Looking better online: Optimising your online presence course

My “Optimising Your Online Presence” workshop was inspired by an unfortunate googling incident – as I described in my post on googling yourself – but the workshop itself turned into a very fortunate incident indeed! It was the coming together of a great variety of professionals in Perth – authors, a language teacher, several artists, small business owners of various sorts and even a cheese maker. I told the group before we started the day that I had at least six thousand things I wanted to tell them, but that I’d tried to keep it down to just the most important one thousand of them – I’m not sure I succeeded, but it was a whole lot of fun trying.

Before the course, I did some good old “practice what I preach” and googled all the names on my class role. They were all a bit surprised when I told them I’d been checking up on them – but that’s the modern world and I was a bit shocked that nobody had googled me when they enrolled in the course. What if I turned out to be a chocolate-loving, crazy nerd? (Oh, I am. Well, it seems nobody minded too much.)

Each of the participants was at a different stage of their “online development” – some had well-established websites and Facebook pages while others were just starting out, with some still in the early days of start-up of their business itself (how wise of them to come on this kind of course already, I thought). For those with established sites, I made them sit through a website audit – watching a new user look around their site (they were often surprised to see where people clicked).

We spent quite a lot of time playing with Facebook, tweaking little bits like what I call the “ugly number” that Facebook pages have in their URL until you are able to replace it with a custom URL, as well as talking big picture stuff like how to create engaging content and get your “likers” involved with your page. I also managed to explain a few of the confusions of Twitter, though it remains to be seen if I converted too many to using it – I adore Twitter, but I think most people need to explore it several times before they see the fun and usefulness of it. We covered lots of other areas too: optimising your website, having a blog, and looking at other social media possibilities like Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Big thanks to all the people who came along – I hope you had as much fun as I did, although if you’re even half as exhausted as I am after our long busy day, I apologise! In the spirit of sharing and caring, here’s a list of some of the participants from today – hop over to their (sometimes new) Facebook pages and tell them I sent you!

A weekend of bloggers, new and old

It’s Sunday evening and it’s one of the first moments I’ve had to sit at my computer all weekend, despite the fact that it’s been a very blog-focused couple of days.

On Saturday I presented my Becoming a Blogger course for UWA Extension again, and spent eight hours helping fifteen locals set up and launch their new blogs – when they’ve got themselves properly up and running in a few weeks I’ll introduce them here. Look out for the one about the lorikeet, I think it’s my favourite!

And this afternoon I hosted a Nuffnang Blogger Meet-Up, a great chance to catch up with a bunch of bloggers who I’ve met through various means – many through my blogging courses, a couple of old friends who coincidentally became bloggers, others via freelance work and even a couple I’d only “virtually” met online, until today. And here they are!:

Nuffnang Blogger Meet-Up With Amanda

The overwhelming sentiment here was that it was fantastic to sit at a table with a group of people who didn’t give you quizzical looks when you talked about your blog. Plenty of interesting tips were shared and yes, we ate, drank and were merry, so plenty of fun was had too.

In case you’re keen on checking out some blogs from bloggers based in and around Perth, then this list of the bloggers who joined me for our meet-up today makes an excellent start. (It’s in alphabetical order because I didn’t want to look like I was favouring anyone – they’re all fantastic blogs by fantastic people!)

Thanks to all the lovely bloggers who attended and we will definitely have to do it again soon.

Amanda Kendle Consulting newsletters are in the world!

A few of you (who I trusted wouldn’t mind being added to my mailing list) will already have received the first edition of my newsletter last month. If that’s not you (or it might be you, but it disappeared into your spam so you never saw it), and you’re keen to know all the latest news from me on blogging, social media, courses I’m running, meet-ups I’m hosting and how much chocolate I’m eating, then you can subscribe below. Easy! And thanks.

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Why googling yourself is smart, not vain

Last year I sat in a presentation being given by a social media expert, and I have to admit, my mind started to drift a little. I hadn’t heard of this man before, and I’m not going to be a big meanie and tell you his name, but the conference programme blurb did make him sound like a well-qualified expert and I was hoping to learn plenty during his presentation.

I tried to pay attention but after I’d realised I probably wouldn’t learn much from him, I became curious enough to google him on my smartphone. (I hoped it would just look like I was taking notes!)

Ouch. On the first page of search results, two of the top five links were to newspaper stories about him that weren’t entirely complimentary (and perhaps more worryingly were about different incidents). He didn’t have his own website, no blog or LinkedIn profile came up in the top results and other links went to obscure mentions he’d got on other sites.

For someone working in social media, he had not taken very much care of his online presence. Even me, a much smaller fish, well, I do a lot better. Go and google Amanda Kendle (or just click the link, I’ve done it for you) and unless I’ve committed some serious crime in between me writing this post and you reading it, you will see something like this:

The top few results send you to my main website (the one you’re reading this on). Then comes my travel blog, Not A Ballerina, one of my most important sites. My Facebook page and LinkedIn profile soon follow, and then some profile pages from companies and websites I work with are mixed in among these.

Fortunately, I’ve had a reasonably boring life insofar as misdemeanours or bad news stories go, so you can keep clicking through a lot of pages and still not find anything nasty about me, but you will find plenty of articles I’ve written and blog post comments I’ve made that are all not totally relevant to me as a business. So I’m glad I’ve made the effort to take care of my online presence so that the first page of results actually tells you something about me and should (hopefully) convince a prospective client that I do know something about what I say I do!

Anyway, all of this inspired me to develop a course on managing your online presence and it is running through UWA Extension in Perth in March – if you’re interested, click over to Optimising your online presence – A guide for consultants, sole traders and creative professionals and sign up. The course is designed to make sure you and your business are online in all the “right” places, so when people google you – because your prospective clients will google you – they see good stuff and want to work with you.

Warning: Blogging is addictive!

I have so much fun teaching my introductory and advanced blogging classes here in Perth, and interestingly the most common feedback I get even months after the classes is that blogging is addictive! My main reaction to that is – phew, I’m glad it’s not just me! – and I’m also glad to spread the joy to others. A little concerned about spreading an addiction, but it could be a worse one, I suppose.

Recently I interviewed some of my past students who these days run fantastic, successful blogs, and I thought I’d share some of their thoughts on blogging as well.

A Taste of Travel


Jenny from A Taste of Travel has worked in the travel industry for many years, but started blogging only recently to keep her family and friends up to date with her travels – until it became an addiction! In Jenny’s words:

Since I started blogging, there never seems to be a spare moment in the day! There’s always something to do for your blog – Writing, commenting, emailing, organizing, learning, using facebook and twitter or just thinking about the next post. But I love it! Does this mean I’m addicted?

Hmm … probably, Jenny, yes it does!

From Mum to Me

Shannon from the parenting blog From Mum to Me decided to start blogging as part of her career change into freelance writing.

I see blogging as the equivalent of attending the gym regularly for someone who wants to be a professional athlete. You limber up your mind and fingers, you get to practice and hone your craft, you meet like-minded people, you discover new ways of doing things, you receive feedback and ultimately, improve.

The Ponder Room

Glennys from The Ponder Room began blogging under a pseudonym but was eventually brave enough to “come out”, so to speak. She’s now been blogging for a year and has this to say:

Already blogging has: given me the discipline to write every week; helped legitimise my scratchy scribblings; opened doors that I would have been way too scared to knock on; introduced me to some amazing people around the world; led to a small international profile, some paid writing assignments, a second and third book; and extended the market for book sales. Most of all it has enabled me to give back to people who have inspired me, and helped me realise that sometimes the inane thoughts inside your head can make a difference if you dare to let them out.

Margaret River Correspondent

Cath from Margaret River Correspondent says she’s proud to call herself a blogger (me too, Cath, me too!). Blogging has been a great development for her:

A couple of years ago, I started blogging to get google ranking for another website. I would take myself off to a cafe in Fremantle with my little doggies for breakfast, polish off my eggs and enjoy my latte’s reading and researching for the blog. I just loved it. Even though I live alone, I started to feel connected to the wider world through writing. I discovered something I enjoyed, and stimulated my mind.

Suggestions for would-be bloggers

My suggestion would be to learn a bit about blogging before you started. Amanda’s course was great- I was so out of touch with social media that she even had to join me up to Facebook!! (Jenny, A Taste of Travel)

Be clear about your goals, set ground rules from your first post, invest in some strong coffee, good chocolate and don’t drink and blog. (Glennys, The Ponder Room)

If you are considering blogging, go running, skipping and hopping to it right away … I took Amanda Kendle’s UWA Extension class and gave myself more control over the finished product and had a fabulous time learning how. I really like the aspect that I can engage Amanda, outside of class, to help with the finer points if I want to go that way. (Cath, Margaret River Correspondent)

Don’t wait for it to be perfect before you get started, you will find your voice over the first few posts, even if it feels unnatural at first. Make sure you are really happy with your blog name before you get started: it should be catchy, easy to remember and descriptive (or at least pique the interest of potential readers). (Shannon, From Mum to Me)

Everyone wants to know about social networking

I’ve been so busy with social networking consulting and coaching lately, and it seems like it will never stop. Or will it? Surely one day everybody will know all about Facebook, at least, and it will be just another communication and marketing tool everybody uses without thinking about it, like the telephone, mail and email.

It’s been a very interesting few months though, with consulting clients ranging from regular bloggers (people not so different from me), government agencies, small and large businesses and coming up this week, a library (with another library lined up for 2012). I certainly could never say that I’m getting bored with my work. Bring it on!

Advanced blogging course – handy links

Hi advanced blogging gang,

Here are some of the links we’re going to use (or I’m going to talk about) during our advanced blogging course. You can always come back to this post later to revisit and reread anything you find particularly useful.

What have you learned from blogging?

Allison Tait is an Australian magazine editor and journalist turned blogger – her blog is called Life in a Pink Fibro because, well, she lives in a pink fibro house. Her helpful post 12 things I’ve learned in my first year of blogging may sound familiar to you, or may give you some ideas on how you can develop your blog.

What to write

A great way to organise your ideas and plan your blog posts – which helps to ensure you have a steady flow of posts, not a drought and flood situation – is to set up an editorial calendar and revise it regularly (weekly, monthly). Darren Rowse wrote a helpful and straightforward post about this: Developing an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog. (There’ll probably be quite a few links to Darren Rowse’s Problogger site today – why send you somewhere else when I can direct you straight to the best in the business?)

And another one from ProBlogger – Setting Personal and Professional Boundaries for Your Blog.

How to write

What does a reader see first? Usually the title (and that might be all they see on a feed reader or social media link). So, your title should be good. Check The Five Worst Ways to Title a Blog Post and try to improve your post titles.

The topic of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is now huge (there are entire careers available in it) but the second half of Darren Rowse’s Search Engine Optimisation for Blogs post is probably what’s most useful to you.

Correct spelling and grammar is also important. A major US online shop (Zappos) fixed up the grammar and spelling mistakes in all their customer reviews and had a huge increase in sales. (It was done via crowdsourcing – another interesting online invention!)

Getting and keeping readers

Using the Link Within widget is free and so effective. My blog page views increased by a third after I installed it and my statistics showed that nearly all of this increase was from Link Within clicks.

We will talk about “best of” posts and creating hubs of your work, and the example I’ll use (sorry for tooting my own horn) is the Country Guides from Not A Ballerina.

Building a community around your blog

The most important way to do this (IMHO) is to interact with similar blogs. They are not the competition – they are your friends! There is plenty of room in the world for more blogs similar to yours! If you don’t know any or can’t find them easily then start searching through Google’s Blog Search and start commenting on those you like. Importantly – comment in a genuine way, not with a two word comment hoping they’ll click on your link and see your blog.

Promoting your blog

Link-ups and blog hops I’ll mention:

The other links I’ll show you are:

Blog design

There are numerous ways to improve and “fiddle” with your blog’s design. Graphic stuff can be cheaper than you’d think – have a look at Fiverr to see what people will do for $5! There are also lots of Australian bloggers who’ll do blog design work for lower budgets – like Melissa at Suger Coat It or Chelsea at Aqua Poppy.

You can learn some more details about ideal font types and sizes, colours, images and so on from this post on 16 rules for blogs or this one with 26 design tips – they’re both full of really useful ideas for designing your blog effectively.

Goals

I’m a firm believer in needing written goals to ensure you make good progress at a task, and I post about them at least annually on my blog (more often on some). If you’re looking for goals for your blog there is a huge list at the Blogging Bookshelf – 101 Different Blogging Goals – something for everyone!

If you are interested in creating a profitable blog and/or making a product (like an ebook) to sell from your blog, these references might be useful:

 

Blogs from today’s participants:

Using blogs in the classroom

There are so many great ways to use blogs with students – here are some blog posts, slide shows and videos that will give you plenty of inspiration.

 

Teenagers and social media

I’m putting the finishing touches on my UWA Extension course on “Safe Social Networking: Family-Friendly Facebook and More”. These resources and links are useful ones for parents to read if they’re concerned about what their teenagers (and tweens!) are doing online.

Teenagers on the internet: Parents need to be involved: says everything I want to say. Don’t be scared of social media, get involved! If your children are interested in it, share their interest! Along with realistic warnings, this article includes some positives that come out of social media:

•    By being friends with people online, we can maintain a more constant dialogue with people, and have people who would not otherwise be so, as a positive psychological presence in our lives.
•    Access to social media can aid in social activism (help to support or create a cause)
•    Social networks allow you to share important information in a fast and reliable way
•    Social networking can allow you to become a more active part of the social discourse
•    And last but not least, if you involved in social media you have the opportunity to share in the social zeitgest of the day.

How do teens use social media: a lot of info and stats on teenagers and their use of social media sites (especially Facebook), but for me the most interesting point is this:

While we assume that this audience are comfortable with sharing their entire lives online, they’re developing a sense of intelligence around this that shows how keenly aware they are of the consequences of this. A study referenced by Pew finds that that 18-29 year olds regularly control their online reputations by deleting certain posts or removing tags in photos. This is an incredibly interesting development in human and social behaviour – that this future generation have such a keen understanding of personal branding, even though they may not be calling it that.

So one of our big fears for young people – that they’re “messing up their lives” by putting everything online – might well be unfounded.

Teenage social media butterflies may not be such a bad idea: research published in the LA Times; worth a read, and the key message is that kids who are sociable online are just as sociable offline – they’re not turning into strange hermits just by spending hours on Facebook or MySpace!

 

 

 

Social media and education

I’m just planning some professional development training for a bunch of high school teachers, so it is excellent timing that I came across this infographic on How to Get Better Grades Using Social Media:

++ Click to Enlarge Image ++
How to Get Better Grades Using Social Media  | Infographic |
Via:MastersinEducation.org

Lots of interesting facts and figures in there, and confirms my opinion that Facebook and blogging are not bad things at all! I’ll be able to use this infographic at my Safe Social Networking course for parents next week, too.