Tuesday Tip 005: How to Eliminate Distractions on Social Media

If you're anything like me, social media can be a black hole of procrastination. Buzzfeed articles, is it a dog/is it a muffin memes, photos of friends, Bernie Sanders GIFs, reminders from Facebook of things that happened 10 years ago...the list goes on. 

But I'm a big believer that in order to enjoy social media we have to control our experience on each platform. That's why I swear by three tools that I use to focus my social media experience and get to the good stuff. I highlight the first one in the video below. 

Here's a link to the Newsfeed Eradicator Google Chrome extension.

My two other secret weapons of social media satisfaction and productivity are Nuzzel and Facebook lists.

Nuzzel is a daily digest that I get in my inbox that gives me a rundown of the most shared articles on my Twitter feed. Because I'm pretty serious about who I follow on Twitter, this digest gives me a bird's eye view of the conversation and posts that I will find important. And I get to see them all in one place eliminating the need to go hunting on Twitter for interesting or helpful posts.

Facebook Lists help me categorize the various pages that I follow on Facebook so I can just see posts from the individuals and businesses that really interest me. I have them categorized by different topics. A few separate lists that I have include Social Media, Thought Leaders, Bloggers and Theatre. This is helpful in cutting through the noise of all of the hundreds of pages and people I'm following on Facebook and helps me quickly find the content that I'm looking for. Also, as a social media professional I can compare the social posts of several different companies, individuals or media entities in one continuous stream so I can see what types of posts are trending and who is doing what. It's lovely.

So those are a few of the tools that I use so I don't get sucked into the social media abyss. I'd love to hear YOUR tips for using social media without letting it own your day. Drop in the comments!
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3 Ways to Optimize Pinterest to Get Noticed and Gain Followers

It’s a first here on the blog! Today we get the pleasure of a guest post from Carrie Waller of Dream Green DIY. In my efforts to provide more valuable content to you guys, I’m including some guest posts that will help you up your game on social media. With almost 50,000 Pinterest followers, Carrie is the best person I know to share about how to grow a following on Pinterest. Welcome, Carrie! 

Thanks for the warm welcome, Hilary! I'm thrilled to be here and to share a few quick and easy tips for maximizing your reach and influence on Pinterest. This social platform is one of my favorites for a number of reasons (beautiful room photos, cute cat pictures—oh, my!), and because of this, it has actually been one of the easiest for me to grow in the past five years. All it takes is a little bit of authentic passion—which, I imagine, most of you already have—and some strategic planning as you pin. Read on for my tried and true tricks, but I'm also curious to hear your perspective, so do share your own strategies in the comments!

1. Choose your board covers with care. 

Although some of my boards are group boards and I don’t have access to customizations like board covers, switching out those lead images can do wonders for the overall look of your account. I go in about once a month to change the cover images on my boards because I think it adds freshness to the overall look of my feed.

Take care to choose an image that crops well, and think about the overall color scheme you want to show off to your followers. I like to treat my Pinterest feed like my Instagram—I only pin images that match my bright white/bright colors aesthetic so that I can create that “branded” look whether you’re looking at my Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook profiles. To change your cover photos, click on “Edit” at the bottom center of each board, and then click the “Change” button next to “Cover.” Scroll through the options with the arrow, and then click “Save Changes.”

2. Fill your about section with useful information.

Another piece of your profile to pay close attention to and to keep updated over time is your “About” section. This is the first place that prospective followers will check to figure out who the heck you are, so make sure to include the big ticket items: your name, your job title and blog name (if applicable), other identifying titles and places where people can find you, and your location. You can add your URL in a separate box in the profile editor, so you don’t need to worry about including that in your “About” paragraph.

I include my name, my blog name, plus all of the places where I contribute my freelance writing, and then finish with my city, and state. I also just recently added my email and Snapchat handle to encourage more engagement there.

To edit your profile, just click on the “Edit Profile” button in the top right corner and enter your info in the window that pops up. I like to sync up my various profile copy between Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter so that my collective profile descriptions feel cohesive. Oh, and don’t forget to add a smiling headshot to your profile, too, so that people can put a face to your name!

3. Don’t forget to pin your own content.

Like most creative bloggers and content creators, Pinterest is my top referrer for new readers. This is where my projects have the best chance of going “viral” thanks to the huge following that Pinterest garners, not to mention the search-ability (which I’ll cover in the next bullet item). So, as you work to create original, high-quality content on your blog or website, don’t forget to pin it to your own Pinterest feed! By strategically adding your projects to the mix, you have the opportunity to share it with, really, the entire world.

I see the most success with this methodology when I pin to shared boards. These special group boards feature a whole slew of creatives with their own followings, which exponentially increases the likelihood of a viral pin.

If you aren’t part of any group boards, I would encourage you to put yourself out there and search around for a group board that fits your niche and style, and then try reaching out to the board leader (shown in the first circle on the left). My favorite group boards are BHG’s Best DIY Ideas, Blogger’s Best DIY Ideas, and DIY Bloggers in case you want to follow along or see examples of this.

Are you all about Pinterest? What are your favorite uses for Pinterest? 

For more great tips from Carrie on maximizing the opportunity of Pinterest, check out her blog and read the full post here! She’s also written extensively on Snapchat. Check it out here and here

7 Surprising Ways to Use Hashtags

Hashtags have infiltrated the culture. In fact, there's a new generation that doesn't even see a pound sign. So, other than #liveauthentic and ironic quips, are hashtags actually useful? 

If you're building a brand and have a specific message to spread, then the answer is "yes."

Hashtags amplify messages and help to tell stories in ways that media hasn't previously seen. When paired with other tools like video and images, hashtags illuminate perspectives we most certainly never would have experienced. Think front row seats to not only your friend's wedding across the country but to global events like the Olympics.

So how can you use hashtags, in practical terms, today? Here are seven ways. 

7 Surprising Ways to Use Hashtags

1. Hashtags can be used to expose you to new audiences on Instagram. Hashtags can be used to find new images or to expose your work to a new, relevant audience.

2. Hashtags are integral to Twitter chats. Did you know there are tons of organized conversations on Twitter around specific topics on just about any subject? Twitter chats help you connect with others around a given topic. It’s a great way to grow your audience and contribute to relevant conversations. 

3. Show your audience more of your brand by adopting your own hashtag. This is a great way to not only brand each of your Instagram posts but also for your fans to get involved and share their photos of your product or event.

4. Use trending hashtags to increase views on your tweets. Do you have something relevant to add to a trending topic on Twitter? Using a hashtag that already has a lot of eyes on it means your tweet will be exposed to more people.

5. Encourage fans to use your hashtag. Build community with brand loyalists by encouraging them to adopt and own the hashtag. 

6. Use hashtags across social media channels, connecting your message across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even YouTube.

7. Utilize hashtags for social listening. Determine which hashtags and keywords people are using when they are talking about a topic relevant to you. For example, in my work with Broadway shows, we regularly monitor hashtags and keywords that include names of our lead performers and alternate spellings of show titles. 

Social media, as a whole, affords pretty incredible opportunities to find and connect with people who are interested in what you have to offer. I encourage you to try using hashtags in a new way and see what kind of results you get. 

What's the biggest win you've experienced thus far using hashtags?

Mine are finding people with similar interests on Twitter because of Twitter chats + seeing my own wedding from about a hundred different angles. #Hilos1021 if you're curious. ;-)

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Social Media: Good vs Evil (or "It Might Be Time to Pull the Plug If…")

socialmediagoodvsevil

Social media. You crazy thing you.

Because of my access to you I’ve built a business, grown friendships, been confronted by a famous person, an acquaintance, and a stranger. I like you less when people use you to talk about politicians. I like you more when people use you to spread awareness about international crises and ways we can band together to make a difference

The truth is sometimes we need a breather from you—from your ever-present, all-access, overload of information. Sometimes people use you to complain, to be passive aggressive and to overshare. When we humans have a platform to share our thoughts it can get a little funny. So today I’m proposing ten reasons that we, your oh-so-faithful users, may need to take a break from you. (I’m going to move on to addressing the readers directly now. You may not want to listen…) 

It Might Be Time to Pull the Plug on Social Media If…

1. It makes you more angry than happy.

2. It makes you more jealous than happy.

3. You can’t resist the urge to lecture your friends and followers. 

4. You feel like your impulse control is waning. You check it at every opportunity. 

5. You spend a lot of time following people you don’t actually have relationships with in real life. 

6. You post content that you wouldn’t say out loud to a bunch of acquaintances. 

7. You can’t resist the urge to confront someone you know in real life on social media.

8. You can’t resist the urge to confront someone you don’t know in real life on social media. 

9. You feel guilty and voyeuristic about how you spend your time on social media. 

10. You’re so annoyed by the content that other people post that you volley back and post about your frustration. 

Perhaps you sense the common theme here. If social media draws out negative emotions in you more often than positive ones then maybe you should pull the plug. If you have trouble with boundaries and self-control on social media then maybe you should pull the plug. If using social media means you are observing life more than contributing to it maybe you should pull the plug. 

Social media is a mystifying animal. Just this week we Peanutized ourselves, raved about Ryan Adams’ 1989, and mourned the loss of Yogi Berra together online. We experience community with people we never would have had a meaningful conversation with at this point in our lives if it weren’t for social media. 

We can interact with like-minded people, learn from thought leaders, see our friends’ children grow up across the country, and even share a laugh together via social media. 

This vast landscape of online communication can be used for good and it can be used for evil. If social media brings up more negative feelings than positive ones, it may be time to shut it down for a little while or for a long while. 

Don’t forget that you ultimately hold the power. You are not held prisoner to any negativity that creeps into your life via social media. You can use the platform for good or you can opt out altogether. Just don’t be passive. That’s the big request here. Social media can be used for good or it can be used for evil. I encourage you, use it for good! 

Do you struggle with any (or many) of the items I listed above? What do you do to combat those tendencies? I’d love to hear about your strategy in the comments! 

Hilary's Tuesday Social Media Tip 003: Why are you on social media?

This week I'm back with another quick video with a social media tip and a challenge! 

It's so easy to get bogged down and focused on things like number of likes, number of followers, or how often we are posting. But let's not get distracted.

The real name of the game is lead generation, growing our email list, increasing brand awareness, or fill in the blank with your goal of choice.

We'll never know if we hit it out of the park if we don't know what we're aiming for. Why are you on Linkedin? Instagram? Twitter? Facebook? Periscope? Having a lot of followers is great. Posting regularly is great. But do you know what you want to achieve? Get crystal clear on who you want to reach and what action you want them to take. That is Step 1 in achieving your goals on social media. 

Do you ever feel a little confused about your purpose on any given platform? 

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!

Internship Opportunity. You in?

SOUP & SALAD
SOUP & SALAD

Interested in the ins and outs of solopreneurship, multiple businesses, multiple gigs? Great with research, building business relationships, and social media? Passionate about story? Love to play around with creating images in tools like Canva? Excited by the prospect of being mentored by a creative who has successfully avoided cubicle life? Then you may be who I'm looking for!

HSL Enterprises, LLC  is looking for a summer intern! I'm really excited about the prospect of exposing a college student or recent grad to the ins and outs of solopreneur life. This is a pretty unique opportunity in that he or she will be working with two businesses: HSL Creative and Enchanting Entertainment.

(Pause. If you don't know me then have a looksy here.)

What does that mean? Variety! Said intern will on any given day be conducting research for social media content, creating images for blog posts, build relationships and help with promotions for Enchanting Entertainment, conduct market research, attend some Enchanting Entertainment events to help document them for social media and may even get the opportunity to contribute content to blogs for Enchanting Entertainment and HSL Creative (bylines on 2 company websites? Not too shabby.)

If the idea of doing research for social media content in the morning, writing a blog post around lunch and stopping by an area restaurant in the afternoon to  build relationships sounds exciting to you then email me at sutton dot hilary at gmail with your resume and why you're interested. I'm looking for 2 days a week commitment starting May 11. Stipend provided.

Let's do this.

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.

10 Ways to Kick This Year in the Pants

Are you one of those mega motivated people who geek out on resolutions? Or maybe you're more of the skeptical, I-don't-want-to-disappoint-myself types who opts out—or maybe you like goals but aren’t into New Year’s resolutions because the date feels arbitrary. Either way, today I want to challenge you with ten ways you can start the year off with a BANG! If you could really do something about it, would you want this year to look different than last year? I have good news for you. YOU CAN!

You have 50 weeks left of this year. What will you do with them?

10 Ways to Kick Your Year in the Pants

1. Establish a Brain Trust. The truth is--you probably already have one. A Brain Trust is that go to personal board of directors who you seek out for advice when you're making big decisions, whose opinions you  weigh heavier than all the rest. Feel like your Brain Trust is a little too small? Seek out building relationships with people who you highly respect and value. You can also read all about the original Brain Trust in Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

2. Make a list of things you want to learn this year. You've always wanted to _________. What just popped in your mind? Why not go for it this year? What's stopping you? Ok, at least search for Youtube videos about it, ok?

3. Use this epic process by Christine Hassler to get clear on what you want to co-create this year. There are the goals that you may have already penned (after all we're a solid two weeks into 2015) but then there are deeper hopes and values that you have for this year that you may not have fully articulated yet. I encourage you to walk through Christine's process of what you want to leave in 2014 and what you want to manifest in 2015. This exercise can bring a ton of clarity.

4. Make a list of books you want to read this year. If you're like me your stack of books to read seems like a never-ending tower. This year, make a list--that you can review regularly--of the books that you will read. Plug it in to your calendar like any other activity you highly value. I was so sad when I realized how few books I read last year. I so value reading and have a bookshelf full of books to conquer this year. I know myself. The way to make that happen is to get specific on my to do list. It will happen if I plug this goal into my calendar.

5. Follow 5 inspiring people on Twitter that you aren't already following. Use these incredible tools called social networks to grow your experience. Not sure who to follow? How bout Billy Porter, Greg McKeown, Tanner Christensen, Maria Popova, or C.S. Lewis?

6. Make a vision board on Pinterest. Hat tip to Camryn for making this great suggestion! Take your 2015 goals and find visuals for them on Pinterest. I just did this (after spending Saturday going through #3 on this) and the visual representation of my plans and hopes for the year is pretty exhilarating.

7. Reach out to someone you've admired from afar (whether acquaintance, stranger or other) and ask them to grab coffee or lunch. Worst case scenario, they say no. Best case scenario, you've begun to establish a personal relationship with someone that you would like to know better.

8.Track your social media ROI. Every day take into account how your time on social media was spent, what the payoff was and what might have made you feel not so good. **Adjust accordingly.**

9. Get a pedometer of some kind and track your exercise. It's  so easy to *literally* hibernate in the winter. How bout you use this time where things are quiet and you're not pulled in a million directions to up your health and fitness game?

10. Commit to writing until you fill three pages each morning for 21 days. See how you feel about it afterward. I started doing this last fall when I journeyed through The Artist's Way. Guess what happened? I began to come up with idea after idea. One developed into a series of blogging workshops, and the other resulted in a side hustle that recouped its initial investment in three months. I'm not sure how to better convince you to write every morning.

What are you doing differently in 2015? What is your one big message for the world this year? What do you hope people remember about you?

Hilary is passionate about inspiring people to live their best lives. And if that happens through a performance on stage or through something she wrote, well then, she couldn't be happier.

Top 5 Memories of 2014 & HSL Around the Web: December

My Top 5 Memories of 2014
My Top 5 Memories of 2014

Wow, here I sit writing to you on the last day of 2014. What a year it has been! My top 5 highlights of 2014 that come to mind are: performing in Mary Poppins, attending the Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder after-Tony party with Spotco in Rockefeller Center, visiting Charleston for the first time, running the Virginia 4-Miler, and traveling to California in October.

Work has been incredible this year. I worked a lot of hours but I've seen really solid results. HSL Creative has grown and transformed and so have I. While reflecting on 2014 is fun, I'm way more jazzed about looking forward to 2015. This is a big year. I'll be focusing a lot of my efforts on working as a brand journalist with Pursuant, a fundraising agency. My goal with my work with Pursuant is to help the nonprofit clients we serve share their exciting and moving stories, whether it's through a video, a blog post, a magazine article or even a podcast.

My work with HSL Creative will continue in the form of consulting, strategy and workshops. Our first workshop of the year is Blogging for Business at Toolry on January 17. It's $50--a steal--for the knowledge and practical help you'll walk away with.

More on the excitement of 2015 in my next post. For now a look back on all the places I've been published around the web this month. Happy Holidays!!

The HSL Creative Blog
Announcing the HSL Creative Blogging Workshop
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

The Clutch Guide Blog 6 Tips to Avoid Becoming the Grinch This Christmas

Forefront Blog A Leader's Mentor

Lynchburg Business 9 Secrets to Improving Your Website Content

The Digital Drip Pursuant Gives Back: Repairing Wells Through Global Aid Network
Happy Holidays from Pursuant

And I also launched a side project that brings fairytale and superhero characters to life for children's events and parties in Virginia: Enchanting Entertainment Company. Check it out!

Hilary is an entrepreneur, musical theatre performer, and a brand journalist with Pursuant. Connect with her on Twitter

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
 

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

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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?

HSL Around the Web: October in Review

October came and went before I had time to blink! I finished up Little Mermaid, celebrated my mom's birthday with the family for a few days in Florida, celebrated my 2nd wedding anniversary with a trip to California and then celebrated my husband's birthday in Washington D.C. I'm afraid I missed some of Virginia's prettiest leaves but I think all that celebrating was worth it. In the mean time, here are a few pieces I wrote over the last month. Enjoy!

8 Surprising Lessons Running Taught Me About Goal-setting Have you ever worked toward and succeeded at a fitness goal? I'd love to hear your story.

8 Podcasts You Should Listen To This Week Truth be told: I listen to podcasts when I'm running and in the shower. Are you a podcast-aholic too? What are your favorites?

What You Can Learn from Taylor Swift About Killing It on Social Media Did you hear more people bought her record in its first week than any other album since 2002?

I've got some exciting pieces coming down the pipe in the next month so stay tuned!

Keep up with HSL Creative on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

HSL Creative Around the Web: September Roundup

Are you enjoying the subtle chill in the air? I'm not sorry to see September go. October is on the way! And what month is better? It's that time again where I share some places I've been around the web over the past 30 days. HSL Creative turned One! So we had our own little birthday party in the way of a countdown post. If you missed it take a look and enjoy our most popular content over the last year!

I got to celebrate the changing of the seasons over on the Clutch Guide with a fun post that includes eight of my favorite quotes about autumn.

I analyzed how the powers of social media and nostalgia combined to bring back Surge, the sugary soda from the 90s.

I also got to interview Wolfbane Productions' Artistic Director Dustin Williams for the fall issue of Clutch. I had the pleasure of working with Dustin two summers ago on a play called FOXFIRE.

I also wrote several pieces for Forefront Magazine that haven't hit the airwaves yet: an interview with Cracker Barrell's head of HR, Beverly Carmichael, Achievers' General Counsel Lisa Haugh, Mark Stone, CIO of Texas A&M University System, as well as Lynchburg's own Kathy Clay for the winter issue of Clutch.

As always thanks for keeping up with HSL Creative. And remember: your story is begging to be told.

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!