I’m Thankful For… Unplugging & Reconnecting

“Don’t be a jerk. Try to love everyone. Give more than you take. And do it despite the fact that you only really like about seven out of 500 people.”  –Judd Apatow

As a country, America tends to be cynical and polarized, impatient and angry. Maybe it’s our roots. Maybe it’s our lifestyle. Whatever it is, let’s put it all aside for one day. Let’s unplug and reconnect with those close to us, be patient and understanding with strangers we meet. Guess what? If you’re running to the grocery store on Thanksgiving morning, EVERYONE is in a hurry. Trust me, it’s not just you.

happiness_ernohannink_flickr

My Thanksgiving tradition begins early, rising before daylight in order to get ready to run a Turkey Trot. (It makes me feel better later when I’m enjoying a slice of my decadent peanut butter cream pie.) After running in the cold, I stop in a Starbucks on my trip South to see family for a steaming hot latte. It helps perk me up for the day ahead.

Last year, I was surprised when the barista who took my order told me that she volunteered to work Thanksgiving morning. Her goodwill earned her a hall pass from having to come in that night (when her family gets together) and serve the energized Black Friday crowd. Plus, she mentioned that everyone was in a good mood and even tipped more.

Maybe there’s something to that. Maybe there’s an extra sense of gratitude in the air on Thanksgiving Day, some added patience that helps you smile and forgive a stranger’s transgressions.

Whatever it is, let’s follow its lead. Smile at strangers. Wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Gently steer your drunk uncle in another direction when he starts talking politics. Don’t rip distracted Aunt Hilda a new one for forgetting her expected contribution AGAIN. And if you head out — to a store or restaurant or Starbucks, be nice to the workers. They’re spending their Thanksgiving serving you, and that’s something to be thankful for.

Everyone’s not fortunate enough to have a warm place to go on Thanksgiving. If you or someone you know is hurting this Holiday season, our friends at TED have pulled together information on where you can find a warm Thanksgiving meal near you

Join the Conversation

What’s your Thanksgiving tradition?

What’s your favorite food on your Thanksgiving menu?

What are you thankful for this year?

p.s. I’m spending Thanksgiving Day with family and friends (for which I’m thankful), so there won’t be a blog post on Thursday. If you’re looking for reading material, check out the I’m Grateful For… series. I’ll see you again on Tuesday, December 2nd, to talk about social media and selling. Same bat time, same bat channel!

p.p.s. Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian, Liberian, Grenadian and Norfolk Islander friends who have already celebrated. Yep, it’s not just a U.S. Holiday.

Incredibly thankful and eternally grateful,
Jaime

We’d be thankful if you’d join our conversation. 
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Writer’s Block: 4 Ways You Can Break Through the Wall

You sit down at your computer to write an inspiring blog post and you get nothing. Maybe it takes the form of a brick wall or just an expansive black void. Everyone suffers from writer’s block from time to time, but how do you break through it to produce meaningful content?

Current Events: What’s going on in the world right now? It’s so important to be up on current events, not only to make small talk with potential customers and partners, but also so you can tap the pulse of the world, your country, your industry or your city in your blog. It may surprise you how often there’s a connection between what’s going on in the outside world and what you do. For example: Where Has All of the Good Journalism Gone? | The Olympics: A Global Brand (Kind Of)

Your Story: Your journey on the road of owning a business (or excelling in your industry) shouldn’t be shared only during networking events and hostage situations (kidding on that last one). Talk about memorable moments or how you handled difficult situations. People want to hear from people who have lived through similar experiences. Your personal observations can help others navigate through chaotic moments. For example: Jumping Off A Cliff: My 1st Year As An Entrepreneur | An Omnipresent View? The Life of a Small Business Owner

Your Customers: While you’re answering your customers’ questions, jot them down. Chances are that other people have the same questions. Sometimes when a client asks me a question, I actually think, ‘there’s a blog post in there!’ Don’t be afraid to talk about successful case studies either, especially unique ones. Of course, you should make sure your client’s comfortable with using its name or just talk in generalities if you’re not comfortable doing that. For example: Get Social: 4 Easy Ways to Join the Conversation | Should You Slim Down (on Social Media)?

Your Interests: Have you watched an intriguing movie lately? Attended a thought-provoking lecture? Read an inspiring book? Talk about it. Tell your audience why it affected you and how you’re using the experience in your professional life. You may be surprised at how your everyday life spills over into your business. Trust me, I didn’t set out making leg lamp cookies to learn about my business, but I did.

Your Inspiration: I wanted to be two people when I grew up: MacGyver and Ricardo Tubbs. Either that, or join the A-Team. What does that have to do with your business? Everything. I shared with my readers how MacGyver can inspire their marketing efforts and how to model your team after the best there ever was, the A-Team. Oh, and don’t forget about how Elvis can inspire your success. Big fan here! Use your inspirations to inspire others. You never know what will cause that ‘ah ha’ moment in someone else.

Your Turn

How do you beat writer’s block?

What other writing prompts have you used to break through the wall?

What’s your favorite blog post where someone tied in an unexpected subject to business?

Black belt (in beating writer’s block),
Jaime

Break through: join the conversation with CCC. 
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There’s Only One You, So Shouldn’t You Be Your Own Password?

Are you ready for your close-up? Hoyos Labs thinks you should be, and they may just change the face of the Internet.

Use your face as your password!

What if your face was the only password you’d ever need?

Introducing 1U™, an app that gives you access to all of your favorite sites with one glance. No more frustrating password rules. No more anxious moments as you desperately try to remember the password you need right now. All the security you need (Face/Off references aside.)

Does this technology sound interesting to you? At its launch, you’ll be able to download it free for a 30-day trial (unlimited websites, devices and computers), with 1-year ($49.99) and 2-year ($79.99) packages available. Will you be checking it out?

I’m going to give it a spin. The peace of mind and freed up brain space (from not having to remember all of those ridiculous passwords) alone may be worth it.

The initial press has been solid, including an article in the New York Times. Will 1U™ be the next big thing or just another passing fad?

p.s. Want to know more? Check out this 1U™ fact sheet. Then chime in with your thoughts below.

p.p.s. A member of 1U’s p.r. team alerted me to this app’s upcoming launch, but this is not a sponsored post. I’m simply intrigued by the technology, and thought you may be too.

p.p.p.s I’m still amazed by LeVar Burton’s visor in Star Trek. Does anyone else think it was really a banana comb painted metallic?

Always a tech geek,
Jaime

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Saved: Facebook Scrolls Into the News Game

Let’s face it. Facebook desperately wants to be the center of your online activities: your home page, your entertainment hub, your news source. Especially your news source. The social media giant may have finally arrived in this last sector.

Facebook's Save feature

Facebook is giving you more control over your News Feed, including saving content you’d like to view later.

The recently introduced Save feature finally allows you to store interesting news stories and posts away for later when you have some time to read them. This is a great option for users and brands alike. Fans of your page can catch up on your shared blog posts and contests on the train, waiting at the doctor’s office or settled in front of the fire place later that evening. Have you saved any posts on Facebook for later viewing?

When you’re ready to retrieve your saved works, just click on the Saved link on the left hand side of your home page under your other lists (if you have any). A News Feed will display with your saved posts, even allowing you to further narrow down your selection by media type: links, videos, music, books, etc. The Saved News Feed also allows you to easily view the content, the original post or share the content to your network.

For brands, users who save your material have a shortcut to your content and page. Will this affect the type of content you share? Will it encourage you to share more in-depth articles, how-to videos and blog posts, knowing that users don’t have to consume the content when they see it?

Combined with the latest change to Facebook’s algorithm, this may be the way to go. Posts sharing a link with preview now achieve far better reach than pictures or plain text updates (in most cases). Plus, the social media behemoth is now allowing users to further customize their News Feeds.

With these changes, Facebook may finally be moving toward the news source it so desperately wants to be.


Comment: Your Facebook Feedback

Are you using Save and the new customization features?

Have these new features affected your view of brand pages on Facebook?

Do you enjoy using Facebook more, less or the same as one year ago?

What features can Facebook introduce to improve your experience?

p.s. As a user, I’m enjoying Facebook’s new features, but as a brand page owner, I’m still not sold. What do you think?

Cheers,
Jaime

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Get Visual With Content Marketing: 5 Tools To Help

We’ve all heard that ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words,’ but the proof is more personal. When you flip through a magazine, browse online or read a blog post, where do your eyes go? To the pictures. So it should be no surprise that images are the number one most important factor in optimal social media content. [source]

I can spout stats all day, but instead I’d like to focus on tools to help you create professional images for your content marketing and social media needs.

Get visual with content marketing

  1. Your Gallery – You’d be surprised at the wealth of images already available at your fingertips. Look at some of your favorite pictures and see how you could tie them in to your marketing message (like the image above). Furthermore, if you come across an interesting photo op, take it. I snapped a close up shot of the front of a journal a few weeks ago and ended up using it last week for a CCC Facebook post.
  2. Creative Commons (or CC) Search – I love this search engine! Easily find legal images to spice up your content on various search engines. If you’re looking to modify an image or use it for commercial purposes, check the appropriate boxes because licenses vary. Make sure to properly attribute the photo you find.
  3. PicMonkey – A fun, online photo editor that allows you to design visuals from scratch or edit your own photos. Standard templates are available (including a Facebook cover photo) and the array of themes, frames, text fonts, overlays and other tools at your disposal — for free — are impressive. Paid membership is available for additional resources.
  4. Square InstaPic – Are you tired of trying to force your photos into Instagram’s square template? Then this dynamic, easy-to-use app is for you! Square InstaPic allows you to use your whole image and enhance it — add text, change background colors, use filters, make collages, etc. I love this app so much it sits right next to my Instagram app on my visual home screen. Android only. (iPhone owners, what’s your favorite photo editing app?)
  5. Picture Manager – This handy little program is a lifesaver, so I’m sad to see that it isn’t included in MIcrosoft Office 2013 (although you can still get it.) Resizing your images to optimal size for the social network you’re using them for is an important step, and I regularly use this program just for that reason. You can also crop, remove red eye, rotate and adjust the color, among a number of editing functions. As a bonus, Picture Manager also allows you to save pictures as different file types and serves as an effective way to manage your gallery.

Research & Statistics

If you’re looking for more facts and figures, check out the following resources:

Join the Discussion

What tools do you use to get visual in your content marketing efforts?

Have you tried any of the tools listed above?

Drop a link to your favorite visual content in the comments below. Why do you love it?

Visually inspired (and impaired),
Jaime

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Warning: Appropriate Hashtag Usage on Instagram Will Result in Major Traffic Increase

Hashtags: you either love them or hate them. This blog has pondered hashtag usage before and received a mixed response from readers on their effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. But more than a year after that discussion, one thing is clear. Hashtag usage should be defined more than ever by social platform.

Hashtags? They can be a beautiful thing when used appropriately.

Original photo credit: “Protesters Blur By” by Geraint Rowland via CC BY 2.0 // edited by author


Social Platform Hashtag Usage

Twitter? One to two hashtags raises engagement and can help you reach new audiences. Three or more turn off potential readers because #nobody #wants to #read a #tweet #like #this. Remember, aesthetics matter, especially now that pictures are viewed directly in the tweet and articles can be previewed. CCC Tip: put your hashtags at the end of the tweet if character space allows.

Facebook? Not so much. The largest social network was late to the game recognizing hashtags and its audience doesn’t have patience for them. One or two may bring new eyes to your post, but make sure you tuck them in at the end so they’re as out of sight as possible. CCC Tip: Pass on hashtag usage on Facebook; they do more damage than good. In fact, when we published the previous hashtag post, Facebook was where we received the most negative feedback on the subject.

Pinterest? Meh. The verdict is sill out on this platform, so you may want to use a couple of applicable hashtags, if appropriate, or bypass altogether. Pins are typically easier to find via category (by search) or by board, so make sure to ‘file’ them properly. Also, take advantage of board descriptions! Let your prospective audience know why they should follow a particular board so they’re more likely to see future pins.

Instagram? Gold mine. Some days it seems like hashtags were created for this popular visual platform instead of Twitter. Sure, you’ll see some people complain about the plethora of hashtags used on this site (30 are allowed per photo), but they are SO effective in bringing increased traffic when used appropriately.

Hashtag Guidelines on Instagram

  • First, only tag your photos with hashtags that make sense; don’t tag accounts or hashtags only to fool people into looking at your picture. That makes people mad, so it’s not an effective long-term solution. Example: CCC is a marketing company that specializes in writing (including social media), but we don’t tag a picture of a sunset with #marketing, #writing or #socialmedia (unless it’s applicable for some reason).
  • Research hashtags to check their popularity and what type of photos show up in the search. More popular hashtags (#socialmedia, #writing) mean more people are searching, but more results in the search mean more competition. Less popular hashtags (such as ones you create) have less competition, but you’ll need to promote the tag to draw eyes to it. During your research, get a feel for what type of photos show up in the search. You may be surprised by the double meaning of some hashtags or an unexpected use by another campaign.
  • You can use up to thirty hashtags per photo, but don’t feel obligated. In our experience, most photos don’t warrant that many hashtags.
  • Creating your own hashtag? Try to keep it reasonable in length and avoid special characters (?!#$%), because they don’t work. Numbers do though. Make your hashtag easy to remember and promote, promote, promote!
CCC on Instagram: @jaimeshine

Are you visually inspired? Follow CCC on Instagram! Find us under jaimeshine.

Hashtags & Instagram: An Experiment that Produced Results

I was reviewing our Instagram account on Sunday evening (OK, more like Monday morning) and decided to try adding hashtags to older photos that didn’t have any or only had one or two. I thought it would be worth the time to draw more traffic and possibly bring new eyes to CCC’s posts. Wow! I couldn’t believe the results.

In only 48 hours, we picked up nearly 100 likes, 10 comments and 6 new followers.

These numbers are for an account with 185 followers, under 300 photos and little to no engagement at some points in the past, so we’re thrilled!

Conclusion: Appropriate hashtag usage on Instagram will result in major traffic increase, so please use responsibly.

Join the Discussion

Do you agree with our recommended hashtag usage on the social platforms mentioned above? Or have you had a different experience?

Do you have any Instagram hashtag guidelines to add?

Have you conducted a hashtag experiment on any social platform?

Hashtags: do you love them or hate them?

p.s. It’s Election Day! Go vote and make your voice heard.

A reformed, if reluctant, hashtagger,
Jaime,

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