Looking Forward to WordCamp US 2016

As we roll into the last few days of November, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what I am most looking forward to about WordCamp US 2016.

As we roll into the last few days of November, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what I am most looking forward to about WordCamp US 2016. I must limit this blog post to “most looking forward to” because, frankly, my list is so long and, well, you can see how often I’ve made time to blog this year.

So, ready? Here we go.

Working with Our Volunteers

I'm volunteering at WordCamp US 2016For the second year in a row, I’ve had the privilege to coordinate volunteers at WordCamp US. Along with my amazingly intelligent, insightful, thoughtful and ever-realistic colleague, Ingrid Miller, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know WordCampers from all over the world. These WordCampers (Can we make that a word please? I so prefer it to WordPressers.) come from near and far and generously give of their time, talent and knowledge. Sure, they get a free ticket, but honestly, that $40 savings does not even come close to equating to the value of their time.

What really amazed me last year was how hard some volunteers worked. They gave of themselves in ways that many paid employees won’t. I was so moved by that experience that when I was asked again to be a part of the organizing team for 2016, I said yes.

Meeting a Few People in Person

Here’s my short list of people I would like to meet in person:

Carrie Dils: Carrie is amazing on many levels, but what impresses me most about her is her self-deprecating style and thoughtful conversations on her podcast, OfficeHours FM. I’ve been listening to Carrie’s podcast for just under a year or so. I just love her happiness, her joviality and her ready acceptance that hard work is a must for success. I would love to thank her in person for being her, and for sharing of herself so generously through her podcast.

Chris Lema: Chris needs no introduction from me. I had the opportunity to meet him directly at Prestige last May, but I was too shy about it. (Shy is not typically a characteristic people associated with me.) Chris is such a nice guy and so welcoming of others in the community, but still, I couldn’t steel myself to say hello. I am focused on doing so at WordCamp US this year.

Matt Medeiros: Matt delivers a podcast like no other. The Matt Report is focused on business development and management for companies within the WordPress ecosystem. What sets Matt’s podcast apart is him: he talks openly about his own success and, perhaps more importantly, of his failures so that anyone listening take advantage of his experience and learn from it. I saw Matt (from across a hallway) at WordCamp US last year, but this year, I’m making a point to introduce myself to him.

And I would very much like to spend more than two minutes chatting with Cory Miller. He’s been so self-giving and candid with our community of late, that I know that even a five minute conversation with him would be of true value.

Running in Philly

I am a runner. I run as much for mental and psychological health as for physical health. One of my favorite activities when going to a new city is to go for a run. It’s an exciting way to see the sights, get a feel for the city’s vibe and learn my way around. While Philly is not new to me, I am a creature of the suburbs. I don’t stay overnight in Philly very often. As such, WordCamp US provides a great opportunity to get those “new city” runs in.

If you’re interested in going for a run, know that I start early: 5:30 am or so. Please connect with me or Tara Claeys on Twitter. (I believe that Tara runs at a more reasonable hour.)

Making Friends in the Hallway Track

Having attended a few WordCamps over the years, I’ve appreciate the value of the Hallway Track. Those informal conversations that happen outside of the formally organized talks and sessions, spontaneously growing when two or more people find themselves together. I’ve met so many people and made so many friends in these hallway track sessions. From a networking and community-building perspective, the Hallway Track is perhaps the most valuable aspect of a WordCamp. I am really looking forward to meeting new people. If you see me in the hallways at the Philadelphia Convention Center, please stop me and say hello.

When the evening of Sunday, 04-Dec-2016 arrives, I know I shall be exhausted. In some ways, I’m already looking forward to doing absolutely nothing on Monday, 05-Dec. Yet before then, I have lot of plans to make WordCamp US 2016 the best it can be for me – and for you.

If you’re still in need of ticket, don’t fret. Grab yours now.

Photo of WordCamp US 2015 by Casey.

Another 5 Valuable Blog Posts for Small Business Blogging

A selection of posts for small business owners that are primarily focused on intertwining online marketing efforts with in-person networking.

Small business blogging

Earlier this year, I published a post that filtered through the blogosphere to share valuable articles to help small business owners get better value from their blogging efforts. Since I received a lot of positive feedback from that post (mostly via email and Twitter), I am rolling out that format again. I’ve done the legwork so you can reap the rewards. Enjoy.

For this post, I primarily focused on intertwining online marketing efforts — blogging and inbound marketing — with offline efforts. As you can read below, the interaction of events, networking and blogging can pack a powerful punch for your small business.

1: A Blog is So Much More than JUST a Series of Blog Posts
12 Things You Should Be Using Your Blog For Besides Blogging is another gem from Corey Ediron of Hubspot fame.

2: Tie Your Online Efforts to In-Person Networking and Events
The minds at Philly Marketing Labs detailed 5 Reasons to Boost Your Marketing with In-Person Events. This is a post that I have read and re-read several times.

3: Online & In-Person, a Winning Combination
Another solid post from Darren RowseTraffc Technique 7: Networking and Collaboration

4: Affordable and Management Market Research on Your Smartphone
In Using Social Media to Test Your Ideas Before You Try to Sell It, Melinda F. Emerson highlights a brilliant tactic on the NY Times Small Business Blog.

5: A short and easy guide to keeping clear of social media gaffes and missteps
A no-nonsense and succinct guide to Top 5 Tips for Avoiding Social Media Fails from Stefan Töpfer.

As always, I welcome you to share links to great articles that you’ve found. Add ’em to the comments please!

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5 Cons of Scheduling Posted Content

The second in a two part series: 5 Cons of Scheduling Posted Content

Scheduling Posted Content

The second post in a two part series, I’m considering the cons of scheduling the publication of content, particularly as that functionality relates to inbound marketing for small businesses.

As you can read in the 5 Pros of Scheduling Post Content, I had intended to run this series over the course of two weeks. But then a significant back injury threw a few hurdles in the way and I am only getting around to publishing the cons side of the conversation a month later. I suppose we can add this anecdote to the pro side of the argument.

Cheers to Dave Miller for the push on Twitter to get this post live!

https://twitter.com/DaveJamesMiller/statuses/232054849095729152

Cons of Scheduling Posting

1. Appearing to be everywhere

It’s a matter of fact. A reality for small businesses. It’s simply not possible to be everywhere at all times. We don’t have the staff numbers to manage that. We also have work to do — we can’t always be marketing ourselves. There is a chance that if we appear to be everywhere on social media, especially when we had a major client project due, that this omnipresence could cause confusion and tension with our clients.

2. Lacking relevancy

Conversations move quickly on the internet. What we schedule for publication next week might no longer be relevant at that point. Someone else might have found the answer, developed a work-around or already shared the news. Pre-scheduled content can make us look old hat.

3. Seeming out of touch

Major global and local events happen every day. Taking a particular angle in a blog post that is appropriate this week might be completely insensitive or cruel next week. Our scheduled content can look sorely out of touch if something significant (and tragic) happens between the time we click the “schedule” button and the time it goes live on our blog or Twitter feed.

4. Failing to respond in real time

To be most effective, social media must focus on conversation. So, while our scheduled content may be poignant and fresh, if we’re out of the office for three days, we certainly won’t be able to respond to comments in the generally accepted time frame. It’s like we start a conversation and then walk out of the room before anyone has a chance to respond.

5. Forgetting the publication schedule

As small business owners, we’ve got a lot going on a daily basis. Keeping focused on what’s in front of us can be enough of a task without trying to recall what we’ve scheduled for publication tomorrow or next week. This runs the risk that we forget about our publication schedule, causing us to publish similar content twice or forget about the post that went live when we were on holiday.

In covering both sides of the coin, I have to say that I think there definitely is scope for scheduling posted content. Like most marketing approaches, using scheduled posts requires planning, forethought, savvy and a bit of luck.

What’s your take on it?

5 Pros of Scheduling Posted Content

The first in a two part series: 5 Pros of Scheduling Posted Content

Scheduling Posted Content

In mid June, I began to prepare to get out of the office for a few days. I had a vacation scheduled for the end of the month. I was looking forward to the break, and in particular, to the break from all the digital online activity. It was to be a break from the hustle and bustle of the online marketing world.

This preparation got me thinking about the value of scheduling the publication of content on this blog, on Twitter and elsewhere. As most readers know, on most content management systems for small businesses (like WordPress) and apps like Hootsuite, content can be scheduled for publication at a certain date and time. As part of a two post series, I will look at the pros and cons of such functionality, particularly as that functionality relates to inbound marketing for small businesses.

Pros of Scheduling Posting

1. Greater flexibility

As a blog reader, I appreciate when a writer established a publication schedule. Every Tuesday morning a new post is published. Or maybe it’s the third Wednesday of the month. Whatever. The point is that, as small business owners, we can’t always be in the office or online at our desired publication time. Scheduling posting can cover us when we have an important client meeting at our regular publication slot.

2. Increased efficiency

If we’re conducting an extended promotional campaign on Twitter, for example, it can be helpful to spend an hour or so at a single instance drafting, editing and scheduling a number of tweets which will be scheduled for publication throughout the week. We’re focused and attentive to the task and can make sure that

3. Avoiding distractions and hiccups

For small business owners, the “to do” list never really gets shorter. The “to do” items simply change names. A real value of scheduled publication functionality is that it can help ensure that we don’t forget or get too busy to carry on, for example, an inbound marketing campaign. We may want to run a series of blog posts connected by a topic stream. We might write a lengthy article on a particular topic and then divide that into a number of individual blog posts to be published over a few weeks. The publication scheduling feature ensures that those posts are published on time and in the intended order.

4. Covering more ground

This particular benefit is more for Twitter than for blogging. We may want to share links to important and relevant content on a daily basis. That can be difficult to manage on a day-to-day basis. Any small business owner will tell you that some days just get away. Scheduling a tweet a day, interspersed with our more organic tweets as and when we can, is an effective way to maintain a bigger social media presence.

5. Avoiding “Need something now”

We’ve all been there. A publication deadline looms before us. We feel its pressure and know that we have to get something online. Our mind wanders back to late last week when we had the hour of downtime. Why didn’t we write the post then and schedule it for publication today?

Of course, there are two sides to every coin. While there are clear advantages to scheduling posts and tweets in advance, there are also downsides. Stay tuned next week when I’ll publish a post covering 5 Cons of Scheduling Posted Content.

Content generation is difficult for small businesses

Tips and techniques for the on-going process of generating content for small business blogs.

As the owner and director of a small business, I am very well acquainted with the difficulties of trying to maintain a consistent and well-managed online marketing campaign. The creation of fresh, interesting and relevant content can be very difficult indeed for small businesses to achieve on an on-going basis. It requires a lot time and energy – time and energy that can be hard to find in the packed schedule of a managing a small business in a difficult economy.

My own blogging efforts have me writing, editing and posting on three primary outlets every month: liamdempsey.com, my company website and chickenmonkeydog. In addition to those sites, I post periodically on other blogs including Brainshark’s Ideas Blog and The Governance Partnership’s AOB (Any Other Blog). This list does not consider the posts that I write on monthly basis for clients. So, yes, I get it: it’s not easy to allocate resources to developing a convincing and valuable online marketing presence.

Here’s a short list of tips that I use to help keep me on track. (Confession: there are times that I fail to meet my own marketing targets. I admit that. It’s not easy to always stay on track.)

1. Plan, plan, plan

I cannot say this enough: strategic planning is key to a successful inbound marketing campaign. Knowing in advance what needs to be done and when makes it so much easier to ensure that there is sufficient time, resources and ideas for blogging. I review and update my own online marketing strategy every six months.

2. Keep an ideas list

Ideas for great blog posts pop into my head all the time. “Oh, there’s a blog post in here …” is a little phrase that regularly runs through my head. If I don’t take a minute to jot that thought down, I’m likely to lose it. I store my ideas list for blog content in Evernote. I can’t tell you how many times that list has proved hugely valuable to my blogging efforts.

3. Develop a method for writing

Those who write for a living tell us over and over: have a system for writing so that when the writing gets tough, the writing still gets done. For me, blog posts always start on paper. Generally, it’s bullet points in my work notebook. I’ll work through that outline to the point where I have a detailed picture of the complete post in my head. Then it’s onto the computer. I write directly in WordPress, or in Inbound Writer. I complete a draft, leave it for a day or so (or at least for a few hours), then edit and publish.

4. Carry a camera at all times

Have you ever seen a sign, a product or a landscape that captures that exact point you’ve been trying to drive home with a client for what seems weeks? Yeah, me too. With increasingly more powerful smart phones and point-and-shoot camera prices dropping like rocks, it’s now easier than ever to always carry a camera. Take a moment to stop and snap that picture. Capture that message. Photograph that moment. It could make that blog post we’ve so been wanting to publish.

5. Get back on the horse

I admitted it earlier in this post: Sometimes I fail to meet my own blogging targets. That’s life in the small business lane. Yet, I’ve learned that the sooner I force myself to get back on the blogging horse, the sooner my inbound marketing efforts will get back on track and delivering returns.

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Managing Online Resources for Blogging Content and Tech Tips

An approach on how to keep links to blog sites and online resources, sites and articles organized.

As a communications designer and small business blogger, I am ever on the look-out for quality reading material. Yet with so many fantastic blog sites and online resources out there, keeping links, sites and articles organized can prove overwhelming. The organizational process proves even more taxing when as I struggle to sync systems across my laptop, iPad and mobile phone.

My primary aims when in developing an organizational approach for managing online resources are twofold: (1) ease of use and (2) filter/search functionality. I want to bookmark items across all platforms (on websites, on Twitter and via RSS) and all devices. I then want to tag, filter and search those stored items on any of my personal computing devices.

What follows is my approach for managing it all. Certainly there are others — this is simply what currently works for me.

For industry news and trends: Pocket (formerly Read It Later)

I’ve been dabbling in Pocket for a little over a month now. I find it very helpful in meeting the two primary aims mentioned above. For a great overview about Pocket, check out Coreen Tossona’s post about it. There’s no point in me posting what Coreen has already written succinctly.

For tech tips and “how to” articles: Pocket

As recently as last week, I used Delicious.com to save technical and “how to” articles. However, there is no great way to save links, tweets and the like directly to Delicious from Twitter. Delicious.com does not play nicely with the iPad either — no Delicious.com app. Since I source so many links and articles while using my iPad, Delicious.com is relegating itself to the dinosaur pile. As of Monday of this week, I’ve transitioned to Pocket for this task.

Unfortunately, I still have not yet worked out how to migrate Delicious.com bookmarks to Pocket. Ideas anyone?

For blogs that I follow: Google Reader and Flipboard

When I discover a valuable news or tech blog, I add it to my RSS feed to my Google Reader account. When I have some time, or when I’ve hit my dedicated reading time, I’ll go through those saved feeds using Flipboard. Google Reader is a great desk tool, and my preferred option for searching for a specific topic or post within my RSS feeds. But for browsing though feeds, Flipboard is ideal. The user interface on the iPad is so graceful and it’s dead easy to save a particular post to Pocket for subsequent reading/tagging.

Of course, there are new apps and bookmarking sites being launched on an almost constant basis. Only time will tell how long I keep using my current setup.

5 non-monetary benefits to shoot for with small business blogging and social media

A list of 5 non-monetary benefits that can be attained through blogging, social media and online marketing

Blogging goals

As a communications designer, I often coach clients on the value and methodology of small business blogging. I regularly advise on the benefits of inbound marketing, making sure to include plenty of reasons that do not directly relate to sales. On the back of those conversations, I am sharing a list of 5 non-monetary benefits that can be attained through blogging, social media and online marketing. The list is focused on small business bloggers, but the perks certainly apply in other situation as well.

1. Stay tuned-in to industry news, trends and pulse

As a small business blogger, you will be more aware of the news and trends in your industry. You’ll follow relevant news and blog sites so that you can flag up and respond to those updates on your own website. That practice of monitoring the news and trends will keep you more in tune with your industry. Through an active social media presence, you will know more than your competition about what is going on in your industry.

2. Maintain a bigger library of case studies

Men and women in sales love stories about how their products or services have helped out clients in need, or how they saved a major customer project. By using stories to sell products and services, sales people make a stronger connection with their own key audience. If you’re involved in sales — and which small business owners or bloggers are not? — then your online marketing efforts are bound to contribute to your case study library. You’ll always be looking for new posts and exciting stories to share on your small business blog; you can then use those same stories during a sales visit. That’s an inbound marketing win that pays offline dividends too.

3. Grow a business network more quickly

Business networking, especially for small businesses, is all about expanding our list of contacts. Online marketing, and especially inbound marketing, is a very productive way to network more effectively. Your small business blog, your Twitter account, and your other social media outlets give you an ever-growing way to contact and develop business relationships with your target market and audience. You don’t need to wait for the next meet-up or networking event. You can connect today on your blog by inviting comments from a potential customer.

4. Increase knowledge of specific online resources

The internet is a treasure trove of knowledge, information and best practices. You can find important “how to” advice, tips and resources about practically every industry. Through an active web presence and social media focus, you can develop an online library to sites that keep you ahead of your competition. You know the sites because you’re online and because you have them bookmarked (I use Delicious.com), you can quickly refer back to them as and when needed. Your inbound marketing campaign might also include sharing links to these resources through your blog and social media presence.

5. Be perceived as truly knowledgeable

Knowledge is power. By focusing your inbound marketing campaign around your blog — where you share ideas, news and guidance about your industry — you will develop a reputation as a knowledgeable person. Sure, it will take time, but that reputation will grow both online and offline as your key audiences come to rely on your social media presence as a valuable resource.

The benefits, all very attainable through online marketing, can provide great value to your business, even if they are not immediately connected with sales. Online marketing can deliver so much more than just sales — so be sure to demand much more of it.

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5 Valuable Blog Posts for Small Business Blogging

Links to 5 solid blog posts about small business blogging and inbound marketing.

Small business blogging

As a small business blogger who blogs on the topic of small business blogging, I am regularly on the look out for valuable blog posts about small business blogging. (How’s that for packing a first sentence with keywords? Ha-ha!) Honestly though, I appreciate that it can be difficult to filter through all the noise out there when looking for articles that cut to the heart of the matter and that offer real insight into the often-hyped topic of small business blogging.

To help sift through that virtual clutter, I thought I’d start sharing links to well-crafted, insight-led and on-point blog posts that demonstrate a solid understanding of this important inbound marketing topic. That’s my plan anyway. Consider my publication schedule updated. Keep reading to review my first batch.

Please note that these articles are not ranked in order of importance or anything like that. They approach the topic of small business blogging from unique angles and, therefore, should be read and considered in their own right.

1: Great Overview on Generating Inbound Links
32 white Hat Ways to Build Inbound Links by Corey Eridon on the Hubspot Blog.

2: Goal Setting for Successful Online Marketing
5 Resolutions for Digital Marketing Success in 2012 by Coreen Tossona of Philly Marketing Labs.

3: Insight into Understanding Your Audience’s Interests
5 Simple Ways to Discover What People Are Dying to Read Brad Smith of FixCourse.com.

4: Setting the Approach for Online Marketing
The Tao of Online Marketing by Brian Clark of CopyBlogger.

5: Listing Important Reasons for Small Business Blogging
12 Most Glaring Reasons Why Businesses Should Blog by Doug Rice on 12Most.com.

Of course, there are many more gems online that offer comprehensive, practical and sufficiently-detailed guidance on how small businesses can develop real value from inbound marketing. Why not let me know which ones you have found useful?

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