Review: 7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

Quick little book worth every penny. One sentence made me look up and say, “Well, I just got my money’s worth from this!” I’ll let you read the book yourself in case your sentence is different from my sentence.

Four not five because it’s not, for me, a life-changing book; four not three because it is an excellent solution to exactly what it says it is. Some of these mistakes may not apply to you, particularly if you are planning to sell your own cards, rather than writing for a greeting card company.

One sentence. That’s all it takes. I found the sentence that mattered to me. You probably will, too.

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make

What it Took To Create That Post

I knocked out two blog posts in as many days that were helpful to me, and perhaps helpful to anyone reading this website, about planning from ground-level up to 30,000′.
I teach social media marketing, and WordPress website development, and I am aware that what we teach does not always translate into students having the ability to create content on the fly. I thought about what it took to get those two posts from conception to publication. There are a lot of skills involved, and a lot of tools. Here’s a flow chart:

The skills and tools used to create the posts about Levels of Planning

The skills and tools used to create the posts about Levels of Planning

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Processing an Idea for Content

What do you do when you have an idea for social media or website content?

Just like entrepreneurial wannabes who think their ideas are worth millions, it can be hard to know exactly what to do when you have an idea that could be useful content marketing material, if only you knew what to do with it.

I’m learning Creately, the process mapping tool, and I find myself creating decision trees to help clarify my thinking. This is another one: processing ideas for content. I do this on automatic pilot now, but it wasn’t always that easy. I tried to document the steps I follow.

What to do when you get struck by an idea for a potential content marketing item.

What to do when you get struck by an idea for a potential content marketing item.

Let me know if you have questions about the map or the process. I’m still learning the tool. Building a real map that can be printed on paper helps me see where the sticking points are, as well as where my thinking is cloudy.

Live version of the map

Tracking Content

The problem I’m trying to solve is that I find myself in an enormous push of content creation–I’m creating blog posts in draft every morning, and I’m sitting on 50 draft posts on each of three different websites.  Not all of the draft posts are valuable, but I would like to get as many published as still have value, and I don’t want to dump everything onto my social platforms at the same time.

The Publicize plugin allows me to auto-share to social platforms.  All sites post to the same Linkedin and Twitter accounts.  Two sites share the same Facebook page.  Three sites post to the same Pinterest account, but different boards.  I don’t want the political comment to go to Linkedin, most of the time.

I’ve been using free paper calendars to manage client content for as long as I’ve been doing social media professionally. For small accounts, it works pretty well. It does not work for four different websites which feed two Facebook pages, and one each Linkedin and Instagram accounts. I can’t keep track of what’s going where, let alone paid promotions.

One client, one calendar fails when the client has several websites.

One client, one calendar fails when the client has several websites.

I realized I could type into the spreadsheet. Normally, I split my attention between the screen and a paper calendar. (I use one monitor, and most of the time, it’s the laptop display.) However, working in the digital spreadsheet, in addition to using it as the layout for a paper calendar, might be helpful.

Collating publication calendars into one spreadsheet.

The first printing gave me a format that was too crowded to use.  I can barely read my own writing. I did realize that it would be useful to have a Pinterest board on both of my accounts for “new website content.” I don’t know that it will be a major source of traffic, but it won’t hurt.

blog post tracker, first draft.

Using 8.5 x 14″ paper to see two weeks at once. Not enough room to write.

I need a way to identify those posts that are book reviews.  I need to know what has been scheduled to Instagram, not simply whether something has been scheduled to be published on a website.

Laying out publication schedules.

Laying out publication schedules.

The second iteration was a little better–more room to write, but it still wasn’t helping me see what I needed to see. The social platform cells need room for check boxes, not titles. Make more notes:

  1. The color as used is not helping me know what I’m posting where.
  2. I need color on the Blog name rows, not on the social platform rows.
  3. Twitter doesn’t care how often I post.
  4. Linkedin needs a row of its own. All of my websites feed to the same Linkedin Profile.

Continue to play, and develop a version that works well enough, and no sooner had I glued up a month of schedule, I had an entirely new understanding of my content management problem, heading toward a next solution.

Inventory of blog ideas that have made it as far as drafts, or images.

Inventory of blog ideas that have made it as far as drafts, or images.

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WD40 for Content Creation

Sometime in December, I noticed I was getting a little more content onto my websites than I had for several years. It felt like I had sprayed WD-40 into a very very rusty mechanism. I was just barely able to get some motion out of the machine, but I knew it would rust solid again very quickly if I didn’t keep up the effort. It was hard.

Over the past six weeks, I have written about clearing and cleaning and getting rid of stuff, and over the past two weeks, I have been getting rid of stuff in my digital world. Cleaning up my blogs.

Yesterday, I finished the exercise of aligning blog categories. Then I went on to inventory the posts remaining in draft status, that are not reviews, and there weren’t all that many. My brain thought there should have been more. I realized that I had lots and lots of ideas for blog posts, some of which had been documented with images, but many of those images had not actually been processed and uploaded to the web. In other cases, images had been uploaded to the website but never added to a blog post.

Listing of existing blog post content, either in draft or image form.

Listing of existing blog post content, either in draft or image form.

I looked around the folders where I keep my images, and I came up with the basic list shown in the picture above. Apparently, I didn’t take a picture of it before I started writing all over it.

Last night, I reviewed the list, and noted which posts are practically ready to go and simply needed to be proofed once, and which posts needed major amounts of work before they would be ready, and then there were some that simply weren’t ready to be evaluated at all.

When I sat down at my desk this morning, my brain had been working on the list overnight. The handwritten notes running vertically indicate huge amounts of new content I want to write. I also realize that some of my idea notebooks are moving into the lineup. I don’t know what’s in some of these notebooks.

One set of notebooks, some of which have article notes.

One set of notebooks, some of which have article notes.

This must be what it was like to start one of those enormous wagon trains that crossed the country 200 years ago. The leaders started moving, and it might take days before the movement reached the back of the train. The settlers at the back were no less important to the effort than the ones at the front.

Perhaps some of the content has been aged out. I can let it go.

Listing of notes for future blog posts

Listing of notes for future blog posts

Some of the notes will be useful. By the time I get what is already in draft, published, I’m sure there will be 3 or 4 more pages of ideas lined up waiting for pictures and content and production.

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Use More Pictures in Linkedin

In the process of building a course called “Have Fun with Linkedin,” I realized that LI lets you add pictures everywhere:  summary, each position, projects.  Few of us use this feature as much as we could.

In one class I taught, students even questioned the value of a professional photographer uploading pictures of his work.  Surely he could simply TELL people to visit his website, they asked?

Do they not teach “a picture is worth 1000 words” in school anymore?  We are FAR more likely to visit a photographer’s website when we see what his work looks like, then when he tells us we should visit the website to see what the work looks like.

The older your audience, the more pictures you need.  (Our eyes don’t like that tiny text anymore.)

Each entry in your profile (Summary, position) will display at least five images, in the order 2-up, 3-below.  These are landscape orientations.  Select your images accordingly.  If you are going to upload one image, upload two and fill the row.  If you are going to use 3, use 5, and display two complete rows.

Order of upload for Linkedin images or rich media.

Order of upload for Linkedin images or rich media.

You can upload more than five images; subsequent rows are hidden behind a <more> link. You can drag and drop images to rearrange them after uploading.

Select images that display some element of the intersection between who you are and what you do.  Slide presentations can be excellent.  Linkedin will display the title slide, and that can be less-than-interesting.  If there’s a more interesting single slide deep in the deck, save it as a single slide file, and upload that.  Add a short explanation.

Some people may want to show detailed work samples with their rich media attachments.  Other people are using the rich media space to illustrate what they do and how they approach their work.

Face it, most jobs are pretty dull, when described in the words HR makes you use.  It can be hard to read that tiny text and understand how your work is any different from the guy in the next cubicle, let alone from the guy who works in the same position for a different company on the next floor of your building.

Use pictures.

Need ideas?

  • The logo at the front of your building, street entrance.
  • An interesting graph you created from data that matters in your work.  Blur the captions if the data is confidential.
  • A picture of you presenting at a meeting, or a conference.

Because my own work involves so many presentations, I use single slides the most. If you want to know more about the presentation, I’ll be happy to meet with you and discuss developing custom training.

In the old days, slides looked like this, and we read them to the audience, who, apparently, got jobs in Fortune500 companies without being able to read.

Old slide imagery: NOT!

Old slide imagery: NOT!

Now, I get to make slides that look like this (my own images, by the way, NOT stock), and presentations are a whole lot more fun.

Today's slide imagery.

Today’s slide imagery.

The point of images to to help the human evaluate the profile that the machine served up as an answer to a text search.  Use them!

Organizing my websites

I run four websites for my own business activities:

  • Red Tuxedo, where I talk about productivity and being useful in social media
  • Rugs from Rags, where I write about making textile art
  • Karen Tiede Studio, where I sell my Textile Art
  • Karen Tiede.com, where I write about all the other artsy things I do for love and fun including hula hooping

It’s a handful.

January turned out to be a month of clearing and decluttering and getting rid of stuff and putting stuff in places I could find it in a pinch. This mostly happened in my real life. I’m not done, but I have hauled a lot of stuff to the swap shed and the recycle bins.

February is turning out to be a time of cleaning out my electronic life. My digital records. I started my going through my pictures folder, where I have over 14 gig of images, many of which are duplicates or junk or not needed. I know digital storage is cheap, but my backup system only takes 125 gigs and I have exceeded it a couple of times already. It’s worth a little bit of TV time to cull pictures and reduce that total size if I can.

I found myself creating two and three blog post day the sites I routinely manage. I’ve learned how to dictate blog post from my phone, and upload pictures directly from my phone, and it’s all very fun and easy.

What it’s not, however, is “clear.” I don’t know where stuff goes. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know where to put it. And I do believe that “if you can’t find it, you don’t own it,” and if I can’t find an article on a website, neither can you. All this content is not driving any business my way if nobody can find it.  Even worse, none of this content can drive traffic until it is published, and I had nearly 100 posts sitting in draft status at the beginning of last week, over 8 years of managing websites.

It became obvious it was time to align my websites, so that I could tell reliably where stuff went, so I knew how to categorize blog posts and where to put them, and so I knew what I had.

Three years ago, I moved my websites from one host to another, and it was a royal muck-up. Pretty much all the content got duplicated against three different sites. I  wrestled the bigger pieces apart, but the older blog posts wound up everywhere.

The first step in organizing was to cross-check each of the sites against the other, and make sure blog posts lived on the site where they belong, and not on any others. This was fairly simple. I displayed both two sites’ post listings side-by-side, checking titles and deleting duplicate posts from the site where they did not belong. This resulted in the loss of roughly 50 posts on each site. Progress.

Then it was time to make sure each of the posts was listed in the correct categories. This turned out to be much more challenging.

I have, from time to time, turn to the Dewey Decimal System as an organizing principle. It’s academic, I agree, I understand, and that’s me. Deal with it. It is also widely understood and followed, and reliable.

I have a paper (book) guide to the Dewey Decimal System, which goes to the two-digit decimals. It is about an inch and a half thick. A guide that goes to three decimal places is approximately 6 feet long. Google will not give me helpful results in asking about what category a particular idea belongs in. Google just sends me to Dewey Decimal references. I think there ought to be a better way, but I can’t find it. Therefore I have to trust my book and its index. This may be a bit of a force fit; yet I’m able to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

Revising blog category listings to be consistent.

I had to start with the major categories. Mostly, I write about technology, and Fine Arts, although there is a little bit about ideas, so I cover the 000, the 600s, and the 700s. I use those as my major headings and then used second headings for the subcategories.

On KarenTiede.com I write about home ec. I used to write about sewing on that website before I moved Textile Art to Rugs From Rags, so I left those posts there. That they have huge numbers of links. (Today, I would put those posts on rugs from Rags, but I don’t want to move them.)

On Rugs From Rags, pretty much all the post fall under Fine Arts, specifically 746 textiles. There’s a little bit of marketing.

Red Tuxedo turns out to more challenging, because it’s mostly about business and social media. My edition of the Dewey Decimal guidelines doesn’t even have Facebook in the index. It was written long before the internet. I may have to go to the library and walk around the nonfiction section slowly, looking for Dewey Decimal numbers to know where to put stuff.

I am an amateur taxonomist. I enjoy walking around a large store, imagining the taxonomy behind product display.  Taxonomy is why you can walk into the grocery store and pretty much figure out where things are going to be. Websites ought to be the same way. I think it would be helpful if websites could send you clearly to articles you might be interested in.

For today, applying the Dewey Decimal System to my own content is going to have to do. It forces me to think about what do I write about, and where does it go, and how is any one of these posts related to any other.

Shearon Harris on Instagram

When I started teaching social media, we talked about Instagram and couldn’t really see how to use it for business. I created an account, simply to have my hand in the game. I decided to post pictures of the cooling tower, which I pass every time I go to Raleigh. It’s visible from all over the Triangle, all the way to Smithfield, if you know what and where to look.

Some other images show up in the feed from time to time. Industrial plants, like the Moncure Plywood plant. A factory on the James River in Richmond, VA.

The picture of the F15s on the runway is available from Karen’s Custom Framing in Goldsboro, NC. The picture was taken during a war games exercise. I count 80 planes on the runway. I have spent a lot of years in and around America’s military, but much of the time, photography was or is not allowed.

Posting regularly got me in the habit of using Instagram. It’s been a useful exercise.

On a more colorful note, I also maintain an Instagram account for art of a different kind, at Karen Tiede Studio.

What did I come here for?

Once more, with feeling.
You go into Facebook for some business reason. It’s your job. You see something in the feed… you click… and five minutes later, you need a string or a trail of breadcrumbs to figure out what it was you were actually supposed to be doing.

What did I come in here to do?

What did I come in here to do?

I need to write stickies to myself to remember exactly what event needed to be created, or post boosted, or something.

Facebook Image Layouts

A client asked me about how Facebook decided how to display images in posts. Sometimes it worked right, and sometimes it didn’t. I had noticed the same thing, but I’m selling products, not running for office, and getting a politician’s pictures displayed correctly is more important.

A little bit of research led to Daniel Coleman’s post, Facebook Photos Size Guide / 2015.

In shorthand, here’s the same information:

Layout defaults for images attached to Facebook posts: It's all in the aspect ratio of the first image selected.

Layout defaults for images attached to Facebook posts: It’s all in the aspect ratio of the first image selected.

The #1 image is the one at the left. You can drag and drop images around in a post draft to make sure the one on the left has the aspect ratio that will create the layout that best suits your images.

Another solution is to use an app like Layout from Instagram. Layout lets you arrange your images in a selection of formats, then saves the completed unit as one image. Upload that to Instagram or Facebook (or Twitter, or Linkedin, from the gallery) and you don’t have to worry about the arrangement of your images shifting.

Picassa can do a similar thing, in its Collage feature.