The promise of spring is definitely in the air. In fact, the weather forecasts predict up to 20 degrees Celsius this Sunday. Our baby narcissus is flowering in a modest clump in our front garden. The buttercups are in for a great year, if the amount of leaves covering the soil are anything to go by. I’m definitely going to have to take a look around, to see what needs doing out there and in the back garden.
A few drawbacks?
Note: when I say garden, these two bits of land might add up to a small garden. With a car taking up nearly a quarter of the available space. And another quarter I don’t want to plant anything edible in because of the car. And other people’s cars driving past.
Then we want something like a sitting area. After a couple of years of baking in the afternoon sun, we decided to soften the local microclimate by putting in a tree or two. I’m waiting for them to start growing. So far, they’re looking happy – but not quite budding yet. Night temperatures do drop to nearly freezing point, so I’m happy that they’re in no hurry.
I planted some herbs like basil in a sunny spot almost in the hedge. These were annuals, which is just as well, because last summer I learned from our neighbors that they had sprayed the hedge (beech – it’s a monoculture in most new or renewed parts. A feast for specialized insects). If any of our hedge plants give up this year, I’ll put in an entirely different plant. Maybe something edible.
About two square metres of garden are filled with strawberry, blueberry (I added oak leaves for acidity) and herbs. The place is crammed and looked great even in winter. If you don’t mind the leaves. And I don’t. Most of them are gone by now, because we had a typical winter – if a sea climate winter is the kind you like. A sprinkling of snow in half the country, excluding where we live. Not enough ice to go ice skating (if any!), not this year. Rain. The kind of winter you end up calling “but really it wasn’t a winter at all. Not a proper winter.” Except it’s the kind we had a lot, until it started snowing a couple of years ago – in December! This year, people acted as though they’d been cheated out of a white Christmas they were entitled to. It’s quite possible that goldfish have better memories than humans.
So my early spring checklist looks like this:
- Watch Gardeners’ World (coming up…)
- Check if the stinging nettle is still in its corner by the water.
- Check if there are cat droppings among the plants; if so, cut a few leaves from the thistle in the other corner. Cut them into pieces of about 10 centimetres and spread them around.
- Empty the bucket of sand and goo that’s been standing around for no purpose at all.
- Find out if the sand box is full of water again, and consider getting rid of it. It would help if it’s broken. I can explain broken to a 4-year-old.
- Find out if old peas will still grow into plants. If not: go get new ones. There’s nothing like fresh peas. I had no problems explaining them to a 3-year-old last summer 🙂
I was halfway down this week’s bowl of energy food when I remembered to take a photo of it – so here it is, just to show you what I was on about in my earlier post.
Actually, this time I added milk to spare my teeth the ordeal of munching down a bowl of crispy oats with acid from orange juice. Feel free to have a glass of your favorite vitamin C drink instead.
As you can see, I had white mulberries. From what I’ve read, the black/red mulberries taste best – I’ll have to try those.
Just in case you love that variety of mulberry, I did happen to read you shouldn’t plant a mulberry tree near your driveway unless you don’t mind the stains. So you have been warned 🙂
I don’t have the kind of garden where I can stow away a mulberry tree in a corner somewhere (no corners to speak of). Mulberries are slow growers, but they can grow up to 9 metres (27 or so feet). They do have wonderful big leaves from what I saw. It’s definitely worth keeping in mind while I look for a bigger garden 😉
Read more about mulberries while I await the official arrival of spring – and the return of our esteemed Italian icecream masters.
There are a couple of issues surrounding Google Plus and its success or lack thereof. One of them seems to be that it’s hard to survey people because they get confused. Are they talking about their usage of Google Plus, or of any Google service? Offering everything as an integrated, wholistic Google universe can do that. Continue reading
So here’s half of the first month gone. The new year has definitely started. You might have wondered where I was. I was starting to wonder the same thing. Well, life happened, like I mentioned in my previous post. I’ve got a 4-year-old getting used to (pre-)school life plus a new day care to match, and we got a couple of fresh poo-ey trousers to remind us that not having nappies doesn’t mean the (school) toilet is an attractive destination for every type of secretion. Well. It seems to have passed by now 😉
Energy level: December food and January blues Continue reading
It’s that time in my life where school is suddenly in the picture, via a certain 4-year-old I know 🙂 One thing I’ve already noticed is how ready a child can be for a new challenge. A challenge that is big, worrying, exciting, almost too much to get your head around – yet, at the same time, exactly what you needed without realizing just how ready you were to take on something completely new.
For the past few years, ‘social business’ has gotten a lot of attention from a number of people. Very enthousiastic people. For various reasons, not everyone shared their enthousiasm. Social business has been declared dead a couple of times, probably because the innovators’ initiative didn’t seem to get a lot of tangible results very soon.
A few recent articles point out different aspects – and views – of the drive towards social business. Continue reading
Anyone who has shared content on Twitter will have noticed that sharing certain kinds of information attracts followers like a flower attracts bees – or, in some or many cases, like dung attracts flies.
Content and the (un)intended audience
The thing about the followers you attract in this way is that they’re often a lot like you. They share your interests. But if your aim is to attract people who might one day buy something from you, you need to share information that’s not necessarily the kind of stuff you’re personally, or even professionally, interested in.
For business purposes you need to share content that your potential customers are interested in – which also relates to something they could buy from you.
What’s the right content for your potential customer? The correct answer is:
Who is your customer?
Don’t get me wrong: your customers may be people just like you. Suppose you’re a parent. You run into the fact that a lot of kids’ clothes just aren’t practical or fashionable enough. You design items that are (of course!) wayyy better than the rest and start trying to sell them to… To people like you. To parents who are dissatisfied with the clothes already available.
Then again, you may need to attract people completely different from you. This is where buyer personas come in. Well, nearly…
Analyzing your current audience
Suppose you analyze your audience, such as it is today. That analysis doesn’t necessarily yield an overview of potential buyers. What it does give you is some idea of the groups that are interested in whatever you say – or don’t say.
In the case of a company website, you might review your e-mail list and find:
- your competitors eagerly following what you do, so they can copy the things you’re doing right and do everything you’re not doing.
- smaller businesses relying on you for dependable information, which they use to serve their customers.
- a host of people hiding behind Gmail and the like, which might be competitors, or potential customers… hard to tell.
- your (potential) customers.
Now a mix of all of these groups is normal. It doesn’t hurt to have competitors watch you. If they don’t, it may mean you’re not interesting. Your competitors aren’t stupid. If they were, they’d be out of business.
If you have a host of competitors and very few potential customers, it’s a different game. You need to change the content you’re publishing. But change it into what?
Describing your customers?
Buyer personas are basically a detailed description of a couple of very different (potential) customers for your products or services.
How much detail should you put into a buyer persona? There are plenty of sources that’ll tell you what data you need, but there are many ways to Rome:
Way back in my time as an art history student, I wrote quality descriptions of the 200 paintings and drawings I listed for my thesis. The question “Why?” will need to wait for the right blog post, but something remarkable happened after I finished my thesis, which contained all of my descriptions. Two fellow students ran into a drawing which they were able to identify with absolute certainty using my description. This drawing had actually been called lost or destroyed by earlier sources.
This is the kind of description you need for each type of (potential) customers if you want to increase your ability to share content that will attract them. You need to add the kind of detail that allows your sales people to recognize their real flesh-and-blood customers immediately. Without that kind of information about your customers, you’re basically relying on educated guesses. Which may work, if your guesses are well-educated 😉
The odd thing about blogging is it’s so easy. In a way. You just start typing along and words come out. They’re not always the best words, though, in the best order, so editing is a big part if you’re critical of your own writing.
So what’s it like editing other people’s texts? I’ve done so for a while now and it’s a nice way to make a living, if you don’t mind putting the dots onto other people’s i’s. But there’s a risk. There always is.
I’ve read (and witnessed) how writing one long-form piece of content, for example in the shape of an e-book, can be a source of fresh content for a long time. In gardening terms, you’re propagating your content.
It’s like taking box clippings (late September is supposed to be a good time for this, or so I was told by “Gardener’s World”) and turning them into new plantlets. This typically takes a bit of time and care, but it’s easier – and cheaper – than starting from scratch.
Which begs a question from anyone who takes box clippings or other cuttings.
Where is your content nursery?
In content creation (or content curation, whichever you like best) you have a spot where you gather any potentially useful ideas and articles that gave you these ideas. It may be the inside of your head (if you have a reliable brain), a notebook, or even a batch of drafts in your blog itself.
You then tend these ideas: you take another look at them, and select the ones that seem strong enough to take root with a bit of help. Water them, feed them, make sure they get their share of sunlight…
Tips for creating, curating, or editing
As luck would have it, Stefanie Flaxman just published a useful post on Copyblogger for editing content in which she distinguishes three stages:
- Pre-revision rituals. All of these put a psychological distance between you, the author, and your content.
- Comprehensive cutting and pasting. This is where you get systematic about editing: using several editing sittings if necessary, focusing on your goal and on how you’re helping your audience, eliminating anything confusing… And doing it again, until there is no single paragraph or sentence you can find fault with.
- Razor-sharp proofreading. This means you look at your content from the viewpoint of someone who’s never seen your content before (your audience).
If you’d like to read the entire post, here it is – enjoy your editing process!
And in case you’re wondering when I started my first content gardening post…