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Think You Suck At Writing? 15 Articles To Help You Become A Better Blogger

Though Saskatchewan and Regina may not be the blogging mecca we all predicted it would be, there are still many talented writers here (and many more in the making).  As an organization or individual, if you wish to grow your brand online whatsoever, Creating content is inevitable, you may as well start sooner than later.

If you take writing seriously you’re always looking for ways to get better.  The more you read, the better understanding you have of what makes a great blog and what doesn’t.  Below are some of the best posts on writing and blogging I’ve stumbled upon.  If YOU have some great articles on writing you’ve come across, don’t be afraid to leave a link in the comment below.

Enjoy.

1.  Copyblogger is like the Wayne Gretzky of blogging, here’s a great 5 step formula:  The Simple 5-Step Formula for Effective Online Content

2.  Another from Copyblogger, this one is a lot of little ideas that may help you.  73 Ways to Become a Better Writer

3. From Mitch Joel, a piece of what a blog actually should be.  He’s from Canada, he’s smart, read it.  What Is A Blog? The Question That Won’t Go Away

4.  For any writer trying to improve his or her writing needs to read this.  You’d be silly not to.  The Two Most Import Words in Blogging

5.  Ira Glass On Creativity (or, The Gap Between Our Taste And Our Work…) – Ira Glass hosts one of my favorite Podcasts, This American Life, he’s a brilliant story teller.  One of the best of our time.  Ira Glass On Creativity (or, The Gap Between Our Taste And Our Work…)

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There’s No Such Thing As a Neutral Brand Impression

comic-sansEvery time you come in contact with any brand, company, or organization you either like it a little bit more or like it a little bit less, the feeling is never completely neutral.  The majority of these impressions (feelings) come from your sub-conscious mind, which makes it difficult to understand why you feel the way you do about some brands.  Just assume everything is marketing.

They way the flight attendant smiles at you gives you an impression of the airline.

The way a hostess open the door at a restaurant changes your impression of the establishment.

The way the cashier talks to you while making a purchase changes your impression of the store.

The font you use on doors in your office changes our impression of your company.

Read More

Like Sticking Post-it Notes On The Ocean: Why Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sex doesn’t sell anything other than itself.

In Martin Lindstrom‘s fascinating New York Times Bestseller, ‘Buy-ology‘, countless age-old advertising and marketing assumptions are obliterated.  Perhaps the most provocative (intentional word choice) assumption that he topples is one we’ve probably heard once a week for our entire lives: Sex sells.

Skeptical? I don’t doubt it. Let’s take a closer look before we dismiss the claim…

Lindstrom goes to the next level in ‘Buy-ology’ by going beyond observational marketing.  He draws from experiences with fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanning to measure activity in certain areas of the human brain in response to the stimulation of advertisements.  Taking a psychological/biological approach gives his findings the credibility that many marketing practices lack.

Think about Malcolm and the Middle vs. Sex and the City for a minute. One compelling experiment from Chapter 13 of the book had viewers of each show divided into two groups. One segment from each series was shown a grouping of sexually suggestive ads during the commercial breaks for products such as beer, shampoo, and perfume. Upon conclusion of each show, viewers were simply asked what they remembered. As Lindstrom regales, the group shown the sexually suggestive ads had no better recollection of which products they were for than those shown non-sexually suggestive ads. Furthermore, viewers of Sex and the City had even worse recollection than those who viewed Malcolm in the Middle. It turns out that the sexually suggestive nature of the show actually overshadowed the retention of the sexually suggestive nature of the commercials. Hence the conclusion: “sex does not sell anything other than itself.”

So, now you’re probably asking why sex and beauty are still used at such great lengths in marketing and advertising campaigns. Lindstrom’s fMRI brain scan experiments helped him find the answer.

In advertising and merchandising (take the pictures on underwear boxes, for example) attractive models actually activate the brain’s mirror neurons, making us view ourselves as one of them. From the shelf to the till (and probably all the way home until we look in the mirror) we view ourselves as the guys in the picture and adjust our confidence accordingly. Or, as Lindstrom points out, if a woman is buying underwear for a man, she’ll have no problem picturing him as fit and handsome as the guy she sees on the box.

Two important takeaways from just one chapter in Lindstrom’s eyeopening masterpiece:

1. Sex doesn’t sell anything other than itself.

2. Sex and beauty still work in advertising by activating mirror neurons.

The 10 Fascinating Websites You’ve Never Seen

Below are some of the more interesting/creative/weird/awkward/amazingly designed websites I’ve found over the past few years.  If you have a really cool site you’d like to share please leave a link in the comments below, I’d love to see it.

Now put a helmet on cause your mind is about to be blown….

1.  Musical Hands?  I don’t even know what the heck this website is called but you can make music with the touch of a button(s).

Musical Hands

2.  Koala’s to the Max is a website that, well not at first but after you do some work, reveals something.  Go on try it out, you’ll be hooked.

Koala's To The Max

3.  Interactive Triangulation is a website where, well, you interact with triangles.

Interactive Triangulation

4. Eye Candy is a psychedelic journey best viewed after a Cypress Hill or Neil Young concert.

Eye Candy

5.  Don’t Click It is a website where you navigate around by moving your mouse, not clicking at all.  It’s difficult, try it out.

Don't Click It

6.  Avoid the Red Dots, that’s all you have to do, check out this website.

Avoid The Dots

7.  Larry Carlson’s Medijate is a wild  cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and a tight and bright party.  Make sure your speakers are one before you visit this site.

Medijate

8.  RainyMood.com is a website that just plays a loop of rain.  Why you ask?  Well it’s relaxing of course.  Who doesn’t like to fall asleep to the sound of rain?!?

http://www.rainymood.com

9. Simply Noise is a free site that plays, noise.  Yup, white noise, pink noise ans brown noise.  You can make it oscillate like a fan or put it on a timer for nights when you can’t sleep.  First a Rain site now a noise site?!?  WTF people? I’ve had it on for the last half hour (brown noise) relaxing. giver it a try.

Simply Noise

10.  Auditorium is a game using sound, I warn you – it’s addicting.

Auditorium

Do you have a site that’s fantastically awesome?  Share the link in the comments below. 

Me love you long time.

 

Explode Your Community (While Avoiding Casualties): 9 Ways To Get REAL Twitter Followers

Many people and businesses start on Twitter and don’t have much of an idea as to how to get followers or start interacting in a way that will add value to their lives or add customers to their business.  The first step is thinking of it as “growing community” rather than “attaining followers”.  I mean, you could simply follow a thousand people then unfollow the ones who don’t follow you back OR even pay someone on fiver.com to get you 3000 followers by midnight (but, actually, please don’t. stay tuned for a rant on the subject).  What’s the use in having a false following of unengaged, unconcerned people who will never engage with you in an enriching way and never set foot in your establishment? Here are some actual, helpful tips – that when executed in a genuine fashion – can get your community growing:

1. Pick A User-Friendly User Name

If you’re going to be identified and recognized by your name, make sure your twitter handle is your name.  If you need to add in underscores or numbers due to your name being taken, do so at the end of the handle to ensure it’s still easily searchable and can auto-populate when people are mentioning and searching you.

2. Search For People To Follow

Searching for current and potential contacts and customers can be as easy as searching your business’s name or searching a hashtag with the airport code for your city (ie: #yqr = Regina).

3. Know the Lingo

Know it but don’t become a slave to it.  Maintain your own personality!

4. Know Who You’re Interacting With

Taking the time to read the bio and recent tweets of a person you’re replying to or striking up a conversation with can make the difference between a message that is remembered  and a message that is forgotten or received negatively.

5. Add Your Twitter Handle To All Signatures

Show your existing contacts that you’re on Twitter by including it at the end of email messages and putting it in your LinkedIn profile

6. Reach Out

We’ve heard of many reputable marketing and business people actually making a list of people they want to get to know on Twitter and taking an intentional approach to interacting with over time in order to build mutually beneficial relationships.  Try it.  Times are changing and people are more receptive to this kind of interaction.

7. Promote Others

Want to get your own tweets retweeted and encourage people to interact with you? There’s no better way to do so than to first help others out by answering their questions and spreading their value-laden work.  While doing so, make sure you don’t water down your content by relaying sub par, non-remarkable content.

8. Share Your Best Info

Value, value, value! Before hitting the tweet button, ask yourself if what you’re tweeting will be of any benefit to the people who will read it.  If it’s not funny, informative, or remarkable, think twice. If it’s only going to be of interest to a few people, consider tweeting it at them directly or choosing a different medium.

9. Practice Etiquette

Avoid correcting people’s grammar and trolling others. Err on the side of positivity. Negativity can get you unfollowed faster than Usain Bolt can complete his final 50 metres.

How To Win Business and Influence People

“Happy people  are the best  to be around,  always remember that.”1.  Smile. Smile a lot. When walking into a boardroom. When meeting someone for the first time. When you’re unsure of yourself. When you need that extra boost of confidence.  Just smile, it’s contagious.  Don’t you love walking into a restaurant and the person at the front door is happier to see you than you are to see them?  Happy people are the best to be around, always remember that.

2.  Don’t hold grudges, ever. Under no circumstance hold a grudge because of what you think someone did or said.  If they did something wrong confront them about it and tell them how you feel.  Otherwise when you hold a grudge against someone you seem like you’re in high-school again and I don’t want to do business with high-school kids.  Being upset with someone for a silly reason makes me think you’re not a very big thinker either.  Forgiving someone is a very humbling thing to do.  Try it.

3.  Don’t offer your opinion of someones work unless they ask for it. No one likes getting impromptu feedback on something they probably could pick holes in them self. Wait till someone seeks your feedback out. Want more people to seek you out for feedback?  Get smarter on your topic of interest.  Stop watching (insert pop culture TV sensation of the week) and start reading more.

4.  When you pick a fight with your competition don’t make it personal and try to be as professional about it as you can.
I openly will critique agency’s in Regina for their work. I try not to make it personal and I try to give research and the thought process behind my opinions.  We’re competitors so it makes sense we will disagree on many things, however, I do very much respect the work they do.  Phoenix Group is the agency that I’ve written about the most and they’re the biggest in Regina and do some really amazing work.  I assume they can handle my critique because of their success (Yes, I do think David Bellerive is extremely talented).

5.  Say ‘yes’ as much as you can. Like the movie Yes Man, always take advantage when an opportunity presents itself. You never know who you might meet.  Lunches, dinners, nights out, weekend trips, if you have no other obligations and financially it works you must say yes. It’s kinda fun to try. Watch Yes Man if you haven’t yet.

6.  Stop talking about yourself. Seriously. One of the biggest turnoffs in life and business is someone who talks about themselves too much.  Like Dale Carnegie says, “become genuinely interested in other people”.  Ask them questions and be curious about what they do. The more the other person talks about them self, the more you know about them to help them in the future.
An old piece of advice; “in a meeting, the person who talks the least, is usually the smartest person in the room.”

7.  If you’re a leader, creative person or an artist, sometimes you’re going to half to ignore what others tell you.  As Albert Einstein said “if at first the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.” Some of your ideas must be absurd.
As a leader you’re going to have moments where entire groups of people disagree with you. That’s ok  “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds” another great piece of advice from the smartest person ever lived.
Don’t worry what people say about you, if no one is disagreeing with you, you aren’t doing much with your life.

8. Be someone others look up to.  The way you act, the way to dress, the way you sign your e-mails, your business cards, everything.  People look up to others who are confident, well put together and articulate.  I remember the first time I met Steve Klippenstein, the President of Captive Audience.  He was smart, funny, and a leader, someone you really wanted to be around.  I’ve always looked up to Steve because of that.  His attitude is a reflection of how well Captive has done and will do in the future.

9.  Don’t be cheap. I met with a lady once trying to start her own business and one of the first things she informed me of was that she didn’t have much money and was “cheap”.  As a consultant that’s the last thing you want to hear.  Not that I’m greedy at all, I believe as an entrepreneur you can’t be successful and “cheap”.  No one wants to work with cheap, you don’t want to invest in cheap, it’s not an attractive quality in anyone.  Frugal is fine but you must be smart frugal.  Buy people coffees and lunch, take the bill, bring donuts to a meeting, offer to supply the coffees from Timmy’s, do something that screams “I’m not afraid to be generous!”.  I don’t know about you but I LOVE generous people, I try to do as much as I can for them, the more you help others the more they want to help you.  Don’t be cheap.

17 Search Engine Optimization Resources

seoSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) as a marketing tactic will continue to grow in importance for any company who’s growing their online presence.  If immediately you say “oooh but Jeph, we live in Regina, Saskatchewan, SEO doesn’t work here!  I’ma git me another bus bench ad!” I truly feel sorry for you, you may leave now.

As for those of you who want to learn more about SEO and need a place to start, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are 17 of the most helpful articles, video and inforgraphics on search engine optimization, please add your favorite in the comments below.

Overview

1.  A good start will be with definitions, learn the new words that you’re going to hear in boardroom SEO conversations, now you’ll actually know what people are talking about when they reference your internal link structure and you can answer like the shmarty pants you are.

30 (New) SEO Terms You Have to Know from SEOptimize

2.  A good overview of the SEO process from SEOMoz, most content coming from SEOMoz is well researched and to the point.  I use SEOMoz a lot.

The New SEO Process (Quit Being Kanye)

3.  This is probably the most exhaustive article on local search factors, worth a read before you start focusing the wrong attributes establishing your local search engine optimization campaign:

Local Search Ranking Factors by Davidmihm.com

4.  On Page Search Engine Optimization, keywords, the page’s user experience, page authority, domain authority and multi vs single page optimization:

4 Graphics to Help Illustrate On-Page SEO from SEOMoz

5. An article written based on information provided by Google, things to focus on when building a website that you want to rank for specific search terms:

Direct From Google: How To Build A Quality Website In 2012

Measurement

6.  This is a great article for beginners looking at how to evaluate how a single page on a site.

How to Conduct an On-Page SEO Site Audit

7.  There’s a lot to this report but it covers almost everything from an SEO audit report

How to Perform the World’s Greatest SEO Audit

8.  In this article, Avinash Kaushik shares the most effective metrics to use to measure the effectiveness of your website.

Best Web Metrics / KPIs for a Small, Medium or Large Sized Business

Tips

9.  SEO yet again provides us with a juicy post on making the highly sought after link bait posts.  A lot of people misunderstand this as a tactic, definitely worth a read:

4 Tips for Creating Link Bait from SEOMoz

10.  A great 20 point overview of what to do and not to do to rank in the top 10 on Google

SEO Tips to Shorten Time to The Top 10 from SEO Design Solutions

11.  A lot of great tips in here if you’re a designer or interested in a best practices article on web design for a high traffic site.

List of Best and Worst practices for designing a high traffic website

Strategy

12.  A great read on different SEO tactics and their effectiveness.  Link bait, infographics, how to’s, there are a lot of options out there, this post simplifies how and why you’d create different types of content on your site.

Ecommerce website content for SEO – what is it and are you wasting your time?

13.  Many different ideas and tactics to help in building links to your site.

62 steps to the definitive link building campaign

14.  This is a great read on the your overall digital strategy, you must read it.

11 Digital Marketing “Crimes Against Humanity”

15.  6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits – Whiteboard Friday

16.

SEO Infographic

17.

The Nature of Black Hat SEO

How Do You Choose The Right Twitter Name?

I think people should always use their real name as their name (handle) on Twitter.  You’re scared of privacy are you?  It’s 2012, if someone wanted to stalk you they would, they’re not going to Twitter to search your name sweetheart.  So how do you choose the right Twitter name?   Simple, if you don’t pick your name/brand/company pick something you can brand yourself as online, a nickname perhaps, whatever you pick make sure it’s memorable to people or else you’re going to run into trouble.

There’s one very important aspect of choosing a name that most people and companies overlook.  When choosing your name (handle) you need to consider what the majority of people will type when they think of you.  Because most people follow hundreds or even thousands of people, and when someone wants to say something about you they’re going to type  “@” and the auto-complete on most Twitter services will display all the followers you have that begin with what ever you type.

Example:

When You Type The Letter T

If you pick a name that isn’t common, or isn’t the most memorable part of it you’re making it hard for people to Tweet you.

Good Examples:

@TimhortonsYQR

@ColdStoneYQR

@ReginaPolice

@RockcreekTandG

If your business or organization name begins with “Regina” then feel free to use it.  But if it doesn’t, again, you’re making it hard for people to find you.

Bad Twitter name examples:

‏@PFFish_Retail

@sexymomma

@bentlygtcspeed

Remember, when you don’t use your real name, you’re branding yourself as whatever the name you choose.  When you put YQR or anything else in front of your name/brand you’re making it very difficult for people to Tweet you.

Before You Create Your Next Newsletter, Read This…

your-newsletter-is-incredibly-boringToday, every man, women, child, company, not-for-profit organization or any public entity, all have the freedom to create whatever they want and publish it online.  Think about it for a minute.

Everyone is a media outlet.

Ten years ago, there were too many hurdles to jump through before you could get your own website.  Today, a site can be developed as fast as your hosting company can get you on to their server.  We’re talking hours, not months, weeks, or days.  On Twitter and Facebook you can have an audience within minutes of signing up.

When something that’s traditionally been expensive, like communication to an audience, becomes incredibly inexpensive (almost free) inevitably more people will utilize it.  That means there will be a lot of unintentional communication (more noise than signal).  Companies begin communicating without understanding the repercussions and soon will alienate their past and potentially future customers.  It happens on Facebook daily, updates that don’t solve a problem or entertain, just useless noise.

Here’s my warning.

Have you seen the Unsubscribe button on Facebook?

Unsubscribe

With one click, any one of your “friends/people” who like your page can silence everything you publish.  That’s just Facebook.

Filters on e-mail allow anyone to block your address if you’re sending them e-mails they don’t want.

Twitter’s the easiest, they can just simply unfollow you.

Remember, everyone’s a publisher now, if you or your company are trying to communicate something to an audience, it better be anticipated, engaging, relevant, timely, helpful, or entertaining.  If it’s not, no one is going to listen and you’re wasting your time.

Maybe it’s time to revisit your communication strategy.

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