This App Makes Sharing Easier

social media

Social media connections

I’m always looking for cool new ways to make my blogging and Social Media more efficient and effective.  Recently, I rediscovered a free tool that I really love, but haven’t used in a while.

It’s called BufferApp (www.bufferapp.com).   Don’t let the name fool you, it’s a website, not a phone app. When you create a free account, BufferApp allows you to link to your Social Media platforms and schedule posts for the future.  As I read through my email and the blogs I follow, BufferApp makes it easy to share interesting links, upcoming events and helpful tips with my readers.

I found BufferApp a few years ago, and fell in love with it for several reasons.

1)    It’s free!  Of course, there are paid options, but if you are just starting out with your Social Media effort, the free BufferApp can get you started.

2)    Did I mention that it’s really easy to use?  There are plenty of tools available that will offer some of the same features, but I find BufferApp very user friendly.  Setting it up and using it is effortless, so you can focus on finding good material to post instead of trying to figure out how to use the tool.

3)    BufferApp has their own URL shortening tool that you can use inside the app. For those of you newer Tweeters, URL shortening is extremely important because a Tweet is limited to 140 characters.  If you share a link, you’ll want to add your own comments as to why your followers should click through.

4)    Even the free option has analytics that show you how your Tweets and posts perform.   This is my favorite feature.  When you post through BufferApp, you can see what kind of response you generated.  Did readers click through?  Did they retweet?  Like it? When you open the analytics tab, you’ll see the analytics presented in an easy to read and understand format.  That’s how I know that my followers respond to InfoGraphics most favorably.

5)    Since I first signed up for BufferApp, they’ve added FaceBook, LinkedIn and Google+ options so that you can share posts there, too.  They’ve done this while maintain the user-friendly interface that attracted me to them originally.

Do you have a favorite tool that makes your online life easier?

Guilty Secret, Revealed

This past Sunday, thanks to the end of Daylight Savings Time for this year, we all “gained” and extra hour.

leisure book

Good books improve our writing

I feel like what someone does with an extra hour of free time says a lot about the person.  So, what did I do with my free hour?  Considering my reputation as the “word girl” and reader of good books, I would like to say that I was rereading Pride and Prejudice.  However, the truth is I spent my extra hour reading a recently discovered Stuart Woods novel.  I thought I had read all of his books, until I found several unfamiliar titles at the library last week.

For those of you who don’t know Stuart Woods, he is a prolific writer of suspense novels.  He’s penned forty-four so far, with several more scheduled for publication in early 2014. Twenty-eight have been New York Times best sellers.  In my own defense, I must say that when I consume mental junk food, I go for quality.

Of course, as I read, I’m thinking about what makes these novels so irresistible.  When I pick up one, I’m literally driven to finish it.  I’ve got to know if Stone Barrington foils the bad guys lurking outside his office/mansion, if Holly Barker saves the day or if Lance Cabot is really a double agent.  What is this writer’s technique for drawing the reader in?

I find myself intrigued by how nuance in word choice makes such a difference in how we visualize what we are reading.  For example, in one scene, Woods describes Stone as “digging in” to a plate of pasta.  As I read this, I see someone holding their fork (or spoon) in their fist like a young child who is learning to feed himself.  Contrast this with the word picture created if Stone simply sits down to eat, or if an elegant waiter serves the meal.

Herein lies the secret of Woods attraction.  His writing is colorful and descriptive.  He pulls me along into the story.  If feel like I know the characters because he makes me see them.

It’s not that his characters are deep.  There is really no psychological development of them.  The plots are fast moving and the characters never engage in any sort of introspection.  I, as the reader, though, am trying to figure out what’s really going on.  I know that Woods main character is headed for trouble.  Somehow things are not as they appear on the surface, and I can’t stop reading until I find out the rest of the story.

To write well, we need to read good material.  For a marketing writer, Stuart Woods is actually a pretty good role model.  He is a master of keeping readers engaged and keeping them coming back for more. Of course, that’s we have to achieve in our blog posts, emails and other marketing writing we produce.

What do your favorite writers do that keeps you coming back?

Building Your Personal Brand

I’m in the process of re-launching my business, so thoughts of branding are top of mind.  Of course, studying and understanding brands has been one of favorite topics in marketing for years.

For solopreneurs like me, and many of my readers, building our own personal brand is the key to our success.  Some of the best examples of personal branding come from the entertainment world.  In fact, one of my favorite entertainers, Dolly Parton, is a case study in building a powerful personal brand.

What is the secret to her phenomenal success?

First of all, she knows who she is.  From an early age, she was a singer and songwriter.  According to her biography, her mother was writing down original lyrics for her when she was four years old.  At age nine, she was performing on local radio.  By the time she graduated from high school, she had made a record and appeared on the Grand Old Opry.

After high school, she moved to Nashville and continued to pursue her passion for songwriting and performing.  In the years since Dolly first got off the bus in Nashville, many talented people have come and gone.  She, however, has incredible staying power.  It’s not just her phenomenal talent, but the way she connects with her audience.

I don’t really like country music, but I feel a personal connection to Dolly and her story.  Her hometown is about two hours from mine, so we share a cultural frame of reference.  I admire the difference she has made for women in the business world and for the people of Southern Appalachia.

When Dolly came on the scene, the music business was very much a man’s world.  The pivotal moment in Dolly’s career came when she was approached by Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Pressley’s business manager.  She was excited that Elvis wanted to record her song, “I Will Always Love You.”  However, the contract offered was not a good deal for her, so she declined.  This was a really gutsy thing to do, and she was criticized for passing up the “opportunity” to have Elvis record her song.

So, did standing up against the music establishment ruin her career?  On the contrary, it made her career.   Elvis didn’t record the song, but literally dozens of other performers have.  It’s been a hit in several genres and several languages, in countries in every hemisphere, a theme song for hit movies , and a perennial favorite on “talent” shows.

Most important of all, this business move made everyone sit up and take notice.  Not just a dumb blond, Dolly is a savvy business woman.  She is quoted as expressing sadness that Elvis didn’t record her song, because she would love to hear him sing it.  However, it was a business decision, period.  Only hardheaded business decisions would allow her to accomplish her dream of making a difference in the world.

And what a huge difference it is!  She has touched the lives of millions around the world through the 5,000 songs she has written and the dozens of songs she has recorded.  Many women in entertainment credit her with inspiring them with her story.  And it doesn’t stop there.

In 1987, she became personally involved in projects aimed at economic development in East Tennessee.  The Dollywood Company operates the Dollywood Theme Park and other family entertainment venues that bring much needed jobs to the area.

Understanding that literacy is the key to success in life, Dolly established Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.  Families in this program receive books, free of charge, to encourage a love of reading in the home.   Hearing of the program’s success, other communities asked for assistance in replicating it.  Today, the program has been carried by local volunteers to communities around the world and impacts hundreds of thousands of families.

Here are my top lessons on brand from Dolly:

1)      Know who you are

2)      Stay focused on your vision

3)      Make decisions that move you forward toward your goals and your vision, even when they are unpopular.

Who’s personal brand inspires you?

Word of Mouth Advertising: A True Story

Several weeks ago, I returned from a freelance writing assignment to find the skylight in my living room filled with a swarm of winged insects.

I was, of course, horrified, and immediately thought of termites busily eating my home.  Or, maybe it’s just a re-infestation of the moths that had invaded my pantry last year, invading wide selection of grocery items.  Unsure of what else to do, I called and scheduled a visit from Solo Termite.

When I had the original problem with the moths, I bought a can of cinnamon spray, safe for people and pets.  With nothing to lose, I shot a stream of the fragrant spray into the skylight.  Whatever the flying insects were, the cinnamon spray killed them immediately.

I dutifully collected several of the fallen corpses so that Wes, the technician from Solo Termite, could take a look when he arrived.  During the coming week, I kept a careful eye out for more of the pests.

The evening of the swarm, I attended a business event and was telling the story of my buggy horror to several friends.  We discussed whether these could be termites.  Someone commented that if termites were easily killed with cinnamon spray, why do we all spend considerable sums to prevent them from chewing our houses down around our ears?

When Wes arrived to evaluate the bugs and do a treatment, I described the incident and gave him the sample insect.

Yes, he told me excitedly, these are termites.  They are a variety know as dry wood termites that hang out in ceilings and attic spaces.  I took him inside the house so I could point out where the swarm originated, and he found the hole they had created to enter the house.  This is the best-case scenario.  The entry point was really obvious, and easily reached.  All that’s required in this case is a quick application of the permanent termite treatment.  If the entry point can’t be found, then tenting the entire house is sometimes needed.

I posed the question about why we all invest heavily in termite programs if a few squirts of a nontoxic spray will kill them.  Wes smiled.  Then he explained the truth about termite eradication.  It seems the termites we see are easy to kill.  Spraying water on them can kill them.  But the ones we see are the workers.

The reason we need Solo Termite or a similar service is to attack the source – the Queen.  She is very hard to kill and stays hidden in the ground or the beams of the ceiling, laying 20,000 or so eggs at a time.  The most effective termite treatment is carried back to the colony to kill the hidden termites.

This is an outstanding example of powerful word of mouth advertising.  Wes was really just doing his job, but he did it in a way that caused me to share about it.  His enthusiasm for his craft is infectious.  Throughout the visit, which only took a few minutes, he was engaged in educating me, his customer, about termites, what my situation was, applying the needed treatment and explaining what to look for in the coming days.

I enjoyed the conversation, felt a sense of relief that the problem had been resolved, and have related the story to several people.  Solo Termite has earned word of mouth advertising.

Every business owner wants to create word of mouth advertising.  Doing so is both an art and a science.  In the case of Solo, a technician who really enjoys what he does and helps customers understand why the service is necessary is their best advertisement.  Imagine the same situation, but instead of enthusiastically answering my questions and explaining all about termite habits, he had given perfunctory answers, done the job basic job and left.  I would not be talking, or writing about the incident.

What inspires you to tell the story of an experience you had with a business?

A Writer’s Rant on Why Grammar Matters

As a writer who makes her living writing marketing materials, I am frequently exposed to the idea that grammar doesn’t really matter.

Usually, this statement is made in the context that effective sales writing may not always conform to the rules of grammar.

I personally find myself wandering slightly from the path of strict adherence to those deadly rules when breaking them works.  For example, a sentence fragment may be used to create emphasis or get my point across.  I’ve definitely had to loosen up a bit, and try not to imagine the glowering face of Miss Isabel Keith, my seventh grade English teacher, as I write.

It was Miss Keith who assigned hours of homework diagramming sentences, which, I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with.  Now, however, I am glad for all those hours spent understanding the structure of the English language.

The Dalai Lama XIV is quoted as saying “Learn the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”  That’s particularly true of writing in English.

Our language is a complex one, and the rules are sometimes hard to comprehend.  The rules, though, give us a framework so that our readers can easily understand what we are trying to communicate.

Just yesterday, I was reading something that came up on an internet search.  The article was so badly written that I had a hard time following the writers meaning.  For example, there was a word that was either incorrectly used or incorrectly spelled.  I figured out what the writer intended to say (I think), and continued to read on.  They obviously failed to use a spell check program, which would have found the mistake, whether is was a spelling or a usage error.

There were numerous other mistakes that make the writing hard to understand.  While there were a few nuggets of useful information, my estimation of the writer’s credibility was so low, I would never recommend it to my readers.  The viral potential of such a shoddy piece of “information marketing” is negligible, in my opinion.  The point of submitting articles is to become know as an expert.  An article that has incorrect usage and/or spelling, and sentences which are so badly crafted they baffle the reader, won’t enhance your reputation as an authority.

When we recommend, link to or forward an article, we are, by implication, giving the seal of approval to whoever published it.  If they don’t take the time to verify their work and to run a simple spelling and grammar check , how can you trust their professionalism?

The purpose of writing is to communicate.  Knowing and following the rules of grammar make reading easy for your audience.  For me, reading well done writing is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Conversely, struggling to determine the meaning of badly written communication is a source of irritation.

What are your thoughts?