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5.08.2016

Small Steps for Creativity

We can sometimes be overwhelmed by the drive to be creative. This can be found in the desire to write a novel or any other big creative endeavor.

However, often this can be the very undoing of creative efforts. Faced with the enormity of a big creative process, we grow tired and avoid continuing.

That is why we must take small steps for creativity. Write a short scene. Draw a picture. Whip up a quick blog post.

5.04.2016

Thoughts on Creativity

Creativity is not appreciated, but pursued. 

When we have ideas for things we can either spend countless hours entertaining them or we can unleash them.

5.02.2016

Daily Blogging: The Modern Artist's Daily Ritual

Continuing thoughts on daily blogging. Inspiration. This is part of the same approach that legendary artists use. We can see this in the book "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work". This describes people like, "Anthony Trollope, who demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books "

It is less about inspiration, and more about persistence. That by upholding consistency you can be more creatively productive than by drilling up the best words.

An observation. Already by only my second day of daily blogging, I feel how this can open up my creative thinking. My mind is spinning throughout the day thinking about subjects and ideas to explore in the evening's daily blog. It's like my mind is in a heightened state of awareness, looking at every details around me and thinking about how that little piece can play a role in a story or have special significance in something else.

Most of the artists profiled in this book followed a strict daily work schedule, working for a set number of hours, (typically anywhere from 3 to 6 hours) or until they hit a goal word count (usually 1000 to 1500 words).

5.01.2016

Blogging Everyday

Jonas Ellis is an inspiration. His blog post "How one year of daily blogging changed my life" really gave me a push to focus on this action and adopt this new daily habit - a blog a day. Ellis describes how he himself was stuck in a creative rut, and how by hook or by crook carrying on writing at least 200 words a day got him to a new place. He discovered his voice. He got a following. He established his personal brand.

But I find myself saying, Don't do it for those reasons. Don't look for followers or for a post to go viral. Do it to get those creative juices flowing. Everyday. Some days I bet it will seemed forced and trite. Some days I will need to run to the keyboard.

The idea of writing everyday has been pushed from many directions. Several years ago, I came across the concept of MorningPages in "This column will change your life: Morning Pages" where Oliver Burkeman described how you can write about whatever's on your mind. The consistency is what is important. He emphasized the benefits saying, "the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. And that bleary-eyed morning time has been shown to be associated with more creative thinking: with the brain's inhibitory processes still weak, "A-ha!" moments come more readily."

The nature of writing everyday has been advocated as a writing discipline, to write at least 750 words everyday. Lifehacker has outlined the process in "Kickstart Your Creativity By Writing 750 Words a Day", saying "It wakes up the creative “juices” and helps you get ready to work on real project that requires your full attention."

I've tried 750 words a day. It's hard. About 300 words flow out easily, then the next 400 or so require a push and the set period I would've wanted to write for starts to slip. Then I'd face the inevitable battle each day to get started again and try to get past that 300 word hump. I think I needed to pace myself and feel good at the shorter amounts, like running 2k at a time before committing to 5k.

So I'm gonna set up a little calendar and try to check in every day with another blog post.

12.14.2014

3 Useful Tools for Making Files Smaller

Graphics files and PDFs need to be lean and streamlined especially for appearing on web pages and for easy downloads. All too often a high quality, crisp image is also dense and heavy. However I have come across a few useful free online tools that easily take these heavy files and spit out nice, light useful files.

Small PDF
Reduces the size of your PDF online! This app compresses your PDF in the cloud for free to a perfect size that is still good quality.Just drag-and-drop your PDF file in the box above, wait for the compression to complete and download your file. It's that simple.
Direct Link: http://smallpdf.com/compress-pdf

Tiny PNG
TinyPNG uses smart lossy compression techniques to reduce the file size of your PNG files. By selectively decreasing the number of colors in the image, fewer bytes are required to store the data. The effect is nearly invisible but it makes a very large difference in file size! Just drag and drop up to 20 of your .png files (max. of 5MB each)
Direct Link: https://tinypng.com/

Tiny JPG
TinyJPG reduces the file size of your JPEG images. Every uploaded image is analyzed to apply the best possible JPEG encoding. Based on the content of your image an optimal strategy is chosen. The result is a quality image without wasting storage or bandwidth! Just drag and drop up to 20 of your .jpg files (max. of 5MB each)
Direct Link: https://tinyjpg.com/

11.05.2014

How do You Get Your Corporate Wikipedia Page Up

I'm a marketer hoping to get my company included in Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales created a bona fide global phenomenon with Wikipedia.org. The nonprofit site is used by 36 percent of adults in America alone (How Wikipedia impacts buying and selling.). I know that I need to engage with the community carefully. To that end, I'm organizing the tips that I've come across for how to work with Wikipedia and get an article created and monitor pages about a company. 

Notability
The first thing that I have to consider is the notability of my company. According to Wikipedia's notability guidelines. Wikipedia essentially defines notability based on a company’s substantial coverage in reliable secondary sources.
 
Getting Started
Marketing Sherpa (in Special Report: How to Get Your Company Listed on Wikipedia) has done a lot of research in this area and I want to quickly list the different approaches, which vary greatly, for getting a foothold on Wikipedia.
  • Create your own “Stub” article: a short, quick "just the facts" version of your article. Diana Huff says in How to Develop a Wikipedia Page that Sails Through the Approval Process "It pays to start by making small edits to existing pages to test your skills before trying to create new content." 
  • Propose an article for creation: use the Wikipedia system to ask that someone in the community write about this subject. 
  • Have a member of your community create an article: reach out to someone that you are friendly with in the Social Media sphere
Writing Content
The content of your article must be absolutely neutral and referenced, and meet the main criteria of notability.  Tony Ahn explains in How to Successfully Submit Your Article to Wikipedia, that "Trivial or incidental coverage in a source is not sufficient: It isn’t enough to just be mentioned a couple times. The coverage must provide information that can be used to add depth to a brand’s Wikipedia article. If the depth of coverage in a particular source is not substantial, then you must cite multiple sources. Trivial or incidental coverage of a subject is not sufficient to establish notability."

You can take your time and be very particular about becoming familiar with Wikipedia and the style of articles, collecting good references, and vetting your text. Eventually you need to get involved and test the waters. Sal Partovi's answer to the question on Quora "How do you start a Wikipedia page about a company?" was "First of all, if you're going to just jump in and do it anyway, then be very careful to keep as neutral a point of view as possible (harder than you might think), and to reference every single sentence you write."

For my company page, I looked at the company pages for about 5 other companies in similar markets, studying the style and content of the articles.Then I wrote our article staying close to the subjects described in the articles that I found. In reviewing my first draft of article content, I put together all my sources and attributed the information in the article to strong, third party references. If I had a point or claim that I couldn't reference, then I trimmed those parts out. This left me with a draft that was neutral, clearly referenced point by point and notable.

Patience
As one respondent on Quora explained in response to the query How do you start a Wikipedia page about a company?, "Expect this to take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to get authored and accepted." It can be a longer process than expected, validated in the article How to Get Your Company Page Up in Wikipedia saying, "We were trying to publish a company article for a while and believe me we tried hard. Our submission was rejected two times, but finally it got approved."

Diana Huff said, "After waiting about 12 days for a response, I saw that other pages that had been submitted around the same time as mine had gotten their approvals, or challenges, or had been deleted. Eventually, I assumed mine was fine and went ahead and moved it to the public space."

After submitting my first article, the Wikipedia page displayed the message "This may take several weeks, to over a month. The Articles for creation process is severely backlogged. Please be patient. There are 2718 submissions waiting for review."

Jumping In
The delay and patience that I described is due to Wikipedia's Articles for Creation (AfC) project, which was set up with the purpose of allowing people to submit articles for peer review and movement to the main space of Wikipedia. Michael Wood describes how to get your article approved by Wikipedia, explaining that " posting an article to the main space is not against Wikipedia guidelines and you do not necessarily have to go through the AfC process. While it is a good idea in theory, there are many reasons why the AfC process can otherwise hold up a good article from being created. If you are unsure if your article meets Wikipedia guidelines, then AfC could be the way to go."

So I took my article out of the long Articles for Creation queue and manually moved it into the Wikipedia mainspace. Wikipedia explains that this can be done "if your account is already autoconfirmed, you have the ability to move the page on your own."  In the 'Move' option, you just select (Article) and save. This makes the article 'live'.

Should You Write a Wikipedia Page about Your Company
Wikipedia wants the sites content to be neutral, so it takes great exception to having employees of a company putting information about their own company on Wikipedia. While there are biased, agenda-filled marketing promoters looking to leverage Wikipedia's web strength to promote their product, many others legitimately want to play by Wikipedia's rules and contribute a non-biased, notable article about their company (rather than the company not noted at all). Geoffry James noted the absurdity of this situation in his article in CBS's MoneyWatch, How to Game Wikipedia, "in the twisted world of Wikipedia, a corporate updater (even if identified as a real person with a real identity) is assumed to be biased, while any anonymous troll with a chip on his shoulder is considered a "real" person capable of making judgments about what's appropriate to go in a corporate entry."

To address this situation, Phil Gomes penned a post, CREWE Corporate Representative for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, and setup a Facebook group to explore the issue of  corporate communicators engaging Wikipedia. He lays down four pillars:
  • Corporate communicators want to do the right thing.
  • Communicators engaged in ethical practice have a lot to contribute.
  • Current Wikipedia policy does not fully understand #1 and #2, owing to the activities of some bad actors and a general misunderstanding of public relations in general.
  • Accurate Wikipedia entries are in the public interest.

I published our company's page on Wikipedia. It was not promotional, and simply factual based  on what third parties have reported about the company. The company, for now, is in the Wikipedia directory and hopefully as the company grows and more notable events happen, there will be more to report in Wikipedia.

References

7.22.2013

Marketing Through Facebook

Facebook is an amazing network. Facebook says it now has 1.11 billion people using the site each month (Number of active users at Facebook over the years). This is incredible. But it's still not like shooting fish in the barrel.

Many have said, so how can I use a Facebook page to grow my business?

The Power of Likes
The new measure of popularity is the Like. Forget about subscribers or traffic, a Like offers you far more. This new element is not just a vote a support, but provides a portal into a massive network. With each like, the person, profile, or page making the like exposes you to that individual's network.

If you get 10 likes from 10 different sources that each have 100 friends, your Facebook page has just been exposed to 1000 people. Exposure provides the potential for greater interaction and ultimately conversion.

Your Facebook Page Goals
Intrinsically you don't just want people to be like your Facebook Page content but ultimately to be intrigued and inquire further about your service or product. This means keeping in focus your Facebook Page goals and turning tepid clickers, into potential clients or customers.

It's Not About Me
The problem that many business oriented Facebook Pages fall into is that they nearly exclusively focus on their product or service. They post links to descriptions of their product, pictures of their product, and deeper explanations about their product. Do I want to go out for coffee and listen to someone only speak about himself the whole time?

That is the switch in attitude, where it's not about me. So then what should your Facebook Page content be filled with?

The Facebook Page experience is like a dialog, even considered to be a conversation in a coffee shop. How do I draw in the interest of the other party that I am engaging? You want to provide information that THEY are interested in.

For instance, if your business is real estate, and you have a Facebook Page about this business you may be inclined to post everyday about different properties that you are trying to rent or sell. However most of your contacts, on a daily basis, do not need this service and will probably ignore these posts. You want to engage them with content that they will care about.

Parallel Content
Instead of just focusing on the content or service you want to push, you should bring in related content that would be interesting to a broader audience on a more immediate level. Taking the example of the real estate business, consider what a potential client is looking for. It is not just about walls and a roof over their head, but they are looking for neighborhoods.

Change your orientation from just being another real estate agent to being a lifestyle expert. Focus on the geographic areas where you are dealing in real estate, and share valuable information about those areas. You can:

  • Share insights and reviews about restaurants in that town
  • Announce seasonal cultural events
  • Find interesting and unusual local news 
  • Highlight unique characters and people from that area
  • Share tips for how to better travel in that area (traffic or public transportation)
  • Give ideas for where to volunteer or other community activities

By sharing parallel content, the issues that surround and matter to living in those areas, you are not just a real estate agent but an expert. Once you become an expert, you become an information authority and people want to turn to you for your opinion, insights and ideas. When they rely on you in one area, they will gladly share your posts and recommend you to others. This provides the fuel to ignite your entry into the broader network on Facebook and not just rely on upon your established audience.

Driving a Wider Net of Likes   
When your information becomes relevant and interesting on a more frequent basis the level of interaction can grow. Always look beyond your direct service and see what are the concerns and information surrounding this service that can be interesting to your target audience. This doesn't mean throwing in wildly different subject areas like movie review and real estate, where there is no synergy between the two subjects. But recommendations for local movie theaters can be a nice fit for real estate, emphasizing the surrounding value of that area.

Since running a Facebook Page is like fishing, when you put a small net into the water, you will wait a long time for something to finally come into your net. By making your net wider with more parallel information relevant to your subject area, you increase your chances of catching the eye of unlikely prospects, and getting more business.

What are the subject areas that surround your business that can complement interest in your service or product?