Monday, October 14, 2013

How hashtags make me happy (and how and why you can use hashtags)

What on earth is a hashtag?

If you've been wanting to ask me this question, you are definitely not alone.

Let's start off with the basics. A hashtag is like a topic marker, a way to describe in a word or short phrase what the topic of your post is about. And the point of using a hashtag is that people can click on it and then find lots of other posts about the same topic (usually from all different people).

Hashtags have a few special qualities:
  • Of course, they have to start with a #. (This has got to be one of the few recent examples of British English triumphing over US English.)
  • They can't have spaces. You can use more than one word but you have to join them together. For example, #AmandaKendleConsulting if you wanted to make a hashtag out of my business name. 
  • They're not case-sensitive so you could also use #amandakendleconsulting and if you clicked on that you'd get the same results as the one with the initial capitals. Sometimes I use the initial capitals just to make the phrase clearer. Sometimes I don't!
  • They are taking over the world. Okay, they are taking over the social media world. They started off on Twitter but have since spread to basically every social media platform there is, even Facebook. But if you click on a hashtag in Facebook, for example, you'll only see other Facebook posts that have the same hashtag. (A more advanced bit about this later.)
So then the next obvious question is why should we use hashtags? The main reason is so that more people can find the stuff we're posting on social media. So, for example, if you post a photo on Instagram of the beach and use a few hashtags like #perth #scarboroughbeach #workathome (see, that's throwing words together without spaces ... you get used to it!) then you might get the attention of people who don't actually follow you on Instagram. Someone who searches for Perth, for example, will see your image, and that might entice them to look around at your other pictures, and perhaps follow you. And it works the same way no matter which platform you're talking about - although it's fair to say that hashtags are more widely used on Twitter and Instagram at the moment, more than on other social media sites.

The other great time to use hashtags is so that people who know about the hashtag can use it to, so that you can all see what the others are doing. For example, at the Problogger conference last month, the hashtag was advertised as being #PBevent and this meant we all posted our thoughts and updates (and pictures of cake) using the #PBevent hashtag - and could then easily see what other attendees were saying about it, too. And of course with our #businesspics challenge on Instagram, our participants use the #businesspics hashtag and then anyone can tap on it and find all of the different posts from everyone.

I asked my Facebook page followers what their hashtag questions were, so let me answer them here:

Can you have your very own hashtag?
And related - how do you start a hashtag? Well, basically, a hashtag is public property. If you want to have a hashtag that gathers only your own posts together, then you want to make it pretty unique - #AmandaKendleConsulting would work here, #myhouse would not - but you can't stop someone else from using it as well. To "start" a hashtag, you simply use it. Once you post a hashtag it just becomes one, and it's clickable, even if it's only that one post you've done that will pop up.

How do you decide what hashtag to use?
This gets easier with practice but there are basically three different ways I decide which hashtags to add:
  • By guessing/using a kind of common sense - for example, if I'm posting about a blog post I wrote about Japan, I would use #Japan
  • By searching to see what exists already - I might search to see if #OsakaSightseeing is already a hashtag, or #OsakaSights, and if one of them has a lot of posts, choose that, in the hope that more people will see my post
  • By watching what other people do and copying them!
You can also research conglomeration of posts from different platforms that have been hashtagged with the same thing at a service like Tagboard.

How many hashtags should you use?
I tend to use a maximum of three or four regardless of the platform (often less on Twitter, they take up too many characters!). I read a Mashable report about Instagram recently which showed more hashtags are better, up to about five hashtags, and then from then on you don't get much benefit. And yes, to answer the person who asked me on Facebook, if you use twenty hashtags every time you may lose some followers, I know I for one get kind of annoyed when there is a mass of hashtags to navigate past.

Some other random bits and pieces about hashtags that might interest you:
  • You can put a hashtag in the middle of a sentence. This is especially OK on Twitter where you have to fit so much in to a small space. So I could say
  • On Twitter, people sometimes use hashtags to be funny. Or to try to be funny. Like me.
  • You can save hashtag searches for Twitter in particular so that you can easily click in and check up on your favourite topic (especially useful for conferences too).
  • Remember this is titled "How hashtags make me happy"? The main reason is that when I've got a few spare minutes to surf around then hashtags take me on weird and wonderful journeys around the internet. Weird, wonderful but focused journeys! Go hashtags.
Any more hashtag questions?
So, hopefully that's answered some of the questions but I'm sure there will be more. Ask them in the comments below and I'll take care of them. #ifican :-)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Social media haters: what to do when people say mean things on Facebook or Twitter

When I'm helping clients set up their social media platforms, one of the most common questions I get asked concerns crisis management. What do we do when people leave horrible comments? they ask, nearly always. They're really scared of opening up the possibility for disgruntled clients or customers or nasty members of the general public to say something bad about them.

So far the only disgruntled client comments I've had have been from hungry bellies
wondering when the chocolate cake will be served at our workshops.

My answer usually goes something like this:

First of all, I tell them that if people have complaints about your business, they'll very likely talk about you online anyway, on their own profiles or platforms or wherever, so you're definitely better off having an online presence so that they can talk about you where you can see them and and do something about it.

Next, I tell them that they'd be surprised at how infrequently this happens. I've worked with all kinds of clients in all kinds of industries over the years and do you know how many have come back and actually said somebody had commented nastily on their Facebook page or sent them a mean tweet? None. Not one! That's not to say it doesn't happen. And in certain industries, of course, it's more likely to happen than others. I'm talking about unnecessarily nasty stuff, not just a complaint about service or product with some kind of legitimate (or at least vaguely reasonable) cause.

But, if it happens, then I tell them that the best strategy is not to engage with the content of the comment online, but to politely thank them and give them a way to take it further offline (like giving them a way to contact you by email or phone so you can talk to them privately). I've always said that deleting the comment is likely to get them further annoyed and do it again, whereas if you've acknowledged them and given them an opportunity to continue the conversation elsewhere then they look pretty stupid if they keep commenting. The other bonus of a social media community, assuming you've kind of been taking care of them, is that your advocates/fans will often jump in and tell them to shut up, basically!

(It's probably better not to use Basil Fawlty's methods of dealing with complaints, as in this video ...)

However, at the Problogger Event I heard a different answer from two very experienced people - Amy Porterfield (my favourite Facebook guru) and Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs. Amy started off saying that she used to say pretty much exactly what I've just said - but that recently she's changed her mind. Kind of to my surprise, she says these days if nasty comments come up on her page - people who have said nothing constructive but just nasty or hateful things - she just deletes them - and bans them from the page! Trey Ratcliff agreed although he had a great alternative if you were after some more fun - let them stay on and "your community will have great fun tearing them apart!"

So basically, it's up to you. Reply or delete - that's the two basic choices - but the best news is that for most of you, you'll never actually have to decide.

But have you ever had anyone leave a nasty comment? What did you do?

Friday, October 4, 2013

How to: Link Instagram to your Facebook profile or page

I started the #businesspics prompts on Instagram for several reasons, but a key one is to encourage both my clients and other Instagrammers to use the images they produce to support their business - Instagram pictures can be a fantastic way to give your followers a glimpse into the everyday life of your business, especially if you share them beyond Instagram to, for example, your Facebook page.

And then one of our participants said - wait - how do I do that? And so of course I realised that I've missed a step. Fortunately it's not tricky but it can take a bit of hunting to find the connection so here's the method:

The first step is to head to your profile (the bottom right button in Instagram, which always reminds me of a microwave oven) and tap the cog wheel at the top right.

If your version looks a bit different to mine, fingers crossed it functions in the same way! I've updated to iOS 7 which might explain the difference if you're on an iPhone.

 The next trick is to find the share settings - scroll down first through the Options page first (keep going!):

Then find and tap on "Share Settings" under Preferences.

You'll get a few choices on the Share Settings screen but for now tap on Facebook (if you haven't connected yet, it'll be greyed out).

To configure it you'll need to tap "Share to ..." to take Instagram through to your Facebook login. You'll need to log in (even if you want to use a business page, you will log in to your personal Facebook profile and later you get the chance to choose to share to a business page if you want).

I highly recommend NOT agreeing to "Share Likes to Timeline" - this means that every time you like an image on Instagram this action will appear on your Facebook feed - yep, that would be pretty annoying for your followers or friends!

Once Instagram and Facebook have started talking (in other words, you've entered your Facebook log in details and Instagram remembers them) you'll have the option of sharing to your Timeline or to a Facebook page you manage. You can see in the diagram below that I've got my Instagram feed set up to share to my Amanda Kendle Consulting Facebook page. Once you've selected the right page, you're done, just hit another icon along the bottom (home, for example) and get back into Instagramming. 

Now that you're set up, when you post an Instagram picture, you can tap on the Facebook icon on the page where you type in your caption and it'll then share immediately to your Facebook profile or page (whichever you've set up).

One kind of annoying thing about Instagram is that there is no quick and easy way to change this - you have to go all the way through these menus if you want to change it and it's not something that can be done mid-post. Sometimes I'd like to share some photos to my personal profile but it's such an effort that I pretty much just leave it always set to post to my business page and only post some of my images (usually only one a day to my Facebook page - don't want to overload people!).

So - does this make sense? Yell if my step-by-steps aren't clear - it's easy to overlook mentioning something that is clear to me but not to a normal person! And finally, if you want to join us for the rest of October's #businesspics challenges, the prompts are below. It's never too late to start and you don't need to take part every day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The first month of #businesspics (aka #bizgram!) on Instagram

Big news ... we have reached the last day of our first month of #bizgram - our fun group of Instagrammers who are posting images in response to a prompt every weekday. September #bizgram has been a lot of fun and some great images have been shared - more on them in a minute. But first - the important news is that we're going to continue in October (starting on Tuesday 1st October - here in Western Australia it's a public holiday on Monday anyway so it works out perfectly) - with prompts every weekday through to October 25. Then we'll have a few days off.

And extra-importantly, #bizgram will now be #businesspics! A couple of reasons - first of all, I suddenly found there's a Singaporean company called Bizgram, and we wouldn't want to get confused (not sure where they were hiding when I searched everywhere before setting this up but I will put it down to pre-Problogger busy-ness!) and secondly, Instagram recently announced they won't allow third-party apps to use "Insta" or "Gram" in their names, and while this is no app who knows if Instagram might extend their rules in the future. So, to be on the safe side, #businesspics it is!

So, on to some highlights from September #bizgram - I was particularly impressed with the lipstick pen from Rachel (and it totally matches one of her roles as a make-up artist in her photography business) and I just love the retro red phone Jo found recently on her trip to Canberra.

But my favourite, despite being slightly less business-like, was from the "Cats and dogs" topic - proving once again that cats and dogs rule the airwaves in social media, even when it's for business! Voi Skincare posted this gorgeous double-take:

I could be biased since we're a cat household too, but I loved it. Anyway, I wanted to say a big thanks to all the people who participated in #bizgram in September, and to give a quick shout-out to the those who posted every day or close to it (I haven't scrutinised it precisely - but these people seemed to be there nearly every day at least!):

Stay tuned for our October prompts (they'll be posted on Instagram @amandakendle and on the Facebook page) for #businesspics and if you want a reminder email for this month and future months (including the prompts) then please sign up to the #businesspics reminder email list. I look forward to sharing some fun Instagram moments with you and my challenge for October is: how many different ways could you use these images to help promote your business or blog on social media?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Switching off to switch on - batching your work for better productivity (and quality)

There is no better way that I know to batch the writing of blog posts than to get on an aeroplane, alone, resist the temptation to talk to the woman next to you who looks like she is probably interesting to talk to, get out your laptop as soon as they switch off the "No electronic devices" light (since when do they have this specific light? It's new to me!) and then just write. There is no internet (and it'll be almost a shame when all flights have WiFi - I know some airlines offer this already) and there is no toddler, there is no ringing phone and no tempting kitchen cupboard (fellow work-at-homers will understand that). There is just you, a big sky and lots of clouds out the window, your laptop and your thoughts. So you blog.

I've talked about batching before in various courses and posts but it is seriously one of the best secrets to being an efficient worker that I have ever come across. To summarise: batching means grouping similar tasks together and doing a lot of them at once. In other words, if your work involves a lot of phone calls, don't make them ad hoc but set aside some time to make them all at once. If your work (as mine does) involves a lot of writing blog posts, sit down at a time and place when you know (or hope really fervently) that you won't be interrupted and write, write, write.

Those annoying moments on the tarmac when you can't use your computer ...
The theory behind batching is simple and logical - once you are doing a particular task, and continue it, you will be much more effective both in terms of time and quality. You will be "in the zone" as they say, which will mean different things for different tasks, but as I sit on a plane above the middle of Australia writing blog post after blog post, it means that I have got my "blog voice" in my mind, I have got my text editor open (no extra time needed to open the right software or turn my computer on, compared to writing the posts one at a time on different days), I am really just ready to blog and keep blogging. (A bonus tactic which I may utilise again in the future: the nice white wine provided by the airline just before I started writing blog posts seems to help as well!)

Batching is made easier when you only allow yourself access to the stuff you really need to get the job done. I batch Facebook and Twitter posts, especially for organisations whose accounts I manage, which means I will have Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, and the organisation's home page all open, but I won't let my email notify me of new messages or allow any other distractions. Right now, the beauty of no internet means I'm not tempted to "quickly" check on other posts I might reference or link to here - I can do that later, when I'm editing my post, rather than distract the flow of the writing. I know what I'm like - once I go to "check" something the whole internet opens up before me and the focus is lost.

So to summarise: switch off anything that's not essential to the task at hand, switch on everything essential, and get to work. Obviously I can't take a plane trip every time I need to write a bunch of blog posts (although that does sound like a rather enticing reason to "have to" travel more regularly - alone!) but when I'm at home, I usually pick a good evening, one when I'm not too tired by the events of the day (curiously, this is usually a working day, rather than a being-a-mum day) and set myself up at my desk with something nice - a chocolate or a wine - and get blogging. Or I settle down first thing on a Monday morning, perhaps after a run or walk, and pound out the social media posts for the week. It's such a satisfying feeling to get such a lot of work done in a short time. It just takes a bit of discipline, but is so worth it.

Do you "batch" any kinds of work you need to do? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yippee!!! Problogger on the Gold Coast, here I come

I'm going to ProBlogger!! Call me a geek (I've heard geeks are the new cool, anyway) but I am VERY excited to be going to a conference where every single person I see will not only know what a blog is, they will LOVE blogging. I was so thrilled when I got a ticket a few months back, especially as the Earlybird tickets sold out within hours but I managed to get one!

The ProBlogger Training Event has been held annually for a few years now but it's the exact same few years since I had the baby who is now Mr3, so it's been hard to get away. 2013 is my year.

In one of my former lives as an academic I got quite used to going to conferences and I mostly enjoyed them, but in the last few years I haven't had as many chances. Apart from attending the Media140 conference in Perth in 2011, and speaking at it in 2012, I haven't had much chance to meet many blogging and social media world identities up close, so you can imagine I'm a bit excited. Will I get to speak to Mr Problogger himself, the delightful Darren Rowse? (I hope so!) - and will he serve up a keynote address something like the one below from the recent World Domination Summit (worth a watch!)? Plus there's a huge list of other people I'm hoping to meet. Just the list of speakers is amazing - practically a wishlist of people I would like to listen to (and meet).

Darren Rowse from Chris Guillebeau on Vimeo.

The biggest problem I see will be selecting which session to go to as a number of the concurrent sessions are about topics I'm interested in - for example, at some stage I'll have to choose between a session run by one of my online world heroes, Valerie Khoo, about business blogging, and another on building community (so important too!) from a panel featuring bloggers I have followed for years like Craig Makepeace and Nicole Avery. Pretty sure it will have to be a coin toss for some of them. Thankfully I can catch up later by accessing it all online but there will still be some tricky choices.

(Speaking of accessing it online - there is a "Virtual Pass" which will give you access to all of the recorded material from the whole conference, plus slideshows etc and a few webinars - available to download or listen to whenever you want. If you're interested head to the Virtual Pass page - disclaimer from me, that's an affiliate link so I get a commission if you sign up.)

Anyway, once mid-September hits I'm sure you'll hear a LOT about the ProBlogger event from me on all my social media profiles, and I will definitely have a bunch of blog posts coming out afterwards with the most exciting things I've learnt. I have a feeling I'll be filling pages and pages (or virtual pages at least) with ideas of what to do with my blog and my business to keep moving onwards and upwards and no doubt I'll have lots of new ideas for my regular clients, too.

So, if you're off to ProBlogger too, I'll see you there (like my dear friend Jo of Zigazag who is brave enough to room with me!) and if not, watch this space and you will find out what I'm up to there.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Oh Instagram, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...

There are oh so many ways I'm loving Instagram at the moment but here are two: my so-much-fun Hands-On Instagram workshop, held on the weekend, and my upcoming #bizgram launch to get people like me using Instagram more for great images to help their business.

Our first Hands-On Instagram workshop

I love it when one of those bright shiny ideas I have (usually in the shower) turns into something real and this workshop was one of those. I had the idea that, although Instagram is pretty easy to learn to use, it would be great to get a group of people together, tell them all the little tips and tricks that might otherwise take them months to pick up, talk about how to optimise their use of Instagram and then go out and do it. A kind of a combination of networking plus learning.

And on Saturday, that's exactly what we did. I had six women come along (a sell-out!) with a variety of different backgrounds and reasons for learning more about Instagram but they all hit it off famously and we had a fabulous day. We had about two hours of learning (and eating cake) first, and I was really pleased to see that even the more experienced Instagram users in the group learnt lots of new stuff (and some were beginners and learnt even more!).

From there we went down to Hillarys Boat Harbour and three pairs of participants each had to work on some practice tasks (you can see some of the results by hopping on Instagram and looking for the #amandasworkshop hashtag).

Of course what I hadn't counted on was that to practice they'd all start taking photos of me but fortunately the magic of Instagram made them look not too bad. I was glad to escape down to Hillarys though where there were a lot more photogenic subjects!

Big thanks and shout out to Jo of Wildfire Social Marketing, Vida of Just ImproviseKath MazzellaAggie Lim, Rae of I Opened My Mouth and our lovely "other" Jo for making our workshop so much fun.

I haven't set a date for the next Hands-On Instagram workshop but if you're interested do email me and let me know.

#bizgram starts next week (2 September)

Speaking of bright shiny ideas: my idea to get lots of small business people using Instagram effectively (and to have fun with it at the same time), #bizgram, starts next Monday, 2 September 2013. There'll be a prompt each weekday in September which will inspire a photo you can take and share on Instagram, related to your work, that will both help you build a community on Instagram as well as be a great source of images you can share on other social media like Facebook and Twitter. To join in you just need to follow me on Instagram (@amandakendle) and use the hashtag #bizgram when you're posting. The prompts will be shown on Instagram too but here's the first look - the September prompts for #bizgram - get thinking! If you want to get the prompts in a reminder email each month you can sign up to the #bizgram mailing list.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Introducing #bizgram - because using Instagram for your business images is more fun in a crowd

You may have noticed I've developed something of a keen interest in Instagram of late (some may name it an addiction), partly because it's fun, partly because it's easy to fit into the very few spare moments I have, and partly because I have realised I can also use it for my business. That last one's the key because I'd like to help even more people use a tool like Instagram to help their business, and that's where my shiny new idea for #bizgram comes in.

#bizgram posts in my Facebook album

Instagram (check my previous post to find out all about Instagram if you need) is not a place for businessy interactions - it's social but casual, a place where blatant self-promotion is severely frowned upon. (And I do hope it remains that way.) Of course, you will meet people and it's great for networking with like-minded souls and that can't be a bad thing. But the reason I'm using Instagram more and more in my business is that it's such a fabulous way to produce original images that I can use in my social media pages, be it Facebook or Twitter or whichever platform takes your fancy.

Why I like using Instagram images for my business:
  1. I can take pictures pretty much whenever and wherever, just by whipping out my smartphone, and Instagram filters make them that much prettier with just a couple of taps.
  2. Because I can take pictures whenever and wherever, they can be an interesting and relevant reflection of what I do everyday in my business.
  3. Sharing images related to my business helps explain the work I do, shows people (clients and prospective clients) more of both my business and my personality, and helps me (hopefully) be "likeable"!
  4. I suddenly have a good source of images I can post to my Facebook page or share on Twitter and they're original, all mine, and people love them.
  5. Oh, and it's fun.
Now, there are lots of groups of people taking daily photos and sharing them on Instagram, like the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day challenge I've been playing along with (and loving) recently, or any number when you google something like "Instagram daily photo". They give you prompts to inspire the kinds of photos you might take that day and provide a community to share them with using hashtags. But I can't find one that helps business people to take photos they might use in their business, and that's why I'm starting up #bizgram.

When #bizgram starts on September 2, I'll be posting a list of ideas for the month that will inspire a photo most weekdays (not weekends, of course, because business people can rest!, plus we'll have a few RDOs - we're just going to work for four weeks each month!). You can take a photo for each prompt or just when you feel like it, post it on Instagram and tag it with #bizgram, and we'll all be able to see the photos - plus you can share it with your business community on Facebook, tweet it, or save it and use it in blog posts or on your website, too. It's going to be fun, inspiring, useful and good for business. Check back here or sign up to my reminder email and please join me in Instagramming our business lives with #bizgram.

Monday, August 12, 2013

7 things to do before you hit publish on your new blog post

At my recent advanced blogging course, my students picked up on the fact that I kept telling them things they should do before they hit publish on a new blog post. And one particularly wise one (the lovely writer Louise Allan) suggested I write a blog post on all of this. Smart move (that's why these people were in advanced blogging, I guess!).

A scary sight: A blank blog post waiting for inspiring words

The thing is, writing a blog post is certainly not just as simple as writing it and hitting publish. It can be, but if you want to get readers to find and interact with your blog post (surely a key goal for nearly all of us), then there are a bunch of other things to do that can help make that happen. So here's my list of the seven things you should do before you hit publish on your new blog post:
  1. Reconsider your title. Have you fallen prey to Ballerina Syndrome in which your title is fantastically clever but lacking in searchable keywords? As another clever course participant (Rachel) suggested: Google is smart, but not clever. The internet, and especially your blog post title, is not the place for cryptically clever word arrangements. Google needs to figure out what your post is actually about so that it can send readers to it. What I'm saying is: use keywords in your title.
  2. Check for other SEO (search engine optimisation) musts - like using the keywords for your post in the first sentence or two. Gone are the days when it was necessary to stack your entire post with so many repetitions of your keywords that it barely made sense (and in fact this is now frowned upon, yay!), but as in point 1, you want Google to be able to quickly figure out what your post is actually about.
  3. Focus. I know about this problem, because it happens to me all the time. You start your blog post with a particular idea in mind. You get to the end and it is kind of about another idea. You probably couldn't explain what your post is about in one sentence or less. Maybe it's really two posts, or even three. Go back and structure your post properly (taking out bits that don't fit any more - you could save them for another post) and be sure your post has a focus. Blogging can be casual, should be casual, but it should still be focused.
  4. Finish with a question or an invitation to comment about something. At least most of the time (there's nothing worse than reading a great post which then ends with a question for readers which is a real stretch away from the actual content of a post - don't force it), end with something that will inspire your readers to leave a comment. After all, you not only want to see your blog statistics ticking over, you actually want to connect with people and have them feel compelled to spend another minute leaving a comment on your post.
  5. Make your permalink sensible. Your permalink is the URL (website address) for your individual blog post. If you're using Wordpress you can usually edit your permalink directly under the spot where you type your blog title in; in Blogger it's over on the right hand side by clicking on Custom Permalink. It should have keywords (and if your title is long these sometimes get cut off, so delete some of the others), rather than reflect the actual word-for-word title.
  6. Include at least one reasonably decent image. The internet is a visual place and even if the emphasis in your blog is very definitely on the words, the image will help it be shared, will help break up the text and will make your blog post look that bit prettier. Consider using Creative Commons licensed photos from Flickr or going through a stock photo site if you really can't take your own (my preference).
  7. Proofread. Or, if you know that your grammar is a bit on the imperfect side, find someone who will proofread for you. You may not be one of those people that think grammar and spelling is important but there are plenty of people who do, and I'm one of them. Figure out the difference between its and it's and don't use a grocers' apostrophe. Please?
If you incorporate these reasonably quick steps into your blog writing process, I'm sure it'll make your blog a more popular place to visit. And that will make you a happier blogger. Perfect!

I'm also sure there are more than seven things that might help improve your blog post before you hit publish - so hit me up with a comment! What else do you do to make sure your blog post is the best it can be?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chocolate and the power of the personal in social media

Anyone who has vaguely glanced at my Facebook page or even just read my Twitter profile will have an inkling that I am rather a fan of chocolate, in its many forms, be it freshly-baked chocolate cake, a steaming hot chocolate or just a plain ol' block of chocolate. I even celebrated my travel blog's birthday a couple of years back with a chocolate cake!
Mentions of chocolate weren't an intentional social media strategy - I just found it hard to avoid talking about it! But looking back, I can see that introducing this personal element into my social media is not a bad thing at all. It might sound simple or even trivial, but enjoying chocolate is something a LOT of people can relate to, and provides a starting point for conversations that lead to something further, or at least encourage other people to join the discussion.

And of course there are a few perks. I made a presentation on social media at a Perth library once and one of the audience members came up to me before the talk started. She said she had googled me and discovered I loved chocolate, and she wanted to give me a gift of her favourite chocolate. Before she'd even heard me speak! And I have a few clients who are aware of my preferences and stock up on something chocolatey when they know I'm coming.

In fact, this tweet about hot chocolate was seen by the client I was meeting with the following day too, and he made sure to have a very tasty hot chocolate ready for me when I arrived!

But putting those personal taste bud bonuses to one (far) side, I really believe that introducing a personal element of something you love into your online persona is really important. I was thinking of examples of people who do and don't do this, and how differently I feel about them.

For example, I'm a big fan of Valerie Khoo who wears numerous hats but among them is founder/managing director of the Australian Writers Centre, author of the excellent "Power Stories" (a book that stays on my desk) and also a slightly mad cat AND dog woman. And that final bit is something I've picked up from her Twitter feed, from podcasts, from various bits and pieces, and it makes me really feel that she is human, it gives me a connection point (I have cats!) (and isn't she smart for having both? Nearly everyone is either a dog or a cat person!), and an extra reason to "know, like and trust" her, which is one of the big points of doing social media.

On the other hand, there is Facebook guru Amy Porterfield. I have followed her work for some time and I listen to her podcast, and I'm excited that I'll be able to hear her speak at the ProBlogger conference later this year, but I don't feel the same warmth and "trust" that I do with others - and, strangely perhaps, it's because she seems too professional. On her Facebook page or in her podcast, I've very rarely heard her mention anything outside of work, and I don't feel anything personally in common with her beyond our work. I still feel that she does her job very well, but that feeling that I "know" her just isn't there. (I hope I'll be able to meet her at ProBlogger and find out that she's totally lovely and friendly!**)

I'm not suggesting for a minute that we all need to divulge intimate details of our personal life through social media. I don't. But social media is all about being social, and to be social, you have to stop being 100% professional from time to time. For me, it's mentioning chocolate or cake, or occasionally the antics of my son, and mixing these ingredients in with my usual professional and work-based posts. For you, it might be a pet, or an obsession with tea or coffee, or your love of exercise, anything in fact that is a bit tangential or even quite removed from your actual work, but gives people another connection point with you. It might just naturally happen, like it did for me, or it might be something you need to think about first, but whichever way, I really think it helps the people who follow you online to connect, like and trust you, and when they feel that way, the bottom line is they're much more likely to buy your product or service, and that's not a bad thing, right?

**PS Sept, 2013: I can confirm that Amy Porterfield is, indeed, a totally lovely and friendly lady. And interestingly she has been sharing a lot more personal information on her podcasts recently. Good work Amy!

So, a question for you to answer: what's your quirk, or special like?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Location independence, digital nomads and what pretty much all my clients could learn from this

I'm having a mini-obsession with podcasts, blogs and people talking about location independence at the moment. It's a buzz word that actually makes me buzz! The notion of being "location independent" or a "digital nomad" basically means that you're doing work you can do from anywhere, which virtually always means you work online. Or even better, you don't work too much at all but have started an online business which keeps sending money your way. (Not that I mind a bit of hard work. But I don't have a whole lot of hours left in the each day, it seems.)

A random beach shot or ... no, this will have relevance later. Trust me.
Anyway ... while I'm listening to and reading people like Natalie Sisson from The Suitcase Entrepreneur and my lovely friend Nora from The Professional Hobo, I often think that although much of the discussion is about creating an online business so that you can travel a lot (as these ladies do), so many things that they say are also very relevant to people running a small business and promoting themselves online. In other words, the kind of people who are very often my clients, and of course, me as well.

There are so many ideas running around in my head about ways to help your business run with a bit less of your time, freeing you up to do other things which may mean travelling, but equally may mean spending time with your kids (I'm aiming for both of these), getting more involved in a hobby or a cause, or some other equally valid use of your spare time. To me it's not about location independence, it's more about freedom, and who doesn't want a bit more of that? So, here are some of the tips I keep hearing that I think can work for many of us, not just the location independents:

  • Outsource when it makes sense. Small businesses - and especially one-person businesses, the kind I'm often involved with - can't afford to hire staff. You can, however, afford to look into sites like oDesk or elance to find someone who can do a task for you at a low enough rate that it makes sense - you can go off and earn your normal rate and pay them to do a task (especially if (a) they're better at it or (b) you really hate it) that saves your time. (Also, I still love Fiverr for some quick jobs like graphics and stuff.)
  • Batch your work. If you have been to my Social Media Strategising and Scheduling workshop you will have heard me talk about batching: grouping like tasks together and getting them all done at once. That might mean you take one day a month to write every blog post you intend to post that month, or it may be that you decided 9am on Monday is the hour you'll spend scheduling your social media posts for the week. Whatever it is, the value of not having to "start" a similar task multiple times, plus that "in the groove" effect of doing the same thing for a while, makes you work so much more effectively. I'm writing this blog post on an evening when I've already written two others. It works!
  • Change your scenery. People who work for themselves need to be self-motivated and it's not going to be easy 100% of the time. Whether you do the extreme location independent version of this and move to another country for a few months or you just pack up your laptop and take it to a local cafe for an afternoon, it can really make a productivity difference. (I have even taken my laptop to the beach - well, to the carpark near the beach. Too much sand at the actual beach!)
  • Make the most of technology. Having all the latest whiz-bang gadgets can be a trap BUT it can also work out well if you're the one who's in control. I have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, USB WiFi, a Kindle, you name it (after all, I do work in blogging and social media!) and on occasion I let them take over my life. Most of the time though I exploit them and fit work in around other equally important parts of life. I may schedule a lot of my social media posts during a batching session but of course I still need to check in and reply to comments or other interactions - that's something that's easily done on my smartphone while I'm cooking dinner or waiting at an appointment.
  • Switch off and do fun stuff. This is a point where being a world-wandering digital nomad probably makes it easier, because if you've just moved to a small coastal Croatian town you're very likely to want to abandon your computer at some stage and go exploring or at the very least have a quick dip in that glorious sea. If you're just working from home then always thinking "just one more task" is an easy trap to fall into but the whole point of being your own boss is that you are allowed to switch off from work whenever you want to (well, more or less).
  • Figure out a passive income stream. This is (depending on your industry, perhaps) the trickier part but the bit that really turns you from a worker into someone who sometimes works and sometimes does other cool stuff. I'm still figuring this out too but there are so many options in the online world now to generate an income independent of the hours you put in (you know, earn while you sleep - yes please!) and this is obviously a way to free up some of your time. More on this in the future, when I get it better worked out myself!
The way I figure it, the digital nomads can wander the world, and people like me can just try to get on top of things so that there is time for work, time for play, and hopefully time for a few more overseas trips as well! Blogging and social media is surely a part of getting this sorted out. I'm working on it: watch this space. 

What ways could you make your work style more "digital nomad-ish" - or do you even want to?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Managing your online presence when your name is Bob Smith

When I was younger, I was none too impressed by having a surname like "Kendle" because people were constantly misspelling it. Usually Kendal or Kendall but if they actually half-listened to me spelling it out (as I always did) then I'd get Kendale.

And then the internet came along. Having a relatively unique name turned into a real blessing! If you google "Amanda Kendle" it is a long, long time before you come across any result that's referring to someone other than me. (There do seem to be a couple of Amanda Kendles in the United States - one who played basketball, the other a graphic designer - but their presence online is low. Phew.)

If your name is a little more common, then you might find that there's some competition in the Google search results. Take Perth author Natasha Lester, for example: there is, unfortunately for her, a p*rn star of the same name! These days it takes a good three pages of Google results to find this other Natasha Lester, but I do remember when I first met the author Natasha (I've never met the other one!) that the situation was more serious. Thankfully she's been smart enough to get lots of stuff all over the web (be it guest blog posts and interviews, reviews of her books, and so on) to push down the other results. Although it's not all good - even the name of her blog While the kids are sleeping has been causing trouble of late:

I had a laugh, and Natasha has a strong enough online presence that it's not really a drama, but it could be worse. What if your name is Bob Jones or Jane Smith? You will really struggle to create an online presence just based on your name that will enable people to find you if they're looking. Just look at the stats: if I google "Amanda Kendle" there are 84,000 results; if I google "Jane Smith" this leaps to 157,000,000.

So what are your options if you really are Jane Smith? Or even if there's just one other person out there with the same name as you who already has a substantial online presence?

What I advise my tricky-named clients is that there are really two options. The first one is (in all seriousness) to change their name - or at least change the name they use professionally. Whether that means using a middle name instead or perhaps using an initial from a middle name if that helps solve the problem (I'd say that's much more common in the States than here - but it could work) or if you feel up to it, actually inventing an entirely new one - a pseudonym of sorts. Or branding yourself entirely under a business name instead of your actual name, which will work for some industries but not others.

The other option is just to work really hard at associating your real name with the important key words which describe the business that you're in. For example, I have a client named Clare Harris, and as you'd guess, the general Google results for Clare Harris throw up a long list of different women named Clare Harris around the world. However, Clare is in the ESL industry and if you search for Clare Harris ESL then pretty much all the results are about her - and some of her important handles like Twitter and her Facebook page use ESL or ESL writer as part of her username. Sure, it's not quite as ideal as having a unique name that can't be confused with anyone else, but it's a close second, and just takes a judicious use of a keyword in your usernames and lots of uses of that keyword on your website and blog posts and you're all set.

And the one thing that kind of bugs me about names and the internet age? All those parents who've been giving their children really bizarre names, the ones who I admit to having scoffed at, well, they've got it right, because those kids won't have to compete with someone else for online space. I might have to retrospectively give my son a truly odd name, just for the sake of his Googlaability.

What kind of people do you find when you Google your name?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What's Google+, and should I be on it?

After I ran a Google+ workshop recently I got a tweet from a client telling me, very honestly, that she really had no idea what Google+ ("Google Plus") was and asking whether she needed to know.

And that's a really good question - Google+ is a bit of an enigma when it comes to social media! So I promised her I'd write a blog post to explain the important bits and put her mind at ease.

My Google+ profile

What is Google+?

Basically, Google+ started out as Google's attempt to compete with Facebook. There have been a couple of other attempts but this is the one that seems to be sticking, and is doing reasonably well. Of course, it has nowhere near the number of users as Facebook*, but it's got lots and is particularly well-used in some demographics (men, for example, are much heavier users of Google+, whereas Facebook is dominated by women).

It has many features which are pretty much the same as Facebook: you have a profile, you can post  updates, photos and links, you can share them and comment on them, and you can "like" them except that it's called "+1".

One thing Google+ really tried to promote at launch is their "Circles" - groups of your connections so that you can easily post your updates only for one group (meaning that your colleagues don't need to see photos of your wild party on the weekend or your university graduate friends might be the only one who see an invite to a talk from your old professor). This is possible in Facebook these days too but it's not as integral there as it is in Google+.

Is Google+ important?

This is the big question. Is Google+ important and do I need to be there? There's not really a simple answer, but this is the advice I give my clients at the moment:
  1. I can't really see it happening, but if Facebook should fall flat on its face, Google+ would be the natural place for people to flock to.
  2. Some people and some niches use Google+ much more heavily than Facebook (and I have to admit that there are many aspects of it that I prefer). 
  3. The big reason to be involved with Google+ though, in my opinion, is the fact that it's Google. How do most people find your website or blog? It's through Google's search engine. And word on the street (well, on the screen) is that using Google+ to share your blog posts and website updates might be integral to improving your place on Google's roster for search engine results. (Kim Garst's recent post on why not to avoid Google+ makes a short and simple case for this.)

So do I need to be on Google+?

Again, my best advice at the moment is this: be on Google+ (especially for Google Authorship), and post your blog posts there each time you publish them. Posting these links on Google+ is a kind of SEO (search engine optimisation) insurance policy. Also, Google+ can be fun, there are great people using it, it's not (yet) full of advertising like Facebook, and it has some great features (Hangouts, for example - video conferencing with multiple people) that are lacking in other social media.

However, if you already feel like you have a full social media roster and no spare minutes for something new, it's probably not the end of the world if you're not on it. Probably, I say. Because there's a part of me that just thinks it might become essential one day.

Do you like my six of one, half dozen of the other answer? If you're on Google+ let me know what you think about it in the comments.

* The stats say Google+ has half a billion users - but many of these are inactive accounts. For example, most people who sign up to create a blog in Google's Blogger are allocated a Google+ profile but that doesn't mean they use it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The fun of Twitter and my own Twitter renaissance

I first signed up to Twitter in March 2008. Like many social media sites, I think I just signed up because I thought I should, long before I knew if it would prove useful or whether I would even enjoy using it. (By the way, you can quickly find out how long you've been on Twitter by checking at the How Long Have You Been Tweeting site).

@amandakendle on Twitter - for nearly five years, so far!
Over the past five years, I have had phases where I've been obsessive about checking Twitter constantly, and phases where I may have barely looked into it for weeks at a time. Of course since I started working more seriously in social media I spend a lot more time there but it still comes in bursts - and right now, I'm having another Twitter renaissance. (Where does the time come from, you ask? Mostly because I'm not using Instagram quite as much right now.)

There are numerous reasons why I find Twitter so much fun, but I know when you are first thinking of stepping into the tweeting realm - or worse, when someone like me tells you that for the sake of your business you perhaps "should" be on Twitter - it can all seem a bit hard to imagine. The practicalities of how, what and when for Twitter are coming in a future post, but the fun? Well, I want to tell you all about that now.

So let me finish this sentence a few times: I love Twitter because ...
  1. I've "met" people on Twitter who I've later met in real life and they've become friends. I may not have come across them at all without Twitter; I certainly wouldn't have been friends with them so easily if I hadn't already "known" them online.
  2. When I really want to know something that's happening right now, Twitter is the best place to find out about it. I remember finding tweets from people in Korea when tricky North Korean incident wasn't yet in the news; when a police helicopter circles my suburb I head to Twitter to find out why, and usually do.
  3. The best advice comes from Twitter: a while back I asked for local recommendations for web designers for a client and got stacks of excellent info. Twitter users have also given me advice for dealing with a house accidentally emptied of chocolate.
  4. I get to talk to and find out about writers I admire. I especially love reading good fiction by Australian women writers and I love the chance to interact with them on Twitter - people like Kylie Ladd, Allison Tait, Sara Foster and Natasha Lester.
  5. There are fun and games. Like this:

  6. It's quick and easy fun. If I'm waiting for an appointment I can pull out my phone, open up Twitter and quickly read and tweet a little; it's something I can then put away without feeling like it's not finished.
  7. People are funny on Twitter. Even I can be funny on Twitter. I can't really explain it - something about writing such short updates, or something about how the culture of Twitter has grown over the years - but so many people are so funny.
  8. Last but very definitely not least, I get work via Twitter. People contact me because the see the kind of work I do, and want me to do the same for them. Can't complain about that!
I could go on, but those are some of the main reasons that I enjoy using Twitter. It's quite unique among social media tools, I think, in that you really can feel like you're building a direct one-to-one relationship with someone who you previously had no connection to - without spending a heck of a lot of time doing it. If we haven't met up on Twitter yet then come and find @amandakendle and say hello. I look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The best social media podcasts which follow me around ...

Working in social media means that it's pretty important to stay on top of the latest news. Things change constantly and FAST. But, as well as work, I have a toddler and two shouty cats to deal with so I don't have a whole lot of spare time for reading. Thankfully, I recently rediscovered that I love listening to podcasts (I was a real podcast addict when I worked in the city and commuted on the train) and not only that, I've realised that there are a few free moments for listening - mostly while driving or doing housework.

It's taken me a couple of months to finalise a few podcasts that I reliably and consistently love but I've done it, and I thought I'd share them. (I'd also love some reader recommendations if you listen to something fantastic that's not on my list.) By the way, rather than linking to the not-friendly-to-everyone iTunes feed for these podcasts, I've tried to find a suitable web page where you can either listen straight away or get a link through to iTunes if you want.

  • Social Media for Small Business (from the Australian Businesswomen's Network). This is easily my favourite and probably that's because I really fit perfectly into the target demographic, and I think that the majority of my clients would find the same - so if you only listen to one podcast, make it this one. Each episode focuses on an interview with an expert about one topic (perhaps Twitter; maybe Facebook ads; always useful) with a bit of chat about current social media news at the front and some recommendations for apps afterwards. The presenters, Suzi Dafnis and Cat Matson, are both Aussie women and so I guess it's no surprise I feel an affinity towards them! Plus unlike pretty much every American-produced podcast I listen to, this one doesn't have a scarily-hyped intro (just some nice music) and ... well, it just really suits me. Try it.
  • Online Marketing Made Easy (Amy Porterfield) - I've long followed Amy Porterfield for quite a lot of useful social media stuff, and she has just recently started up this podcast. It's really listenable and includes lots of information - I thought the second episode on Content Marketing on a Shoestring Budget was especially useful.
  • The Human Business Way comes from Chris Brogan who is totally famous to internet geeky people like me. He's done all kinds of social media and blogging stuff in the past and this podcast comes out of his newish business "Human Business Works" which is perhaps a broader business/marketing kind of deal, but in any case the podcast has all kinds of interesting content that's relevant to many of us. Fan tip: keep listening after you think the podcast has ended because Chris always includes a little bonus bit!
  • Copyblogger: Internet Marketing for Smart People - Copyblogger is another "totally famous to internet geeks like me" site and recent episodes have featured gurus like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan, whose names may not mean much to all my readers but they do to me - enough to recognise that there's some quality stuff in here. 
Podcasts are pretty handy ways to keep in touch with what's happening and changing in the social media world but also to be inspired by some amazing people who are really at the forefront of it all - this crazy new world! I heartily recommend you try some of these - let me know what you think.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Ballerina Syndrome, or how keyword-rich titles are better than beautiful ones

There are two kinds of bloggers in this world: those who title a blog post based on what is about ("How to cook a lamb roast", for example) and those who believe a title should be clever, arty and/or beautiful ("What to eat even if Tom Cruise invites you to dinner" - watch this old Aussie TV ad for lamb if my clever title doesn't make sense to you).

Left to my own devices I am definitely the second type of blogger. Unfortunately, however, more successful bloggers are the first type. And this is all because of search engines.

For many (perhaps most) bloggers, the way the majority of your readers find your blog is by searching for you in a search engine. In other words, if you are looking for lamb roast tips, you may type "lamb roast", "cooking a lamb roast" or even my exact title, "How to cook a lamb roast", and Google or your search engine of choice will return a bunch of web pages that it believes are closely related to that topic. It doesn't take a genius to realise which of my two original title ideas will work best here.

Lots of people find this very difficult. So do I. If you have an interest in or (worse) a love of writing, then composing a fairly bland, accurately-descriptive title just doesn't sit well. Where is our chance to be creative, to show off our cleverness? Well, not in the title I'm afraid. Not in the age of the internet!

I've made plenty of mistakes in the title realm. Just look at my travel blog's name: Not A Ballerina! What on earth does that have to do with travelling? Worse, I end up with far too many visitors who have been searching for something related to ballet (search engines aren't very good at sensing the "Not" part) - can anyone tell me why people are often searching for "hairy ballerinas"? You can read the story of how the name came about, but it doesn't make it any better - it might be a nice story, but it doesn't make the name choice any more appropriate. I'm just too sentimental to part with it (and lose followers by changing domains, and so on) after eight years of blogging there.

However, I strongly recommend that you do what I say, not what I do. In class I've dubbed this problem of wanting beautiful titles and names "Ballerina syndrome" and I don't want you to succumb. As painful as it might be to some of you, give your blog post a title that sends a clear message about what the content of the post is about, and you'll find that a lot more people come along to read it. There is room enough to be clever and witty inside a blog post; don't be tempted to go the Tom Cruise route.

Although sometimes, like me, you can try to cram everything into the one title. It's my compromise approach. But ... you know, do what I say, not what I do.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Social media for artists, because artists amaze me

I am one super-lucky girl because I get to meet and work with some truly inspiring and fascinating people. And one subset of these is artists.

I am not artistic. (If you want some proof, see some of my childhood samples on my travel blog - this was the *peak* of my drawing ability!) But I am in absolute awe of anyone who can paint or draw or sculpt. In fact, I confess, my husband was very smart to bring one of his incredible paintings to hang on an empty wall in my apartment shortly after we'd met - I was thrilled at the idea of hanging out with someone who could paint!

And I've also been thrilled to be able to work with some artists over the last few years, artists who have been looking for help with blogging and social media as a way to get some more (well-deserved) attention to their artworks. Obviously, social media is an ideal place for artists to hang out. Most social media platforms are extremely visual and if you're an artist with beautiful stuff to show then you've got it made.

One of the artists I was especially glad to meet is Jennifer Sulaj. She was wanting to get more serious about making painting her work and life and realised that social media would probably help her out, and despite being really not too keen on sitting in front of a computer when she could be in her studio instead, she's now doing a marvellous job of it - have a look at Jennifer's Facebook page and I'm sure you'll agree. What I think she is doing right, and what I have suggested to other artists I'm lucky enough to work with, is to post these kinds of things on social media:

  • Images of some completed paintings along with a story about how they came to be, what they mean to the artist or something unusual that happened while painting it.
  • Photos of works in progress, because the process of painting is fascinating not only to artists but especially to non-artists like me, who can't imagine how anyone can produce something so beautiful.
  • "Life of an artist" type posts, for example, images and stories of exhibitions, sales and even a simple thing like where and how they buy their paint or other supplies. (One of my favourite recent posts on Jennifer's page was the tale of the mishap when she bought a new van and it broke down an hour later, meaning her paintings were delivered late to a new gallery - nice to know that artists are human, too!).
  • Short tales of inspiration for starting a painting, for keeping on going, for getting back to work when it's hard to be inspired.
  • Sharing posts from other artists who inspire, or who have an interesting or different style.
  • Images of a studio, because for us non-artists it's hard to imagine what really goes on in an artist's studio.
I think that every kind of business has a place on social media - of course for some businesses, LinkedIn might work better, or Twitter, or something else - but for artists, one of the best has to be a Facebook business page. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in being fascinated by the life of an artist and they've got so much pretty stuff to share. A perfect match.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Using Pinterest for my office revamp inspiration

One of the things I want to organise early in 2013 is a tidy, organised office. I already have an office at home; it's the tidy and organised bit that's quite lacking. Part of this arises from the fact that when I set up my office it wasn't an office, but just a study, a place to house my large collection of books and a desk for my computer so I could write and blog. Since then, it's morphed into a proper home office and with that has come a need for something more than a relatively small desk and a wall of book shelves, because as much as I try to avoid it, along with a home office comes a collection of paperwork, books, business cards, training notes and resources and all kinds of other stuff that needs to have a good home.

I have a filing cabinet full of non-work related stuff in another room of the house; I didn't feel like a just a boring old filing cabinet was what I needed to solve this problem. So I did what any other self-respecting social media junkie does when in need of inspiration: I turned to Pinterest.

If you haven't discovered Pinterest yet, then I have one word of advice: don't! Of all the different social media I think Pinterest is the one that is the most addictive and potentially time-wasting. But that's because it's SO MUCH FUN! So I won't be at all offended if you ignore my advice.

Random Pinterest goodies
In a nutshell, Pinterest is a virtual pin-up board where you can "pin" websites, blog posts, images, whatever, into different pin-up boards (in other words, into different categories), and you can look at what other people have been "pinning" and "re-pin" their best bits to your own boards.

For my home office revamp project, I set up a pin-up board on my Amanda Kendle Consulting Pinterest profile called "Home Office Ideas". I then had a very legitimate reason to do some fun searches on Pinterest looking for inspiration for how to redesign my office to be both practical and beautiful. Now, I must admit that the implementation of this is a long way away, but the dreaming and collecting of ideas on Pinterest has certainly made headway!

Home office inspiration on Pinterest

While I was searching, some of the Pinterest posts reminded me that my home office could be a place for my son to "work" - in the sense of "play quietly" from time to time, and perhaps more and more as he gets older; as I'm always teaching in my social media for parents courses, no child should have a computer in their bedroom so perhaps (looking ahead a few years) my office could also be his, and he could use a computer while I'm at work here (ask me in five years if this turned out to be a good idea or a stupid one). This idea led me down a whole lot of new pathways for gorgeous ideas to pin.

And so it goes on. Of course, I now need another spare couple of hours to have a proper look at all this and figure out the best way to re-do my office, but as far as getting lots of ideas from the comfort of my computer go - Pinterest can't be beaten.

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