Perth mastermind groups for blogging and social media help – and fun!

One of my favourite business activities last year was running a face-to-face mastermind group for five utterly delightful women here in Perth. I’ve long been a fan of participating in mastermind groups, but this was the first time I ran one as a paid program and it was a huge success – and lots of fun for all of us, too!

What exactly is a mastermind group?

Good question! I have heard lots of people talk about them over the years (if you don’t listen to Amy Porterfield’s social media marketing podcast, you should, and she often praises masterminds) and I have been involved in mastermind groups myself.

The format of a mastermind group might vary, but basically, you need a group of people who meet up regularly (physically or online) to discuss their business, or an aspect of their business, and give each other advice and support. In the case of a paid mastermind like mine, I lead the group and don’t ask for advice or support for my own business – though I often refer to it as an example – and I also include training and consulting activities related to social media and blogging within the mastermind format.

Perth mastermind groups for small business owners, solopreneurs and creatives

 

If you work by yourself or in a small business, it can be lonely at times and it can be difficult to find people to talk to about various aspects of the work you’re doing. Masterminds give you connections and networking opportunities, and the chance to be in a room where people understand what the heck you’re talking about!

How do your Perth mastermind groups work?

The groups I facilitate have a maximum of five people, all of whom are either small business owners or creatives (writers, artists, etc) and have an online presence – usually a blog plus some social media platforms. We meet three times per school term (and not in school holidays) which works out at approximately every three weeks, for two hours at a time, at my home office in Duncraig in Perth’s northern suburbs.

At each meeting, I have an agenda which looks something like this:

  1. Homework follow-up! – I find out how the participants have gone with the task/s they set as objectives at the previous mastermind session.
  2. Training – I offer some training on a particular topic that the group has agreed they need or I think will be useful. This will always be somehow related to blogging and social media but can be varied depending on needs, for example: revising your site’s About page; optimising your LinkedIn profile; setting up an editorial calendar for Facebook; using scheduling tools; etc.
  3. Question time – each participant has time to ask one question of me or the group, which might be for advice or feedback or might be a more technical question. Generally the discussion works out to be useful for everyone, not just the asker!
  4. Goal setting – we revise our goals and our progress towards them (both across the whole year and from meeting to meeting) and I take note of the specific tasks the participants each want to achieve before our next meeting – this accountability is a really important aspect of mastermind groups.

Between meetings, we keep in touch in a private Facebook group where I’ll answer queries that arise and where participants can ask everyone for feedback.

Who should join a social media and blogging mastermind?

If you work on your own (especially in a creative industry) or run a small business, you will have a website, you should definitely have a blog as part of it (and if you don’t, talk to me!), and most likely you have some kind of social media presence, whether that’s just on Facebook or more broadly across platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. If that sounds like you, I’m sure this kind of mastermind would help out. It’s so hard to stay across all of that while you’re still trying to do the actual tasks of your work.

For many people, it’s the accountability of a mastermind group which is the most valuable part. If you follow happiness and habits researcher Gretchen Rubin you might have heard her categorisation of people into four tendencies – if you’re curious, try her quiz and find out which one you are – and if you are an Obliger (like me!) then you work way better with some external accountability, and a mastermind provides this beautifully.

Perth mastermind group for social media and blogging
My 2016 mastermind group hard at work

My 2016 mastermind group had a mix of mainly authors and artists and I asked them to complete this sentence for me:

For me, the most valuable part of being in a mastermind group is …

… the fluidity of ideas and inspiration from Amanda and other supportive people who have assisted me in developing my social media and blogging skills. I now feel confident in both. Being in a mastermind group grows you and it’s a lot of fun! (Linda Cull, author and artist)

… the accountability – and the ideas in areas I would never have thought of. Plus it’s such fun to meet with a group of people who really ‘get’ what you are trying to do, and who (gently) push you to try new things… I so appreciate Amanda and our group. (Clare Harris, author/publisher and ESL teacher)

… is the connection and meeting regularly with like minded people sharing ideas, generating new ideas, being accountable, and being supported and encouraged in a safe and inspiring environment. And having a laugh!! Amanda is a great mentor and facilitator. (Aggie Lim, sketch artist and blogger)

… the accountability as well as the support given by Amanda and the other members of the mastermind group. It has been such an encouraging and collaborative environment in which to ask questions and brainstorm ideas. (Melinda Tognini, author)

… that you get to hear ideas from other people that you wouldn’t have thought of by yourself. Two heads, or in this case, five heads, are better than one! (Louise Allan, author)

For more information on my mastermind groups:

Sound like something you’d like to know more about? Email me (amanda@amandakendle.com) and we can chat about it.

Fun with Twitter through curated accounts #rocur

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a love for Twitter. It hasn’t always been that way but I’ve written about the fun of Twitter and how to fall in love with Twitter again and I have been using it more and more over the last few months, again.

Having fun with Twitter using rocur accounts

So I have a more bite-sized suggestion this time round than my previous posts, and another kind of “gateway” into learning to enjoy Twitter that might work for some of you. And this is: have a look for some good #rocur accounts and interact with them.

Um … but what is a #rocur account?

Excellent question! You might have seen these accounts without realising what they were called (that was the case with me until recently). #rocur is short for rotated curation and they are Twitter accounts which get managed by a different person every week. They’re really interactive and great to get involved with.

For example, earlier this month I managed the @WeAreAustralia Twitter account for a week. This account, so to speak, “represents” typical Australians, and different people run it each week to ask and answer questions to people around the world, getting to know other Twitter users and being a bit of a spokesperson for Australia for a short time.

WeAreAustralia Rocur account on Twitter

It was enormous fun to “be Australia” for the week. Before my week started I wrote a list of all the many (and varied) things I wanted to talk about, from social media to Iceland to autism to books – all kinds of stuff that piques my interest. And I managed to talk about all of it, and meet all kinds of interesting people both in Australia and across the world who I’ve now continued the conversations with back at my own Twitter profile.

And so what should I do about a #rocur account??

I’m not suggesting, necessarily, you go off and volunteer to be a #rocur Twitter person for a week, but what I am suggesting is that you go and follow some interesting #rocur accounts and interact with them. These people are there very specifically to talk to others so it’s such a great way to get into the habit of interacting on Twitter, not just posting your own tweets “to nowhere” – because interaction is the most fabulous part of Twitter, and how it helps you to build relationships with all kinds of interesting and, let’s face it, useful people!

A great start is this list of country #rocur accounts. There are also #rocur accounts for different parts of Australia, like @WeAreADL for Adelaide or @WeAreBrisbane for, obviously, Brisbane! There are also #rocur accounts for different interest groups – like @We_Love_Aural for music-lovers, and a newish but good account for ex-pats around the world called @WeAreXpats.

Over to you (get over to Twitter!)

So my challenge to you is: look up a few #rocur accounts that intrigue you and get involved in the conversation. It’s one of the best entry-ways into getting used to interacting on Twitter and you might find that once you start, you can’t stop. But I’m not responsible for that!!

 

Blogging and social media workshops in Perth for August – November 2016

Calling all Perth people: ready to learn some new stuff?? I’m ready to teach it! The new program of social media and blogging workshops for the rest of 2016 is now here. If you took part in my annual survey by email you’ll notice a bunch of the workshops you wanted to see are included below, hopefully ready to solve some of the problems you’ve been having with promoting your blog or business on social media, as well as just simply getting your blog up and running regularly.

Blogging and social media workshops in Perth in 2016 with Amanda Kendle

For now the workshops are still taking place north of the river in Perth (at the Beach Boardroom in North Beach), but if you are south of the river and keen to attend workshops down there, do email me and let me know – if there’s enough interest I’ll set up a venue down there too.

All details are below: just click on the date/time links to get all the details and book tickets. Most of the workshops are two hours long and tickets are $45 + GST; the long-requested Pinterest workshop is three hours for $75 + GST (I know a bunch of you will be glad about finally getting Pinterest happening!). So without further ado, here they are:

Optimising your blog content: Make your blog posts pretty much perfect

Saturday 20th August 9.30am – 11.30am

OR Tuesday 18th October 9.30am – 11.30am

Content is king, right – so let’s figure out how to make your blog posts pretty much perfect. You will leave this workshop with a ready-to-go content plan and editorial calendar for your blog and a whole host of ways to make your blog posts better than the rest in terms of SEO, readability and scannability and unique blogging voice.

We will cover:

  • Creating a content plan for your blog and how to develop (and stick to) an editorial calendar
  • Including SEO research to ensure the quality and searchability of your blog post – good Search Engine Optimisation means more traffic
  • Refining your blogging “voice” and writing with your readers in mind
  • Ensuring each blog post you publish is scannable, useful and shareable
  • Optimising the images you use in your blog posts so they work for blog readers and social media users of all kinds

Getting Facebook to work for you and your business or blog

Saturday 29th October 9.30am – 11.30am

You might hear lots of people complain about how Facebook is always changing and it’s hard to reach your customers or readers. But flip that around: Faceobok is a massive database of people the world over, and a way to reach your people both for free and with really cost-effective advertising, and it’s worth using, and using well.

You’ll leave this workshop with a new appreciation for the power of Facebook, a concrete plan to make your Facebook posting efficient, understanding how Facebook groups work, too, and with a new understanding of Facebook advertising beyond hitting “boost post”.

We will cover:

  • Assessing what your target audience is doing on Facebook
  • Optimising your Facebook page by building a chatty, sharing community
  • Using an editorial calendar to batch and schedule your Facebook content for maximum efficiency
  • Looking at Facebook groups and whether establishing or participating in Facebook groups can help you out
  • A beginner’s guide to Facebook advertising with the Ads Manager and the Power Editor, using custom audiences and other sneaky and powerful stuff.

Newsletter and mailing list strategy for your business or blog

Tuesday 30th August, 9.30am – 11.30am

Did you know I once had to stop sending my Mailchimp newsletter out so frequently because it was generating too much business?

You will leave this workshop with a well-planned strategy for getting more people onto your mailing list, figuring out what to send them and knowing how to turn them into customers, clients or regular readers – whichever your goal.

We will cover:

  • Encouraging people to sign up to your newsletter mailing list, with a plan for creating opt-in bonus content as well as knowing where else to add sign up forms
  • Developing a content plan so that creating your newsletters is quick and easy
  • Planning a strategy to convert mailing list subscribers to people who pay for your products or services, or are regular blog readers and advocates

I will use MailChimp to demonstrate but the principles can be applied to any mailing list platform, and we’ll briefly cover the pros and cons of some of the other main platforms.

Using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog or website

Saturday 29th October 12.30pm – 3.30pm

OR Tuesday 8th November 9.30am – 12.30pm

Pinterest sends an astonishing amount of traffic to my blog – and I want it to do the same for you, too. The beauty of Pinterest is that unlike other social media, Pinterest doesn’t rely on being social and is more like a visual search engine. You’ll leave this workshop with a real plan in place to use Pinterest to its full effect and gain a whole new bunch of visitors to your site.

We will cover:

  • How to optimise your Pinterest profile and get “rich pins” for your site
  • What Pinterest boards you should use
  • How to create images for your posts that will get the most attention on Pinterest
  • Developing an efficient pinning strategy to encourage the most repins and drive traffic to your site
  • The option of using scheduling tools like Tailwind to make Pinterest quick and easy for you

If you don’t yet have a Pinterest profile, choose a Business profile if you want to set one up before the workshop.

Blogging and social media workshops in 2016 with Amanda Kendle in Perth
Blogging and social media workshops in 2016 with Amanda Kendle in Perth

Talks at public libraries across Perth – blogging, social media and more

Back when I was a school girl (and I’m thinking particularly of Year 12 maths with Mrs Deeks), I got in trouble quite often for talking too much. (This won’t come as a particular surprise to anyone who’s met me, I suspect.)

These days, I get paid to talk! Oh, the irony. The strange part is I usually get paid to talk about stuff that was way off being invented back when I was at school, which in part makes me feel really old, and in part reminds me that blogging and social media are a most amazing invention which have changed so much about my world in a very, very short space of time. And that’s one of the main reasons why people want to hear me talk about them so often.

Amanda Kendle doing a library talk at Town of Victoria Park Library
With the audience at a talk at Victoria Park Library

My blogging and social media talks at libraries in Perth

Over the last four or five years, I have been lucky enough to be asked to speak at a dozen or so libraries across Perth. It’s a job I always enjoy, because libraries tend to attract people who are my kind of people – but they just don’t know that much about blogging or social media yet, and they want to.

The topics I’ve been asked to talk about are pretty wide-ranging (and have dipped into my interests in travel and fiction writing too, which is perfect for me), and a few of these have been:

 

Testimonials from my talks at Perth public libraries

Warning – a little piece of blowing-my-own-trumpet coming up here, mostly because I really want to collate all this lovely feedback in one spot. I think because I love doing these kind of talks they always turn out to be enjoyable for both me and the attendees and so people tell me warm fuzzy things like the following.

You were fab, approachable, laid-back, easy to talk to and of course really know your stuff. (Ripeka Hitaua, A/Library Program Supervisor, City of Gosnells)

 

Thank you for sharing your knowledge on social media, we are still receiving fantastic feedback from those who attended! (Hoi Ng, formerly E-Services Librarian, Town of Victoria Park Library)

 

Loved the interaction with the presenter.
Simple, short and interesting, informative overview which covered important key questions about blogging. (Participants at City of Gosnells talk)

 

Very good overview for an audience with varying skills!
Well presented and informative.
Excellent presentation. (Shire of Kalamunda talk)

 

If you’re from a Perth library and you’d like to book me for a talk, please feel free to email me – I’d love to help you out!

Past talks

Travel blogging talk with Amanda Kendle

 

Amanda Kendle - public talks at libraries in Perth

 

Join me for a Walking Mastermind in Perth

(Looking for current walks to book? Head to the Walking Masterminds page.)

Working for yourself has lots of positive sides, and my friend Aggie Lim and I have long joked about our “beach office”. I got to thinking about this – the benefits of being able to be outside for part of our day, not chained to our desk, experiencing the inspiration of nature, and having the freedom to decide how to set up our working day – along with the wonderful benefits of spending time with like-minded people – and decided that setting up some Walking Mastermind walks might just be something that could work out.

Walking Masterminds with Amanda Kendle - for blog post

What happens on a Walking Mastermind with Amanda?

We will meet at the specified time and place (which will vary) and split into groups of around three or four people (although we’ll all walk together, so this can be a bit fluid, as well!).

At each walk I’ll supply a small card with three questions on. After you’ve got to know your fellow walkers, the idea is you can discuss the three questions together, to hopefully learn some new ideas and share some of your own successes, too.

After the walk, I’ll email everyone who attended with some of the best ideas we heard, plus some resources and links to help you out.

The questions will be related to:

  • productivity – working for yourself, motivation, systems, organising and planning
  • blogging – how, why, what about, how to get readers, and more
  • social media – various platforms, tips and tricks, making time, getting motivated
  • small business/self-promotion – new ideas, networking, strategy
  • and other topics that arise within the groups that seem relevant!

Who are these Walking Mastermind walks suitable for?

A lot of the participants will be people who’ve met me through workshops and consulting sessions in the past, but we welcome anyone, especially:

  • Bloggers or anyone who uses a blog as part of their website
  • Small business owners who have some kind of online presence
  • Anyone using social media to promote their work
  • Writers/artists/creatives who need to promote their work online
  • And anyone else who wants to chat more about blogging, social media, business and more

(You can always email me if you want to check with me first.)

How can I join a Walking Mastermind?

Each walk has a fee of $10. This covers my time for organising and following-up, but also has the purpose of helping you commit to be there – it’s all too easy to let other tasks get in the way.

The currently available locations and times will always be published on the Walking Masterminds page, with links for booking via Eventbrite.

At the moment, nearly all locations will be north of the river but this might change in the future.

Building your Facebook community without being a try-hard

One of the most fun places for me online is my travel blog’s Facebook page. It works just how I want it to and I get to chat with a gorgeous range of fellow travel-lovers there.

I know a lot of my clients complain about Facebook and the way they keep making it “harder” to play … but I think that building your Facebook community (without being a try-hard) can be one of the most rewarding parts of your business or your blog. I regularly reach more than half of my Facebook likers and quite often my posts are seen by substantially more people than the number that like my page. Beyond the numbers, I also feel that it’s a real community of people who are getting to know each other. I thought I’d share some tips to see if I could help you love your Facebook page even more.

Building your Facebook community

Think of Facebook as a friendly place to catch up

The first part of feeling good about building your Facebook community is to take a good look at what Facebook is really all about. More people use it than any other social media and the reason is that they want to know what their friends are doing.

That, of course, creates a challenge for business pages. People are not really in the mindset to think about a business or a blog they follow when they log in to Facebook – they want to see their friends’ kids and some funny memes.

But as a business page you can use this to your advantage. Be like a friend! On my travel blog page I use a super-friendly tone, I share photos and posts with a message that makes it sound like I’m sitting next to you showing it to you, and I make sure I let my followers know that I know what they like and what kind of people they are. Sometimes I even address them by name!

Building your Facebook community

The corollary of this, of course, is to make sure there’s something personal about what you post. Depending on what kind of business page you run, this can be more or less difficult, but think about how you can make it work for you. I have a strict boundary on what I share and what I don’t from my own life, but for example, I’m not bothered by showing my son’s photo (just not his name), and mentioning him in any non-embarrassing way. And note: cute kids with teddy bears is a good posting strategy!

Know your Facebook followers and remember what they’re like

So if Facebook is a friendly place to catch up, you want this catching up thing to go two ways. It’s true that I sometimes will include the names of my Facebook followers in a post – for example, recently I wanted to know if other travellers had come across (annoying) flies in Iceland, so I named a couple of Facebook fans in the post who I knew had been to Iceland and were likely to know. You see the value there? – I remembered something about them (from their comments in the past) and made them feel special (but genuinely – because I really thought they would have an answer).

You’ll see some pages asking super-directly to find out about their followers (I saw one yesterday asking people to post the suburb they live in!) but I prefer to do it more naturally, and see what arises out of the topics we talk about. I don’t have a scary database or anything, I just have this info in my memory from past discussions and comments, but I do tap into it and really think about what kind of people my audience are and create my Facebook posts with them at the top of my mind.

Ask questions, but not just for the sake of it

The typical Facebook advice to get good engagement with your community is to ask your audience questions (preferable easy ones with short answers). You know the kind you see when you kind of inwardly groan because it’s really clear the page owner is just trying to get high engagement?

Don’t do that – but do ask questions when they seem appropriate, and don’t be afraid of asking complex questions. In my experience, people love to give their opinion when they can tell that it’s valued (related: try to reply to every comment you get).

Building your Facebook community by not asking questions
If your Facebook community is used to being engaged, they don’t need a question to start talking – this question-less post got heaps of comments (and clicks to my old post).

If your community is used to being interactive (because you’ve asked engaging, interesting questions and kept the conversation going – and perhaps referred back to it in future posts) then they will become talkative without the need for a direct question.

Vary your posts, but not just for the sake of it

The Facebook algorithm seems to work better if you mix up your posts – sometimes photos, sometimes links, sometimes just text, sometimes a photo album, sometimes a share from another Facebook page.

I see some Facebook pages taking this advice to the extreme. Depending on your niche, it might be that link updates don’t seem too natural, or you don’t have many images to share. Figure out what your Facebook audience likes the most and stick to perhaps three kinds of posts most of the time. And then throw in something different just to see if they’ve changed!

Share links, but not just for the sake of it

(Starting to see a pattern yet?!)

Some Facebook pages I follow churn out a lot of content but most of it is links (both to their own posts and to posts from others) without much thought given to why their followers would want to read it. This is one of the most important moments when you need to know a lot about your followers and figure out what links they would find interesting, and what kind of introduction to the link might be needed.

And don’t let all this take up hours of your time

The next most common complaint from my clients about Facebook is that it takes up too much time. It really doesn’t have to. You just have to get a bit systematic and organised about it.

I use a regular schedule to plan my Facebook posts – it varies over time but for example, it might be to post a photo at 9.00am, a link at 1.00pm, a share at 7.00pm and a link to my own content at 8.00pm. I use a simple grid for the week (sometimes for a fortnight at once) to check off what I’m up to when I sit down to write all these Facebook posts at once (remember batching your work? It works!).

Building your Facebook community - Facebook page scheduling

Finding enough content to cover that schedule becomes easy when you know you need an image for every morning, a link for every afternoon – because in the course of your normal work you are no doubt coming across all this stuff, and you just need to remember it (bookmark it, file it in a special folder, whatever works for you) until the time you sit down to schedule out your comment.

To reply to comments, I nearly always use the Facebook Pages app on my phone, and do it on the run. At the moment I have notifications turned on so I know when I need to have a look; sometimes I turn these off and just check in a couple of times a day.

So go forth and build your Facebook page’s community!

I hope something here has sparked an idea for you to get your Facebook page’s community really buzzing. I’d love to hear how you go.

 

 

 

 

Podcasts for bloggers, social media lovers and solo business people

I have to admit to a bit of a podcast addiction. They are perfect for busy people because you can listen to podcasts while you’re doing something else – like walking home after taking my son to school, or driving on my own, or even in the supermarket (I’m such a fan of self checkout at the supermarket because I can keep listening to my podcasts for longer!).

A couple of people have asked me lately for a few recommendations because they want to hop on the podcast train too, so here’s my answer. I definitely have cycles of loving particular podcasts and I need a decent amount of variety, but if you try a few of these you’re bound to find something you like.

(NB: If you’re not sure how to download and listen to podcasts, these instructions might help.)

My current always-listens

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins – he is truly a quality producer of content. This podcast is all about how to have a portfolio career – just like I do, for example, with income from my social media consulting business, my travel blog, my workshops at UWA Extension, some freelance writing … you get the drift. These podcasts are well thought-out and well produced, and always a pleasure to listen to.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin – it helps that Gretchen Rubin (of The Happiness Project and more) is a personal hero of mine, but also this podcast is produced very nicely with regular topics, a great co-host (Gretchen’s sister) and lots of practical, bite-sized ways to practice making your life happier.

Being Boss with Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon – these two fun American gals are all about helping creatives (designers, makers, etc) to run successful businesses and they have a lovely tone and great philosophy on life.

Social media podcasts

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield – it was actually her podcast which first introduced me to Amy P – and I used to listen avidly every time. Then I was a bit over it (and it got less interesting for a while), but in the last few months it’s got really useful again and I very often listen. Lots of Facebook advice as that’s her specialty but definitely goes beyond that.

Social Media for Small Business from the Australian Businesswomen’s Network – it’s great to have an Australian podcast on this issue and Suzi Dafnis and Cat Matson have been doing this one for a few years. Good solid info and interesting interviews.

Social Media Marketing with Michael Stelzner – he gets the big guns in and has a lot of functional, practical advice. It’s a bit overproduced in a somewhat cheesy way but still worth the listen.

Solopreneur, small business and creatives inspiration

This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt – he’s a real professional and has figured out everything about how to run a useful podcast. The topics are fairly wide-ranging and sometimes not relevant (eg they may be about leading an organisation sometimes) but skip those and listen to the rest.

Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn – of course you already know how much I love Pat Flynn. Some of the most interesting episodes of this podcast are when he interviews “normal people” – ones we’ve never heard of – who are running a successful online business.

Ask Pat, also with Pat Flynn – this is a kind of spin-off of Smart Passive Income and is kind of genius in its format – listeners/readers call up with a question and Pat spends about 10 minutes answering it, and that’s an episode – which means one’s released every week day. I don’t listen to all of them but pick the topics that are most relevant to me, and it’s handy to have a shorter podcast to listen to, especially on the 15-minute walk home from school each morning.

1 Day Business Breakthrough with Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker – a podcast version of the mastermind days these two fabulous guys run, so each episode has one listener in the hot-seat and Pat and Chris give them a tonne of advice on how to improve their site/business or solve a problem they have.

Natalie Sisson’s Suitcase Entrepreneur – Kiwi world traveller Natalie talks about building an online business so you can be location independent (and is an excellent example of doing this). I went through an utter addiction to this one but perhaps I overdosed as I don’t listen as often these days!

Business Addicts with Loren Bartley and Fiona Redding – two Aussies who launched this podcast earlier this year but have already had great interviews with big names like Chris Ducker and Darren Rowse.

Other random podcasts that I rather like

The Slow Home Podcast with Brooke McAlary – this launched just last month, from Aussie blogger Brooke of Slow Your Home. It’s all about slowing down and living more simply and includes interviews with some really inspiring people. I always end up feeling more relaxed after I listen to this.

Two Fat Expats with Kirsty Rice and Sarah Derrig – two Aussie ladies who have travelled the world living the expat life and are currently based in the middle east, they cover all kinds of fascinating topics and are just a really fun listen.

Reply All with PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman – a professional podcast which is “about the internet” – meaning it covers all kinds of interesting topics and often really grabs my attention.

Your turn – let me know your top podcast tips

Which podcasts do you love listening to? I’d love to know so please leave a comment with some tips.

Social media for parents and teenagers

Social media workshops with parents and teens

I used to run a course on social media for parents at UWA Extension. It used to really bug me that there was always someone in the workshop who would ask, very early on in the day, if I could teach them how to spy on their kids on Facebook.

Obviously, my answer was NO! My approach to this was, still is, and even when my son reaches his teenage years, will still be, that parents and children/teenagers have to work together on this stuff. My course was largely focused on teaching the parents how to use the main social media sites themselves so that they could talk with their kids about them with a degree of understanding.

What social media platforms are teens using?

This week I’m running a parents and teens workshop again and as it’s been over a year since I last did, I’ve been diving back into the current research and thoughts to see what’s changed. There are definitely a few new risks around, like “disappearing” message apps like Snapchat which give teens the feeling that their messages and pictures aren’t permanent, but of course anything you send to anyone can be copied (in that case, screenshots taken) and sent anywhere. Facebook is being used less, but not non-existently – a teacher friend of mine told me at the high school she works at, pretty much every kid there is active on Facebook, yet at another school down the road nearly nobody does – it might be a matter of following what your friends are on. This infographic from Bright House gives a great overview:

Staying safe on social media

Using social media safely is a combination of common sense and making sure you have the appropriate knowledge and skills. To be honest, in previous parents and teens workshops I’ve run, it is often the teens who know the right privacy settings to use and have to teach their parents all about it. Of course, I’d prefer if everybody knew it! My main rules for playing the social media game safely (no matter what your age) are:

  1. Think before you post. This is the most important one. Be aware that anything you post on social media (or any message you send a friend or even just any photo you take) could end up public. You never know what someone you trust could do with it. So – think! There’s so much in our lives we can share without risking sharing something that could be embarrassing to us, to others, or create conflict.
    Would you say this out loud to someone?
    Would you show your mother or father this?
    What if my future employer saw this? 
    Think before you post!
  2. Don’t post personal information. This includes your email address, your phone number, your home address, and so on – if somebody needs this, send them a private message (and then only if you really trust them). You also need to consider what other kinds of information you make public: for example, when I’m travelling away from home and I know my home will be empty, I don’t post about this until I’m back – I feel like I’m giving burglars an open invitation! I haven’t posted my address online, of course, but who knows who will read what I’ve posted and what they’ll do with that information – it just takes a computer left open somewhere or someone using a public computer not to log out of Facebook or something.
  3. Turn off location services as a default. Make sure you disable location services on your smartphone and only enable it for apps that are strictly necessary (if you’re using a map app, for example, to find your way somewhere). There are some social media apps which are location-based and people you don’t know can find where you’re physically located – these can be easily abused so be hyper-aware of these!
  4. Don’t share your password (except with your parents). To me, this sounds obvious, but I’ve heard of kids and teens “selling” their password for $5, or performing a dare to get access to their friend’s social media.
  5. Consider the privacy settings. A platform like Facebook has pretty decent privacy settings (but you should still be wary about what you post). Other platforms are totally public – remember that when you use them. And parents – be aware that your kids might be communicating with others on something you don’t consider to be social media – such as messaging via the Minecraft game.
  6. Be wary about meeting online friends in real life. Nobody (sensible) is going to tell you to never meet someone you’ve met online in real life. I’ve done it any number of times – and made some amazing new friends in the process. But remember that it’s easy to pretend to be someone else online. And that some people are really good at pretending. Make sure that you tell someone you trust about where and when you’re meeting that someone – or take someone with you when you do – and be sure to meet them in a public place where there’ll be other people around. If your online friend doesn’t understand why you want to do that, they aren’t someone you want to be friends with.
  7. Report/block/tell someone. If someone sends you messages that aren’t OK, or take it as far as cyber-bullying, figure out what your first step is basedon the platform you’re using – nearly all social media platforms these days have good mechanisms for reporting abusive messages, and for blocking people so that you never have to hear from them again. Tell your parents or someone you trust as well so they can help you make sure you’re covering all bases. Head to the Cybersmart Teens page to get more help and info.
  8. Parents: set up rules at home. You have to figure out what works for your family but it’s common for parents to limit device usage to the living room or at least to “public” areas of the house; others will turn off the WiFi after a certain time in the evening. 

And for the infographic addicts (oh yes … that’s me!) this one from the British Council gives a good summary of the basics:

Having fun on social media

I worry that all this talk of safety on social media turns it into a negative thing. Yet there are so many amazingly positive things that can come out of using social media. While people tend to worry that those who spend a lot of time on social media are “dumbing down” their face-to-face social skills, research has shown it’s the opposite – teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to have close “real life” relationships and more social opportunities. I can say from my own experience it’s the same for adults!

Social media also gives teens the chance to connect with people who share common interests (no matter how obscure) and can give them another “tribe” to belong to where they can really be themselves. That can’t be a bad thing, right?

More reading on safe social media use for kids and teens

There’s so much more sensible and useful information out there these days – there’s really no excuse for parents not to get a handle on social media and help their kids to use it well! Here are a few especially useful links:

Alfalfa sprouts and my entrepreneurial journey into social media and blogging

I’ve been thinking about this post for ages. I even got my Mum to look back over old pictures in case we had one of me with alfalfa sprouts (don’t worry, it’ll all make sense soon) but alas, back in the olden days we didn’t take photos of every single second of daily life, did we! Then my friend Jo wrote about her journey to having her own business and I found it so interesting that she, too, had really been headed in this direction since she was a kid, too – and finally today I have got around to writing this post!

Are entrepreneurs born that way?

I didn’t actually intend to start this business; I didn’t intend to start an income-generating travel blog. Both things happened by accident, or so I thought – or have I been headed in this direction all my life?

It has taken me almost forty years to realise this but it shouldn’t be too surprising that I’m now running my own business and can’t really imagine ever working for someone else again. As a child, my mother ran her own small real estate company. In fact, she was one of the first women in Western Australia to have her own real estate licence (this is back in the era when, because she got married, she had to leave her job at the bank – not because she had kids – we came later – just because she got married! It seems preposterous to us now). I spent quite a lot of time as a child seeing the inside of other people’s houses (I loved it!) and watching my mum do business. There were no mobile phones either so we had to answer the phone especially nicely in our house, because it was often a business call. So, there we are – my mother the role model!

Alfalfa sprouts: back in the days before blogging and social media were invented (image Frédérique Voisin-Demery)

My mother also helped my sister and I start our own small business when we were aged about 10 and 12. I’m not sure how it all began but we started growing alfalfa sprouts (and got more exotic later) and selling them to the local greengrocer. We had to set up the punnets, water them, package them, and my mother would help us deliver them on the way to school a couple of times a week.

Next stop for me was tutoring. A little-known fact is that I studied mathematics at university. This made me an ideal candidate for tutoring primary and high school kids in maths and during my university years I’d built up a huge number of students – I still have some of the paperwork today, as I carefully kept records of the payments and the topics covered. I made about four times as much per hour doing that as I did working at the local KFC so I quit there to do even more tutoring.

Working for a boss

Despite this record, it never occurred to me until very recently that perhaps starting a business might be something that suited me. Instead, my CV lists bunch of jobs working for others which, most of the time, I enjoyed – I worked as a research assistant in mathematics education, then as an instructional designer for distance education units at the same university, and later as an academic helping medical and dentistry lecturers to teach and assess in more effective ways. All of these jobs were really interesting and I got to meet some really amazing people, but they weren’t enough, somehow – which led me down the path of going overseas and teaching ESL.

Teaching ESL to kids and adults; but photos with the kids are cuter! This is Momoko, in Osaka.

During all these years, though, I’d been plugging away at something that I’d always really loved: writing. Even before I moved abroad I had found some websites that would pay me to write – not very much, but enough to encourage me to keep at it. When I was travelling so much while living abroad, I got into writing for travel magazines, and eventually from that into writing for big travel blogs and websites. And when I came back to Perth, I was determined to keep generating an income online, because we wanted to started a family and I wanted to be at home when my kids got home from school each day, just like my mother was (unless we were whisked off straight from school to take someone through a house!).

The aha moment: working for myself in social media and blogging

I would like to say that I then cleverly and carefully sat down and created a business plan and started up this business. However, the truth is nothing like that at all. I pitched a course on blogging to UWA Extension, because I really loved teaching adults and I could think of nothing better than combining that with my other passion. Using my own experience on social media – developed through the writing I did and the various travel sites I worked for – I filled that first blogging class very quickly and the delightful Bill at UWA Extension had the bright idea of hiring me to do the same for all their courses. He even sent me my first client, suggesting I might be able to help her out with some social media strategy too, all while my son was still a tiny baby and I was up all night to him, but those midnight hours actually got me ready for that first client meeting. (So yes, Bill, thank you SO much for everything!)

The aha moment didn’t really happen – I just suddenly found that I had a business and it keeps getting bigger. Over the last couple of years I have learnt to get more strategic about it although that’s still a work in progress, especially while my time is limited to my son’s kindergarten hours plus some evenings and weekend work. So however it really happened, I’m grateful, and I love it, and have met so many fantastic people through it, which is the biggest bonus of all. You know, sometimes I look at interaction on my business Facebook page and think, “Oh, but it’s just all my friends who are liking and commenting, not proper clients,” but then I take a second look and realise that most of them are former students and clients and “real” business connections, it’s just that they’ve come to feel like friends. What better clients could I ask for?

Which brings me, finally, to the YOU part of this post. Lots of my clients run their own businesses: what made you do that? Tell me your story!

How hashtags make me happy (and how and why you can use hashtags)

What on earth is a hashtag?

If you’ve been wanting to ask me this question, you are definitely not alone.

Let’s start off with the basics. A hashtag is like a topic marker, a way to describe in a word or short phrase what the topic of your post is about. And the point of using a hashtag is that people can click on it and then find lots of other posts about the same topic (usually from all different people).

Hashtags have a few special qualities:

  • Of course, they have to start with a #. (This has got to be one of the few recent examples of British English triumphing over US English.)
  • They can’t have spaces. You can use more than one word but you have to join them together. For example, #AmandaKendleConsulting if you wanted to make a hashtag out of my business name. 
  • They’re not case-sensitive so you could also use #amandakendleconsulting and if you clicked on that you’d get the same results as the one with the initial capitals. Sometimes I use the initial capitals just to make the phrase clearer. Sometimes I don’t!
  • They are taking over the world. Okay, they are taking over the social media world. They started off on Twitter but have since spread to basically every social media platform there is, even Facebook. But if you click on a hashtag in Facebook, for example, you’ll only see other Facebook posts that have the same hashtag. (A more advanced bit about this later.)
So then the next obvious question is why should we use hashtags? The main reason is so that more people can find the stuff we’re posting on social media. So, for example, if you post a photo on Instagram of the beach and use a few hashtags like #perth #scarboroughbeach #workathome (see, that’s throwing words together without spaces … you get used to it!) then you might get the attention of people who don’t actually follow you on Instagram. Someone who searches for Perth, for example, will see your image, and that might entice them to look around at your other pictures, and perhaps follow you. And it works the same way no matter which platform you’re talking about – although it’s fair to say that hashtags are more widely used on Twitter and Instagram at the moment, more than on other social media sites.
The other great time to use hashtags is so that people who know about the hashtag can use it to, so that you can all see what the others are doing. For example, at the Problogger conference last month, the hashtag was advertised as being #PBevent and this meant we all posted our thoughts and updates (and pictures of cake) using the #PBevent hashtag – and could then easily see what other attendees were saying about it, too. And of course with our #businesspics challenge on Instagram, our participants use the #businesspics hashtag and then anyone can tap on it and find all of the different posts from everyone.

I asked my Facebook page followers what their hashtag questions were, so let me answer them here:

Can you have your very own hashtag?
And related – how do you start a hashtag? Well, basically, a hashtag is public property. If you want to have a hashtag that gathers only your own posts together, then you want to make it pretty unique – #AmandaKendleConsulting would work here, #myhouse would not – but you can’t stop someone else from using it as well. To “start” a hashtag, you simply use it. Once you post a hashtag it just becomes one, and it’s clickable, even if it’s only that one post you’ve done that will pop up.

How do you decide what hashtag to use?
This gets easier with practice but there are basically three different ways I decide which hashtags to add:

  • By guessing/using a kind of common sense – for example, if I’m posting about a blog post I wrote about Japan, I would use #Japan
  • By searching to see what exists already – I might search to see if #OsakaSightseeing is already a hashtag, or #OsakaSights, and if one of them has a lot of posts, choose that, in the hope that more people will see my post
  • By watching what other people do and copying them!
You can also research conglomeration of posts from different platforms that have been hashtagged with the same thing at a service like Tagboard.

How many hashtags should you use?
I tend to use a maximum of three or four regardless of the platform (often less on Twitter, they take up too many characters!). I read a Mashable report about Instagram recently which showed more hashtags are better, up to about five hashtags, and then from then on you don’t get much benefit. And yes, to answer the person who asked me on Facebook, if you use twenty hashtags every time you may lose some followers, I know I for one get kind of annoyed when there is a mass of hashtags to navigate past.

Some other random bits and pieces about hashtags that might interest you:
  • You can put a hashtag in the middle of a sentence. This is especially OK on Twitter where you have to fit so much in to a small space. So I could say

    Not sure why but my #Germany post on visiting Heilbronn (where I used to live) is having a big resurgence on the blog http://t.co/DtQYSrznME
    — Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle) October 14, 2013

  • On Twitter, people sometimes use hashtags to be funny. Or to try to be funny. Like me.

    I just unfollowed someone who complained about having to get up at 8am. #grumpymum
    — Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle) October 2, 2013

  • You can save hashtag searches for Twitter in particular so that you can easily click in and check up on your favourite topic (especially useful for conferences too).
  • Remember this is titled “How hashtags make me happy”? The main reason is that when I’ve got a few spare minutes to surf around then hashtags take me on weird and wonderful journeys around the internet. Weird, wonderful but focused journeys! Go hashtags.

Any more hashtag questions?
So, hopefully that’s answered some of the questions but I’m sure there will be more. Ask them in the comments below and I’ll take care of them. #ifican 🙂