Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Modern story telling - using a blog to bring your brand to life... by Catherine Chapman of Bonton Times...

Having worked in Public Relations for years, I’ve been aware of the power of blogs for ages. However, it wasn’t until I began to stumble across more and more compelling stories from businesses that had chosen to operate in a new way, one that was fairer and more exciting than the traditional, that I felt compelled to join the blogging sorority in order to share my discoveries with the rest of the world.

Inspirational stories were woven into the very fabric of these new social enterprises I was eagerly learning about, and I was so impressed that I felt compelled to pass on information about them. I decided to create a platform in that could support their success, and help others to hear about this pioneering work, which is often under the radar of mainstream advertising. From luxury fashion at Beulah London (stocked in Harvey Nichols; worn by royalty and celebrities), to hand sewn ethical accessories by SewLomax, the UK is brimming with start-ups and established brands that are making waves, engaging consumers through social media and standing out from the crowd. That is the power of a good story.

It’s an element of depth that makes any organisation memorable. Just this week I’ve been reading of a business based in Los Angeles called The Giving Keys which helps the homeless move away from the streets through employment, whilst raising money through sales of engraved keys that carry positive messages designed to be shared with those in need. What a simple idea, but one that makes you listen because it’s a reminder that business can be one of the most potent forces for good. And it’s a good product with a story that has travelled so fast that The Giving Keys are now sold in 200+ stores in the US including Fred Segal, Kitson and Opening Ceremony, and is quickly gaining international recognition.

It’s a lesson that any brand can learn – find your story and tell it with integrity. A blog is the perfect vehicle for this; it’s a free and fun way to reveal the human side of your organisation so loosen the reigns! Let your staff blog about the highs and lows of their day – people will identify with them, will respect the honesty and feel a deeper connection (and loyalty) to your products as a result. Do it well and you’ll get useful customer feedback and even ideas for new products and services. If you don’t feel confident that you have something to say that others will want to hear, it’s a sure-fire sign that you need to consider what your organisation stands for (and call me to discuss how you can make a commitment to CSR or social enterprise...!).

Catherine Chapman reviews and champions high quality ethical brands online at Having worked in PR and Marketing for global brands for the last 10 years, she’s using the skills gained to help promote ethical business to the masses. You can reach her via

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What do the recent Facebook changes mean to your blog? by Liz Pulo of

As soon as the Facebook Pages feature was released a few years ago, hundreds of bloggers signed up and encouraged their readership to engage with them on a new platform. For many, this brought a whole new dimension to their blogging.

A new community formed – a combined group of those who were already engaged on your blog, and those who had found commenting too daunting in the past. It looked as though Facebook Pages were the magical solution to blog engagement.

That was until early this year when Facebook decided to shake up some behind the scenes algorithms. Have you noticed a drop in engagement? Not as many people seeing your posts as they used to? You're not the only one.

What is Reach?

To put it simply, reach is the number of people that have seen any one of your Facebook posts. It's that little “seen by x” figure below each post. A very simple concept – but also a very important one.

What has changed?

Prior to July 2012, reach was calculated based on the number of views your post had received by people logging in through a normal web browser (i.e. on a desktop or laptop).

Now your post counts as having reached someone when it is shown in the person’s news feed and loaded – on any platform. This include mobiles and tablets.

On a quick read through of the changes, it just sounds like they've tweaked the tracking so that your reach is more accurate. Fantastic, right? But that's not all that's going on.

What also changed was a little thing called the EdgeRank Algorithm. This algorithm determines what posts are relevant to you as a Facebook user, based on your past activity. This means that while previously you could be assured that the majority of your followers on Facebook would see your status updates, now Facebook decides who gets to see them and when.

In conjunction with this change, Facebook have also rolled out a function called Promoted Posts. Want to reach all of your followers again? You're going to have to pay for it.

This is an incredibly smart business move from Facebook, but that doesn't mean it's a positive one for it's users!

What can I do?

This is a tough one. If you were a business I would recommend allocating a budget for Facebook marketing and exploring whether paying for promoted posts is worth it for you. However, most bloggers run with little to no budget. So now what?

1. Keep engaging with your audience.

You might be seeing less of them, but it's important not to abandon them because you don't feel that you're getting the same results! Remember, Facebook decides what's relevant to each user: so the more you engage and the more relevant you are to your audience, the more your posts will pop up in their News Feeds!

2. Promote your Facebook link.

Sure, you don't have control over the News Feed, but you know what you do have control of? Your blog! Encourage people to engage with you over on Facebook. Include links at the end of your posts inviting readers to chat with you further about the topic over there (but don't neglect your comments section either!). Provide your audience with the reminders that Facebook used to provide for you.

3. Post at an optimal time for your audience.

Find out what time best suits your audience. Are they mothers, who are online early in the morning? Perhaps they're professionals, jumping online after work in an evening. Know what time suits your audience and use it. (Hint: do some posts over the next week at different times and see when your best reach is.)

4. Post interesting content.

Okay, this one is a little obvious, but sometimes we all need a reminder. Don't just post boring old text updates. Use images, videos and sound to draw the reader in. Look at your own News Feed – where do your eyes focus? I'm willing to bet you skip over the text and land on the images.

Do you have any tips and tricks for dealing with the new Facebook changes? Let us know in the comments section below!

Liz Pulo has been a blogger for over 9 years in various forms. She loves social media, blogging and lolcats. She can be found in Hobart, Australia where she lives with her husband Jarod and cat Train. Liz blogs infrequently at lizosaurus.com

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How Blogging Changed My Life... by Annie of 'The Quarterlife Tales of Annie Bean..'

As I sat compiling my list of Christmas gifts to buy I felt suddenly stunned at how quick the year had vanished.  It seemed like only five minutes ago I was welcoming in the New Year, and here I was planning this year’s celebrations along with writing my present shopping list.  As I pondered how fast the seasons had changed with the end of the year getting closer, one thing that had transformed for the better was me and my life.

I’m a very average twenty-something year old with a background in music, arts and events.  I had studied at university to masters level in music industry management, but due to the recession I’d struggled to get a job in that particular field, I was either under experienced or too experienced and nothing seemed to work.  As I approached my late twenties I finally decided enough was enough and took the plunge by following another career path, my days went by happily in my job in events management but I knew I wasn’t completely content... there was something missing.   It was a bit of an unknown void in my life so I started taking part in various activities to help but that feeling just wouldn't budge.  One day my boyfriend suggested I started a blog, his sister was a writer of a very popular Mummy blog and even though that’s not the sort of blog I’d create I decided to give it whirl.  I wasn't a writer and had never studied journalism, therefore was slightly hesitant about how I'd be perceived to the reader.

I pondered for hours trying to figure out what to write about, so I started with what I knew best which was music. I’m quite opinionated and used that skill to my advantage by writing about topics that meant something to me.  I began writing reviews about live gigs and single releases - that’s when I suddenly started to feel that passion within me emerge.  I didn't want to limit myself to just music, as a result I slowly started to layer in my other personal life passions; fashion, beauty, fitness and lifestyle.  I didn't want to be pigeon holed as a specific type of blogger, I'm a diverse individual and wanted that to come across through my articles. I wanted to produce a blog that was not overly personal, but could hopefully give people something they could relate to, be a good read and maybe inspire them.

One of my key blogging topics of interest is fashion and my personal style; If you’d of met me years ago you'd be possibly wondering how the devil I was invited to London Fashion Week and the Elle Style Awards.  I used to be rather clueless when it came to clothes and how to dress, but It seemed the more I wrote about the subject the more self confidence I gained.  I'd always adored fashion and admired designers and styles but had no confidence to talk about it, somehow my blog gave me the platform to explore that admiration.

I don't really know how my quarter-life tales is interesting to those who visit my site, but I must be writing something that's intriguing because I'm getting more and more hits each month.  I love to write about my life adventures;  perhaps I've been camping in the Lake District, maybe I've had a tea party and tried a new cake recipe, or possibly I have taken part in local race or there's a new hair product I have fallen in love with.  I simply write what I want, how I want and when I want, that's the beauty of blogging there's no restrictions at all, I can indulge in all my loves and that's why it's changed my life for the better.  

I once was a girl confused about my life direction who couldn't land a job where she wanted, I now have the best of both worlds.  I have only been blogging for just over a year and I love every second of it, I just hope my random adventures continue to inspire those who read it. Who knows where this will lead, but all I know right now is that I'm a girl leading a far more confident and happy existence through a blog full of my quarter-life tales.

Annie Bean is the author of 'The Quarter Life Tales of Annie Bean' -
Annie Bean
Blog Writer
The Quarter-life Tales of Annie Bean
Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

How My Mommy Blog Helped Me to Be a Work at Home Mom By Martine De Luna

I've been a work at home mom for about two years now. I've been blogging for the same number of years, too. For me, staying at home + blogging + doing part-time freelance work = the most natural thing. 

I began my blog when my son was three months old, which was also when I returned to my work place. (I was a teacher for seven years.) At the time, "mommy blogs" were already well established as an online niche, and I rather liked the idea. So, I followed suit: I blogged about being a new mother, about my home, about new recipes, and even products or services I'd tried. At some point, I even blogged about my dilemma to stay employed or become a work at home mom. From that point on, I learned several things about blogging, most notably that blogging can help moms like me find real, meaningful business or work. 

Here's how the path looked like for me.

1. The mommy blog became natural marketing platform for my skills. I'm a freelance writer, so naturally, blogging seemed, well, natural to me. Eventually, as the blog grew, people began to inquire if I provided freelance writing services. Some even invited me to contribute to their publications. And so, what started off as a personal blog on motherhood eventually became a marketing platform for me as a writer. Eventually, I added a Services page to my blog, where people could hire me for various writing jobs.

The take-home point: Moms who can offer value, insights and useful information can do so via a blog. For writers, in particular, a blog can be a digital portfolio of sorts. Use it to market your best abilities.

2. A mommy blog helps you to build a brand.  When my blog turned a year old, I started to blog with a theme: To provide inspiration and practical tips for work at home moms. I'd about my lessons in parenting, marriage and working from home, weaving practical steps into these personal experiences so that the blog entries provided more than just a narration of what, when, who and where. By providing a "why", a lesson or take-home point for readers, the blog also became a resource site for like-minded mom-readers — and potential clients. This year, I took the blog's branding a bit further by doing an offline, local event that was a spin-off of the topics I'd written about on the blog. I called the event the "WAHMderful Life Workshop," a series of workshops that is geared at empowering moms who want to work from home while making a home. (We're planning next year's workshops already.)

The take-home point: When you build up your online presence as a brand, you naturally build a network. This network can help connect you with potential clients, even pave the way for non-blog related services that also generate income.

3. A mommy blog helps potential clients place their trust in you. Because a mommy blog has a personal touch to its style, branding and voice, it can be a powerful endorser for family-oriented brands and businesses. In my case, blogging meant writing excellently, because I simply loved writing. I suppose clients (and eventually, advertisers) saw that I wrote well and sent over proposals and pitches for me to consider. Since I started freelance writing (because of the blog), I've written for various parenting, women, healthy and beauty, and work at home publications, both online and offline.

The take-home point: When you write well and authoritatively on your blog; when you write in your voice and brand, then clients see your best work. When you are committed to showcase your best work, potential clients will know that they can count on you to deliver your best when they hire you. 

For me, blogging as a work at home mom means being open and honest about my passion for making a living while making a home. I strive to blog regularly, to share stories and to offer value to the blog readers. It’s not an easy job, but because it is my passion, I feel I’m constantly motivated to keep on writing. The money and the earnings are just the icing on top.

Martine de Luna is a wife, mother, freelance writer and speaker, and the author of Dainty Mom: A Mom's Bliss. Read her full bio here, Tweet her here, or say "hello" to her on Facebook.