Guidelines to Writing an Effective Blog post

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Blogging is a great way to share ideas, tips and tactics with your readers. It is also a platform where you can strengthen your influence in your field and network in a more creative way. However, developing content for a blog can be challenging, especially for the novice writer.

In order to develop a blog that is relevant and valuable to your readers, it is important to establish a few guidelines. Here are a few guidelines that I keep in mind when I’m writing a blog post. Remember, these are only a few basic guidelines to get you started, you should establish a list of your own that contains elements you need to write more effectively.

Research your topic thoroughly

Often times, bloggers and writers find difficulty in creating interesting and informative content. Although there are many reasons for this difficulty, it is primarily because the creator didn’t spend enough time researching the topic. Research, especially of more influential sources, helps you gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

There are many resources available on the internet to gain an in-depth understanding of your topic. Begin by searching the top authorities in the field you are writing about. By incorporating their data and expertise into your content in the form of links to their pages, you will give your readers the opportunity to dig deeper into the subject and add greater value to your content.

Know your Audience

To me this is one of the most important elements, after all you are writing for your readers. Although this blog post is written primarily for attorneys, Haley Odom offers some great questions to ask yourself in order to get to know your audience.

Knowing your readers helps you develop blog topics that are valuable to their needs and interests. Utilizing tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Tweet Deck will help you get to know your target audience’s interests, behaviors, online activities and perceptions. Not only will this help you build a great topic list, it will keep your readers coming back for future content.

Use structured, simple and readable language

Structure is one of those words that used to make me cringe. It gave me visions of a drill sergeant trying to conform me to someone’s idea of me. However, as I aged, I realized that structure to a degree was a necessity for life. It became apparent that without structure, there’s chaos. This is also true in writing. Structured pages are like the framework of your posts, similar to the foundation of a building, adding strength and definition to your layout. Managing your content in a logical structured format by using appropriate headings, sub-headings and body formats is also a good way to make your content search engine friendly.

Language is another important part of the content. Your language should be effective in supporting your topic. For example, if you’re writing a blog about a controversial topic, don’t use humor to get your point across. Readers can find this offensive and distasteful and can result in negative consequences.

Give it Personality

The success of your blogging career greatly depends on how well you develop your own personality into your blog.  Letting your own personality shine throughout your posts gives your readers insight into who you are.  If you naturally use humor when you tell stories, then use humor throughout your blog, taking into account the topic of course.

Having a set of fundamental guidelines will help you maintain consistency throughout your blog site. Of course your list of primary elements will differ from mine, after all we are all unique in our own way, but they should consist of a combination of personality and industry best practices.  The most important guideline is to have fun.

Have some other guidelines or advice for begging bloggers? Share your comments, techniques or advice below.

 

 

Photo Credit: tremendoussaint.blogspot.com

 

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The Future of Social Media in Business Strategies

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There is no arguing that social media has opened doors for the business world to better engage with consumers. One may even go so far as to say that social media has brought business entities down to the level of the consumer. No more are consumers viewed as numbers but as a valued part of the business equation. However, not all businesses are jumping on the “social media bandwagon” because they believe it’s a fad and like most fads, it will be replaced with something new.

Social Media – More than Fad?

Social media appeared on the scene and quickly became a sensation by providing a platform in which individuals can share their opinions, concerns and content. Technology, more specifically, mobile technology, aided in moving it further by providing a means to share on the go. With cell phones and tablets we have the ability to instantly acquire needed information no matter where we are; in our cars, at the café or even while we’re shopping. Social media has undoubtedly something truly useful to offer the world, a purpose. So is social media a fad? I believe it is far more than a fad, it is integral part of who we’ve become as a society and whether you are for or against these advances in technology, social media, in my opinion, is here to stay.

How will Social Media evolve?

During the last decade, we’ve seen social media evolve from a fad to a phenomenon that has triggered a paradigm shift in the way the world communicates. We have also seen many changes in the frameworks of businesses that have embraced social media. These companies are more focused on establishing a relationship that encourages two-way conversations instead of pushing content to just make a sale. Social media has also enabled marketers to develop campaigns that are more informing, entertaining and leaves an impression in ways that would not have been possible even thirty years ago. Not only has social media changed the way a business operates, it has changed the way we as a society operate and for this reason I see a future where social media is more prevalent. There are many indicators in place today that can help predict how social media will evolve. Here are a couple aspects that I found provides a clearer picture of the social media of the future.

Increase in Use

Technology isn’t just for the young anymore. Looking around my immediate circle, I have seen more mobile users coming from the baby boomer generation (those 55 and older). In a 2012 study by Pew Research Center reveled that cell phones are now being used by 91% of adults with 56% of these adults owning smartphones. As a matter of fact, their research showed an increase of technology use in general for older Americans. Social media use among internet users ages 65 and older also grew 150%, from 13% in 2009 to 33% in 2011. This indicator shows that social media is being adapted, all be it gradually, by the majority of society and that social media certainly affects how we engage with one another across all venues and ages

Increased Integration

The onset of wearable devices such as Google Glass and Samsung’s smart watch, has brought us to new levels of technology integration. As a matter of fact, I was surprised to find a device by Owlet Care that monitors your infant’s vitals right from your smartphone. These devices will continue to increase and eventually blur the lines between virtual and reality spheres. We have already seen mobile apps that allow us to quickly move between platforms and in the future I see social media blending the personal and business world to create a seamless integration that unites them as one entity. In this future, marketers will need to focus more on social content that is adds value to the relationship more than the products. As a result, Consumers will see an increase in marketing that is more interactive and valuable.

The business framework of the future will be far different from today. In the future we will see businesses that are more social and connected with their customers and in turn we will see consumers more loyal to these brands. The business network will be filled with more skilled employees that can adapt and change with the need of the consumer and their online environment. Social media will continue to evolve and become an integral part of our daily lives. As technology evolves, so will social media and the gap between our digital and virtual worlds will become smaller. Many still believe that social media is just a fad that will fizzle and die, but I believe it will evolve into a permanent outlet that will become the central hub of our daily activities.

 

How do you think Social Media will evolve? Do you think it will change the way Businesses operates? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Photo Credit: http://francis-moran.com/



Viral Marketing Initiatives

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As crafters, we want to develop marketing initiatives that effectively spread the word about our products. In this blog post I want to look at some characteristics of marketing campaigns that initiated their ability to “go viral”.

What are Viral Marketing Initiatives?

We have all heard the term about things “going viral,” but do you really understand what it means? When I presented the question to my circle of influence, I was surprised at how many of them didn’t “really” understand what the term meant. So I did a little research and found the consensus of experts agree that something goes viral when it is “viewed by a very high number of people in just a short period of time” With that being said, we can define viral marketing initiatives as strategies that focus on spreading information or opinions from person to person.

Now that you understand what going viral is, let’s take a look at a few common characteristics of some content that achieved this status.

Emotion

According to BuzzSumo, the three most popular emotions invoked in viral campaigns are Awe (25%), Laughter (17%) and amusement (15%). Consequently, content that evokes positive emotions gained more shares than those that were negative. Emotions drive the majority of human behaviors including how we make decisions, how we react to situations, how we develop a mind-set about our surroundings and even influences our level of loyalty.

Another study by the New York Times indicates that people share because they find the information valuable and useful to the recipient in their circle. In the craft world, creating content that is useful, like tutorials would result in more readers wanting to share them. This how-to video on adding a picture to wood went viral in 2011 and resulted in 3,302,673 views, adding 4,280 subscribers and 14,994 likes.


Images

Images are probably the most shared content on the internet today, which is why sites like Pinterest and Instagram are such a success. But not all images are created equal and not all audiences will experience the same reaction. For this reason, you need to select your images with your target audience in mind. I was curious what experts contributed to the popularity of images and uncovered two primary reasons.

Jeff Bullas illustrates one reason why images are such sharable content in is article 6 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Include Images in Your Marketing Infographic. He explains that we live in the “Age of Visual Culture” where an increase of photos taken and the popularity of social media have contributed to images becoming a “universal language.” In addition, “with more than 2.5 billion camera phones in use we are entering a new dynamic era around image creation and content.”
Abhilasha Shah, a PR/Communications Intern, studying Communications and Psychology at University of Michigan illustrates another reason why images are so popular in her blog post, Why We Prefer Pictures: It’s the Way That We’re Wired.
In her research, she discovered that our brains are wired to process visual content over written content. She also found that articles containing visual content received “94 percent more readership and exposure than those with mere text”. Images also have the ability to tell a story and invoke an emotional connection, which brings a whole new understanding to the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

As a crafter, images are vital to our business, especially if we rely more on e-commerce than face to face sales. Careful composition and detail can make the difference when connecting with customers, so take time to create your images.

Humor

Nothing gets people sharing more than a good laugh. Humor evokes a positive reaction (emotion), no matter how bad your day is going, exposure to something funny will make you smile. As a matter of fact, some marketing experts go as far as to suggest that using humor in your advertising is a fundamental way to develop positive relationships. And we all know that having a positive relationship with customers is important to building trust and loyalty, two prime ingredients to repeat sales.

Entrepreneur.com suggests that humor can be incorporated into advertising in these ways:

  • Business name – Choose a name that includes familiar sayings or sounds similar.
  • Promotion – add humors pictures of your product being used.
  • Packaging – showcase your product in a package that enhances it.
  • Product – create products that make people laugh, or invokes a positive emotion.

Encourage Sharing

Another way to get your campaigns moving is to encourage your readers to share. Remember, people share what they find useful to others in their circle, so create content that is social by nature. Incorporate easy sharing options by displaying icon links to the popular social networks. Most web hosting companies have this ability built into their hosting packages. For example, I use WordPress to host this blog and utilize the plugin, social media widget that allows me to add links to all my social media profiles in any available area. Visit the admin area of your webhosting account and explore what tools are available to link your content to your social media profiles.

Have a Cause

Everybody can relate to content that supports a cause. While not all causes are of interest to all people, all people are interested in at least one cause. An example of using video combined with social media is the latest “Ice Bucket Challenge” phenomenon initiated by the ALS Association. This campaign went viral because it challenged it’s viewers to take action and encouraged them to challenge others in order to raise money and bring awareness to the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


I believe this campaign was a viral success because it utilized all of the five characteristics I introduced. It began by invoking an emotion (empathy), it included images, the videos were creative and funny, it encouraged sharing and it supported a great cause.

What elements do you think are important to include in your marketing campaigns to encourage sharing?

Premo Polymer Clay Millefiori Canes

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Creative Canes

Creative Canes Etsy Shop

 

 

As a blogger and a crafter, I am always looking for new ideas and inspiration and I recently connected with Melanie, the owner of Creative Canes, on Facebook and Etsy and found her shop to be really fascinating.

Melanie works with Premo Polymer Clay to create mostly Millefiori Canes. If you have never heard of this term you are not alone, as a matter of fact, I had to have Melanie enlighten me on exactly what her craft was.

What is Millefori?

Millefiori is an Old Italian glass-working term (Mille = thousand, fiori = flowers)

Creative Canes Etsy Shop

It was originally made with glass but it was adapted into polymer clay because of the clays ability to hold a solid shape.

The term millefiori cane is basically a rod/stick of clay with the image running through the entire length of the item.

How to use a “Cane”?

I sell raw canes which allows people to craft and design their own items before their final baking in an oven to cure. After the curing time the item will be ready for use. To use a cane – With a tissue blade or any thin sharp blade you take thin slices from the cane and decorate with the item of your choosing.

What can you make with the canes?

Your imagination is a great tool when working with my canes. Anything that can be heated to 2750 F can be covered and cured. I could list well over 100 projects for polymer clay canes here is a short list.

In the kitchen
covering utensil handles, drawer handle knobs, glass salt and pepper shakers, jars for your sugar and flour, special jam jar gifts.

Around the house
light switch plate covers (test in oven first before covering), glass vases, make up brush handles, photo frames, decorative fan and light switch pull cord, votive candle holders.

 

Personal

Making unique one of a kind pendants and beads, covering pens (I use the matte black bic pen, not the clear ones). Business card holders.

The list goes on and on with what can be created, it is a really nice way to create one of a kind gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Melanie for all the great information on your craft. I really enjoyed learning about what your “canes” were and how they can be used as a basis for so many creations. If you are a crafter in search of a unique material to use in your creations you definitely have to visit Melanie’s Etsy shop for one of her beautiful designed canes.

Ready for Some Holiday Shopping?

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There is nothing more exciting than the hustle and bustle of the Fall season! The beautiful colors of the changing leaves, the cooler temps and most of all the season’s holidays, are what makes this my favorite season (minus the allergies).

During the upcoming holiday season, I would like to introduce you to some of my fellow Etsy Shop Owners.  Each of these shops feature unique items that are great for gift giving and holiday decorating ideas. I hope you enjoy visiting each of them for your holiday gift giving ideas!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/AfghansOffTheHook

 

 

Afghans Off The Hook features some beautiful crocheted items like the crochet cowl pictured. The shop owner is Rachel and she is located in Iowa.  Rachel’s choice of patterns and vibrant colors make these crocheted beauties extraordinary. Crochet items make great gifts for any occasion and especially for that hard to buy for person on your list.  She will also do custom orders if you have something personal in mind.

 

 

 

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ArdentPrints

Ardent Prints

 

This next shop is from across the ocean, Japan to be exact! Ashley is the owner of Ardent Prints and has some absolutely beautiful illustrated prints.  Her flair for utilizing materials and techniques truly showcases her artistic talents and vision.  Just as unique, Ashley’s story on how she took her passion for art and created her business is inspiring! Ashley also offers custom orders.

 

 

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/KabiDesigns

Kabi Designs

 

 

The owner of Kabi Designs is Karni, and she has taken Polymer Clay to new levels! Her finely detailed creations are gorgeous and definitely unique.   If you are looking for items that will turn heads, you will want to stop by Karni’s shop!

 

 

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Ghirlandiamo

Ghirlandiamo

 

 

 

If home decorating is your goal, visit Lia at Ghirlandima for some beautiful wreaths and decorations made with some Italian love. Her creations begin with natural materials then mixed with passion and a vision to create décor that would enhance any holiday decorating.

 

 

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/DoodlebugsTreasures

Doodlebugs Treasures

 

 

Doodlebugs Treasures features many items perfect for gift giving.  I especially liked the microwave potato bag! What a great way to microwave potatoes, tortillas and corn on the cob. They also have some great gifts for your fury friends.

Crafting A Creative Blog

@nancyscrafting | August 8, 2014

 

Being part of the creative industry has allowed me to pursue many hobbies and passions. From writing as a young child to photography and crafting, I have been on a journey that has developed many wonderful skills and experiences. The best part of this journey is the ability to share these experiences with others, and one way I have found to do this is through blogging.

As with all platforms of communication, blogging has an unwritten set of guidelines that govern design, content and interaction. These guidelines keep the blogging community free from clutter and chaos. Today we are going to look at a few best practices for creating a blog for your craft business. In addition I want to suggest this great resource, Best Practices for Bloggers: Dimensions for Consideration for an in-depth look at some basic best practices for bloggers of any industry

 

Make it Personal

In the creative industry each participate is as unique as their product. Therefore, your blog should be just as unique. Take the time to personalize your blog with content that lets your readers know who you are and what you’re passionate about. Maintaining a unified theme is the best way to let your readers know the type of content you are providing. It is also the best opportunity to keep your readers interested and coming back.

As part of your personalization, you should construct two very important pages, an about me page and a privacy policy. Your about me page is an introduction to who you are, therefore, include content that reveals who you are and what type of content they can expect. In other words, give your blog a “face” that readers can relate to. A privacy policy is a page that will tell your readers how you identify sources, standards for leaving comments, (including how they will cite used information), and standards on how others can re-use your own content. Basically, this page will tell your readers how the content on your site is governed and who is responsible.

 

Showcase your Products

Because the nature of our craft business is selling products, images of those products need to be as flawless as possible. There are many resources online to help you learn how to take pictures that portray your products in the best way. Liz Masoner, a photography expert, has a great blog post on specifically how to photo crafts for online selling and blogging. As a matter of fact, she has several great articles dealing with photography that is worth reading.


Make Connections

Talking to others who share your interest in crafting is a great way to build a network of mentors. It is also a must to stay connected with your customers. Most people today connect on one or more social media sites. As a crafter it is important to keep up with the engagements on your social media pages. These could be in the way of adding new products, informing them of upcoming events or anything to keep the lines of communications open. It is recommended to add at least one comment each day across each platform. Daily monitoring of comments on your social media pages is also necessary to respond promptly to any issues, orders or other comments.


The Social Side of Crafts

| @nancyscrafting | July 31, 2014

 

Every crafter knows that without people, you just have a hobby. Whether it is at an area craft show or online, engaging with customers in the craft world is more a necessity than an option.

In a time where words and images are more valuable than gold, engaging your business on social media can have many risks. However, it can also take your company to newer heights. In today’s blog I want to identify some risks a crafter may encounter when taking their craft business social.

If you don’t understand social media and how it works, you’re probably not ready to go social with your brand. Many people forget that the “social” in social media means you must let your guard down and be social. For some, the act of engaging on a “personal” level could be a little intimidating so they try to maintain professional boardroom persona, no laughs or personality, just business.

A crafter must understand that this lack of personal connection can reduce the value of the brand and lead to negative interactions. This is especially true in the craft world. It is a proven fact that people patronage a shop where they feel welcome and connected.

Another major risk to going social is time management. Social media requires constant monitoring and interacting. If you cannot devote a few hours a day responding to comments and questions, then social media will only be a frustrating task. Posting promotions or even links to interesting news in the craft industry, will keep your brand in front of your followers.

But don’t despair, social sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, where the prime activity is sharing images, can allow you to enter the social scene without the time constraints. And if you have a mobile device with the ability to instantly post images, you can keep your images fresh on the go.

The last risk I want to expose is reputations. With millions of users on the various social media platforms, the chances of your brand being circulated are pretty good. This also means that any negative comment, poorly composed image, misrepresentation or issue with products will have the same exposure. Preparing a plan that provides a way to handle negative media is necessary to ensure timely solutions.

Crafting and social media are two entities made for each other. Although there are risks to promoting your crafts online, the opportunities are far more valuable. Learning how to use social media properly is the key to success. Learn from the mistakes of others and prepare for any possible issue that may arise along the way. But most importantly, take the time to get started. Choose one or two platforms and master them, then add more as you see fit.

Best Mobile App for Business’s on the Go

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 @nancyscrafting | July 26, 2014

 

For those of us who depend on mobile devices, mobile applications have become an intricate part of our daily lives. This is especially true if you own a business and need to be connected to your clients and partners.

In my last post we looked at how to use social media to market your crafts, in today’s post I want to share one of my favorite mobile apps, Twitter and discuss how it helps me promote my craft business anywhere.

According to the statistics portal Statista, Twitter usage for the first quarter of 2014 reached 255 million monthly active users. With such a large network of users on Twitter, using it to connect and engage with your customers is just good business sense. After all, the purpose of marketing is to reach consumers where they are.


While I use all three of the major social networks, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, I find Twitter to be my most used app while I am on the go. I contribute this to the subconscious knowledge that entries must be short and to the point, an aspect that appeals to me.

Using Twitter for my craft business allows me to share many things with my followers. I can let them know about craft shows I will be attending and post images of my product displays. By linking tweets and photos to my website, I can increase traffic to products and even offer incentives, such as craft show discounts on items I am promoting.

With the average Twitter user accessing their newsfeed via a mobile device more often than a desktop, I have the ability to reach local consumers near a craft event. Using my devices GPS capabilities, I can add a location to my posts reaching followers that may be in the immediate area. In this way I can offer special promotions for my followers who visit my booth after receiving an update.

In essence, any of the mobile social applications on the market today are a great tool to include in your daily business activities. With the busy lifestyle of today’s consumers, mobile interaction is the primary way of reaching them. Therefore, using mobile versions of our favorite social networks will better keep us connected.

 

 

Image Source

Social is Mobile: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/SocialIsMobile.png

 


Using Social Media to Market Your Crafts

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@nancyscrafting | July 19, 2014

 

 

Social media is a great way to market your handmade crafts online. After all if you look at the internet as a whole, it is all about expressing creativity. From the programmers who develop our favorite networks to the entertainers we engage with on twitter, the creative industry is the thread that holds it all together.

As part of this creative industry, crafters should take advantage of social channels that will help them showcase their creativity. While there are many outlets on the Internet today, not all will provide the ultimate results. Today I am going to share a few must have channels I use in my own craft business.

There are many outlets available to set up an online shop. Sites like Shopify, Volusion, BigCommerce and Wix offers a complete package to get you started quickly. With these platforms you can create a website from a selection of templates in which they will host, register a domain, provide payment gateways and allow you to add from 100 to unlimited products all for a monthly fee. While these are great for most businesses, I recommend Etsy for your craft shop platform.

Etsy is an ecommerce platform created specifically for crafters. All items must be either handmade (or are supplies needed to create projects). Being a topic specific site, Etsy is able to market more effectively to that specific market. In this case, those who have an interest in handmade goods. Setting up a store and selling items on Etsy is both easy and cost effective. With a listing fee of only $.20, you could list a nice collection of products in your store. In addition, Etsy offers the capability of processing payments directly through their payment gateway allowing crafters to spend more time on creating great products. With built in tools to help you optimize and promote your shop, Etsy makes opening your online shop easy.

Although Esty provides some great tools to market your new shop both online and off, Pinterest is another must have tool for crafters. What could be easier than creating an album full of your wonderful products and then sharing that album with others? Not only is Pinterest one of the easiest marketing tools I have used, it is the most fun. The image based platform of Pinterest makes it a unique promoting tool for just about any product or service. Pinterest’s marketing manager, Kevin Knight, has some great tips on How to Promote Your Etsy Shop with Pinterest. I not only read it once, I bookmarked it as a priority reference sheet.

The last two must have tools I want to share is Facebook and Twitter. Social networking has become an intricate part of our lives and if you’re like me the most convenient way to keep in touch with others. I chose these two networks over any other for two reasons, because they are the most popular and because they are the most useful. These two networks allow you to communicate directly with your customers to encourage participation and sharing. Each platform is unique in the way you can use it to promote your online craft shop.

Facebook offers the ability to create a dedicated page for your shop and ways to promote it from within that page. Promoting with Facebook ads is economical and has helped me build a continual flow of traffic to my website. I also found that participating in groups that are craft oriented has enabled me to share with other people who enjoy crafting.

Twitter is the platform I choose to talk about everything crafty. It is especially useful for building a buzz around events and products I am promoting on my website. Unlike Facebook that provides users the ability to filter the information they receive, Twitter posts (known as tweets) is received by all your followers. Therefore, when you “tweet” a picture or a link to your website, article or event, it is seen by all your followers.

These tools have helped me build and promote my craft business online and obtain a steady increase of web traffic. The best thing is that I can manage it based on my available funds. This method may take a little longer to gain a return on investment, but I’m a firm believer in the phrase “slow and steady wins the race”.

 

To your success!

Nancy

 

Do you have some tips and techniques you found useful in building your business, craft or otherwise? Please feel free to share, there is no greater feeling than helping another succeed.

 

 

References

Image source

Social Media Signs: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/social-networks.png

Pinterest image: http://bigeyeagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/using-pinterest-for-business.jpg

Etsy Image: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-mages/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/7/15/1373911003993/etsy-008.jpg