpoint. News in the digital world comes thick and fast so these types of posts should be a regular feature within your content calendar.

2. Words of wisdom

Today there are plenty of quotes to choose from, whether it’s way back in history from famous people or in current times. Or if you see a prominent member of your industry speak at an event consider if it’s worth sharing their words. Alternatively think up your own. You can have great fun making up phrases that can reinforce your values and highlight your business’ message. With free software like Canva, it is easy to put together simple graphic images combining an inspirational quote.

graphic of beach and sea

Here’s one graphic I created in Canva using an inspirational quote that I made up

3. What I learnt this week

This is brilliant for demonstrating what you’ve been doing, whether it’s working with clients and helping to find solutions to their issues or building up your knowledge. Networking meetings, or events such as exhibitions or conferences, are ideal places to gather new information to share with your customers, always providing your take on the subject matter to give added value. As only a limited number of people will be at these events this gives you the opportunity to reach a wider audience and boost your expert status. And you never know how many words of wisdom you make pick up along the way.

4. Customer solution

This is where you identify an issue that a customer has and you show how you resolved it. For example, one question I’m often asked at the moment is about the ideal length a blog should be. I recently wrote a short post on Facebook with my answer. For the record I suggest mixing up the word count of articles, as most subjects will find their natural length. Think about what questions your customers have asked you recently and see how you can write a quick post. If one customer is having difficulty with an issue it’s likely others will be too.

pic of different spices

Use a post to answer a customer’s question as I did recently

5. What’s bugging you today?

Sometimes there are issues that bug us and we need to get to share our views on the subject. This is a bit of rant style but don’t go too over the top or too negative and be prepared to face the consequences if it is controversial. Balance the post or article by suggesting possible solutions and a way forward. No one loves a whinger.

Once you have thought of different topics to write under these headings you can start filling in your editorial calendar. I use an Excel spread sheet for each month, inputting the detail within each day so it’s easy to see and refer back to. I include my weekly blog update and fill in the shorter social media updates around this. I tend to schedule my updates on a weekly basis as it fits in with my work, using Hootesuite and scheduling buttons within the social media channels but there’s nothing to stop you using a different method.

Excel spreadsheet

I use an Excel spreadsheet to complete my monthly editorial content calendar

Don’t forget writing great posts is all about creativity, ensuring you are meeting your customers’ needs as well as providing super images or graphics. Once you’ve been doing this for a while completing the editorial calendar does become easier. Keep in mind the different headings when you’re with clients, networking or just out and about and you’ll often find different subjects that can be incorporated under them.

A few moments thinking every now and then makes all the difference and helps you keep on top of your updates.

 

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Why booking a stand at an exhibition makes good business sense

It’s Global Exhibition Day (#GED18) today, giving me the opportunity to discuss the benefits of exhibiting at a show.

These days there are still an abundance of events to choose from within different industry sectors, ranging from conferences, expos and festivals. Despite the proliferation of digital promotion exhibitions remain one of the best ways to meet a lot of people in a short period of time, helping to raise awareness of your products and services.

At the end of the day human beings like dealing with humans face to face. It’s just part of our make up. When speaking to someone in front of you, you get to see their reactions straight away, and you get the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation that is difficult to do during an online exchange. Building relationships with your customers is all about building trust with them and that process is so much easier to do when you meet them in the flesh. People will soon see your expertise in your industry field and feel comfortable in doing business with you, if not straight away sometime in the future.

clock on coins

If planned properly exhibiting at an expo can be time well spent

At an expo there’s the chance to catch up with existing customers to ask them about any problems or concerns they have. It’s a great place to undertake market research on your business to understand how you are helping your customers and what areas you could exploit. But more importantly an exhibition is also an ideal opportunity to meet new customers, that you may not have come across in the digital world. Delegates attend shows for specific reasons, such as looking for new suppliers, solutions to issues they are facing or simply to learn about more about a particular topic. Having taken a day out of the office they have genuine needs to fulfil and therefore are unlikely to be time wasters.

Launching a new product or service at an exhibition can give your business a breadth of exposure at a reasonable cost that would be difficult to match if you held a stand alone event. Automatically you have thousands of potential customers in the same room. How long would it take to access the same amount and get immediate feedback using other digital means? Don’t forget to use an appropriate method to collate peoples’ data, so you have their contact information for future use.

Taking a stand at an exhibition can be expensive but through proper research and planning it can be time well spent. A coherent communication strategy is essential, promoting your presence as much in the run up to the event as well as on the days itself, and afterwards. Only by doing this can you make the best return on your investment.

logo of Global exhibition day

#GED18

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5 ways to get people to act on your messaging

Since the broadcast of BBC’s Blue Planet II knowledge about the amount of plastic waste in our oceans has soared. Now that awareness of the problem has been raised the next step is to change peoples’ behaviour. This is no mean task, particularly when you look at the statistics that show that of the 8 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans 80% comes from the land and 50% of this is single use plastic.

At a recent CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) New Member Network session speakers were united in saying that everyone is part of the solution. Much work has already been achieved in turning the situation around at both business and consumer level. And while the focus here is on resource management the methods used can easily be used for other sectors.

dolphins swimming in sea

The BBC series Blue Planet II did much to raise awareness of plastic waste in our oceans

If you wish to get your message across and want your customers to act upon it the following are worth a try:

5 ways to get people to act 

1.Draw up a checklist 

By creating a checklist you can record everything that needs attention. By breaking the list down into manageable chunks on specific topics you can identify which messages and actions to start with, perhaps those that can generate a good engagement with relative ease. Buoyed by your initial success and with momentum behind you, you can progress to more detailed actions which may take more time.

2. Create a groundswell of champions

If you are having trouble convincing decision makers of the need to change speak to as many people within your organisation and get them onside. Once management see the volume of people who are passionate about change they are more likely to listen and work with you to implement what needs to happen. Once you start talking about a particular issue you will be surprised how many people will keen to do their bit to help and support it.

3. Encourage interaction and engagement

Talk is good but actions speak louder so getting people involved in doing one thing can help build momentum. When the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) introduced its policy to remove all disposable drinking cups in staff areas, employees were encouraged to go online and post a picture with their reusable mug saying why their mug was important to them. The interaction brought an element of fun and got people bringing in their own mugs to use instead of disposable cups. What ways can you think of that could engage people in a competitive spirit?

4. Use graphics

Using images and graphics tends to work so much better in getting the message across. As they say a picture paints a thousand words and undertaken correctly can generate better results. Reading text is timely so using graphics with a simple tick or cross or a few words can quickly communicate what action needs to be taken.

5. Keep it simple

Clear and simple messages with realistic changes are far easier to understand than a mixture of numerous and complicated messages. All too often in life we are overwhelmed with projects or tasks that are multi-faceted. By breaking these down into smaller, actionable points you have a higher likelihood of success. In addition don’t try to focus too long a time to achieve something. Rather than focusing on what can be done in a month, concentrate on a single day or week. If every customer acted on one simple thing the difference would be great.

poster living with less plastic

Using graphics and a little text can convey much within a small poster

 

 

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Why measuring your online presence puts you in a stronger position

While running a workshop last week on developing an online presence, one delegate said they collected all the statistics generated from their website and filed them in a drawer. At least they are doing that. But to not to look at the figures means they are missing a trick or two.

Measuring how well you are doing is crucial for anything. Otherwise how will you know the progress you are making? I had a long-time client whose mantra was Lord Kelvin’s, ‘If you can not measure it, you can not improve it’, and that meant we always knew how well we were doing and how much was being achieved. At the start of any project we established benchmarks of where we currently were and where we wanted to be and over the months we could assess what worked and what did not.

If you’ve worked on your strategy you will have built in some sort of measurement criteria, noting how many followers and interaction you wish to gain for your customers to start to recognise you and your brand. Today there’s a lot of help, unlike the old days when you had to establish how many people had read your feature in a magazine and acted upon it. All social media channels and websites (outside Google Analytics) provide them as part of the software, making it easy for you to analyse which blog posts or updates attract the most likes and engagement. It’s about ‘engaging hearts, not eyeballs’, so while you want to target the highest number of people possible it’s essential they are the right people, the ones who will buy your product and services. Today the focus is on quality not quantity.

tailors dummy with tape measure

If you don’t have any measurement in place how do you know how much progress you’ve made?

The tools provided by different channels vary somewhat but all provide data, usually in graphic form, where you can analyse how successful your posts have been. One important metric is assessing the different key words people use to access your website or blog, helping you to understand more about your potential client base. If you’re not already using these words as part of your text you should start doing so, though not in a forced manner.

Start the process by recording the position you are in today. What kind of activity does your website generate? How long do people stay on your website and how many different pages do they look at? The best way to assess this is by using the Google Analytic tool. How else do your customers find out about your business? Are they followers on the social media channels you operate on? How many actively interact with the information you post up?

Part of your communication plan will look at the different channels you are using and which are the most successful. It’s a good time here, when developing your plan, to look at types of communication you are not currently using and assessing whether it would be worth while trying something new. Once you have your measurement procedure in place it will be easy to see whether these work or don’t, though some processes may take longer than others.

quote if you can not measure

Once you have established the position you are in you need to think about where you want to be in say three or six months time. You may have a new product or service you are launching or wish to continue generating more sales from an existing range. By linking your business plans to your communication activity it is easy to review and measure the progress that is being made. Without this you could be putting time and money into activity that is not paying the right dividends.

5 Top tips

  1. Your measurement process stems from the original strategy
  2. Make your objectives SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) so they will be measured from day one
  3. Develop a set of benchmarks as an ongoing reference point
  4. Make sure you measure your progress frequently – on a weekly and monthly schedule, even if the longer target is for six months
  5. Measuring your progress helps you to review what is and isn’t working so you can amend your plans accordingly

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