My 5 Favorite Social Media Marketing Productivity Tools

By now it's no secret that I'm a straight up social media nerd.

I love social media and its ever-morphing possibilities (even though I probably didn't need to see the zebra version of you on Snapchat.) The only social network that I ever resisted was Myspace--which was the first one all my friends joined when I was a freshman in college. Ever since that day I finally, begrudgingly crossed over to the dark side and chose my Top 8 I have been hooked. But never did I imagine back in 2005 when we all joined Facebook and wrote on one another's "walls" that these "social networks" would one day be a substantial part of my career. 

Now I use social media every single day at work. And not only have dozens of social networks popped up over the years, but a ton of productivity tools have been created along with them that help those of us who use social media to communicate ideas and market products and services do so much more efficiently. So today I thought I'd share with you my five favorite tools to get more done on social media faster and with greater ease. 

My 5 Favorite Social Media Marketing Productivity Tools

1. Buffer 
Buffer gives you the opportunity to consistently publish helpful, interesting content without logging into a social network every time you post. Buffer is a great tool to use if you curate content for an audience. I use it to spread out my social media posts and easily share content that I've found that I think my audience would enjoy. See an interesting article that would be helpful to your audience? Just tap the Buffer button and it will automatically share it on your designated social channels at a time you previously selected. You can drip valuable content out to your audience without having to log in every time you post. Buffer is available on your phone or computer.

2. Nuzzel
Scrolling through your social feeds in search of good content to reshare is not the best use of your time. Use Nuzzel. Nuzzel is a daily digest of the most shared articles on your Twitter feed. If you follow people and accounts that provide valuable content to you this will be a treasure trove of the best articles and shares of the day. And if you are a content curator you can scroll through, click on the articles that would be relevant to your audience, then schedule them in Buffer. Easy.

3. Pocket
I’m constantly coming across articles I want to “save for later.” (Many of them from my Nuzzel digest!) Instead of keeping 15 tabs open on Chrome I save articles in Pocket by using the Pocket Chrome extension.
Pocket is like a virtual version of that “read later" pile on your desk or night stand. When I get a second (at the airport or while dinner is cooking, for example) I open the Pocket app on my iPhone and there’s a self-curated list of articles I’ve been wanting to read. Perfect! (And so much less mindless than scrolling through Facebook or Twitter.)

4. Canva
This is my favorite tool to create clean, appealing, text-based images very quickly (see above!). With templates in every kind of image dimension possible (Facebook post, Instagram post, Pinterest image, etc, etc) it takes the guesswork out of creating images that are optimized for each platform. It’s too easy not to use. I never really understood you, Photoshop, and now I don’t have to! #Winning

5. Tweetdeck
This is my favorite service for getting a quick glance at several Twitter accounts at once. I never miss a notification and I’m able to schedule tweets with images very easily through Tweetdeck. 
Honorable mention: Hootsuite (for social listening). 

Social media can of course be a huge time suck. But there are ways to use it well and to speed up the amount of time it takes to share your story. Do you have any favorite SMM productivity tools? If so, I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

And if you liked this post you'll really like my eBook, More in Less: 21 Productivity Hacks for Creatives. It's all about giving you tools and strategies so you can create more space to, well, create! Grab it here.

Hilary's Social Media Tuesday Tip 002: Your 13-Second Hashtag Tutorial (Plus a Bonus!)

Hey guys! Back again with another Tuesday Tip! Today we're talking about hashtags and reach. If we're creating content for business we certainly want to reach as many people as possible. Are hashtags the way to go? Should you always slap on a hashtag just in case it helps expand your audience? It's important to know how hashtags work on each social platform. Here's a quick run-down of what you need to know.

1. Twitter. Hashtags can be very effective for growing your audience. I would encourage you to really only use them when they're highly appropriate for a certain audience. And more often than not add them on at the end. Because #nothing is more #annoying than a #tweet that looks like #this. #amiright?

2. Instagram. This is the place where you can really feel that hashtag freedom--especially if you put your hashtags in a comment below your caption rather than right in the caption. To each his own but I'm comfortable with seeing a good 9 or 10 hashtags if they are purposeful.

3. Linkedin. Leave your hashtags at home people because they don't do anything for you on this platform!

4. Facebook. This one is tricky guys. Hashtags do work on Facebook but they don't actually expand your reach. Facebook's algorithm actually punishes posts that include hashtags. So avoid, avoid!

And a bonus that didn't fit in my 13-second video:

5. Pinterest. Hashtags are only clickable in a pin description. Don't bother with them on boards or in your profile bio. Words without hashtags are just as searchable as words with hashtags on Pinterest. So unless you're creating a special hashtag just for your brand and you want consistency across Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, it may not be worth bothering.

I hope you've found this brief hashtag tutorial helpful. If you have any other hashtag questions feel free to throw them at me!

Hilary's Social Media Tuesday Tip 001: Keep it PUFI!

This week I thought I'd experiment with sharing a short video blog. I'd love to hear your feedback on this new medium in the comments! It's so easy to go to social media to share when we want to vent our frustrations over something but so often we can creep into the land of oversharing, coming across critical or judgmental, or just plain boring.

Posting less often but keeping it within certain guidelines can ensure that when you have something to say on social media, you have friends and followers who are interested to hear it! See below for the 4 criteria for social media posts.

Do you try to keep it PUFI? Any other criteria you'd add to the list? 

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Linkedin

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of LinkedinOk show of hands. Who here is on Linkedin but doesn’t really get why? Anyone? Bueller?

Today I want to  explore the benefits of this career-focused social network and provide you with a few tips on how to get the most out of it.

Linkedin is a place to establish your credibility in your field. Whether your post-college career is launching in two months or if you’re entering your 4th decade in the workforce, Linkedin can be useful to you. It’s more than an online resume. Linkedin gives you the opportunity to make your accomplishments and expertise readily accessible to people in your network who need it.

So how can you get the most out of Linkedin?

1. Fully optimize your Linkedin profile. That means have a professional headshot as your profile photo, include a header image, give some thought to your headline, include descriptions for each position on your page and sprinkle in keywords. If someone was searching for someone with your expertise and experience which keywords would they be searching for? These are a dead giveaway. They need to be front and center.

2. Publish posts on Linkedin. Linkedin publishing has not been around long. Now is an excellent time to begin publishing content here. You’ll reach an audience who won’t necessarily frequent your blog or other article links you may be posting.

3. Write recommendations for others. You have the option to write a recommendation for every person you have a connection with on Linkedin. Why not take five minutes and write a kind review on someone’s profile who has impressed you or given you excellent customer service? This is an opportunity to add value. And kind words are not quickly forgotten.

4. Include a personal note when you request a connection. If you’re really seeking to invest in a relationship by connecting with someone on Linkedin, what better way than including a brief message in your invitation? What a simple way to begin to build a bridge.

5. Remember that most users do not log on to Linkedin every day. Perhaps you post content more frequently because you are reaching different people on different days. Perhaps this means you use Linkedin as a resource to find further contact information for a connection rather than just sending a message through Linkedin. Draw your own conclusions on how this impacts your use of this social tool. 

Linkedin is a useful tool for professionals who run the gamut. If you’re a stay at home mom who is taking a few years off from your profession, a fully optimized Linkedin profile reminds the world of your expertise and experience. If you’re a freelancer it’s a constant source of clients. If you’re an early career professional looking for an internship, your industry-related post could impress someone who decides you’re worth taking on as an intern or entry-level employee.

Bottom line: Linkedin is a free tool that can help your career today and potentially years down the road. Why not take a few minutes and use it well?

5 Non-negotiable Elements of an Effective Blog Post

5 Non-negotiable elements of an effective blog post
5 Non-negotiable elements of an effective blog post

Fun facts time! I’ve written about 700 blog posts in the last ten years. For real. I've also  taught a social media class for the past year at Southern New Hampshire University in which I read and critique about 3 blog posts by 25 students for each class. That’s about 500 blog posts that I’ve read and graded.

Today I want to share some of the techniques I look for when I’m grading my students’ blogs and when I blog myself.

1. Eye-catching photo. Our culture is simply too image-oriented not to include a picture in every post. It doesn't have to be incredible artistry but it does need to be eye-catching and visually pleasing.

2. Interesting and informative headline. Your headline needs to make sense to more people than just you. While you don't want to give away the big take-away of your post (after all you do want people to bother reading the post itself) it should give the audience a clear sense of what they will receive in turn for reading the post.

3. Scannable content. Make the key points of your post easy to locate. Make a list. Put important words in bold. Use subheadings to break up the post. Keep paragraphs brief. Do what you can to help your audience find the jewels in your post before they're distracted by another website.

4. Clear take-aways. Keep your audience in mind first. Every post you write should add value--whether it's a practical tip or a different perspective. Make the point crystal clear.

5. Ending each post with a question. All of social media is a two-way conversation. Blogging is no exception. Spur reader engagement by concluding your post with a question. Remember: blog's aren't megaphones.

A lot of best practices exist in blogging but these are just a few of the non-negotiable cornerstones. What are your blogging non-negotiables? Do you have any blogging tips that you swear by? 

Why I'm Killing the old HSL Creative and Starting Fresh

“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” --William Faulkner

Why I'm Killing the Old HSL Creative and Starting Fresh
Why I'm Killing the Old HSL Creative and Starting Fresh

 I love the promise that comes with the turning of the calendar year. It's an opportunity to change it up, to do it better than last year, to get it right.

For me the turning of this calendar year means that work life is changing.

I’m working with Pursuant, a Dallas-based fundraising agency, in a brand journalist capacity. There will be blog posts and press releases and articles and video interviews and podcasts.

Oh heck yes, podcasts.

So what does that mean for HSL Creative? It means I’m pairing down and getting crystal clear on what I can contribute. This is where 2015’s “less but better” mantra comes in. Rather than supporting clients by writing articles and posts and executing their social media strategy on a daily basis, I’m stepping back and thinking big(ger) picture. The services list on my website currently has three categories and 18 different services. (18!)

Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.

 I'm focusing on "less but better" this year. This means I want to do less overall but do it a heck of a lot better. This approach means my clients really win. I'm not spreading out my energy in a million directions. I'm focusing on a few things and I'm going to do them as well as humanly possible. What does this mean, practically? It means saying "no" more often (a challenging and uncomfortable thing for me.) It means fewer shows, fewer freelance articles, fewer commitments overall. But the things I say "yes" to will get double (sometimes triple or quadruple or whatever, [you math people,  this probably deserves some sort of equation]) the effort  and focus.

So here's what all of that means for HSL Creative.

what HSL Creative will deliver in 2015

Strategy Consulting: I'll work with clients on brand strategy, social media strategy and help you think outside the box with rut-busting brainstorming sessions. You can rent my brain to create a social media plan for your business, give you feedback and perspective on your branding, or just get help when you're not sure where to go next with your business or career.

Speaking & Teaching: Last week's super successful Blogging for Business workshop, made it crystal clear to me that teaching and coaching are ways I can really help add value for clients. There will be more workshops, opportunities to receive coaching on blogging, social media and business, and guest lecturing, media appearances and other talks.  You can also take my social media, journalism and mass communication courses at SNHU--but maybe, only do that if you're working toward a degree there? Actually, I take that back. Do whatever you want. :-) 

Content & Special Projects: Expect me to up my blogging game this year. That means more free articles that relate directly to you and your marketing needs as well as social media analysis, and posts that center on goal-setting, career and lifehacks.  I'll also be taking on select writing projects ranging from magazine articles to bios and other content created just for the web.

So I'm killing HSL Creative as we know it. Goodbye, old friend. I'm trading old HSL Creative for the new crystal clear HSL Creative. I can help you through consulting, teaching, and writing content that is helpful to you. That's my promise for 2015.

What is your mantra for 2015? Are you revamping your approach to business? I'd love to hear about it!

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative. If you'd like to learn more about one of the aforementioned opportunities, fill out the form below.

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur: 10 things for that person who you fully expect to take over the world one day

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur

If you have a hustling, creative, self-starter in your life, my guess is that they would go nuts for any of the following items on this list. Happy Holidays!

1. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Full disclosure: one of my latest podcast obsessions is #AskGaryVee. The main thesis of JJJRH is that though communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing great content, it's about developing high-quality content that's perfectly created to blend in on specific social media platforms and mobile devices. Anybody who has something to promote online should read this book.

2. Subscription to Audible.com. We're all busy here. Why not get a subscription for that busy person in your life and let them read while they exercise or drive? The Audible subscription includes one audiobook per month. Perfect!

3. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. This New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller was written by one of my favorite bloggers and podcast hosts, Michael Hyatt. Recently, Forbes magazine named him one of the “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.” In this book Michael unpacks how to let the world know about your incredible message by building a platform that gets you noticed.

4. Premium Skillshare subscriptionSkillshare is an online community where you can take classes from some of the country's leading experts. Topics range from building a logo to starting a business. It is one inspiring place. Plus, Seth Godin even  lectures here.

5. Fast Company. This magazine has gotten my wheels turning about trends in technology and business many a time. Fast Company inspires a new breed of innovative and creative thought leaders who are actively inventing the future of business. When I look through the pages of Fast Company I see role model after role model. This magazine will inspire and challenge your entrepreneur.

6. A photography session. Every aspiring entrepreneur, thought leader or creative needs professional images on his or her website and social profiles. In today's image-focused social landscape, pictures are everything. To say they will enhance your online presence is a gross understatement. (Photographers I've worked with and love: Foster & Asher, Adam Barnes Fine Art Photography, Billy B Photography, Deb Knoske, Ty Hester)

7. The 4-Hour WorkweekThis book has had maybe more of an influence on the way I work than any other book I've read in the last five years. In its pitch the 4-Hour Workweek says Tim Ferris will "teach you how to escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich." Well, I can't say I've quite joined the new rich yet, but Ferris' book is chock full of helpful ideas to help you do more of what matters and less of what gleans you a less valuable pay off. This is a GREAT book.

8. BluehostSo web hosting is not a sexy gift, you say? It IS! I say. Your creative knows he/she needs a self-hosted site to really run with the big dogs and show the world he/she is serious about his/her endeavor. (This very blog is moving to a self-hosted site in January.) Sometimes its hard to make that initial investment. Give them the gift of Bluehost and do it for them.

9. Success MagazineThis subscription was actually not one I sought out for myself; my dad got me a 2-year subscription last Christmas. Oh how I love it. I appreciate that the stories are not dumbed down for the multi-tasking millennial generation. They are long and in-depth. In addition--my favorite part of the magazine--it comes with an audio CD with in-depth interviews based on the focus of the magazine that month. Just last night I was listening to an interview about significance. It has challenged and inspired me on my drives more than once. Well worth it. 

10. Creativity, Inc.  By Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, Creativity, Inc. was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal. This book takes you behind the curtain at one of the most innovative companies of the 20th & 21st centuries. Forbes said it "just might be the best business book ever written.”Listen to Forbes people.  

There you have it! If you read this and see items that you'd love you might ought to reshare it as a helpful hint.

For more posts like this subscribe, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook and double-tap on Instagram
 

Announcing the First HSL Creative Blogging Workshop

HSL Creative Blogging Workshop at Toolry in Lynchburg, VA
HSL Creative Blogging Workshop at Toolry in Lynchburg, VA

I'm so thrilled to announce that I will be leading a workshop at Toolry (the massively inspirational co-working space in downtown Lynchburg) on January 17. This workshop is all about taking the headache out of blogging for your business. If you're a small-business owner, employee, artisan or even an Etsy shop owner, this workshop is for you.

Did you know that websites with a blog receive 55% more traffic than those that don't?

At this workshop you'll learn blogging best practices, how to create an editorial calendar, and you'll leave with a ton of great post ideas. Guaranteed.

This workshop would also make an incredible gift for the creative entrepreneur in your life.

Experiences>Stuff.

Join me {in person} in Lynchburg on January 17! 

On “The Internet of Things” and 10 other actionable items I heard at #ISUM14

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 8.11.19 PM
On "the Internet of Things" and 10 Other Actionable Items I Learned at #ISUM14
On "the Internet of Things" and 10 Other Actionable Items I Learned at #ISUM14

Last week I got to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina where I got two days chock full of the latest in digital strategies, content marketing, social media, SEO, email marketing, and analytics. A week later and my mind is still spinning with all the awesome advice I heard and all the ideas I’m ready to implement. Today I want to share with you ten of the best actionable items I heard.

1. Since Google Authorship went away, use Linkedin publishing for credibility & thought leadership. -Cara Rousseau, Duke University (Tweet that!

2. Find someone like me, tell about how you solved a problem like mine, I’ll trust you. -Chris Moody, Oracle (Tweet that!)

3. Websites that blog receive 55% more traffic than those that don’t. -Matthew Capala, Search Decoder (Tweet that!)

4. You have to be as good on social media as Amazon, Walmart ,etc—that’s where your customers are. -Heidi Cohen (Tweet that!)

5. Instead of making it about you, make it about your audience and your customers and what they care about. -Leigh George, PhD (Tweet that!)

6. 80% of people delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile device. -Jodi Wearn, SilverPop (Tweet that!)

7. Asking for and getting money from customers is the best form of feedback on an idea! -Eric Morrow, Google (Tweet that!)

8. 80% of people who open your email are only scanning it. Capture the big idea of your email with a bold image and strong headline. -Christopher Lester, Emma (Tweet that!)

9. The average consumer unlocks their phone 110 times a day. -Robin Wheeler (Tweet that!)

10. The “Internet of Things” is where technology is going. Every item in your home will be connected to the Internet. Your printer will be able to order its own paper. Your car will drive itself. Autonomous everything. -David Pogue, Yahoo (Tweet that!)

11. “What motivates you to do your best? Being personally excited and motivated internally.” -Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder (Tweet that!)

Guys, this was only a portion of the great information I received last week. I’m so energized to implement this stuff for all of my HSL Creative clients.

Be honest with me—have you heard of “The Internet of Things” before this post?

How to Write a Blog Post That Actually Gets Read

How to write a blog post that actually gets read
How to write a blog post that actually gets read

Picture this: a friend shares an article on Facebook. The title sounds interesting so you click on it. About a paragraph in you realize it sounds familiar. Wait--this post was circulating around the Internet a solid year ago. And you clicked on it then too! Here it is making the rounds on news feeds all over again. Has this happened to you?

This is a prime example of why blogging is arguably the most effective online marketing tool a company can use. A well-written, engaging, informative post can live on and attract new readers (and maybe some who've already read it once), new site visitors and potential customers for months and even years after it has been written.

So how do you write a compelling post that gets shared again and again?

How To Write a Blog Post People Want to Read

1. Make it digestable. Keep paragraphs short; three or four sentences are perfect. A reader should be able to glance over the entire post and not feel bogged down in any given paragraph. They should feel like they can read the entire post in two minutes or less.

2. Keep it between 300 and 700 words. Shorter is not always better but longer is almost always worse. There is no more distracting technological medium than the web so make sure your posts are concise so the user actually reads it from start to finish. If it’s not incredibly sharp they will move on to the next article before finishing yours.

3. Include an image. Photos draw readers into the story you are telling. The image should help you tell your story better. You can get stock images online or grab your smartphone and take them yourself.

4. Make the purpose of the post clear from the start. Being coy does not work in online writing. If you do not make the point crystal clear in the first few sentences you’ve lost your readers.

5. Don’t throw away your headline. The most important part of the post is the headline. Make your title compelling. This is your chance to draw your reader in with a tantalizing question or a promise. Pay attention to the kind of headlines that catch your eye online and adopt similar habits.

6. Get comfortable in your voice. Your blog posts need to sound like you at your most polished, well-organized, and confident. Include personal stories. Be authentic. Your blog will resonate with people when you write with honesty and candor.

7. Finish with a question or call to action. Give your readers an opportunity to respond whether it’s by answering a question or clicking through to your website. Never simply end a post with a concluding thought. Give your audience an opportunity to engage. That is the beauty of this technology: the two-way conversation.

Blogging is one of the greatest opportunities to create lasting content on the web. When done well, blogging is an incredible tool to use to establish credibility, build a personal brand, and increase web traffic.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to blogging?

What You Can Learn from Taylor Swift About Killing It on Social Media

If you've glanced at social media this week you're no doubt aware that Taylor Swift released her first official pop album. While I haven't listened to it (sorry, it's not on Spotify [yet]), I can't help but notice Swift's impressive public persona--especially how she is killing it on Instagram.

So what can other artists, leaders, and entrepreneurs learn from the way Swift makes social media work for her? Here's a few points.

How Taylor Swift is Crushing It on Instagram

1. She looks fun and accessible. Swift's Instagram is full of cute photos with fans, artsy shots of polaroids, and handwritten lyrics and videos that show that the artist who rakes in $64 million a year is just like us. See here for proof--because who among us has not gotten excited when we saw our friend on TV?

2. She posts regularly. Swift's campaign (yes, it's most definitely a campaign) leading up to her album release includes new content that was posted regularly. We're talking four Instagram photos a day. Each one was an insider teaser for a different song on the album. That sweet spot of not too frequent, not too sporadic posting is different for everyone. But Taylor knows her Instagram obsessed fans are on their smartphones all the time and want their Taylor fix. So she gives it to them. But notice--her face only shows up in 1 out of every 10 posts. Overexposure? Taylor's not having it.

3. Taylor's posts make you feel like you're on the inside. You're not a fan, you're a friend. One of my writing mantras is "write like a person!" and Swift does just that. Each caption sounds like she's writing to one of her best pals. Taylor isn't just "thanking all the fans out there," she is inviting them to her house for album listening parties, baking them cookies and looking person after person in the eye and showing them that she's noticing them. She communicates this same approach to her fans on social media by posting photos with them and writing captions as if she's friends with everyone who reads them. She is not high and mighty; she's the artist of the people. That's why her fans are so fiercely loyal. Tay is their homegirl!

4. She plays to her strengths. Swift's draw is that she is accessible in an Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, Neal Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres kind of way. She is not mysterious like Johnny Depp, Jay-Z or Angelina Jolie. Her strength is being warm, likable and relatable so Swift works that to the max. She is naturally charming and wears her feelings on her sleeve (or in her lyrics) for all to see. That is one of Swift's strongest advantages.

6. The Instagram campaign leading up to the album release was well thought out and planned. The days leading up to the album release included snippets of song lyrics written longhand on polaroids. These old school photographs are about as cozy and familiar as fans can get to Taylor through social media. Even before the countdown to the album was on, Taylor posted hints toward a big event, short videos and images to hint to fans that something was in the works.

The combination of Swift's warm persona, her face time with fans, a creative Instagram campaign and her commitment to posting consistently have made Taylor Swift a social media rockstar. The campaign has clearly been working for her. Her album is set to go platinum this week--a feat that hasn't happened for any artist since, well, Swift did the same thing two years ago with her last album. *Drops mic.*

6 Lessons to Learn from the Resurgence of Surge

Coca-Cola company
Coca-Cola company

Did you catch the news about Surge this week? If you’re a child of the 90s you may remember the lemon lime flavored highly caffeinated soda that was marketed to thrill seekers and teen boys by the Coca-cola company. The drink disappeared from super market shelves in 2001 but thanks to a grassroots social media campaign, Surge is back. Well, maybe not at your local gas station, but you can order a case of it on Amazon.

A Facebook group raised $4000 to buy a billboard near Coca-cola's headquarters in Atlanta, GA. The billboard said: "Dear Coke, we couldn't buy SURGE, so we bought this billboard instead."

The response to the news of the resurgence of Surge was pretty overwhelming. Amazon sold out of the sugary drink twice on Monday. Coca-cola’s move with Surge is a pretty big one: it’s the company’s first product launch that relies solely on social and digital media.

This whole story of how rabid fans got their voices heard via social media and got the sugary energy drink they so longed for to be made available again got me thinking…

What is there to learn from the resurgence of Surge?

1. Millennials have grown up to be the first digital native generation that has real spending power. Not only do they know how to grow a movement via digital media or use Kickstarter to fund passion projects, but they are also beginning to make decent money themselves. Children of the 90s are no longer just whiny, selfish millennials.Millennials are beginning to have the spending power of established adults with the digital prowess of teenagers. Pretty lethal combination.

2. Listen to brand loyalists and get creative in meeting their requests. As my friend and mentor Ben Stroup says: “say yes until you have to say no.” Coca-cola isn’t spending millions bottling Surge and putting it in every grocery store and gas station. That's way too big of a gamble. But they can say "yes" by making it available on Amazon to the super fans who are willing to pay a little more for it. They’re paying attention to a passionate niche market instead of writing them off. Coke isn’t planning to sell Surge in stores again, but if the Amazon wave goes well, they just might. How can you wow your audience in a creative way and say “yes” to them in a creative way? Niche market brand loyalists have power. Don’t discount them.

3. Capitalizing on nostalgia is a thing. How many retro t-shirts have you seen sold at Target or Old Navy? New Kids On the Block and the Backstreet Boys have combined their powers to become one giant boy band nostalgia ride. The technology we use now has transformed our culture. People look back on the pre-Facebook, pre-smart phone, heck--pre-iPod days with fondness. How can you access this nostalgia in your business? What can you do to delight your audience by tapping into familiarity?

4. Pay attention to what your audience likes about a product or service. Some things need to stay the same to be effective. Would fans buy Surge with such gusto if it had a snazzy new 2014 design? HECK NO. They are drawn to the fact that it is the exact same sugary beverage with the exact same logo it had when they were a teen and life was much less complicated. Innovation has incredible value but some things are valuable because they have not changed.

5. E-commerce makes what was once impossible, possible. There was a time when selling a beverage to a niche market was just too expensive. But e-commerce is a game-changer. Niche products and e-commerce are a match made in heaven. As Coca-cola put it: e-commerce provides the “democratization of demand.” What speciality products or services could you make available through e-commerce?

6. Sometimes things have to be minimized, made rare, or go away altogether to get appreciated. What does this mean for you? Should you post less on social media? Increase your prices? Be a little less available? Surge was discontinued because it wasn’t the popular success Coca-cola wanted it to be. Now it’s been gone for 13 years and a passionate (albeit small) vocal group have missed it and brought attention to it. Rarity increases value. How can you apply that to your business?

The resurgence of Surge indicates that niche markets matter, voices can be heard and thanks to technology companies can delight their customers in more ways than ever before. How will you use it to wow your audience?

My Top 12 Posts in Honor of HSL Creative's First Birthday

My 2nd birthday.
My 2nd birthday.

I’ve had a stunning revelation: HSL Creative, in its most recent incarnation, is officially ONE year old!

Cue the streamers, candles, and of course cake (my favorite.) In honor of our first birthday I thought I would share a countdown of the 12 most popular blog posts from the last year. (Get it? 1 for each month?)

Over the past year I’ve shared observations on social media trends, productivity hacks, career advice, information about our services, and even personal reflections about not living in a major city or overextending myself. So I give you the top 12 posts of our first year as voted by your clicks. So take a look, check out the ones you may have missed. And thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on the journey.

CHOCOLATE CAKE ALL AROUND, I SAY!

Here’s to year 2. Cheers.

12. Finding Margin: Confessions of a Wayward Blogger Whether you're an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home parent, or an employee of a giant corporation, there are always priorities and choices to make. And sometimes we have to say "no" to good things in order to say "yes" to great things.

11. 7 Hacks for Shaking off the Blahs and Getting Out of ProcrastiNation I have a war within me: lazy person vs. driven person. That conflict can easily manifest itself in procrastination. Here's some ways I combat it.

10. How to Launch Dual Careers I'm a passionate advocate of kicking the status quo in the face. If you are a soon to be college graduate, an early career professional, or just know in your gut it's time for a change, this post gives you the first steps to making the move to dual careers.

9. 10 Secrets to Getting Started in Freelance Writing If you've wanted to get started freelance writing but you're not sure where to begin, this post gives you tips on how to get paid to write.

8. 6 Reasons Someone You know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge Why the heck did the Ice Bucket Challenge raise over $100 million? How did that happen? Here's some reasons it worked amazingly well.

7. 10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year Need a cheat sheet for social media etiquette and smart habits (like knowing your privacy settings)? Here ya go.

6. 10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too Don't really know what all we do here? Here are some of the most practical ways that organizations and individuals have used HSL Creative services in recent months.

5. 9 Surprising Things I Learned When I Met a Client in Person Bottom line: in this incredible digital age where I (and many other people!) make a living by never seeing anyone in person--the face-to-face communication remains irreplaceable.

4. The #1 Reason I Feel Ok Even Though I Don't Live in a Major City My industries are media and the arts. Of COURSE, I have a desire to be in a major city where patrons and potential clients flock. But here's why I think this small city life has been GREAT for me and my career.

3. 6 Ways Grad School Launched Me into the Career of My Dreams Grad school gets a lot of flack in creative fields. "It's not worth the money," they say. "You're avoiding the real world," they say. Well, I say it was the exact right move for me. Here's why.

2. Will You Do Anything Social Media Free This Year? Do you ever feel like you've become a little too attached to your technology? Do you twitch when you accidentally leave your phone in your car? Have you never left your phone in your car because you always make certain it's on your person? This one's for you.

And drumroll please...the most popular post of the last year is....

1. 5 Lessons We Can Learn from the Most Retweeted Selfie of All Time Did you retweet it? Do you know exactly which one I'm talking about? What makes us take part in viral activity online? These are a few of my observations from both academically and professionally studying people and their social media habits.

There ya have it! My 12 most read posts of the 1st year of HSL Creative. Do me a huge favor and comment here or on Facebook or Twitter with some feedback on what kind of posts you'd like to see more of in the future. I'm listening!

HSL Creative Roundup: August

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 10.15.04 PM

August is winding down and quite frankly I'm ready for pumpkin EVERYTHING, how bout you? It's been an incredible month of writing, rehearsals, going to weddings, running and of course analyzing our social media practices. This month I had fun curating a list of my favorite places in Lynchburg for the Clutch Guide blog. I had a female college freshman in mind when I was writing it. What do I wish I had known about the Hill City when I first moved here? Boom. I created this list.

I also spent some time on the blog chatting about the different ways I work with other businesses, thought leaders, artists and nonprofits. My purpose is simple: I want to help other people reach their goals by supplying a plethora of services within the writing and social media realm. So here are 10 ways off the top of my head that I do that every day.

And finally I couldn't help but analyze the crazy impactful viral marketing campaign that has raised over $80 million to combat ALS. Here's where I explained why it worked so well.

I hope you've had a great month as well!

6 Reasons Someone You Know Did the #ALSIceBucketChallenge

In the name of ethical journey I feel it is my duty to share that I did this to myself.
In the name of ethical journey I feel it is my duty to share that I did this to myself.

Did you see an ice bucket video this week?

How about tweets or Instagram photos about #Ferguson?

What about the Downton Abbey philanthropic photo response to its historical snafu?

You probably saw at least one of these--if not all three.

What do these three social media viral moments have in common?

A purpose beyond simply entertainment, attention, and 15 minutes of fame.

Let’s start by analyzing the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. Why did it work?

1. Whether watching or participating--it’s fun. Watching friends’ reactions the moment after cold water is dumped on them is priceless. And continues to be as long as people you actually know and like are participating. I’ve enjoyed watching the varying levels of theatrics that occur as people mentally prepare for the deluge and after it's been poured.

2. It’s a strange equalizer. Ok, so you’re not nominating Steven Spielberg like Oprah did. But this #ALSIceBucketChallenge is an opportunity for people to act out being the celebrity of their own social network for a day. How often do you and Jennifer Lopez and Bill Gates and Lady Gaga all do the same thing in a given day? It’s like a strange game of “celebrities, they’re just like us.”

3. It’s doable. The #ALSIceBucketChallenge is a fairly uncomplicated endeavor. What you need: a bucket, ice water, a friend with a camera, and the ability to name three friends to do it next. This mode of philanthropy may be mildly inconvenient (getting wet when not taking a shower can slow your day down a little) but difficult, it is not. Mark Zuckerberg can do it and oh yeah, so can you.

4. It’s for a good cause. Who doesn’t want to be a helper, giver, public servant, hero? Whether it seems obvious to you or not--this is a way to get the do-gooder euphoria without having to do very much (nope, you didn't dig a well in Africa, you poured water on your head). A lot of times philanthropy sounds like it is something for people who have all the time in the world or all the money in the world. But to participate in this, all you need is water, a bucket, and a camera (and hopefully a little cash to donate).

5. It’s goofy but has merit. Few adults would jump on the bandwagon of teenagers pulling pranks and posting them online (Planking? Hitting each other? Trying to drink a gallon of milk? Please stop.) But somehow the lure of a good cause (and the fact that nobody wants to wimp out on a worthwhile dare--especially if Matt Lauer was brave enough to do it) and your silly prank has gone viral.

6. People love their friends and doing good (and getting a little credit for doing good.) This is why Facebook has 1.23 billion active users--people want to connect with loved ones. The Ice Bucket Challenge pairs bonding with friends with doing something philanthropic and fun (and showing it to the world). So people get a trio of highs: shared experiences, doing something good for someone else and showing the world they are generous/fun people.

Whether or not you’ve embraced what some are calling “slacktivism,” the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has spread an astounding amount of awareness for the debilitating and fatal disease as well as raised millions of dollars. None of that would’ve happened without social media.

Bottom line: social media is THE way people are connecting with their communities and networks. They are sharing what’s important to them and hopefully beginning to realize that we can all make a difference--no matter the size of our platform.

So did you take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Were you a skeptic? Did you change your mind?

10 Ways I've Made Life Easier for Other Businesses, And How I Can Help You Too

Photo by Foster & Asher
Photo by Foster & Asher

Here in my one-person studio, I do a lot of different things for a variety of other businesses. Today I want to share with you some real-world examples of what I do for my clients. I'm sharing this because it's not unusual for someone to ask me, so what is it exactly that you do?

I'm sharing this today because I'd love to meet a need for you and to simplify or enhance your work.

1. Creating or revamping web copy for freelancers, entrepreneurs and other start-ups. I've helped make website copy sparkle for several individuals and businesses who don't view themselves as "writers." 

2. Outsourcing press releases. These businesses have needed to get news out about the exciting things happening at their organization. They didn't have a full-time staff member dedicated to communication so they opted to hire me to do basic PR. This has been a really great value for them as they don't pay someone a full-time salary but they get what they value most.

3. Brand strategy consulting. Setting up several rut-busting brainstorming sessions has helped clients bounce ideas off of a creative mind and get an outside perspective. I love rolling up my sleeves and figuring out how to solve problems. 

4. Outsourcing company e-newsletter production. Again, companies who prefer to hire out their communication needs on an a la carte basis have utilized this service. 

5. Writing company annual reports. I tap into my journalism roots when helping a company craft its annual narrative to share with its constituents. I love crafting short articles and stories that tell the story of what has happened in an organization over the last year. 

6. Writing a one-page biography for a professional. I've done this for singers, actors, people with political aspirations, and even people who are embarking on a motivational speaking career. They've told me again and again "it's just so hard to write about yourself." So I step in. 

7. Social content scheduling, maintenance. Some businesses just don't have the bandwidth to create, schedule and maintain their social media presence themselves. I've done this at various levels--from just uploading and scheduling pre-created content to crafting new messaging and scheduling it. 

8. Social brand engagement. Some brands get so much engagement from fans they can't keep up with it all on their own. I step in and make sure the "two-way" communication between customers and brands is happening. 

9. Outsourcing blog writing. I have a few clients who simply don't have the time to write blogs every week. I help them craft excellent communication that lives on and continues to bring traffic back to their website long after we hit "publish." 

10. Editing important letters to constituents. Some correspondence needs a professional writer's touch. When an organization was undergoing some changes that had a sweeping impact, I helped craft positive messaging.

Those are just ten ways that HSL Creative has helped meet the needs of other businesses over the past six months. Whether you need help simplifying your load or you need help enhancing your output, HSL Creative may be just what you need to tell your story.  

Drop her a line if you'd like to make your life easier by outsourcing your communication or social media needs. 

Will You Do Anything Social Media Free This Year?

The first lady celebrated her 50th birthday on Saturday with a secret, social media free, dance party at the White House complete with a Beyoncé serenade. While that sounds about right for Michelle Obama the part of that announcement that caught my eye was “social media free.”

I also just saw a tweet from a friend who said he purposefully left his smart phone at home when he went out last night. Happiness ensued:

https://twitter.com/jasongotay/status/424942101785493504

I don’t know about you but the idea of leaving my phone at home on purpose or not documenting one of the most epic birthday parties of the year on Instagram gives me the shakes a little bit.

And that’s not a good thing.

At the beginning of the year I made some decisions and goals for the year. Among them: don’t look at my iPhone during church.

Like seriously--how sad is that?

In this world of smartphones being an acceptable accessory just about anywhere, it’s easy to think we always need to check our phones or at least have them within arm’s length.

But what if you leave it at home so you can have coffee with a friend without mentally being pulled into the office?

What if you can leave it in the car so you’re not distracted by notifications during the pastor’s sermon?

What if you can actually experience the feeling of being bored waiting in line at Walmart without giving yourself that mindless entertainment of scrolling through your Twitter feed?

While I’m obviously all for maximizing the potential of social media to improve lives, I readily recognize that boundaries need to be made and life is not meant to be experienced with our eyes constantly glued to screens.

I’m gonna try to be a little more mindful of that in 2014. I’m gonna let myself be a little more focused on the person in front of me. A little more bored in the grocery store line.

What will you do social media free in 2014?

Lenders Checking Out Borrowers Social Media Accounts: 4 Ways to Make Sure Your Social Channels Are In Good Shape

Did you catch the news in the Wall Street Journal this week? A new trend has emerged in lending--checking out borrowers’ social media accounts in addition to their credit history. Now if you’re handling your social channels with expert finesse and have fan engagement on lock down, congrats! This is good news for you. If the thought of being judged by Twitter followers and Google reviews makes your palms sweaty, read on.

While having lenders make a decision about you or your company based on your presence on social media may seem unusual, well, get used to it. This is just the beginning of a new trend that I guarantee is not going anywhere. Your online image is your public persona. And for some this might be good news. If you have not so good credit but an impressive online presence, you may get the dollars you need.

In the meantime, here are a few tips for making sure your social media presence won’t get in the way of your future:

1. Be consistent--and honest. Have a consistent image across social media and in person. Make sure the story that you’re giving the lending company and the story they’ll read on your Linkedin and Facebook page all match up.

2.Address criticism on your page-don’t ignore it. This is major for a business page. You don’t want the conversation to go somewhere else where you don’t have the control. There’s nothing that’s worse than a disgruntled customer except maybe an ignored disgruntled customer. Engage with customers right on your pages. You don’t want them taking it to another media outlet or creating yourcompanysux.com.

3. Hire a professional. You may not be able to afford a full-time social media manager but you can certainly hire a consultant to support your social media channels. Get expert advice. Let a social media company--like us--help you improve your social media presence. We have something for every budget so email me.

4. Engage with fans on each platform. Engagement. Engagement. Engagement. This is the name of the game. Connect with your audience. Show them you care. Give them useful content. Humanity is the key to succeeding online.

Have questions or comments about what should be happening on your social media pages? Leave a comment below.

10 Social Media Resolutions to Adopt This Year

The new year is upon us and with it is the opportunity to turn around some of our bad habits regarding our health, time, money and even social media. Yes, staggering numbers of people around the world have social media profiles but many of those people don’t have any kind of social strategy.

Social media just becomes one big time zapper when we don’t have any intention behind it.

So here are ten suggested social media resolutions for the year ahead.

1. I will know my privacy settings and make sure I’m sharing with the appropriate audience. As of last year 13 million people in the US had never touched their privacy settings on Facebook. That means you may be one of those people who is sharing content that is public for any identity thief, bot or creep to see. Get familiar with your privacy settings on all your social networks.

2. I will decide my intent for each social media platform I’m on whether it is growing my business network, staying connected to old friends, or increasing my platform as a thought leader.

3. I will only post content that is useful, uplifting or fun. Enough of the snark and the angry political posts. In many ways what I post on social media will be my legacy long after I’m gone. I want those messages to be inspiring. I will not use social media as a platform to be condescending, hurtful or whiny.

4. I will not overshare on social media. Whether it’s a family argument, details of an illness or my nephew’s bodily functions, I will not share anything that will gross out or embarrass anyone on social media.

5. I will not take myself too seriously on social media. Social media is the place to show the human side of my business. It’s also the place where I can share news about my business with my personal acquaintances. I will balance each business-esque post with other posts that show that I’m a human just like you.

6. I will be open to trying new platforms but I will stay focused. I will spend the bulk of my precious time focusing on one or two platforms that have proven to give me return on investment for my business but I will stay up to speed on popular apps and platforms. There’s nothing like being the last of your friends to log in to MySpace.

7. I will engage with others and respond when people communicate with me. Every comment on every photo posted to Facebook doesn’t necessarily merit a response but if someone wants to dialogue on Twitter it’s not beneficial to ignore him or her. Responses are a great way to show people you value them.

8. I will use social media to connect to leaders in my field and people who I admire. Social provides an incomparable opportunity to connect with thought leaders and great writers. This is an opportunity not to be wasted.

9. I will use apps like Buffer and Pocket to aggregate and share content that is useful to people who follow my accounts. So much interesting and helpful content is pumped through social media every day. With the right tools I can share the best of it with my tribe.

10. I will make private content more private and public content more public. I’ve decided to make my Instagram account private and be intentional about sharing photos through Twitter and Facebook when I want to share them with people I both know and don’t know. On the other hand my Twitter posts continue to be public and I’m hoping to increase my presence there by 30% this year.

Social media is all about being intentional with your time and the messages you send out into the world. In 2014 consider the value you want to add to society through your social media presence.

So here you have 10 suggested resolutions for the new year.

Tell me, what would you add to the list?

Introducing our newest eBook: Social Media for Live Experiences

In 2013 I've gotten the opportunity to dive into one of the most fascinating areas of my work: utilizing social media to enhance live events. Earlier this year I completed my master's thesis that analyzed a famous Broadway Twitter campaign and all summer I managed the social media accounts for Endstation Theatre Company's Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival. So I got the opportunity to learn about the integration of social media, mobile devices and live events in an academic context and then a real-life highly practical context. Now I want to share with you what I've learned. I've teamed up again with Ben Stroup Enterprises to write Social Media for Live Experiences. This six-chapter book is a quick read that walks you through marketing a live event (whether it's a play, a church event or a conference) by connecting with your audience through social channels before, during and after the event takes place.

Social media is changing the landscape of communication. How will you utilize it?