Forget knowledge management – Write Me. {The Creativity Bug}

Of late I’ve been getting the impression that I’m in trouble. And it’s my own fault for starting this blog. It’s also the reason why publishing posts seems to be getting more difficult rather than easier some days.

Write Me. The Creativity Bug

For a long time some alien but at the same time eerily familiar presence has been chewing on my mind. As I lived my life it evolved with my experiences. From time to time it seemed to fade away. This presence consisted of flashes of a story. A long time ago I’m pretty sure there used to be a different story in my head. But whatever happens, after a while something will come inhabit the space between my ears and haunt me.

Blogging – the winding path onto the moor of creative fever

When I first started blogging here, focusing on business topics, there was no problem at all. A lot of energy went into writing, editing, improving the structure of my posts, coming up with suitable images, and the like. But now…

  • Every time I start a new post about some business topic, the spectre of creativity whispers into my ear “Don’t write about that. Write the story.”
  • Every time I try to make a sensible post out of a potentially complex issue, my story will inch closer and tell me “Forget knowledge management. Write Me.”

Write Me.

To be honest, I’ve even made the tiniest of starts online. Since I’m so used to putting my thoughts onto a screen I no longer feel comfortable writing on paper when it comes to ‘big stuff’. So when I heard about a tool called PressBooks, which is based on WordPress, I went to have a look. I got an account (private) and checked the features. Then I made a few ‘posts’. And finally I started writing. Just to be writing.

Um. I got two crappy sentences out. Ugh.

I came up with several possible reasons for that.

  1. It’s fiction whereas I’m used to non-fiction. It may be ‘an historical novel’ or it may be fantasy – I’m not entirely sure. If it’s history this is going to take some serious research.
  2. Maybe paper is better at this stage? I used to ‘mommy-blog’ (keep a journal) offline ūüėČ
  3. I’m used to writing in English for non-fiction. Whether that’s going to work for fiction – I have no idea. I do know fiction is going to send me to the far corners of my English vocabulary. It would be the ultimate challenge. I like challenges. But is this one going to be too big?
  4. This story is mine. It’s lived inside my head for ages. My experience in writing those two sentences was a bit like, well, a warning. Like a first contraction. A warning that if I start this, I won’t be able to stop the process of going into full literary labor. A warning that it’s going to be painful. And messy. And if I ever manage to get out a first draft I’ll be up to my elbows in nappies and goo.
  5. Why oh why does it feel as though this story might take up a whole book? It might’ve been easier to raise a short story through infancy.

In short, it feels like I’m peering down from a dizzying height – I’ve just moved one foot slightly and dislodged a few pebbles. As I watch them tumbling down something, someone, is asking me: do you quite sure you want to find out how far down this will take you? Also, part of me is saying “Are you kidding? I don’t have time for this sh*t.”

Bitten by the creative writing bug

Why does this feel like the scene in ‘The Matrix’ where Neo is offered the two pills, one of which will show him how deep the rabbit hole goes? Having all these thoughts milling around like a herd of nervous sheep can’t be good for anyone’s budding writing process. Why is this so hard?

In deference to my personal creativity bug I have bought a little notebook just so I can try and sooth the writing itch for now, whenever I’m commuting by train… For jotting down anything that comes up. I’ll focus on ideas rather than sentences. If I’m lucky, my efforts may result in one tortured sentence per page to start with. Possibly ūüėČ

Worst case scenario – if there’s such a thing as a worst case here – is that I continue to produce crappy sentences for a long time. But I don’t think it matters so long as it helps me scratch this infernal literary itch.

P.S.: I’ve tried out my little notebook and I’m loving it. Because it’s unpretentious. It doesn’t tell me “Listen. I’m important. So whatever you put on my pages had better be worth my space.” It’s small – a bit over smartphone-sized, and the lines start right at the top to fit in as many lines as possible. No extra room for headlines. No nothing. It’s perfect.

How do you cope with the creativity bug? Do you blog about anything and everything – or do you find that things well out of scope keep nudging you saying: “Write Me” ?

Blogging impressions: a short post about long posts

A nice tip from a fellow blogger and it’s all in the title: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip“. Boy if there ever were a tip written just for me this would be it. Then again, if I change too much I’ll end up having to change my blog name too.

Do you really need to keep only the content you think your readers will like?

Skip or keep? Goat in spring

Skip or keep? (spring picture by ewewlo on Flickr)

Should you skip all the bits you assume people don’t pay attention to? Or will adding structure and headings keep casual readers on board, scanning your blog post for the stuff they’re interested in?

Long posts and short posts in blogging

I’ve pretty much managed to weed out two-topic posts.¬†The question now¬†is how long or short a post should be.

  • For posts on a corporate blog I’m sure I read somewhere that 400 words is enough. The idea is that business people don’t have time for long reads.
  • Another number I found was 500-600 words per post. I don’t recall where I read that, and that’s probably because the¬†blog containing the information wasn’t worth remembering. Which says it all I guess.
  • Blogs containing chapters of a fictional work tend to have, well, chapter-length posts. I don’t think anybody minds the long read ūüėČ
  • For my own blog¬†I stay well away from the 1000-word mark. Under 900 is fine. If I manage to say what I wanted to say without¬†sounding too dry-factual (is that a word? I just made it one) using less than 800 words it’s worth a cheer and a “Well done you” stamp in my content rambling archive.

Deliver the message – the essence of any piece of writing

So far I’ve adhered to just one rule while blogging: the right number of words for a¬†blog post¬†is the number of words I need to deliver a complete thought or set of thoughts about a topic, preferably with a bit of fun added into the cake mixture.

When it comes to really compact writing I wonder if anyone ever managed to beat Tacitus. Come to think of it, I remember we actually asked our teacher for a text by that specific author, because we were getting bored with translating Vergilius (Virgil) in preparation for our exam and we needed the change Рand a challenge. After just a week or two, getting back to Virgil was the ultimate relaxing holiday-on-the-beach!

What’s a good post-length for you as a blogger – or as a reader? How short is a short post, and what is too long in a long post? Does any kind of ‘rule’ work in blogging?

Blogging impressions: how to change your journal into a blog

This post is about me. And perhaps it’s also about you… When I started blogging I refused to¬†explore the question who I was going to write for in detail. So now maybe it’s time to make up for that.

Who am I trying to reach? Who is my audience?

Well, for starters:

  1. People who have a brain, and are not afraid to use it. If that’s you, consider it a compliment ūüėČ
  2. People who like to learn, and who don’t mind reading stuff that’s about different topics so long as it’s written for non-experts.
  3. People who share one or more interests with me.
  4. Experts who like to extend their own thinking on various topics.
  5. In other words, I aim to blog for people with room in their heads for new ideas or new takes on things they know (although, if they read a lot, I may not always be able to surprise them). I blog for curious people.

Change your Journal into a blogI’m writing for people who are, in a way, like me. It’s quite possible that I’m writing for me. Which I¬†reckoned was fine when I started blogging. After all, I’m my own best-known audience. I know what I like. If you blog for a specific audience without doing research into your intended audience, chances are that you’re blogging for you. If that wasn’t your intention, all I can say is: Oops.

Does all of the above mean you’re looking at my journal right now? Yes and no… So how do I write my posts for you on this blog of mine?

How to change your journal into a blog written for an audience

Unless my planning gives me a topic to write about up front (I’ll admit I’ve been too busy lately), I start out writing about something that’s either fascinating me, or frustrating me, or worrying me, or…
I start writing and keep writing for a while, exploring the topic as I go.
Until¬†the bloggers’¬†inquisitor¬†drops in. I keep¬†this creature¬†outside on a leash for¬†my ‘raw’ draft so it doesn’t chew on the furniture or drool on my keyboard while I’m busy.

The blogger’s¬†inquisitor is that nagging feeling you may know – that may creep up on you when you’re writing… asking:

  • Why would anyone be interested in your problems?
  • What’s in here that could actually solve someone else’s problems?
  • After all you’re not so unique that you could be the only person in the world who has this issue. Are you?

Turning…

At this point I snap out of journaling mode and start writing for YOU:

  1. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of pasting “you” where I was (yes, and the verbs too).
  2. Sometimes it means I look at the issue I’ve described in a whole new light.
  3. And I start describing details of what you might run into.
  4. Then I add tips to counter some of those issues.
  5. A key issue is that I can’t pretend to have an answer for you if I don’t have one. But as a part of my blogging activities I can look for an answer and present it to you in my resulting blog post.
  6. Or I can think about what might work for you, even if I don’t know if it would work for me.

Think about it for a minute. There’s a HUGE difference between a journal and a blog.

What is a journal about?

A journal is essentially about you. It’s where your write about stuff you run into. In the case of an online journal, it allows your readers to recognize, sympathize – sometimes have a lot of fun reading about your musings. Some of¬†your readers may take heart in¬†the fact that¬†you’re experiencing the same problems they’re facing.

What is a blog about?

A (business) blog is¬†– has to be –¬†about your readers. Whatever you put in should be written to benefit them in some small way. That doesn’t mean you should leave out your point of view – that’s the point of it being your blog – right? I’d say it’s impossible to leave¬†yourself out – but you can suppress¬†your presence¬†to the point of squeezing the last bit of life out of your blog.¬†Please don’t.

Painting the picture more clearly…

Compare writing to painting. Turning from journaling to blogging doesn’t mean you stop ‘painting’.¬†All it¬†means is you don’t do self portraits anymore –¬†most of the time.

Your work still shows your choice of topic, your structure, your style, your preferred colors and details. It’s just that your readers are no longer inspecting every pimple on your nose anymore (metaphorically speaking – I hope). Instead,¬†your readers¬†are exploring the world through the¬†words you paint onto the canvas of your blog.

Read more storytelling and blogging:

  • The science of storytelling, by Gregory Ciotty on Problogger.net (14 Feb. 2013)
  • And in this post on Problogger, Jon Morrow gets personal (2011) – much to the surprise of some¬†people in¬†his audience if the comments are anything to go by.
  • Lastly, I talked about audience matters in an earlier post, so in case you missed it here’s the link to that post.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Blogging impressions. You may find previous episodes here and here. And finally, leave your thoughts on journals, blogs and (your) blogging audience in a comment!

Blogging and social media – reasons (not) to connect outside your blog

When I was starting up my blog I read all the advice I could get on blogging. This way I ran into long-time professional bloggers who stated that ‘your blog is your home base’.Connecting: WordPress and LinkedIn

Social media should be treated as ‘outposts’. The one thing I didn’t read was how that was supposed to work. You share your blog posts on different social media – and then what? People show up? Depending on the social platform you’re using that may happen at some point. Or not.

The assumption made by professional bloggers Рand which you need to take into account when you read their advice Рis that:

  1. You’re trying to make money blogging. That means the following things:
  2. You want to give your subscribers extra, high quality content that will get them another step¬†closer to¬†buying your product or service. In order to distinguish between ‘starting-level’ readers and potential customers,
  3. You need email subscriptions so you have a ‘mailbox presence’ with more-than-casual readers. For this reason,
  4. Social media connections, followers, and friends are less valuable than email subscriptions. You do need¬†social media¬†to facilitate your readers, but not spend too much time on the ‘outposts’.

What to do if you don’t intend to sell stuff through your blog? Connecting on social media could give you valuable extras¬†on top of the¬†the usual¬†options for¬†comments on your blog. Indulging in¬†‘small talk’ isn’t really an option¬†on a blog that’s mainly about business topics. But your reader may not be ready to go onto the personal medium that is email. Or you may not be prepared for that kind of thing yourself. (Do you need more emails?) Social media might just fill the gap nicely.

From blogging to connecting on social media

Start by mentioning¬†your (favorite) social media accounts on¬†your¬†blog. Adding them to your¬†‘About’ page allows you to state which account you use for what purpose.

You’ll get the best value from any interactive media if you’re already a user. Because you know how it works and you already have some friends, fans, followers, or connections who may share at least part of your (professional) interests.

LinkedIn for B2B connections

For business to business contacts¬†LinkedIn is at present a good option. It moves at a more leisurely pace than Twitter, which means you don’t need to send the same message over and over just to get over the noise. It does mean you need to share a bit about yourself on your profile.

Some marketing professionals consider that you should connect with anyone who asks to be connected with you. People outside the realm of marketing tend to keep LinkedIn for people they know professionally. This is not a 100% absolute rule though! The keyword here, like anywhere else, is trust.

Connecting with other bloggers starts on their blog

Why would you want to connect on LinkedIn if you’ve never even commented on someone’s blog? If you want to approach people on a two-way social platform like LinkedIn make sure these are people who have:

  • consistently liked your posts (not single-topic likers).
  • liked your About page.
  • commented in a way that shows a mindset, or values, that are not unlike your own. After all there may be a reason why they like your ‘family’ posts but not the posts that feature, say, hunting scenes (are they vegetarian cat-lovers? Who knows).

Taking the jump onto LinkedIn: state your business

When you ask a fellow blogger to connect with you,¬†state your business. Why?¬†Because you can (from your desk top). If you visit someone’s profile and invite them to connect:

  • alter the standard message to make it clear why you’re interested.
  • Your blog name may not match the name on your profile, so mention your About page and make sure that page points back to your LinkedIn profile.

When can you connect on LinkedIn if a fellow blogger doesn’t know you?

First let me repeat my earlier question: why would you want to, if you’ve never commented on their blog? But let’s say you don’t like commenting.

I’d say you should at least share a group and, more importantly, a discussion on LinkedIn. How do you make that happen?

  1. What you can do is¬†start by joining a group the other person is a member of. The only good reason to do this is if you’re genuinely interested in the topic of the group. Take part in conversations. If the other person is actively posting in the group you can comment on their discussions.
  2. There has to be a basis for a connection. That basis may¬†be tiny if you’re a thousand miles apart and unlikely to impact each other dramatically. But it still needs to be there. A discussion may help bridge the gap.
  3. Your fellow blogger may check your LinkedIn profile, so it¬†needs to look professional. This isn’t your Facebook profile and¬†your summary¬†doesn’t need to look like it.¬†It also doesn’t need to look like a blog post. LinkedIn holds¬†your professional curriculum – no more, no less.

If you have a personal blog¬†Facebook would¬†probably make a better addition¬†– and if you’re already very active there with (future) business connections it would also be a sensible place to start.

What’s your favorite way to connect with other bloggers? Add your thoughts about blogging buds, social media, LinkedIn groups and connections in a comment!

Blogging impressions: the neverending story of content

This time my post is about writing Рand marketing (a bit). It started with just a title:

The neverending story of content

‘The neverending story’¬†refers to a story you may know. I watched¬†the film (a long time ago, here’s a blog about movies you liked as a kid)¬†on television and I read the book at some point. The book was originally written in German as¬†“Die unendliche Geschichte”.Writing content: a neverending story

The film is actually just part 1: a boy¬†who’s miserable in real life becomes a hero in the book he’s reading.¬†His adventures in this fantasy world and his return to the real world¬†take up¬†the rest of the book. The main character spends a lot of time away from the real world – until he starts to forget¬†it,¬†and just about everything else.¬†The last part of the book¬†relates the struggle to get him back to his own reality.

Content is something a lot of people seem to spend all their time looking for and crafting. I’m busy doing pretty much that myself. It’s easy to forget why you wanted to blog when you first started – unless you wrote it down at the time. Along your blogging journey you need to remind yourself if you’re in it to write, or whether you had other goals in mind.

Is your blogging story about writing content or about content marketing?

Content creation¬†and content marketing are two entirely different things. You don’t need to write a single blog post, or have produced a single video, to be a content marketer. It may help to have tried your hand at it so you know what it takes to create original, relevant content. And¬†you may need to create content¬†on a regular basis if no-one else is doing it.

The content marketing point of view

If you’re into content marketing, you won’t mind limiting the subjects you write about.¬†You write only about subject X, which will get readers in and¬†potential customers. If you want to write about anything else you do it elsewhere. If you lack inspiration to come up with relevant posts several times a week, you haul in guest bloggers to lower the pressure. Which is exactly what I see long-time bloggers like Jeff Bullas, Darren Rowse and others do. Of course they first put in a lot of work themselves.

Content as the result of your writing process

Like I stated in an earlier post, I started my blog because I wanted to write. So in marketing-style bloggers’ eyes I’m probably not a good blogger. That’s fine for now! I didn’t call this blog “Content Marketing Wiz” because I wasn’t expecting to take a marketing approach, even though I know a few things about marketing: I know a few things about a lot of things ūüôā

Writing tip: If you want to practise your writing, start by writing about anything you are comfortable with – anything you know. It may be everyday life, or it may be SF because that’s what you read. Any topic will do when you start. Get used to the creative process and start to feel familiar with how it works. Explore any topic bit by bit. Share as you go along.

One blogger said by the time he was onto his third blog he knew more or less what he was doing, how he could get an audience and make a living through his blog.
So either take the business route from day one – or ramble along happily just like me. It won’t hurt – much ūüėČ

To do (pick your own time): update your approach

At some point, you may find that your initial approach to blogging is no longer working for you. Think it over and then change it. Sometimes people just stop blogging¬†– only to¬†discover they can’t really not write any more. Not writing becomes an itch. It may take a while to happen, especially if you blogged til you ran dry. But it will happen – it will creep up on you eventually.

At¬†some point, I may start¬†a blog about art history. But the subject of art history is so far removed from where my career has brought me in the past 10-15 years it would take a lot of time and research to hit ‘Publish’ even once. I’d want to go out there and dig around in museums and archives. I’d need to take days off work. I must admit it sounds absolutely¬†divine – but I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to put the time and effort in. With a 3-year-old at home, I need¬†my days off for family stuff and for ‘me-time’. Which may mean I take an extra nap to help me kick that flue-bug out the door. It’s that time of the year again!

More reading for writers

Enjoy your writing experience! Share your thoughts about your blogging, content and other neverending stories in a comment.

The content priority matrix – focus your blogging efforts

In my previous post I¬†applied the Eisenhower priority¬†matrix to companies/investors’ priorities. In this post I try to answer the question: how does the money issue affect the nature of (corporate) blogging? I also give¬†away 6 tips¬†for single-topic blogging and my thoughts about part-time business blogging.

The two sides of the content priority matrix for blogging

What is the main issue with blogging to make money in whatever way?

Content Priority Matrix for Blogging

Content priority matrix for professional bloggers

It could be this: the point of anything you do to influence other people is that there are two sides to the window (or priority matrix) you’re looking through.

Where there are bloggers looking out, you’ll find readers looking in. At least, I sure hope so.

Content priority matrix: focus for professional blogging

Professional bloggers, from their¬†side of the ‘window’, would be interested in¬†these aspects of potential blog topics:

  • Money generating topic – adjacent but non-commercial topics
  • Expertise – no expertise

As a¬†full-time professional blogger¬†you would invest most of your time¬†on topics that let¬†you share your expertise and that could yield money by addressing people’s urgent and important needs. If there were a related topic that could make considerably more money you’d spend some of¬†your time extending¬†your expertise in that direction. The other bits you’d leave out or use to add interest to¬†your¬†otherwise fact-ridden business blog.

The ‘expert-no money’ quadrant is also amply filled¬†by personal blogs.¬†‘No money’ may in fact not be an accurate description,¬†because showing yourself to be an expert at anything, including being consistently funny, may still end up in some kind of¬†business or career opportunity!

What matters to business blog readers?

What writing is there on the window sill on the outside – the side of the readers of a business blog? You might learn more by taking a peek at¬†the matrix I made for this post, in which I try to visualize the way we (sensible consumers that we are) prioritize our purchases ūüėČ

  1. Relevant – not relevant (‘important’)
  2. Urgent – not urgent

If a blog post deals with a relevant topic, you’ll read it – note that this involves a decision to invest your time! Now, if I try to coax you towards signing up for more, I’ll have the greatest success if I’m not only spot on topic-wise, but if you’re also convinced that:

  • you need to know more
  • you need to buy this service or product urgently

You’ll find plenty of blogs out there that tell you how you should tackle the issues of being utterly relevant, building trust, and connecting. Crafting a sense of urgency is an absolute knack of some sales folk. You know, the ones who catch you viewing stuff like door locks and come up with a special offer only for today to “help you keep your precious family safe” from the big bad world outside if you’ll go for the Complete Burglar Alarm Set For Pros. Them.

If you don’t want to be pushy, remember not everyone responds well to the “buy now or miss out on a life-changing experience” approach. You can opt to be more subtle.

6 tips for single-topic blogging

“Stick to one topic and forget the rest”¬†is the advice professional bloggers/content marketers give to others who want to make money blogging. To make a single-topic blog work, you need to:

  1. check every month which of your posts got top numbers in readers, subscriptions, and conversions.
  2. skip the rest and focus on the stuff that works
  3. keep experimenting by introducing the odd off-topic post and check the results
  4. plan ahead so you don’t run out of content juice
  5. haul in guest bloggers to take the strain off your blogging or to increase the frequency with which you post
  6. keep an eye on similar blogs for more ideas.

Part-time blogging

As a part time (business) blogger you might find yourself running into a serious writers’ block if¬†you tried to stick to just one topic and write about it several times per week. The alternative is to blog once or twice a month. That’s often enough for blogs that are part of a business website. You’ll keep fresh and relevant content coming without it costing too much time and effort.

The main thing is that you think about your blog and make decisions. It’s fine if you change your mind later – just remember to make another informed decision rather than drifting into a blogging routine you never intended to develop. Especially in corporate blogging, focus is key.

If¬†you run into unexpected topics on this blog,¬†I hope¬†you find¬†them¬†a pleasant surprise. Add¬†your thoughts about content, priority, money¬†– please¬†share this post – I hope I’ve given you food for thought ūüėČ

Blogging impressions: 5 tips from my content creation ‘desk’

Sometimes the only way to get going is to sit down and start writing. At the beginning of this month I felt there were things I needed to share with you about LinkedIn even though I know it’s not for everyone. This time I want to share some tips from my first 6 months of blogging.Content Creation

I started this blog in order to find out if I could write, and write on a regular basis without simply running out of ideas really fast. Most of the time I have some idea of the subject before I sit down and write more than just a few lines – but sometimes I start my content creation process from scratch. All in all I guess I have the content as well as the rambler bit covered ūüôā

Well-known important blogging tip: keep some ideas and drafts handy

It’s really helpful to have a couple of ideas for posts. But just now I reviewed¬†my drafts¬†and found they looked rather stale. Mark Schaefer reported something similar happening to him a while ago when he forgot his routine: whenever you have an idea, jot it down somewhere.

I’ve been meaning to write another “blogging impressions” post for a while, because it is about half a year since I published my first post.

My blogging tip:¬†prepare for¬†change so it doesn’t mess up your blogging routine

One major development which may impact my blogging frequency is the fact that I’m now back to my 32-hour work week (4 days). On my day off I tend to do way too much to entertain my son and myself. And my son is no longer taking naps in the afternoon. This means I have less time to let ideas for new posts form and to jot them down for later use. I have yet to find a routine that fits my new schedule. I may need to go back to posting once a week for a while. But we’ll see what happens ūüėČ

How have 6 months of blogging on Content Rambler affected me?

Well, I’ve felt a lot better about my work and related activities. Because¬†blogging helps me share all the things I read and learn along the way. I enjoy sharing my knowledge far too much to let it depend on occasions like presenting a topic to my team. Based on my early blogging experiences, my answer to the question:

Why should you blog?

Would be that your reasons to blog may include:

  1. Improving your writing skills
  2. Being creative
  3. Seeing tangible results of your efforts, starting with the existence of another published post (possibly followed, at some point, by a like or a comment online or IRL)
  4. Feeling better about yourself thanks to 1-3.
  5. Testing your ability to keep it up (discipline or passion?)
  6. Not depending on others to contribute something sensible (or funny) about subjects that matter to you
  7. Sharing your knowledge

Some of these reasons are purely personal. Others could be relevant for business purposes. Some listed benefits touch upon definite drawbacks.

Blogging tips 3-5: how to deal with the drawbacks

Just start writing Sometimes you think you have no idea what to write about. You need to just get started, writing about anything, and when you review your text you’ll probably find the start of a new post in there. It’s how I started this post, and I’ve left the first bit in to show you how it works. At some point I realized I had tips based on my blogging experiences that I wanted to share.

Blog when you think no one cares – a blogging tip from Jeff Bullas this time I think. I read too much. No response to your post is something you need to get used to. Some bloggers get around this by bringing all their Facebook friends onto their blogs. If you don’t have that option, look up other blogs via your WordPress reader and spend some time liking and commenting on interesting or funny posts. After all, your fellow bloggers are putting in their time and effort just like you! Show¬†your appreciation for a good post¬†and let ’em know you exist. Maybe they’ll visit your blog as a result, and maybe they won’t. It’s called free will, and you need to deal with it.

Trigger actions This ‘blogging’ thing¬†takes time. The writing, editing, getting images, looking things up to avoid talking complete rubbish… unless you limit yourself to writing only about topics you’re completely knowledgeable about and you skip editing. Or you don’t write¬†(much)¬†but post photographs instead. To help the ‘discipline’ bit: instead of saying you’ll¬†sit down to blog at 8.30 PM, build in actions that trigger your blogging routine. In my case, as soon as my son is in bed, I go downstairs and sit down to blog. Once I’m blogging, there are times when I’m oblivious to whatever crap is on television but first I need to get started. My routine is “go downstairs and blog”. Easy. No thinking,¬†no decisions¬†required.

Finally, not really a tip because I haven’t looked at possible answers yet: knowledge sharing (#7) Sharing your knowledge may sound great but if you want to know how many people are actually reading your (business) content, you should know WordPress statistics don’t register¬†every view (see their support pages). You notice¬†something’s not right the moment you get more likes than registered views. If you have any suggestions apart from going self-hosted, please let me know.

That’s it – five ways from my content creation desk¬†to help you “Just do it” instead of running into the brick wall called writer’s block. If you’d like to add your thoughts about blogging,¬†my comments section is¬†always open ūüėČ

The usual suspects: why we don’t buy as readily as we sell

After my recent ramblings about LinkedIn I thought I might return to another topic of interest: marketing and blogging. There is a lot to be said for taking a marketing approach what you do on your blog. Especially if you’re wondering why some things you do just fall flat for no apparent reason.

Buyers Prioritization

You got yourself an audience, a good call to action to get your readers to join your subscribers list, you’re sending them information about your products/services… and then, well, nothing. Well, not nothing – but… You’re an expert. Surely everyone is going to want to buy the valuable stuff you have to offer? Why aren’t the %% higher than this?

In this post I’ll take a roundabout tour through marketing and then get back to your blog.

Marketing and the usual suspects

Purely from a marketing/sales view it’s a matter of buyer’s journey or even ‘buyer cycle’, which has phases to mark where on the road towards your first or next purchase you might be.

  1. If¬†you’re in the right group of people (say busy working mum who loves high-heeled boots but won’t risk twisting an ankle again running after child no. 2) you’re a suspect. In fact we’re all someone’s suspect. We all buy something at some point.
  2. The moment you subscribe to anything, you turn into a prospect: someone who shows a definite¬†interest in the kind of services/products¬†a company¬†offers. In some cases it means you get spammed daily – companies seem to think they need to haul you in NOW or you might end up buying a competitor’s product.
  3. Once¬†you’re in their webshop…
  4. … loading stuff into¬†your shopping cart (or taking similar actions) there’s an almost audible drum roll.

In many cases people never get beyond stage two. Why not? There are plenty of tips out there that focus on mending the leaks in your sales funnel, but I’m not going¬†to discuss¬†incontinent marketing processes here.

Theorize about¬†your¬†potential buyers’ priorities

Think about yourself as a reader of blogs (and a potential¬†customer for someone) for a moment. Since I don’t know you, I’ll make up for this bit by talking about myself and pretending I’m a version of you. In this multiverse there must be a universe where I’m you ūüėČ

You¬†read and view¬†loads of stuff every day, either for personal or professional purposes. Depending on your job and other interests, some topics matter a lot, others a little. There’s one topic that you’re mainly interested in because it affects your job. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to keep up to date. So you read up online. After all what’s the internet for? Then you attend an webinar. From the moment you subscribe you get spammed by at least half a dozen companies trying to sell you stuff¬†that’s related to the subject of the webinar. Preferably expensive and¬†IT-related. Oh, great…

Enter the wonderful world of the¬†‘buyer persona’

Using¬†a buyer persona (or several) means you basically¬†assemble some¬†characteristics into a credible theoretical buyer. Age, lifestyle, and depending on what you’re trying to sell¬†you throw in a¬†job title, professional issues –¬†or health problems and family situation. It’s a lot like certain police series, where they try to narrow down the group of possible suspects.

In¬†the case where you¬†are the customer, companies are¬†guessing what you might be interested in buying,¬†and they approach you with information that seems¬†relevant. Despite these efforts many marketers still can’t, or won’t, take into account your personal priorities (or your influence on your company’s budget, for that matter). Now, rather than¬†veering off into a discussion¬†about¬†prioritization¬†in this post, here’s a link if you’d like to read how¬†Eisenhower prioritized¬†his to do list. I’ll stick to reinterpreting this handy matrix around the question “to buy, or – to forget about it”.

Your priorities – and how they affect your buying decisions

Many of us – those of us with any savings in the bank, anyway – make buying decisions much like this:

  1. Do I need it? Yes. When? Now!¬†Unless you’re broke you’ll have no problem spending money on things you really need, urgently.
  2. Do I need it? Yes. When? Well, let’s say within the next 3 months. Hmm, I’d better get some more information… and see if I can get a discount somewhere.
  3. Do I want it? Yes. Do I need it? Not really. How much does it cost?
  4. Do I want it? I might, if it’s fun. Do I need it? Nope.

Businesses put a lot of effort trying to close the gaps that make you hesitate. For example, many retail shops know their customers, including you,¬†well enough to be just within the price range you had in mind ūüėČ

Back to your blog’s usual ‘suspects’

When you’re blogging you may get a lot of visitors, but the ones in category 1 are a definite minority. You do need some casual visitors though – a blog that never gets comments, likes, or shares won’t appeal even to people who are looking for a solution to their problem, NOW. So you cater, in some ways, for visitors of¬†categories 2, 3 or even 4. If that means your blog is more fun and less businessy, hey, what’s wrong with a readable blog?¬†But do¬†make sure that there is something for Number One.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If so, please share it – or share your thoughts about marketing, blogging and the like¬†in a comment. Thanks ūüôā

Blogging impressions: two tips for (automatic) sharing

One lesson I learned from all the blogs I read before starting my own blog is this: Mind how you share. In this post I’ll give you¬†two tips plus reasons why you might consider trying them out.

1. Check every sharing button on your blogMind how you share

This may sound silly but have you checked what happens if you click any of the sharing buttons on your blog? Serious bloggers have all manner of¬†cool¬†stuff added to their blog, like floating sharing bars,¬†that make it easier to share their content¬†– if¬†it all¬†works!¬†You should be able¬†to just share. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

However I wrote on this topic quite a while ago. My second tip is about something quite a few people don’t do – but they should!

2. Check your shared messages on social networks

If you’re on Twitter you may have noticed crappy tweets that stop mid-sentence because they were automatically shared to Twitter from another social network, like Facebook.

On the other hand, if you’re on Twitter and you share to Facebook automatically, you may end up with tweetlike stuff on your Facebook page. It’s why I added, tried,¬†and then quickly removed my automatic sharing connection from WordPress¬†to Facebook earlier.

Why share if¬†you make it¬†obvious that you don’t know, or don’t care, what your¬†messages look like?

Using the Publicize option to share your blog posts

In case you’re not using it: on WordPress you have the option to¬†connect several of your social network accounts¬†to your blog. You can view and edit these messages just above the “Publish” button. Every time you publish,¬†your message is shared to every¬†account you’ve hooked up. Unless you uncheck the check boxes first. You can edit the message before you publish your post, but you can only send one message that’s identical for all networks.

A perfect tweet may well be a crappy Facebook update!

If you need your message to go out to several social networks:

  • Skip those #!#! hashtags (for Facebook)
  • Keep it short (for Twitter)
  • Check the result every now and then, say every 5-10 posts (This goes for IFTTT recipes too).

The good part of automatic sharing

I’m mostly so relieved to have pressed the “Publish” button at 10 PM on Friday I then shut down my laptop and call it a weekend. Which means that unless I use this¬†publicize option¬†I end up not sharing the results of my¬†thinking and writing on social media until much later.

Having my automatic messages in place means:

  1. I can concentrate on writing my posts and, after I finish them,
  2. I have more time to read other blogs and to comment on them.
  3. When on social media, I can focus on the social bit ūüôā

If you feel it’s too much hassle to get onto social media AND figure all this stuff out AND actually be active out there so you decide to not bother at all, that’s completely fine by me. I understand and appreciate not bumping into your ‘zombie’ Twitter account¬†ūüėČ

That’s it for this year! See you here next year. If you’d like to¬†add your thoughts about¬†sharing please do so in a comment – I promise I’ll respond to your contribution!

Blogging impressions: time for reflection

My previous post has given me food for thought… Lately I’ve taken to writing down my blog posts in less time than before. This has some advantages like not being able to overdo the editing part. One drawback is that it doesn’t leave much time to do any editing at all.

Blogging: time for reflection

In this post I’ll share my recent experiences with you and hand out some tips based on them.

I hope you’ll find¬†my tips¬†useful – feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!

Tip #1: Try to write your post in one session

My previous post was written on one day, but in several sessions. Family life and working hours take up time that I can’t spend on blogging.

I’ve noticed that whenever I pick up where I left off, my perspective has changed slightly. Even though I interrupt my writing process, I can’t just shut down my thoughts to wait until I have time to write on. This is a major issue if you want to write coherent posts!

Distractions are BAD news

Anyway, what with working from home, tending to a sick child, cooking dinner and so on, I was editing until well past 10 PM… after a broken night with¬†our kid crying in bed several times. If you have kids and a blog, it’s bound to happen to you at some point.

In my case the result was: a post that might have been better, with a title that I wasn’t happy¬†about but every time I changed it seemed worse than before. In the end I just hit ‘publish’ because I had planned to publish and after I did I could stop.

I came back to change the title¬†the next¬†morning after thinking of¬†several alternatives after around 4.30 AM. Yes, that was¬†our son crying again – you guessed it ūüėČ

My conclusion is that quiet sessions to get your thoughts written down are essential.

Tip #2: Take time for reflection (if that’s your style anyway)

Depending on whether you’re writing a personal blog or more businessy stuff in the latter case you may need an editing session as well…

Mind you, not being able to put off editing, or deciding you don’t need a separate editing session¬†means you do it while you write. Telling yourself you’ll reread and edit after you get your post written down should help you get things done before you start criticizing your work.

My inner editor seems to have returned –¬†or maybe I’m just more aware now that I try to write my posts in less time from draft to publish. Or being tired means the inner editor becomes more of a nuisance than usual – what do you think?

Your inner editor messes with your writing process!

Worse than the editor telling me I’ve done something wrong is the inner quickly-excited person (also my inner editor?)¬†who keeps telling me “hmm, this is interesting too… can you put it in?” or “hey, I’ve a great idea for an image to go with this post, how about checking for suitable pictures on OCAL (the Open Clip Art Library) now?”

Seriously, it’s like having a kid standing at your table trying to give you ‘food’ or wanting to sit on your lap and then asking “What’s happening now” every 30 seconds while watching Bob the Builder. Which is happening today because I’ve decided to sit down for once and write this thought down before it flies off.

Tip #3: Watch your inner editor or it will make you rewrite everything

You reread your post, and upon reflection, think of something you want in there… and this, and that… STOP! This is the same thing that happens to me if I interrupt my writing. You’re really writing your next post into the one you already had!

If this has ever happened to you – and it’s more likely to happen if you don’t blog (almost) daily – you’re blogging a lot more than you think. Except all your thinking and writing¬†energy goes into far fewer published posts!

All in all I guess the bottom line is:

  • More editing means less publishing.
  • More publishing also means less (time for) editing.
  • You get a lot of published posts, or a few heavily-edited posts, but rarely both.

There’s probably a precious balance¬†hiding somewhere out there for every one of us. Have you found your ideal mix yet?

Please add your¬†thoughts in a comment – I promise to reply to anything that’s not spam ūüėȬ†How¬†do you make blogging, editing¬†and reflection work for you?