How To Write a GREAT Blog Post Using Stories

My brand new iPhone 5 (less than a week old) is sporting a new set of scratches on the back of it

Can you believe looking at those scratches makes me smile?

how to write great blog posts using stories

This week my family and I are on the road to celebrate my youngest daughter’s first birthday. We decided to go camping at one of our favorite locations, Eureka, CA.

During the course of our drive, we passed many different kinds of cars and trucks, much to the delight of my 5 year old son who is a fanatic about naming the makes and models of each kind of vehicle we pass. We passed a variety of passenger vehicles, trucks carrying produce from one end of California to the other (lots of loads of garlic and onions), and trucks hauling gravel as well.

We had a full load in our own pickup, so we kept our speed moderate – 67 mph, to be precise, in an attempt to maintain the best fuel economy possible under the driving conditions we were in.

Of course not everyone likes to drive that slow, so on occasion we were passed by various vehicles.

One of the vehicles that passed us, a truck hauling gravel, had an unsecured load. And as luck would have it, upon passing us on the left, a rock bounced out of his load and hit the window next to my precious 2 year old daughter, shattering it in an instant.

Navigating off the freeway and into a safe area to park is somewhat of a blur in my mind, though I remember making at least one turn without being fully aware of whether the intersection was safe to enter.

Upon stopping and viewing remains of the window, I prepared for the worst as I opened the rear door.

And much to my surprise, though there was a substantial amount of glass on the floor, my sweet daughter was 100% unharmed by the experience.

I fought the urge to cry. My oldest daughter, a 9 year old, is old enough to understand the implications of what had just happened, and she started sobbing.

Before too long, we arranged a fix via the insurance company, and I had the fun of watching my husband man up, pull on a work glove, and knock out the rest of the glass as he rigged a solution to get us on the road again. And then, as I had my iPhone in my palm while trying to find an app to distract the kids just a few moments longer, my husband walked by and brushed my palm with his elbow, knocking it to the ground in a pile of broken glass, scratching the back of the phone but thankfully, not the display.

An incident that could have been so much worse, had the glass hit my sweet daughter’s face, neck, arms or hands, ended with merely scratches to my phone – to the back, no less – and with no true injuries to speak of.

I look at those scratches, and I am reminded of the miracle we experienced.

Glory to God!

From that perspective, I can live with a scratched iPhone, know what I mean?

*****

How to Write a Great Blog Post Using Stories

Using a story as part of your work how to write a great blog post can happen one of two ways.  Often it’s a matter of finding a story that illustrates a specific point you’re trying to make and telling the story in a way that is compelling and not just self glorifying.

But on the other hand – sometimes something profound happens, and in reflecting on the event, you notice certain lessons or themes emerge that are related to the valuable content you provide your readers on a regular basis.

When this happens – it can be magical.  It’s usually the result of having written over time, and it usually happens more often after you’ve written regularly.  Sometimes it happens daily, sometimes every few days. But the point is this – the more you create great blog content for your readers, the more you begin training yourself to notice these moments in your day. The moments that are ripe with the possibility of providing benefit for your readers if written in a compelling way.

The best way how to write a great blog post using stories is to pay attention.  Make a note to help you remember to write about them later (if you’re not able to write about them right away). The more often you develop the habit of writing about them, the more likely you’ll be to notice them in the future. It’s a cycle, really.

You’ll want to make sure that if you’re including information about other people that either they approve or you’ve kept the information vague enough so that you’re not embarrassing anyone now or in the future (especially if it’s about your kids). If you’re a mom blogger, especially, it’s important to know what your boundaries are when it comes to that.

What kinds of stories do you like to use in your blog posts and content marketing? Leave a comment – I love to hear from you!

God Grant You Many Years!

I nearly forgot my baby girl’s first birthday.

the mom-astic life sarah birthday

Actually – it wasn’t necessarily that I almost forgot her birthday, not exactly.

It’s just that I nearly forgot that it was this week. This is my precious baby girl’s last week of having an age measured in months.

My 5 year old son likes to say that she is zero.

I know he means that she is not yet 1, and on a kindergarten number line, the number preceding one is zero.

But my sweet baby girl isn’t a zero.

Our church community has a tradition of singing a special blessing song to people on the Sunday before their birthdays, and when our priest made the normal announcement at the end of the service while looking right at me, I wondered what on earth he was talking about, since my birthday isn’t until December.

And then it hit me in my pre-caffeinated state that I was holding a very wiggly baby who was quite ready for the Liturgy to be over.

And her birthday is, in fact this week. Oh, the hamster wheel of every day life, and its ability to distract us from awareness of the moments that matter.

I walked her up to the front of the church, and in the midst of my sudden dose of sadness that the chapter of babyhood is nearly over for her and maybe over for our family forever, I was consoled by the words prayed over her.

The words of our priest and of our church community resonated deeply as I held my sweet daughter.

The priest begins the blessing, “Grant, O Lord, a prosperous and peaceful life, health and salvation, and the furtherance of all good things to your servant Sarah and preserve her for many years”

And then the choir and community sing in response, “God grant you many years!

It is the same song of blessing sung to every member, from the youngest baby to the most elderly.

And while it’s easy to see it as just a Christian version of Happy Birthday, it is that – and so much more. It is a prayer for a long life, yes, but not just for its own sake. It prays for the blessing of many years spent in cooperation with God’s saving work in our lives.

For me, there is a comfort in knowing that the community prays for my children in the exact same way they do for the adult members of our community.

It was especially profound given that my children and I were just received into this community just a few short weeks ago at Pascha (Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Christian church).

I admit – I’m still processing the profoundness of the whole experience. It’s been a 2-1/2 year journey since discovering Orthodox Christianity, so the experience of finally being received into the Church is still quite powerful. I mentioned to my godmother that my goal now is to make it through the Liturgy without crying – the words of the ancient prayers and hymns from the early Christians are just that powerful.

But in the meantime – I cling to the prayer for my daughter, praying it for her and myself as well. May God grant you many years, sweet Sarah, to discover His goodness and learn each day how to live more in union with Christ.  

The Zen of Creating a Kick-Ass Blog: How to Write Better Blogs

Curious – what’s on your to-do list today?

how-to-write-better-blogs-paulinemagnusson

If you’re like most bloggers or online marketers, it’s probably a mix – writing and promoting. You’re trying to come up with your next great idea – or maybe a bunch of them- and at the same time learn the social media marketing tips you need for your content to just maybe get shared (we won’t even hope for going viral any more). Maybe somewhere in there you’ll scan the internet for a quick tip on how to write better blogs. Most likely, though, that won’t even cross your mind.

Because you don’t have any time. Because you’re freakishly busy!  You’re focused on getting “enough” content out there “regularly enough?” And at the same time, you’re desperately trying to figure out the secret of what to say in 140 characters or less to get more retweets, how to phrase your Facebook updates to get more likes, and what the secret is to getting more +1’s on Google Plus.

I’m here to tell you that if that’s become your focus as a blogger, you’ve missed the boat.

And by simplifying your list of “must-do’s,” you can actually end up attracting more readers to your blog or website.  It’s almost Zen-like, really.

How to Write Better Blogs

If you truly want the kind of traffic that defines you as a “serious” blogger, you can cut the crazy, frantic marketing activity and do just one simple thing.

Learn how to write better blogs.

That’s it.

Corbett Barr of Think Traffic calls it “Writing Epic Shit.”  Apologies aside to anyone bothered by a 4-letter Anglo-Saxon colloquial term, but it’s the best advice I can give you about writing a blog as well.

Discover what it is in your niche that will really move people. Inspire people. Give them what they need to go forth and create epic stuff in their own businesses and lives. Give your readers content that is truly amazing – content that creates so much value they can’t believe you’re giving this stuff away for free. This is the secret for how to write better blogs, my friend.

And they’ll sing your praises from here to the end of the Twitterverse.

Why Learning How to Write Better Blogs Works

Here’s the thing. If you haven’t taken the time to learn how to write better blogs, how to create some truly kick-ass content, figuring out how to share it won’t really do a thing for you.

Sure – you’ll get a few of your followers dutifully sharing, since you’ve all agreed to share each others’ content.

But other than that – no matter how much promotion you do, it’s not going to help your traffic if your content simply sucks.

Think about your favorite blogs – do they have to ask you to share their content, or do you find yourself wanting to pass it along?  Some of the most popular bloggers there are have become that way for one reason alone – they create amazing content that people want to promote for them.

Creating amazing content means that you are creating content that in one way or another changes your readers’ lives. That’s it. Whether it’s short (think Seth Godin) or longer content, make it unforgettable.

How to Write Unforgettable Blogs

1.  Share personal experiences

There’s power in stories. People love to read them, and they tend to remember them more than dry factual content. Illustrate your point with a powerful story, and you’ve taken a step toward creating truly epic content.

2.     Get a life

If your life is spent totally in front of your computer writing about your life, your well will run dry. That’s not a Zen saying, by the way, I just made that up. It means that you’ll run out of things to say if you’re just relying on your own past experiences and you aren’t actively living a rich life. Make sure you’re reading in your field, and living a life with a variety of experiences – this is the fuel for being inspired to write better blogs write amazing blog content. If you’re doing amazing things, you’re more likely to be able to write amazing things as well.

3. Take your time

Blogging is that thing we all like to do as quickly as possible. Sometimes I’m guilty of it too – I know I write well, so I try to write quickly since I have a host of other income generating activities to do.

It’s a bad way to save time, though. The marketing power of epic content is so strong that cheating yourself here is the blogger’s equivalent of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Question:  What are you doing to blog better and create amazing content?  Leave a comment below!

A Mom Blogger Meets A Manly Blogger!

This weekend I had the delightful experience of meeting a fellow blogger – though one much more well known than I am for sure.

art of manliness picture

Brett McKay of The Art of Manliness came to Seal Beach, CA, for a book signing event at the Tankfarm and Co. flagship store located there. And while attending an event about a blog dedicated to all things manly with 4 small children (including a 2 year old and an 11 month old) while my husband was away for work might seem a bit incongruous, it was a wholly fun and rewarding experience for all of us, young’uns included.

The men and women who came for the event (book signing, manly haircuts and free beer to boot) were amazing in their kindness toward me as I attempted to keep my four small people from melting down with the long wait in line. It’s as if they were indeed motivated by an internal code that invited a kind of respectfulness and chivalry that are often absent in trying situations these days.

And for the record – not only is Brett an insightful writer, but he’s every bit the consummate gentleman. He stood to greet each person who waited in line to meet him and took the time to converse with each one, getting to know each person as an individual before signing his or her book. I’ve been to a number of book signings in the past, and hands down, Brett has been my favorite author to meet for his ability to be truly present with each person he met, just as engaged with the last as with the first.

As background, my husband and I simultaneously discovered Brett’s blog and podcast about 6 weeks ago, though for very different reasons.  Carl found it organically – he has an interest in history, virtue, and discovering authentic masculinity. Brett’s podcast, blog, and books indeed cover those topics. And with over 100,000 subscribers, it’s clearly a topic that resonates with many readers.

My discovery of the blog was less pure in intent – I went looking for blogs related to personal development to scout out some potential guest blogging opportunities, and when I found this one, I just couldn’t stop reading!

A Mom Blogger at a Manly Booksigning?

Let me say – while it’s about manliness, The Art of Manliness is absolutely a great read for anyone interested on discussions of what it means to be manly – or womanly – in today’s world.  While my own worldview is shaped by my identity as a Christian woman, I admit that I was pleased to discover that the Art of Manliness does not rely on religious materials as the foundation for the discussion on manliness and masculine virtues.  It offers as an example men like Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps the last manly hero America has had. But because it doesn’t rely on religious examples, its premise can be discussed with much less emotional charge than might otherwise happen.

Admittedly, the experience of meeting Brett and exploring the blog that he and his wife write has me thinking about being a woman, and how I might explore the art of womanhood in writing. My 9 year old daughter asked as much when she wondered why there isn’t an “Art of Womanhood” blog.

It’s a subject that largely gets ignored in secular settings.  On one hand, from a Christian perspective, the woman in Proverbs 31 is often held up as an example. On the other hand, from a secular perspective, there’s a mythical idea of a superwoman who juggles career and kids flawlessly, and outsources much of the domestic sphere (child rearing, homemaking/cooking, and care of the home).

There are a number of resources for learning some of the skills of domestic life and feminine appearance, from HGTV to Cosmopolitan. In a way – this is but a caricature of womanhood, a gross exaggeration of a single part. Because while these explore some of the skills of womanhood, neither approach is an exploration of the essence of womanhood – the interior life of woman.

I think the subject is avoided because on a cultural level, we’re largely uncomfortable with the divergent opinions on the subject. Exploring any one idea of womanhood seems to be too challenging, too threatening for many in our popular culture. Somehow, even though differing opinions on manliness are certainly as plentiful, discussing these ideas isn’t as wrought with fear as it is when we discuss what it is to be a woman.

With respect to womanhood – there’s a polarity – you’re either a traditionalist/conservative or you’re a feminist/liberal. And ne’er the twain shall meet. And the discussion of the interior essence of womanhood ends there.

And in my mind, I believe our society has lost something vital as a result.

It’s an interesting time to be mulling the thought of reflecting on womanhood as I’m in the process of rebranding my blog. With having partnered with Liz from Assist Social Media to provide full service content marketing and social media services, I’m shifting my blog focus to more personal and reflective pieces. It’s very likely that as a result of having discovered the Art of Manliness, I’ll include a category sharing what I’m learning and thinking about the art of authentic womanhood as it has been historically expressed and as our society, in my mind, sorely needs today.

I love it when something I read causes me to think deeply and examine my own values. It’s ironic – and fun – that it’s such a well-written blog on the Art of Manliness that has done so. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to meet Brett, and I look forward to being a fan of his and his wife’s for years to come.

How to Start a Mom Blog – Part 1

 

it works content plan

It’s occurred to me that I’m in a unique position, as a new mom blogger. I know how to start a mom blog and help tweak it to be found by search engines pretty quickly, thanks to my background in content marketing, SEO, and social media. So while I’m switching gears and changing focus from content marketing to more personal and spiritual matters, I thought I’d use my background and share how to start a mom blog for any other aspiring mommy bloggers out there.

Usually those just starting out asking how to start a mom blog aren’t exactly flush with all kinds of cash, right? So you want to know how to start a mom blog as inexpensively as possible, but at the same time investing in the resources you truly need (and only the ones you really need).

How to Start a Mom Blog

1. Invest in your own domain and hosting

This is one of the investments I think is absolutely critical if you hope to be found and to grow your blogging from a hobby into a business or a platform at any point in the future. I also think it’s a good idea to purchase domains for your kids’ names, too, but that’s a separate post!

But here’s the thing – if you own your domain and have your own hosting, there are two benefits you get that are priceless.

It just looks more professional to come to http://www.paulinemagnusson.com than it does to have words like blogger or blogspot or wordpress in the very title of the blog. Again – if you graduate from asking how to start a mom blog to having a platform with hundreds or thousands of readers and you are approached with an affiliate marketing deal to make some money, you’ll want to have your own domain at that point.

The other reason that you want to start your mom blog on your own self hosted domain is that you have more control over your content. If you have a free account, you’re more susceptible to downtime or even to having your account shut down if for some reason your blog host thinks you’re violating their terms. (And an accusation from a competitor is good enough in some cases to get your account shut down for at least a few days.)

2. Invest in a lead capture system (AWeber, Constant Contact, etc)

If you are marketing online, your list is your most precious resource. It is the reason you have a blog. It is your audience of people who are interested in your message, your mission, and from time to time – your products and services.

Lead capture systems like AWeber manage those contacts for you, help you create a little box to put on the side of your website to collect a name and e-mail address, help you stay within the regulations of the anti-spam legislation, and help you send targeted messages to your subscribers.

While you could go with a free service in the beginning, if you ever want to upgrade to one of the services with better features such as AWeber, you’re then stuck manually importing all of your addresses – it’s just a lot of work. So this is worth investing in from the beginning.

There are a lot of other things I’d recommend – Akismet for blocking spam affordably (free for personal blogs, reasonably priced for business blogs), plugins to help you enhance your posts for better performance in Google, plugins to make it easier to share your posts on social media channels, etc. I’ll cover more of those in the coming weeks!

What’s your favorite part of blogging? Leave a note below!

Working at Home with Kids: Tips for Productivity and Sanity

Working at home with kids might sound like an oxymoron. And I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not exactly as easy as it sounds on paper (or on screen for the techie types).  But even amid the juggling, it’s far better than the alternative, being away from them for 40+ hours a week.

Thanks but no thanks!

Still, it’s better to keep the chaos to a minimum, so I thought I’d provide some of the tips that have helped to boost my productivity and sanity while building a business and parenting 4 kids (including homeschooling the 2 oldest).

Working at Home With Kids: Tips for Productivity

1. Start with the end in mind

This borrows from the late (and great) Stephen Covey who talked often about beginning with your end state in mind, then determine what it will take to get there.

This isn’t quite that illustrious but equally important, in my book.

Begin with the end of your day in mind. Realize that at the end of your day, you’ll be tired, grumpy, and not wanting to do anything extra that you don’t have to.  So consider giving yourself a little gift in the morning – the gift of planning ahead to take care of what you can early on, before you’re quite so worn out.

Things like – dinner preparation.  Setting out clothes and needed items for the next day. Unloading the dishwasher so it’s ready to be loaded after dinner. And other similar tasks that just make your life easier when you’re exhausted.

Two of my favorite tools for this are a slow cooker and make ahead meals (such as Make 5 Dinners in One Hour).  Whatever tool you use, consider it a gift to your future self (even if the “future” is later today) to have a plan in place to make the end of the day smoother.

2.  Routines trump schedules.

Face it – the only constant in anything, especially parenting, is change.  Schedules are a great idea, but especially if you’re parenting very young babies or toddlers, schedules aren’t always possible.  On the other hand – routines are.  Create basic routines for each part of your day (morning, mid day and evening) to help yourself stay on track and focused.  That way, if something out of the ordinary happens, you’ll be able to pick up right where you left off.

3.  Give yourself grace. 

Juggling multiple roles demands much from you. Keeping your sanity demands that you cut yourself some slack and give yourself some grace in the process.  You won’t be as productive as someone without distractions, this is true. But the long-term rewards of being present with your kids are worth it!

 

What are your favorite tips for staying focused as a work at home mom?  Leave a comment – I’d love to hear!

Work at Home Mom Strategies When You Have to Change Focus

work at home mom change candle pic

What’s a work at home mom to do when an amazing new opportunity arises?

It’s so amazing to be in a place to have to answer this question!

I’ve had an incredible opportunity open up recently, but for several weeks I wasn’t at liberty to reveal it, which put me in an awkward position as a blogger!  On one hand, I wanted to stay regular with my blog; on the other hand – it’s tough to keep writing when you know your blog is about to need to change its focus – dramatically.

As many of you know who follow me on my social media channels (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn), I’m in the amazing position of having been offered a position with the Boom! Social team, headed up by none other than Kim Garst.  I’ll be creating and managing content marketing materials and processes.

I couldn’t be more thrilled – talk about the chance of a lifetime!

But by necessity, it means that my own content marketing services will be coming to a close.

As a result, I’m transitioning the focus of my website. It’s an effort that’s been in progress for a few weeks now, and yes, the rough look for a couple of weeks was the results of my attempts to modify it myself.  I’m definitely a word nerd and not a web geek!

I’ll be shifting gears to focus on some of the common concerns of work at home moms, adding in pieces related to spiritual matters (especially when it comes to raising kids in a faith tradition), and maybe even a few articles that don’t fit in to any one category very neatly.

Work At Home Strategies for Life Transitions

Whether it’s a happily anticipated change or a surprising – or devastating change, the strategies for keeping your life balanced during a time of transition are similar.

1. Decide what is essential – and what isn’t.

Not everything has the same urgency, and this becomes quite obvious when there’s an unexpected event – be it exciting or tragic. Make a prioritized list of the must-dos. This gives you a way to outsource anything critical when someone offers help.  (And when they do offer, pick up your list, give them a task, and let them help!)

2. Make a routine.

When you are overwhelmed with trying to learn something new or simply gather the courage and energy to get through the day, being able to function on autopilot is a merciful tool. It doesn’t require much thought – you just have to “do.”  After you’ve figured out what is essential to you personally and professional, write a short routine for each section of the day (morning, mid day and evening) to get it accomplished.  Don’t skip writing it down; there is no shame in it whatsoever. Pilots run checklists before every flight to make sure nothing is skipped – feel free to give your life the same careful consideration!

3. Break down complex tasks into manageable, 15-minute chunks

If simply getting started seems difficult, take something that seems complex and pick a starting point.  It doesn’t have to be the perfect place to start – it is just a place to begin.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and focus for just those 15 minutes.  You don’t have to get it all done, you just have to work for those 15 minutes.

You might be surprised with what you can do in that amount of time!  Be willing to give yourself a break at the end of that time too.  It makes it easier to try it again the next time when you know you’ll honor your need for breaks as needed and that you don’t have to finish it all in 15 minutes.

 

In my own life transition from building my own business to participating in a team building a larger business, I’ve had to figure out how to refocus my piece of internet real estate called PaulineMagnusson.com  I’ve decided to focus on my interest in the mix of working at home, parenting, marriage, and the spiritual life that’s my everyday existence.

I’ve renamed this effort The Mom-astic Life, because while life in a monastery sounds attractive from time to time (especially during a multi-kid meltdown), the truth is this – we are all called to recognize the holiness in everyday life, whether we live in the world or in a cloister.  These walls, my home business, the endless piles of laundry, and even the Lego blocks stepped on in the middle of the night are exactly the means that God has given me to bring me closer to Him.  This crazy, chaotic life stuffed full of love and laughter is my monastery.

And for that, I say, “Glory to God.”

If these topics might interest you, I’d love to see you stick around.  Grab a cup of coffee, post a comment, and let’s get started getting to know one another better. If this isn’t something that you’re interested in, peace be to you as you depart; know you’re in my prayers.

Be blessed!

How a Content Marketing Plan Can Make You Love Your Business Again in 2013

it works content marketing plan (2)

Do you love content marketing and writing your business blog?

Be honest.

One of the most hated tasks when it comes to marketing online is content creation.  Whether it’s coming up with ideas and time for blog posts twice a week (minimum!), figuring out what to post on Facebook (or Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and now Google+ too), and let’s not get into “alternative” formats like You Tube videos, content marketing is work.  There’s no other way to say it – just like any other successful marketing strategy, using content marketing as a means of growing your business takes planning, persistence, and patience to be successful.  The payoffs, if you ask businesses large and small, are worth the time.  (And those who don’t agree aren’t likely to be around in 5 years, honestly.)  But actually doing your content marketing puts the work back into work for many business owners, if you know what I mean.

Even for those of us who enjoy writing (and playing with other media well suited for content marketing strategies) can find the actual implementation of content marketing to be overwhelming if we approach it without some thought and organization.

And it’s a secret I’m sharing with you today:  a content marketing plan can make you fall in love with your business again this year!

Now before you think I’m just blowin’ sunshine, let me tell you what I mean.

Do you sit down at your computer and wonder what to write for your blog?  Do you struggle to find time create unique, relevant content for your blog – and procrastinate to the point of rarely (or never) updating your blog because you just don’t know what to write?

And then let’s talk about your social media sites – do you just throw anything up on your Facebook page, not quite knowing what you should be posting in the first place?

Approaching your content marketing strategy via the age old technique called “flying by the seat of your pants” isn’t ideal for many good reasons related to the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing.  But there’s an even better reason not to do it.

It sucks the life out of you.  And you start to hate your business.

Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to be “spontaneous.”  Maybe.  And if so, good for you.  But for many people, the idea that spontaneity breeds more creativity is actually a myth.  For many who use the desire for spontaneity as their reason for not using a content marketing plan, they’re pleasantly surprised at how the structure of a plan for their social media updates and strategy actually frees up time and brain cells to engage in the fun, creative side of marketing.

How to Create a Content Marketing Plan

There are a number of templates and tutorials out there for creating a comprehensive content marketing plan that covers multiple social media platforms.

The simplest, cheapest way to create one is this:  Grab a calendar.  You can print one from Outlook or use the pretty one your church gave you (if it’s a wall calendar; you won’t have enough room in a pocket calendar).  I happen to like the calendar sold online at Flylady.net (it’s not an affiliate link; I just really like the calendar because of the large squares!).

1. To the left of the row for each week, choose a theme related to your overall mission as a company.  Jot it in the margin.

2. On each day you’ll be blogging, create a blog topic related to that week’s theme and write it in the square for that day.

3.  Choose a general topic for each day that week related to your week’s overall theme.  Using each day’s theme as a guide, research and create content for your social media updates.  You can jot notes on your calendar if you want, otherwise use the scheduling features in programs like Facebook, or HootSuite or others to actually post the content you’ll use at the times you’ve determined are most appreciated by your audience.  Most people work about a week at a time at this step, and as you get more experienced at it, it goes quicker.

4. You may decide you want to plan a year in advance, at least in terms of choosing your themes for each month.  Doing so gives you a bird’s eye view of where you’re going throughout the year.  You can make sure your topics are logical or discover ahead of time if you might need to switch out a few months so your content makes the most sense for your particular audience.

That’s it.  It’s not difficult; it just takes a commitment to sitting down and thinking ahead.

But I promise you this – if you do, you’ll find yourself loving this part of your business more than if you’re always worrying about your next content posts, whether on your blog or elsewhere.

What kind of content marketing plan do you use?  I’d love to hear – leave me a comment below!

Content Marketing: Why It's Important to Be Authentic

As I write this post, news reports are tumbling in about atrocities against children. A gunman attacking innocent 6 and 7 year old students, teachers and administrators at an elementary school in Connecticut.   Similar aged children being stabbed in a school in mainland China.

It’s hard, as a parent of young children, to fathom betraying the trust in those sweet innocent eyes, or to imagine the shock and horror when they were betrayed by another adult.

The messages across social media platforms were swift. Most expressed sorrow and prayers for the lives lost and for the families grieving.  Some got into discussions related to healthcare for people with mental illnesses, others into discussions that were pro or con gun control or second amendment rights.

As the horror unfolded, one thing became obvious on social media.  Those who continued on with business as usual seemed shallow and trite, and their marketing messages felt horribly intrusive during a moment of collective shock and grief.

For many marketers, I suspect their intent was not to be banal or insensitive during a moment such as that.  Quite likely, like many content marketing professionals and social media managers, they’d uploaded some pre-designed social media content for the day that they interspersed with moments of live engagement. It’s a common practice, and one that I’ve engaged in myself.  If done by professionals who stay on top of current events, it’s a useful way of increasing your efficiency.

Unfortunately, using a set it and forget it approach to social media updates can burn you as well, as many companies who didn’t jump in and halt their pre-loaded stream of updates might have discovered.  While they might have posted a single message of grief, they continued on with their previously scheduled messages, making themselves appear anything other than authentic.

Being a savvy social media manager demands being attentive to trends – not only in your field, but in the larger world around you. It requires that you keep an ear to the ground, as it were, so when something devastating (or noteworthy, etc.) happens in the world or just in your industry or  brand, your content marketing strategy reflects the current events and doesn’t appear insensitive or banal in the face of tragedy.

Effective social media management requires being aware and being authentic. Miss this lesson and you’re likely to find yourself on a list of memorable Twitter (or other platform) mess ups.

How’s your social media authenticity quotient.  Do you regularly make “live” updates to be responsive to current events? I’d love to hear – leave me a comment below.

What's the Difference Between A Bouquet and Compost?

4 days.

No really – the difference between a beautiful bouquet and a pile of dead flowers fit for the compost pile is about 4 days.

So why is this important?

Sometimes life presents us with opportunities. Some times, it’s an obvious opportunity with a fairly obvious right choice.  Other times it’s a barely noticeable nudge, and we might wonder “am I imagining this?” And the choice isn’t so clear.

But in either case, there’s usually a timeline associated with making the choice.  And the fresh, beautiful opportunity, if left undecided, withers away just like garbage. And then you’re left with a pile of compost in the form of regret.

This isn’t my normal kind of blog post; I get it.  But I had the chance to learn this lesson last week, and it’s something I know I need to share with you.

Last Wednesday evening was the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas. My children and I were preparing to go to church for the Divine Liturgy, and I had one of those moments.  I had the sense I should invite a particular person to come with us.  She’s not of our faith background, and she hasn’t expressed any interest in it.  And our religious tradition, Eastern Orthodoxy, isn’t exactly similar to her own Protestant Christian practice, so I knew it would be foreign.  And because it seemed odd and out of the ordinary and I was afraid of how she would look at me if I invited her, I didn’t ask.  I chalked up my feeling to being lonely because my husband was away and just wanting extra companionship.

The next morning I discovered that she had experienced a violent crime the prior evening.  Glory to God she is safe and healing.  She will be okay.

But I know even more certainly, without a doubt, that I was supposed to invite her to be with us that evening.  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t feel responsible for what happened.  The perpetrator of the act of violence is solely responsible for those choices.  And likely, if I had invited her to be our guest that evening, she would have mentioned her prior plans and wouldn’t have come along anyway.  I know these things in my mind and even deep in my heart.

But I’ve been looking back today, and, I know without a doubt that I was supposed to extend that invitation. No matter her response, the action of noticing that nudge in my heart and responding to it in faith was mine to take.  And I didn’t.

Honestly, I’ve wrestled with this intensely today.  I’m at peace with the mercy of a God who forgives.  Glory to God indeed. But the lesson is strongly present in my heart at the moment and wanted to share.

When you receive a nudge like that, how do you respond? Do you automatically dismiss it out of fear like I did? Do you take time to evaluate it before deciding what you’ll do? Or do you dive in, assuming that it’s an impulse that must be followed?  I’d love to hear – leave a comment below, won’t you?

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