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Waterstones NaNoWriMo – Recap

Waterstones
I moustache you a question. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Movember but it is connected to November; the national month dedicated to writing a novel. So did you manage to write anything over November?

I got involved along with seven other bloggers to create a piece of fiction (it wasn’t quite the 50,000 word masterpiece that some writers produce) though still worth a read. We were all sent Rory’s story cubes in order to come up with ideas for the story and we each wrote a chapter in turn.

What did I learn from NaNoWriMo challenge?

The overall experience was really enjoyable, especially as I saw the characters and story develop (after my contribution of the second chapter).  It always amazes me how everyone’s imagination is so different and this was definitely the case with this.

I think the story cubes are definitely a nice present for a writer as they prompt random creativity. I know I will be using these for little writing exercises and even perhaps for songwriting or poetry.

Writing exercises

One of my favourite books for prompting your creativity is The Lie That Tells The Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Dufresne. It has simple tips and tricks to aid your writing and is a book worthy of a place on your bookshelf. He suggests simple ideas, such as how you should take a notebook and record conversations that you hear when out (obviously discretely) and one tip I always suggest is keeping a dream book. Just keep a notepad and pen by your bedside and as soon as you awake, jot down your dream. It can help your memory and give you plenty of writing material.

How do you improve your writing? Any exercises, tried and tested, to recommend?

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30 days to ‘try something new’

It is nearly half-way through the year and by now we all hope to have achieved something; whether it is big or small. It could be a set of qualifications, it could be learning to swim or it could simply be to better yourself in your current job.

Now is the perfect time for self-reflection. Think about what you could change in your day to day routine to improve yourself, this could be mentally or physically. Once you have this goal or target maintain it for 30 days. (Don’t worry this isn’t going into a self-help guide). Only recently I stumbled across this video, by Matt Cutts, and it was the perfect reminder to make sure you look at your life, routine etc. and re-examine it.

This video inspired me and I am definitely driving forward with the next month ahead. “The next 30 days will pass whether you like it or not.” This phrase definitely resonated with me. What change(s) will you make for the next 30 days? 

5 Quick tips on how to run a Facebook campaign

How do you launch a Facebook campaign and make it a success? This is a quick guide to enable you to run a Facebook campaign both effectively and confidently. With anything you implement in your company or business, strategy is always at the heart. So use these tips within your campaign as a reference point if you need a reminder on where your campaign is going. You want it to go in the right direction; running head first into success without going off course or twisting an ankle (feel free to think of what this represents).

These are three tactics that are known to work; provide interesting and provocative free content to capture fans/likes, run a competition or offer a discount, redemption code or sale for products or services. However it has been noticed that, besides fashion or electrical companies on Facebook, offers or codes may not work so well. Has your company found this to be true? Leave your comments below.

  1. Understand the Facebook psychology, Facebook is for fun and fast. If your campaign is engaging for customers then expect fast sharing and likes thus in turn raising brand awareness and attracting new customers.

Nike+ GPS application was a tremendous success and hit over Facebook, it is ideal for sharing and promoting rivalry between users. People could share their scores and compete with one another, times and records can be shared worldwide.

  1. Get up close and personal. Facebook unlike other platforms can be the chance to create a personal and dare I say ‘human’ campaign. You can slip off your tie and shirt and show the softer side of your brand to customers. People want an engaging company with personality not just a brand name and catchy slogan. People don’t want to buy from computers, yes they expect more and that means engagement and connecting interests.

    Facebook post Cadbury

    ‘Personal’ Facebook photo post from Cadbury Dairy Milk, March 2013

  2. Power to the people. If you can, give the power to your customers. Let them make decisions about products or the next ‘crazy’ advertising video you are making. This can be fantastic for building long and loyal relationships with users feeling valued. This is key to any business. You could even offer a reward, be it a voucher or discount code to the best suggestion. Incentives can be a great way to keep customers hooked!

    Argos users to 'like' and choose products

    Giving fans the power

  3. Arrive precisely when you mean to. Statistics and data are fundamental and useful to any Facebook campaign or campaign in general. Do your research and find out when your users are online and engaging. As a general rule of thumb Monday is the one day where companies are catching up over weekend orders and emails so do not post anything too important on this day. Post at the right time and don’t forget to schedule posts over the weekend and if you can, reply to any comments in this time. Don’t let your company’s social media voices only appear in the 9-5 weekday hours, users are online 24/7. It is also important to plan out how frequently you post reminders about your campaign, like Goldilocks post too much and users get annoyed, post too little and lose interest. You need to achieve the medium sized bowl of porridge.

    What time to post on Facebook

    Facebook scheduling

  4. Visuals work. This is not a flimsy fact pulled out of thin air, photographs and videos attract attention and engagement. It has been found that an image generates 53% more ‘likes’ than a basic status update and there has been a 1179% increase in Instagram usage in the last six months. Make your photo posts eye-catching and interesting i.e. post humorous photographs with slogans or perhaps mouth-watering photographs of food. Users are also interested to see photos that explore the company itself i.e. business headquarters, staff photographs, projects you are working on etc. You may also want to let users tag themselves in photographs. To do this:                                                                                                                                                                                1.  Click “Edit Page”
    2.  Click “Apps” on the left of the page
    3.  Under the “Photos” app click the “Go to App” link
    4.  Select “Allow all fans to tag photos.”
    5.  Click “Save”

Remember to include hyperlinks on your uploaded photographs for increased CTR and do not include too much text on each Facebook photo post or status. Users will reply to short burst questions i.e. Is it wine or beer tonight? Buddy Media found that action keywords like “post,” “comment,” “take,” “submit,” “like” or “tell us” are the most effective. On the other hand softer-sell keywords such as “winner,” “win,” “winning” and “events” will make fans excited and encourage engagement rather than feeling like they’re being sold to. Videos are also a fantastic way to talk about a new product or reveal something ‘personal’ about your company. Uploading the video to Facebook provides you with a static image that takes up more space and is more dynamic in the news feed.

Use the above tips to increase your Facebook fan base and company’s brand awareness. If you have any other tips which I haven’t mentioned please leave them below. After all, sharing is what social is all about and what keeps it alive!

 

Online Marketing │Out with the words, in with the pictures

Infographics

Infographics have been informing us since…well as of late, the rise in these popular graphics has been since the beginning of 2012. Infographics help to communicate messages or information instantly through graphic representation and minimal text/copy. Does it work? Do companies benefit from infographics or is it just more unnecessary information floating in cyberspace?
 

Why use infographics?

Infographics are a fun way to present information and as you know users do not spend a lot of time on one webpage to another. So if your business wants to communicate something quickly and clearly this could be a good way to do so. For example, the wine website Wine Folly uses infographics to help explain wine in a manageable way, please see ‘How to Choose Wine’. The graphics are simple but useful, the text clear and concise.

Infographics are also useful for social media facts and statistics. The data is easy to digest, visually pleasing and not too overbearing; ideal for light hearted (informal) presentations to clients or internally within a company. Long gone are the days of nine pages of reports on social media coverage, tracking links etc. Complex issues are made easier to understand through this method of delivery. This is beneficial to both you and your customer. [This comment in particular is applicable for digital marketing agencies].

Philosophical values and messages are perfect topics for infographic posters. Companies can build their brands around images and information they create! Clever eh?

  • Easy to produce
  • Clearly communicate messages, information, facts or statistics.
  • Visual thoughts – brought alive!
  • Build a company’s brand image – users will consider your company as a resource for user-friendly information.
  • A helpful resource both internally and externally.
  • Infographics can be shared very quickly.
  • Used to display a wide range of topics and discussions. This could be anything from blueberries to porn infographics [don’t worry the latter link isn’t too offensive].

 

This all sounds good but…

Some infographics can look a bit amateur. Remember those (one off) nights when you would do your homework last minute. You walk up to the desk, hand shaking, reluctantly sending that haphazard piece of work to your marker. Well for infographics it can be just the same. Some companies rush into producing content quickly without considering the design element and publishing as soon as possible.

This can also lead to inevitable blunders such as not citing where you found information or date from or not hyperlinking quoted sources. I advise including a reference for everything you quote. Acknowledgement of sources is extremely good practice.

Infographics about your own company are only of interest to…well, you (most likely). Remember the content should be engaging and exciting for the reader and self-promoting narcissism will not get you anywhere! In fact it may lead to bad press for you.

6 Infographic tips

  1. Remember all inforgraphics need… a beginning + a middle + an end
  2. The content should as new and as original as possible.
  3. Use eye-catching graphics, flow charts, images, photographs, cartoons etc.
  4. Whatever you say, may it clear.
  5. Information should always be easy to digest and use, this then encourages sharing on different platforms i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
  6. Infographics are popular at this point in time but so is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr – but is your company using all those websites? No? Well infographics are like social media websites – only use if necessary or beneficial to you or your company.

If you have any comments about infographics or would like to ask me a question then please feel free to leave a message below. Use the hashtag #infographics on Twitter to find some great examples of infographics!

Writing guide l Why you should blog

Blogging can be as much for personal enjoyment and fun than it is for a steady income or personal achievement. As an aspiring journalist (kind of), I see the value in online blogging. Some of the best ideas have originated from blogs and it is definitely a great way to deliver a message to an audience; both well targeted and alert. It can create a high level of engagement and provoke responses from all over the globe. Yet it all came from the comfort of your home, office or space.

 

Different types of blogging

 

Enjoyment – first and foremost blogging can be about expressing yourself online. It is one of the best places to voice your opinion and receive almost instant feedback. You can create small communities online depending on your likes/dislikes or interests. Blogs can also be combined with your other ‘stamps’ online such as Pinterest, Google+, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. So within the space of someone reading your blog they can connect to the other sites you express your personality and identity on.

Reviewing – if you are fortunate enough you can be paid to review products online. This can be great publicity for your own blog as well as for the company asking for the review. Usually you will be given the opportunity to try a product and then write a balanced review [though the company will obviously be hoping for a positive review]. If you are headhunted, or you a find a particular company you love, you could be reviewing a number of products; from the latest innovative hair and beauty product to a newly released film or novel.

Guest blogging – guest blogging is the perfect opportunity to gain more exposure as a person and for your website. It creates a larger ‘web’ of your presence online. Perfect. It can also be an exciting way to acquire new readers and build relationships with other bloggers. It is also (here comes the SEO part) great for search engines such as Google and Yahoo. You will also be in a new community online which is great for extending your knowledge and interests (also known as personal development).

Online portfolio – whether you are a student finishing college or university, or perhaps an expert marketing assistant an online portfolio can continue to showcase your writing skills and the ability to adapt for web. It can be a second CV in addition to your electronic (or possibly paper) copy. Being online shows you are in touch with technology and you can also demonstrate to a future employer your range of skills, for instance with photography, InDesign, Photoshop, WordPress, Flickr etc. The list really does go on!

Paid bloggingit is a dream job to be paid for blogging yet that is right, it shouldn’t just be a dream. If you create enough chances (usually to do with your great writing skills) this can soon become a reality. Or alternatively there are full-time jobs working as a ‘blogger’ for a company or within their social media and marketing department. In Journey’s words “don’t stop believing!”


Top five tips for blogging

  1. Find four bloggers that you like and follow them on a regular basis. Take note of the articles they are producing and how they acquire an audience.
  2. Sign up to Google Alerts and find trends which you enjoy writing about. For example you could sign up to the latest film releases and write a weekly film review. It is a great way to find content which will receive hits quickly in a short amount of time. Bear in mind these blog posts may not be evergreen content so always think why you are adding the content to your blog, ask yourself, what is the purpose of this post?
  3. Write in your own style. Individuality really is key and this is sometimes forgotten in the World Wide Web.
  4. Promote your blog posts via all your social media channels. However remember to target these websites differently. Keep your audience in mind. No doubt (and it goes without saying) people using LinkedIn are using the site differently to that on Twitter.
  5. Above all else have fun and enjoy writing whatever your style may be or personal preference. I still hand write notes before I go anywhere near a computer, so don’t be afraid to express yourself the way you want to. Blogging can open up a ‘new world’!

 

I am available as a guest blogger for your site, so if you like my writing style or think I can do something for you please contact me. If you are a business or company with new products I am available for reviewing. I have previously reviewed products for the health and beauty industry and written critical pub and restaurant reviews for Sussex Food and Drink Guide 2013.

Please leave a message below if you would like to get in contact or if you have any questions/thoughts regarding this blog post (or any others). I appreciate hearing from you.

Living away from home | Reflective creative piece

November 30, 2012 1 comment

Following a brief phone conversation with my friend who is currently studying at drama school (not university), it made me realise what you miss when you’re away. You’re living away from home, and you have the ultimate freedom. You have no one to tell you when to wake up or what time you have to be back for. You do have to learn to live with others and their living habits, but generally it is fun, sociable and you think you’ve made it.

This impromptu call made me write this, following one thing she said…

“It was good to be back, in familiar surroundings and yes it does feel surreal. When I am living there I forget the endless months I spent being at home and working. Not that much seems different but I feel it. In myself. I know I have only been away a couple of months but I feel different, not this place. The one thing I noticed was they felt different.

In my halls of residence they are light and flimsy. They feel invisible to hold and you simply breeze effortlessly from one room to another. Yet back home they are sturdy and solid. When I curl my fingers around the shape I feel reassured; I know I am at home. The cold metal touches my small hands and I enter my bedroom. It all looks the same, everything in its normal place but I know I haven’t slept here for a while. The air is fresh but there is a lingering sense that time has passed.

I feel the door handle again and strangely it’s the only thing that is different. I have left home and gone away to study and all I can compare are door handles. Yes, door handles. The poorly designed door handles at my halls, to the heavy weighted round handles that I have always known. It seems odd you can move miles away, see different people day after day, learn new things about yourself and the world and you cannot shake the feeling that the door handles are different.

Perhaps it shows just how strong the human nature is, or how we perceive new surroundings and compare. Perhaps it’s a comfort blanket, what we know and what we now know. Whatever it is, I know I prefer my house’s solid door handles. Though I am sure I will open plenty more doors…”

Sometimes the small things make a difference.

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