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?
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