writing

Have No Idea What To Say On Social Media? Read This.

Something about a blinking cursor can give even the most enthusiastic writing types writers block.

This post is unblocking this writers block when you update your social media profiles.

Here’s a couple things to think about:

1) It doesn’t have to be perfect. No one’s going to die if you get it wrong and too many people wait around for perfection.
2) It doesn’t have to be amazing. You only have to be clever for about two sentences, max.

With that in mind, for every client I work with, I come up with a content plan for each social network.

Let’s say I’m… a kitchen remodeling specialist. Here might be my Facebook content plan:

Mondays: Kitchen Remodeling Tip of the Week
Tuesdays: Kitchen of the Week (photo)
Wednesdays: Review of Kitchen product (could be on my blog or elsewhere)
Thursdays: Recipe
Friday: BUY MY CRAP

Here are what some of those posts could look like:

remodeltipfacebookpost

fbpostkitchenoftheweek

Now a couple of things here:

1) I credited the original source for my information in both cases and
2) If I care about tracking what things people like, I use bitly.com links. If I don’t really care whether people click or not (or if it’s something on my own website), I can just throw the link in there. (More on this in a future blog entry!)

I’m not changing the world here. I’ve just given myself something to work with. When I open Facebook and it’s a Thursday, I know I should go find a recipe to share. When it’s Monday, I find a remodeling tip. I’m never ‘stuck’ for what to say. If some day I have something else I’d rather share, it’s alright; I just have this as a framework to approach social media and force myself to be creative and on-topic.

The other thing you’ll notice in my first list is the BUY MY CRAP post, which I am thinking about for Fridays for this fake person.

Most of the time on social media, you won’t be posting your own stuff. You want to be conversational, knowledgeable, interesting, helpful. But occasionally, you should remind people about your business. (And you shy people are particularly bad about asking for the sale).

Now what do I mean by BUY MY CRAP? You could

  • A link to an item someone can buy
  • A link to where they can leave a review
  • A link to subscribe to an email newsletter
  • A flyer for your upcoming sale
  • A link to another social media account
  • A link to make a donation to your cause

You get the idea. You give yourself the space, one day a week to promote or cross promote something your business is doing.

Here are a couple of my BUY MY CRAP posts:

selfpromoteypost1

selfpromoteypost2

The other bonus of having some set things you share? People can start to look forward to them. By the third of fourth week, Thursdays your fans/friends are subconsciously looking for that review post and wondering what it is going to be about. Even if they haven’t consciously picked up on the pattern. That’s why traffic on this site spikes on Tuesdays and Fridays, because that’s when people have come to expect new blog posts.

Now you’re sharing plan is going to be different and depend on the social network as well as what kind of business you have… but you really should make one.

A few other fake sample ones:

Jeweler on Twitter

Monday: Post about a celeb who wore jewelry well recently (link to photo)
Tuesday: Retweet something in the #jewelry hashtag.
Wednesday: Jewelry related quote
Thursday: BUY MY CRAP
Friday: Thank people who have retweeted this week

Coffee Shop on Instagram

Monday: #firstcupofcoffee photo
Tuesday: Customer of the week photo
Wednesday: BUY MY CRAP (In this case since it’s a photo only website, maybe a photo of a pairing idea (food with beverage) that you sell. Maybe all pairings could be under $10 which you could say in every caption.)
Thursday: From around town photo
Friday: Staff at work photo

You get the idea, if you step back from what you are doing and think ‘How can I regularly be creative about this?’ you are ahead of a majority of people on social media.

So hopefully you feel unblocked and see the blinking cursor as something that’ll now take up way less time in your day… and open up a new way to have fun with your online marketing.

Hiring Someone To Write Your Blog: The If, The Why, and The How

Many people are surprised when I tell them we ghost write for other blogs. Despite the fact that this blog is fun and kicky, we can be serious when we need to be. Some of our clients have been tech companies (since we have that knowledge anyway), some are just regular businesses.

Many people know that a blog is great for SEO and building authority. So the natural decision to make at this point is: are you going to do it or pay someone else to?

There are a whole group of people who think blogging can and should be handled within your company.


Why Your Blog Could Be Handled Within Your Company

1) Someone in your company knows what’s going on. A content writer is not in your business so they can’t know close to everything that is going on like someone who is there 40 hours a week.

2) Someone in your company can write. Yes, most people graduate high school being able to string sentences together… and some people have a real talent for it.

3) The same person who can write has free time. You can probably think of idle times in your schedule (or an employee’s schedule) and have the thought ‘Hey, maybe I/they can crank out a blog!’

There are a few reasons though why you may hire people like us to coordinate your blog, write part of it for you, or write the entire thing for you.


Why Your Blog Could Be Handled By A Content Writer/Marketer/SEO Person

1) Content writers are lay people. Chances are your customer won’t care and, most importantly, won’t understand fancy jargon. Someone who can explain things about your business in a way your customers understand and enjoy can be worth some money.

2) Content writers are good writers. Someone who understands how to write for the web and how to write concise blog posts that are both interesting to read and written in the voice of your company will leave website visitors with a good impression.

3) Content writers get the SEO stuff. There is a bit more to blogs than the writing part. It’s part specialized data entry, part understanding how blogs work in the bigger picture of website traffic. You need to  know about the following to do it well:

  • using tags
  • interlinking to previous blog posts
  • how to find, use, and cite legal images in a blog post
  • how to write a grabbing headline that has keywords in it
  • proper formatting for easy reading and search engines
  • and more!

4) Content writers are fast. These people look at websites all day so we should be fast. They’ll work at least twice as quickly as your employee doing the same thing. (I’d be slow trying to ring up a customers purchases at your cash register since I have no idea what I’m doing in that situation!)

In other words, you have options. You don’t have to write the blog yourself! You can have a blog for your business and have someone else write it!

Even if you do hand this off, as the person driving this train (re: your business), you will need to set the person helping you (and your blog) up for success.


How You Can Set Up A Blogger For Success Who Isn’t You

  • A blog site

You’ll need to understand a bit on how your website works to understand if you’ll be able to blog on your current site or if you need to set up something on another domain that links to your site. Talking to a web person is worth it at this stage, mainly because you don’t want to build this blog up (and links coming into it) only to have to move it later. (I have moved my blog three times, trust me, don’t do this to yourself!)

If you are on the fence on the blogging thing, set up a free account on Wordpress.com and try it for a month. If you like it, you can move it to a Wordpress self hosted site by the Import/Export functions under ‘Tools’ without much trouble. All this to say, to blog you’ll need a place to blog. It may be worth it to have the employee you plan to blog with sit down with your web designer for some training on the software.

  • A regular publication schedule 

Whether you are going to publish every Monday or every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, establish this with the person you plan to work with. They are going to be limited by time constraints (like everyone!) and they need to know what is expected. For an employee that’s new to this, allow 3-4 hours per blog post (start off with 4 hours and as the person gets the hang of it, the time will be less). Remember a blog post isn’t sitting and writing: they may need time to contact information sources and do research in addition to the actual writing part.

If you are hiring a content writer, have them create a proposal of what you can expect from them in terms of content and publication schedule. (Note: content writers work much faster than your employee who is not a full time writer. It’s not fair to your employee to think otherwise!)

  • Sources for images

Whether you have a company Flickr gallery, an account with iStockphoto, or just a Dropbox folder where everyone puts in images, make sure whoever is writing the blog has access to this resource. They will need them for blog posts (blog posts with images are much more widely read, and having images has other benefits).

If you are creating the images, make sure to name the files something useful (like the name of the person in the photo). This way, the writer will be able to use the images appropriately and generate captions.

  • Topic structure and leads

Usually at a blog client kick off meeting, we figure out a general topic posting schedule. For example, Mondays are going to be interviews with our suppliers. Here are the questions we’d like to ask them and here is the contact information of some people to start with in terms of the first four interviews. Thursdays are going to be a product review. Donna will email you a list of new products for this season. Here’s a sample review I wrote to kind of give you an idea of what we are looking for on Thursdays…

A ridiculous level of detail? Maybe. But you don’t want your blog writer to stare at the blinking cursor and think ‘What should I write today?’ Having a structure will force ideas for days there are none and give a structure for the writer to work within and make sure the blog stays on topics you want it to be on.

Sometimes people do is hire a content writer to set up a structure for the staff blogger to follow. Give it a month and if it’s not working, you can always change it… but at least it’s a place for the blog to go day to day and week to week, especially those first few months.

  • Access to social media

The best thing to do after you blog? Be able to promote it! If your company has a Facebook page or Twitter account, give this person access so they can promote their posts. Sure you can have it set up so posts automatically go out but letting your writer go onto the social network and respond to comments, share it on their profile, and more means you’ll get way more bang for your buck.

  • Autonomy

By all means, check the first few blog posts before they go online… But nothing will slow down your company’s blogging quite like the bottleneck you will become if this keeps happening. Trust your people to do a good job (and by all means read the blog when it’s online!) but after an initial period of training, let your content writer run with it.


How Do I Find Content Writers?

So you’ve gathered above that while paying an hourly or salary employee to blog is cheaper for you per hour than having a writer do it… but it will also take them at least twice as long as someone just figuring it out. How can you find someone to help your employee get started or to do this for you?

Read blogs.

By reading blogs, you will find bloggers whose style you like. If you want to find someone local, do a Google blog search for local blogs in your area and see who’s writing. If you want someone who specializes in an industry, read blogs in those industries and certain names will emerge. These are good starting points.

Try LinkedIn.

Now that you have some names, look these people up on LinkedIn. Are they legit? Do other people recommend their blogging skills?

With LinkedIn's new skills endorsements, at a glance you can see that while you might not want me to fix your leaking faucet, you probably can trust me to blog for you.

With LinkedIn’s new skills endorsements, at a glance you can see that while you might not want me to fix your leaking faucet, you probably can trust me to blog for you.

You can ever search by skill on LinkedIn (blogging) so think of this site as a way to check someone’s references.

Problogger.net Job Board

If you want to be a bit more general about it all (‘I just want someone who wants the job’), try posting it on the Problogger job board. This is a highly regarded place in the online community to find legitimate paid blogging opportunities. (Well it’s as legitimate as Craigslist for finding an apartment… there are always scammy people but plenty of reputable people use it too.)

No matter the route you go, all bloggers should be able to provide writing samples to you and other pieces of information that can help you make your decision.

Like the rest of the world, you are more likely to find someone you already know for the job. That said, there is no reason you can’t go out and seek a content writer yourself if you don’t know any!
Does this seem like a bit of work? It always is to implement something new at first.
Will your employee need a bit more help then someone who does this all day? Of course.
But is it worth having a blog? This being my 897th entry, I might be a little biased when I say absolutely.

8 Tips to Improve Your Business Writing Online and Off

This guest post is courtesy of Catherine W McKinney, who took part in the 30 Days of Blogging challenge we held in March. Catherine is a writer, always looking for a good story. She is the author of the ebook “Finn MacCool and the Woman”, tales of cats invading her home. You can visit her blog, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter if you want to keep in touch.

catherineWM_cmToday communications run from in person, to telephone, to email, to blogs, to social media. And don’t forget traditional letter writing.

There are newsletters and articles to be written.

The very definition of business writing has changed, expanded, basically exploded during the past decade.

Most of what you learned in school does not apply to all this new media writing. So you wonder, what form should I write in; what tone; what style?

It’s less confusing than you think, and much more approachable.

Today formal business writing has been replaced by the conversational tone, the conversational style. In other words, if you can say it, you can write it.



Here are 8 tips to help you improve your writing:

1 Make the writing easy to understand. Don’t use professional jargon. You want to encourage dialogue not send me running for the exit. Allow your personality to shine through, the personality you showed during the job interview.

2 Be interesting. You want to hold my attention for a least a minute. Give me a reason to continue reading. Add some energy, some life to your writing. When appropriate make me laugh.

3 Be clear. You want your writing to be easy to absorb and answer all questions. Obscurity if your enemy. If I don’t understand what you are trying to say, I am not going to finish reading or seek any other contact with you.

4 Be logical. Provide the right amount of supportive information without overwhelming. Progress through your information step by step. Help me appreciate your expertise.

5 Be concise. Don’t waste my time. Stick to the point. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Chunk information together for me so I don’t have to go looking for the next thing I need to know.

6 Keep the message obvious. Remember the reader is the important person in this written conversation. Don’t hide the message, tell me why I should care. Tell me how it benefits me or my team or my business. Tell me how it will improve my life, answer my question.

7 Be purpose obvious. Stick to the topic. Allow the writing to be persuasive. Don’t hide what I should do next or what else I may need to know. Tell me.

8 Be easy to read aloud. Your writing needs flow, it needs rhythm. It needs to reflect how you speak, how you present yourself, your ideas. By reading your writing out loud you will easily spot rough patches, thoughts which are disconnected, sentences which don’t work. Reading out loud helps your editing process.

Whether you are sending an email, blogging, writing up advertising, creating the annual report, sending a thank you note, these 8 tips can help you write better. Better writing leads to better communications. Better communications leads to possibilities beyond your imagination.

It’s all about connecting with clarity, with respect and with a bit of imagination.



The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing

girlsguidetohuntingandfishingSo I think it’s really important to read things other than industry books, which is what I’ve believed from the beginning of starting a business and blog. First of all, everyone needs some relaxation time and secondly, looking at sort of ‘non-traditional’ sources can give you ideas, about work or life, you wouldn’t have necessarily had otherwise.

My hands down favorite book ever is The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing. (I am linking to this terrible review not because I agree with the author but because you can read the whole first chapter with the link on that page.)

I don’t remember where or when I got this book, I think it was in a used book store for a couple dollars the part of one summer that I was a camp counselor with nothing to do except entertain children at odd times and plow through books I found at the used book store in town. Since I read it almost ten years ago, I’ve reread it every year and have even sent it to friends on the fence about their own relationships.



Part of the reason I like it so much is kind of self centered. I have always identified with the main character, Jane. People always tell Jane she’s funny and smart yet she keeps ending up in these relationships that don’t work out. From Jane’s struggles to figure out a career to dealing with a death in her family (I am not going to give too much away here), I feel like we’ve had semi parallel lives, not just with the dating stuff. I appreciate that the writing in this book is not at all self pitying and is actually funny. I have similarly really tried to take the turns in my life from a humorous or at least good natured angle.

The other thing I really like about the book is that it’s effortlessly well written. There is dialogue and descriptions in a nice mix (sometimes too much of either drives me crazy. Yes, I am talking about you Charles Dickens, you over describer!). I like how the different characters we meet in this novel show us some lessons we have to learn over and over, mainly that we can’t change anyone except ourselves. When I set out to write my novel in November, I really wanted whatever I ended up with to be like this book: easy to read, fun, and with some universal truths.

With the internet there are any number of sites that can give me recommendations on the next book to read. Sometimes I listen but mostly, I just reread my favorites.

What book do you reread?

Get your own copy of “The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing” on Amazon (Note: this is an affiliate link)



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