The Reluctant Writer

My mom has been telling me my whole life that I should write. I don’t like listening to my mom, however I will say she is right about things more often then I would like to admit. I was taking stock today and thinking about all the writing I do. I write for four blogs at present, and I write documents, emails, social media posts and more for work. I actually write more than I don’t write these days. How did this happen?

I liked writing stories and journaling as a kid. English class was always where I did my best  work surprising myself at times. And then, somehow I ended up as a English major. But in recent years I have found myself a little shy when it comes to putting my writing out there for the world.

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You may laugh about the image above, but I have to tell you this exact thing happened to me. A few years ago I mistakenly used “you’re” instead of “your” in a comment on friend’s Facebook post. I know the difference; I’m also human. Would you believe me if I told you that a stranger, a friend of my friend, somebody I don’t know at all, felt the need to point out my error and smugly inform me on the correction in a comment below my comment. Wow. I was blown away. We all see people make grammatical errors and we may correct them because it is our job, because we are helping someone edit, or because we just noticed they overlooked something and we want to be helpful. But where is the value in pointing it out just to prove we are smarter?

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The good news is despite my fear of the Grammar Police I power through. I choose to express myself, to refine my understanding of the rules, and to try and add value with the content I create.  It was my mom who gave me the book Writing Down the Bones; I think I was 17 or 18 the first time I read that book and much of it has stuck with me. The book offers many simple but powerful tips: keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper (or on your macbook), doubt is torture; don’t listen to it.

Yesterday I came across this which I found terribly refreshing. The article points out that so many “rules” are actually matters of style. What I take away from all this is that to be a better writer the best thing one can do is keep writing.

More Reading

4 Reasons Why Grammar Police Make Terrible Writers

Always Learning

I spent the day at a terrific event today. In my work I spend a lot of time at my computer, however given the opportunity I am uber enthusiastic to get social, as in face to face with social. Today’s event was a partnership with Seekers Media,  TELUS, and the Chinook Country Tourism Association. The workshop’s goal was “to empower you with tips and tricks to increase your social media following and offer solutions to grow your business through digital media”.

I came away feeling pretty inspired to try some new things with video. Prior to the workshop there were some recommended apps for downloading, one of which was iMovie for the iPhone. I have used iMovie on my Mac previously but hadn’t worked with it on my phone. It is my new favourite app! Here is a quick little video I made to experiment and sum up the day.

Lots of other good little nuggets came from the day:

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Jobs Biography

I just finished reading Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. It’s taken me many months to complete this book. Summer has been busy with work, travel, and home renovation projects; moments with a book have been infrequent. Don’t get me wrong this book is a great read, it’s just not a page turner because you know how this one is going to end. I always enjoy a good biography and learning more about the twists and turns of the lives of people. The story of Steve Jobs is an incredibly interesting one. It’s a classic story of a man who wouldn’t take no for an answer; when told something could not or should not be done, Jobs would do it. His work was game changing and has had an impact on most all of us today.

I am not sure Steve Jobs is someone I would have wanted to meet in person. Known for his prickly personality and his drive to innovate at any cost, he was never afraid to loose a friend in the pursuit of progress. I think the thing I was most struck with, with his story was his total adherence to aesthetic and design to the exception of people. He was able to do the incredible things that he did because of his conviction, his powerful ideas and his and unwillingness to settle. What would easily be perceived as egotism was his greatest asset when it came to setting his products apart and changing the world. He would have never done some of the amazing things he did if he had been any other way.

The most interesting things I learned about Jobs in the book: He was a major force behind the movies of Pixar Studios, of which there are many I love. He was adopted. He credited taking LSD as being one of his life’s most profound experiences. Jobs got married at the Ahwahnee Hotel, in Yosemite National Park, where I worked for a number of years and met my own husband. Prior to getting married, but after becoming very rich he lived in a house that was hardly furnished, because he was so particular about furnishings and design. His commitment to simplicity and tendency toward exceptional design total was reflected everywhere in his life and work, from his signature black turtle necks, to what he decided not to do with his products, to his interest in and practice of zen meditation.

Ultimately this was a really interesting read about an major icon of our time. This book gives me a whole new appreciation for my iphone and how it came to be.

Youtility: A Book Review

Last year I ordered myself a stack of books related business, social media, and content marketing. I am still working my way through the stack but one of the best books so far has been Jay Baer’s Youtility.  Youtility is defined as creating and attracting business with content that is inherently useful, valuable and empowers content consumers to help themselves. The book is chock-full of examples of Youtility across industries. Businesses from toilet paper manufactures to computer repair services have found success when they have sought first to help with winning content and only later to promote.

“The difference between helping and selling is just two letters.”

Youtility-Cover

“Youtility is marketing so valuable people would gladly pay for it.”

I have spoken about content on this blog before. Content is king and all that. It’s an area of interest and I like to look at what separates the great from the rest. Developing great content requires a fundamental shift to thinking like a content consumer rather than a content creator. This is what Youtility is all about.

“ You’re not competing for attention only against similar products.You’re competing against your customers friends, family and viral videos of cute puppies. To win attention these days you must ask a different question. How can I help?”

Youtility as Baer, explains it is the highest and most sophisticated form of content marketing. It’s not just about having a blog or creating pretty infographics but doing those things with with the intention that the content always be helpful and most useful to the intended content consumer. The principle is simple: consumers of all types are turning to the internet for answers when researching solutions and or products. The question is, is your business providing the resources and solutions they seek.

The book’s forward by Marcus Sheridan, the owner of pool company, says “success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote”. Faced with the economic downturn and plummeting sales in 2008, Sheridan brainstormed a list of all the questions he had ever been asked by customers and then turned those questions into blog posts for his shiny new blog. The results: greater website traffic, reduced time on consults with clients, and web analytics that accurately defined likelihood to purchase.  Sheridan’s analytics told him that if a person had read 30 pages on his site they bought a pool 80% of the time and that customers who bought pools had read 105 pages of his website. Today Sheridan claims to have the most trafficked swimming pool site in the world. Further Sheridan says if you asked them previously what they did they would have said they built fibreglass swimming pools and today they would say they “are the best teachers in the world on the subject of fibre glass swimming pools, and we happen to build them as well”.

The book profiles numerous other examples of youtility. Geeksquad famously produced videos showing people how to fix their problems themselves. When questioned about putting themselves out of work showing people how to fix their problems, their founder explained that when someone did find themselves out of their depth with the problem Geeksquad would be the first party they would call for help. Companies should not just focus on being amazing, but on being useful.

I read this book a few months ago and had to scan it again to write this blog post. Scanning it I felt sure I need to read it again, soon! The concept and the way of thinking and approaching your marketing are just so dead on. Baer obviously explains this all in more detail and much more convincingly than me. I highly recommend this book for all marketers. If you are not thinking about Youtility yet, you should be. 

Baer rounds out his suggestions with wisdom about content for Youtility being a team effort rather than a product of the marketing department and making it part of the process rather than a side project. “If you don’t supply the information your prospects need to choose your company over the competition, they’ll get that data somewhere else, and the outcome may not be as favorable to you.”

If you are ready to start on Youtility right away here are some questions to ask yourself about your customers:

How is it that they discover information?

What are their preferences for consumption? (devices, channels, content types)

What motivates them to take action?

Questions via Lee Odden Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing

8 Places On The Web for Inspiration Du Jour

I haven’t done a numbered list post here, so it is about time, no? Thinking about a topic got me thinking about the places I go for inspiration these days. From that idea a list was born. Here are eight places I am going for new ideas and inspiration.

1. Instagram

I love Instagram. I don’t have to read,  I can just relax and take in visual information. I learn a lot from the pictures people and brands are posting. I took this quote from the New York Times, as  it nicely sums up why I enjoy the platform.

These Instagram images from Mammoth Mountain all tell a story. Makes me want to be out there in that powder too.

Mammoth Mountain on Instagram

Mammoth Mountain on Instagram

2. Mashable

Mashable is known for its bite size bits of entertainment and tech news. A quick scan under the social media tab can give me a lot of insight on news and trends.  Mashable is also a very visual destination. They host some intriguing challenges like the Mashable Vine Challenge. A recent challenge involved making Vines with Lego. Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 4.30.34 PM

3. Storify

I really love the way that Storify lets users tell a story using content from users across the web. You can collect tweets or Instagram photos or a combo of the two on a specific subject or event and turn them into a story. The potential is really as limitless as your imagination. You could use the platform to create a narrative around a recent conference, news event or trend. Many many possibilities here.

4. Songza

Some afternoons you just need to turn up the music to get you going. Songza is great for pairing a playlist which what you are doing right now. The claim is that these are “playlists by music experts.” They have lists for:

  • boosting your energy
  • working in an office
  • exploring cool sounds
  • getting fired up
  • entertaining friends
  • a sweaty dance party
  • looking at pictures of you ex…and many many more
Songza

Songza Playlist

Whatever mood you are in Songza has you covered.

5. Search Engine Journal

In my line of work, things change daily. Search Engine Journal provides me with lots of short articles on content marketing, social media, search engine optimization, trends, online advertising and more. I am always discovering new tools and resources via their concise articles. Some of my recent favorites were:

That last link helped me to find some great new photo content for my blog, like this shot:

Embed from Getty Images

6. Social Media Examiner

Get details on all things social.  This is a go to for learning and new ideas. If you have ever wondered what to post next or how to get greater engagement with your social activities you will find lots of great ideas here.

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Just a sample of how Social Media Examiner educates and informs with great examples

7. Tumblr

I have come to Tumblr more recently. This microblogging platform that is owned by Yahoo, is another very visual platform. The animated GIFs do make me feel a little motion sick, perhaps a sign of my age. I found this list a good start the getting engaged with the platform: 30 Tumblrs to Follow in 2013 TIME’s writers and editors pick their favorite sites of the year

8. Pinterest

Pinterest is another place I go when I need to stop reading and just enjoy some good visuals. It’s a nice way to unwind for 5 or 10 minutes. I have heard people complain Pinterest has a way of making them feel woefully inadequate, as the gourmet food, DIY projects, crafts, are more than most of us mere more mortals have the time and resources for.  I say you don’t have to do it all, just get inspired to want to do more. Grab a glass of wine, a handful of potato chips and start search for words and subjects that will get you inspired. I tend to pin things on social media, exercise, hairdos, appetizer ideas, gardening projects and dream homes. It’s also my solution for figuring out what to make for dinner five minutes before leaving the office.

Pinning pictures of salad for lunch inspiration

Pinning pictures of salad for lunch inspiration